Summer. Outdoors. Sunshine. Warmth. Picnics...
The best picnic foods are those that can be prepared easily, transported well and eaten easily (and at room temperature). We've never understood why mayonnaise-laden potato salad ends up in picnics, or why people would want to bring a whole setup where they have to strike a set at the end of the day. Bring on the blankets and the easy foods!
This Fourth of July weekend, celebrate the
melting pot salad bowl that is America with these five foods that can be bought in or made at home, transported without fuss, and bring plenty of flavor.
1. Goi Cuon
The Vietnamese have several styles of fried rolls, but salad rolls (sometimes called summer rolls or fresh spring rolls) travel well, are light and don't pack a caloric bomb; they're shrimp and pork rolled with rice noodles and plenty of herbs inside a slightly sticky rice paper; dip them in peanut sauce. While they're not hard to prepare, if there's a Vietnamese deli near you, go for it; the standard cost here in Little Saigon is about $1 a roll.
The problem with picnics is keeping hot foods hot; this job becomes easier when foods are moist and retain heat longer. Just steam them before you leave for your picnic, then wrap them, husk and all, in thick towels. They should stay hot for at least a couple of hours. Tamales are a pain to make from scratch, but nearly every grocery freezer in the country has frozen ones; if there's a farmers' market nearby with a tamalera, they'll usually sell higher-quality frozen tamales. If you get great ones, you don't even need salsa.
Kimbap is pretty simply the Korean equivalent of maki--seaweed-wrapped sushi rolls. If you're going too far to make raw fish a good idea, make kimbap with plenty of pickled and fresh vegetables instead, or dried (and shredded) meat. Kimbap is easy to make at home, but Korean delis and grocery stores sell them as well.
4. Tortilla española
The staple of tapas bars in Spain, tortilla española has nothing to do with tortillas in the New World. A tortilla (called a truita in Catalunya) is a potato omelette; it can be as simple as potatoes, eggs and onions, or it can have additions such as mushrooms or other vegetables. It's meant to be eaten at room temperature, which is why the Spanish keep them at the bar for service.
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Manakeesh are Middle Eastern--Lebanese, mostly--pizzas. They're thin, round flatbreads brushed with olive oil and then topped, either with a blend of dried herbs called za'atar, with cheese, or with ground meat or sausage. They're baked in the oven and then folded in half to create a calzone-like object. They're not hard to make at home, but Orange County has plenty of Arabic bakeries that make them.