Picnic Perfection by Melissa d'Arabian in Food Network Chef, June 20th, 2013
It’s summertime and we are blessed with days filled with trips to the beach or museums to meet up with friends, and we’re usually grabbing something to-go on our way to the destination. Every Sunday evening, everyone in our community in Coronado, Calif., loads their kids and a picnic into their red Radio Flyer wagon and heads to Concert in the Park. So when many of you lamented the challenges of packing a summer picnic, I heard you. The ant’s time as the biggest picnic woe is long gone — now we worry about packing healthy, delicious food that our kids will actually eat, while keeping the food in a temperature-safe zone, without spending too much time. Is that too much to ask? No. So here are four tips to help get you there:
1. Start with the protein
The protein is the trickiest part of the meal because it often involves meat, which can be a challenge to keep in a safe temperature zone. My secret picnic weapon: non-meat protein. And by this, 99 percent of the time, I mean quinoa. Make a quinoa salad, subbing quinoa for rice, pasta or other grains. It is full of protein, fiber and complex carbs, and it will probably work in your favorite recipe (for inspiration, try my Quinoa Tabouli). Quinoa can be served chilled or at room temperature, making it my perfect picnic protein. My second non-meat protein insider secret: Use white beans and whole-grain pasta to make any pasta salad you like. Try a salad made with roasted veggies, feta and vinaigrette.