We are all staying at home these days and many families are looking for ideas to mix things up a bit. This seems like the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the pleasure of a picnic!
A picnic can be as simple as enjoying a sandwich on a blanket in the back yard or as elaborate as packing a cooler with deviled eggs, veggies and dip, baked beans and fruit salad to feast on in the woods. Try not to overthink the menu because all food just seems to taste better in the outdoors. The experience is what matters!
Salads are great for picnic meals and may be prepared in advance and chilled for when it is time to head outside. The variety is endless and salads are a great way to use up what is in the fridge.
Some salads can be the main meal: Simply pack a big bowl of tossed salad. Bring along a few protein options (kidney or garbanzo beans, chunks of leftover chicken, shredded cheese, tuna, chopped egg, sunflower seeds, etc.) and let everyone choose their favorites to add. Other salads made great picnic sides: consider grated carrot salad, three- bean salad or broccoli salad. Don’t forget to throw together a basic fruit salad for dessert, using whatever fruits you may have on hand (HINT: a few squirts of lemon, lime or orange prevents the fruit from turning brown).
Maybe even try something new for your picnic like tabbouleh, a traditional Mediterranean salad, packed with parsley that goes amazingly well with chicken, burgers, veggie meats or whatever else might be in your picnic basket!
Classic Tabbouleh (or Tabouli)
Recipe adapted from kristineskitchenblog.com
1 1/3 cups boiling water
¾ cup bulgur
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of minced garlic (or ~1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder)
½ teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)
½ teaspoon pepper (more or less to taste)
1 large or 2 small cucumbers, peeled, and scraped of all seeds
4 medium Roma tomatoes, chopped and drained OR 1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1 large bunch or 2 smaller bunches of fresh parsley (finely chopped or cut with kitchen scissors)
10 fresh mint leaves (finely chopped or cut with kitchen scissors) Mint is traditional but optional
Pour boiling water over the bulgur in a medium bowl. Stir well and cover. Let stand for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile do the following:
In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.
Add all of the vegetables (cucumber, tomatoes, green onions, parsley and mint) to the bowl and mix well, being careful not to mash them.
Add the cooled bulger (a little at a time), gently mixing after each addition.
If possible, chill for a few hours for a stronger flavor, but it is fine to eat it right away.
As with any recipe, feel free to improvise and use what you have. No bulgur? Try using cooked quinoa, brown rice or some other whole grain. No parsley? Substitute with chopped celery leaves and cilantro. The result will not be a traditional tabboulehi salad BUT it will be a delicious cold grain salad for your picnic meal.
Disclaimer: For the batch of tabbouleh shown in the picture above, the contents of one mint tea bag replaced the fresh mint!
Written by Jenny Favret, MS, RD, LDN
Dietitian, Duke Pediatrics Healthy Lifestyles Program