Summer is the perfect time to roll out the picnic blanket! Savor the extra daylight hours and improve your well-being by taking your meals outside this summer. Dining and cooking al fresco is a fun way to get out of the house and explore someplace new, and picnics can feel like a grand adventure with the simplest of snacks. Eating outdoors is also a big part of the Mediterranean culture. A mild climate and high value placed on fresh, seasonal produce in the Mediterranean lends itself to preparing and eating food under the sky for much of the year.
Picnics are also an excuse to gather with family and friends in a casual setting. Without distractions from home, it’s much easier to savor your meal, the fresh air, and the company of others. Enjoying the pleasures of food and drink with others is one of the pillars of the Mediterranean Diet. Why not take it a step further and pack Mediterranean-themed food too?
Picnic foods should be simple, easy to eat, and not-too-heavy (since picnics usually go hand in hand with extra activities like swimming, hiking, or chasing little ones). There are plenty of carefree Mediterranean dishes that meet these requirements and pack a ﬂavor punch, too.
Here are a few Mediterranean-themed picnic ideas to carry you through the next few weeks of summer:
- Couscous (preferably whole grain)
- Fish kabobs – choose a ﬁrm, white ﬁsh that won’t fall apart on the grill
- Chermoula – a blend of herbs and spices, oil, and lemon juice; use it as a marinade for the ﬁsh, and reserve some for topping
- Carrot salad
- Dates for dessert
- Tapenade – a popular salty spread made with olives, capers, anchovies, and fresh herbs
- Soft goat cheese (chèvre in French)
- Crusty whole wheat bread
- Salad Niçoise – a colorful salad made with potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes and tuna – and any other additions!
- Grapes for dessert
- Zucchini, eggplant, and bell peppers alla scapece – from the Spanish “escabeche,” scapece refers to vegetables roasted and marinated in vinegar and extra virgin olive oil
- Tuna sandwiches
- Grilled chicken
- Tzatziki – a cool and refreshing mix of cucumbers and yogurt
- Grilled zucchini and eggplant slices
- Whole wheat pita
- Watermelon, feta, and mint salad
Spanish Small Bites
- Spinach and garbanzo bean salad
- Grilled shrimp skewers
- Tortilla Española – a pan-fried egg and potato cake that travels well
Middle Eastern Mezze
- Fresh cut vegetables
- Whole wheat pita
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Apricots for dessert
If you wish, add wine to each of these menus. Whether you pack a picnic for the beach, the neighborhood park, or your own backyard, there’s nothing like toasting to a delicious meal in the great outdoors. Of course, before you go: check the rules and regulations of public beaches and parks; some have limits on alcohol and glass.
Lara Bertoia, former Oldways Mediterranean Foods Alliance Program Manager
This blog post was inspired by a recent Fresh Fridays, our bi-weekly Mediterranean Foods Alliance newsletter. Click here to sign up to receive our next Fresh Fridays newsletter and never miss delicious Mediterranean recipes and cooking tips again.