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Four Easy Recipes to Add to That Ultimate Picnic Spread

Imagine a painting of a pastoral scene on a fair summer day, a splendid feast laid out, fine carpets for lounging and guests nibbling on carefully transported morsels — a proverbial picnic in the grass, with dogs and children at the edges.

That’s one kind of picnic, but there are so many ways to picnic. Even the simple gesture of moving dinner outdoors on a balmy evening can feel picnicky, which is to say, nice.

That picnics are movable feasts adds to the experience. It’s the collecting and wrapping of the food, the carrying of the meal to a particular place and the anticipation of serving it that make picnics a kind of special event, be it a leisurely trip to the beach, an hourslong tailgate or a buffet lunch in a lush garden. (The frugal city lunch you eat on a bench by a tree is a kind of picnic, too — savor it.)

Here are a few dishes to add to your picnic if you're planning one this weekend.

Marinated Mozzarella, Olives and Cherry Tomatoes

By David Tanis

This simple dish of marinated cherry tomatoes, olives and mozzarella is best, of course, when cherry tomatoes are in season. That it gets better as it sits is a boon: Bring it to potlucks or picnics, or simply let it sit in your refrigerator, a satisfying lunch at home. A generous handful of basil leaves, sprinkled atop just before serving, gives everything a bright, herbal finish. You’ll want to make this all summer long.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Total time: 20 minutes


1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes, a mixture of colors, halved

Salt and black pepper

3/4 cup olives, such as Moroccan or niçoise

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 garlic clove, smashed to a paste

Pinch of dried oregano

Pinch of red-pepper flakes

1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch slices

Basil leaves, for garnish


1. Put cherry tomatoes in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add the olives and toss.

2. In a small bowl, stir together olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano and red-pepper flakes. Pour mixture over tomatoes and olives. Toss well to coat and let sit for at least 10 minutes and up to an hour.

3. When ready to eat, arrange mozzarella in the center of a large platter (or arrange on individual plates). Spoon tomato and olive mixture over mozzarella. Garnish with lots of basil leaves.

Sardines on Buttered Brown Bread

By David Tanis

In addition to celebrating the star, anchovy, these open-faced sandwiches should be a celebration of good bread and butter. Choose a dense, dark European-style rye, thinly sliced, or a rustic whole-wheat bread. They look nice open-faced, but they could, of course, be made in a two-slice format.

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

Total time: 20 minutes


4 small slices dark, dense European-style rye bread

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 (4.5-ounce) tin oil-packed sardines

Salt and black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped dill

2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions or chives

Arugula, for serving

Cornichons or other pickles, for serving

Lemon wedges, for serving


1. Lightly toast the bread, then cool to room temperature. Spread each toast generously with butter.

2. Distribute the sardines among the toasts. (Cut large sardines in half lengthwise; leave small sardines whole.)

3. Sprinkle each toast lightly with salt and grind pepper directly over the sandwiches. Garnish with chopped dill and slivered scallions.

4. Serve sandwiches open-faced, with arugula, cornichons and a lemon wedge.

Cucumber-Ricotta Sandwiches

By David Tanis

Part sandwich, part salad, this is an extremely refreshing and satisfying meal. It’s very simple, but there are two requirements: freshly baked bread, with a crisp crust and tender crumb, and the best ricotta you can find, preferably basket ricotta. Skip the low-fat supermarket type: Instead, make your own or use natural cream cheese or queso fresco.

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

Total time: 10 minutes


6 thinly sliced Persian cucumbers (about 2 1/2 cups)

Salt and black pepper

1 serrano chile, very thinly sliced (or minced, with seeds, if preferred)

12 large basil leaves, torn

2 tablespoons lime juice (from 1 large lime)

1 tablespoon chopped dill

2 teaspoons chopped tarragon

2 teaspoons chopped mint leaves

1 teaspoon thinly sliced chives

1 to 2 cups soft, rich ricotta, drained

2 ciabatta rolls, split lengthwise, lightly toasted (or a baguette split lengthwise)

Cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Calendula or other edible flower, for garnish (optional)


1. Put cucumbers in a bowl and season with salt and pepper, then toss. Add chile, basil, lime juice, dill, tarragon, mint and chives. Toss well.

2. Spread ricotta generously over each ciabatta toast. Spoon cucumber mixture over ricotta on each toast. Garnish with cilantro springs and calendula petals, if using.White Bean Salad With Roasted Cauliflower

By David Tanis

This is the kind of substantial salad that’s nice to have on hand, no matter the occasion. If you have time, it’s best made with large dried white beans, such as cannellini, simmered at home. (It’s great to have a pot of cooked beans in the fridge all summer long, for deploying in salads and soups.) But using canned beans is absolutely OK. The recipe calls for roasting the cauliflower, but it could also be cooked on a grill to impart some pleasant smokiness.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Total time: 1 hour


For the salad:

1 small head cauliflower, cut into 1/2-inch slices

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and black pepper

4 cups cooked white beans or 2 (15-ounce) cans, drained

1 cup thinly sliced celery heart (the tender inner stalks and leaves)

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

3 tablespoons slivered scallions

For the dressing:

1 large shallot, diced small

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground fennel (optional)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to taste

Salt and black pepper


1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put cauliflower on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast on the top rack until nicely browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Set aside to cool.

2. Make the dressing: Put shallot in a small bowl with mustard, lemon juice, lemon zest, vinegar and ground fennel, if using. Stir well to combine, then whisk in olive oil. Season to taste.

3. Make the salad: Put beans in a low salad bowl. Add celery and cauliflower, pour the dressing over and toss well, taking care not to crush beans. Let salad rest for 30 minutes or so to meld flavors. Taste and adjust for salt, acid and oil. Add parsley and scallions, toss once more, then serve at room temperature.

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