Summer Picnic Guide: 10 Recipes and 5 Books to Make Your Afternoon Memorable

Green was the silence, wet was the light, the month of June trembled like a butterfly.
— Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets

It's here! School is out, the sun is high, and that means it's time for one of my favorite summer pastimes: picnics!  

I'm not sure when it started, my love of picnics, but I have a hunch it had something to do with the trips to wine country in the few years after Andrew and I turned 21. We took a wine tasting course at our college, and starting learning the basics. Then the fun began, and we would spend afternoons exploring Santa Ynez with a picnic in tow.

There's really nothing better than lingering on a blanket in the shade of an oak tree, I think. In the spirit of this season, here are the 10 best recipes for summer picnics from my favorite sites, plus a few good reads, too. 

10 Best Picnic Recipes

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1. Panzanella from The First Mess | 2. White Bean Salad with Peas and Mint from Not Without Salt | 3. Squash, Peach and Manchego Salad from Roost | 4. Quinoa Crunch Salad from Oh, Ladycakes | 5. Strip Steak Sandwich from Suzanne Goin

1. Panzanella, when tomatoes are fresh from the vine, is a wonderful outdoor salad. Just toast the bread and slice the tomatoes beforehand. Keep all the ingredients separate until ready to serve, then shake up your dressing, pour, and toss. 

2. This simple side will go nicely alongside a platter of charcuterie. 

3. The combination of grilled zucchini, juicy peaches, and salty manchego will go perfectly with a glass of pink rose. 

4.  For picnics, nothing beats a grain salad. They can stand to sit for a time before serving, and won't wilt while you relax in the shade. 

5.  For a heartier main course, try this skirt steak sandwich from chef Suzanne Goin. 

I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three days - three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain.
— John Keats, Love Letters and Poems of John Keats to Fanny Braaw

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6. Red fruit salad from 101 Cookbooks | 7. Pan Bagnat from Food52 | 8. Ethereally Smooth Hummus from Smitten Kitchen | 9. Homemade Fruit Roll-Ups from Just a Taste | 10.  Cherry and Almond Galette from Sprouted Kitchen

6.  A fresh fruit salad will perk up your picnic plate.

7.  Pan Bagnat from Food52 will bring French flair to your outdoor meal.

8.  If you're feeling ambitious, peeling your garbanzo beans will yield ethereally smooth hummus. 

9.  Looking for a portable dessert? Try these homemade fruit roll-ups.

10. For a sweet finish, this tart will shine chilled in your cooler or at room temperature.  

5 Books to Read On Your Picnic Blanket

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1. Gather Journal | 2. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman | 3. Falling off the Map by Pico Iyer | 4. An Extravagant Hunger by Anne Zimmerman | 5. Roots: Where Food Takes Us and Where It Comes From  (ebook)