Proven Winners for a Potluck Summer Picnic

By Marsha Fottler –

tomatoCasual neighborhood summer picnics in the backyard or on the pool deck or down by the lake are a traditional feature of summer. And they are always more fun if you’re prepared with a dish to make when the invitation arrives. This time of year it’s a fine idea to have three or four crowd-pleasing dishes in your repertoire that you can put together the day before or the morning of a picnic. Ideally, your recipes should take advantage of local seasonal produce. Here are some that will work just fine.

Tomato Salad Tonnato

(Field to Feast by Pam Brandon, Katie Farmand & Heather McPherson. University Press of Florida. $28).

This riff on a classic Nicoise salad can easily be doubled or tripled and looks beautiful on a platter. Some of the ingredients can be cooked ahead of time, but cut the tomatoes and assemble the salad just before you close the door behind you as you leave for the picnic.

c-salad1 pound (2 large) ripe tomatoes

6-ounce can oil-packed tuna, undrained

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 anchovy fillets

1 tablespoon capers

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried basil

½ teaspoon coarse salt

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

outdoors¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bill or red-tipped lettuce leaves

4 hard-cooked eggs, cut in half

2 cups sliced cooked potatoes

1 cup cooked green beans

8 large kalamata olives


Core tomatoes and cut into wedges, set aside. Remove 1 cup of tuna and set aside. Combine oil, vinegar, anchovies, capers, oregano, basil, s alt, paprika, pepper and remaining tuna and its oil in food processor. Process until smooth; set dressing aside aside. Line serving platter with lettuce leaves. Arrange eggs, potatoes, green beans, olives, tomato wedges and reserved tuna on lettuce. Spoon dressing over salad and serve.


Sombrero Chicken Salad

(The Life of the Party by the Junior League of Tampa. Serves 5, but this recipe can easily be doubled. And, you can do it ahead of time. Leaves you more time to get dressed for the picnic or potluck summer dinner).

eatingCilantro Lime Dressing

½ cup lime juice

? cup vegetable oil

¾ cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon salt

1 garlic clove, minced


1 boneless skinless chicken breast

1 tomato, seeded and chopped

3 green onions, chopped

2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and minced

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

¾ cup corn kernels, cooked

8 ounces pasta, cooked


Mix the lime juice, oil, cilantro, cumin, salt and garlic in a large bowl. Pour half of the dressing over the chicken in a glass bowl. Marinate the chicken covered in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Combine the tomato, green onions, jalapeno chiles, black beans, corn and cooked pasta with the remaining dressing in a bowl. Mix well. Grill the chicken for 10 minutes, basting with the marinade for the first 3 minutes. Discard the marinade. Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. Add to the salad, tossing to mix well. Serve chilled or at room temperature.


Asian Chicken Pasta Salad

(This chilled beauty serves 10 and can be made a day ahead. It’s easy to double is you’re feeding a big crowd. This one could be the hit of the picnic and become known as your signature dish, so don’t share the recipe.)

Asian-Chicken16 ounces spaghetti

1 rotisserie chicken (cooked from the supermarket)

½ cup soy sauce

¼ olive oil

1/4 teaspoon chili oil

1 cup light mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

? teaspoon Oriental sesame oil

½ tablespoon chili oil

1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas, not thawed

1 red bell pepper, chopped

½ cup shredded carrots

3/4 cup chopped snow peas

? cup chopped fresh cilantro

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and let stand until cool. Chop the chicken into bite-size pieces, discarding skin and bones. Toss the pasta, soy sauce olive oil and ¼ teaspoon chili oil in a bowl. Mix the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, sesame oil and ½ tablespoon chili oil in a bowl Add the mayonnaise mixture to the pasta mixture and mix well. Stir in the chicken, frozen peas, bell pepper, carrots, snow peas and cilantro. Chill, covered until serving time. The flavor of this salad is enhanced if prepared one day in advance and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.


Broccoli Salad

(Serves 6 but this recipe can be doubled. And this one you can do several hours ahead but the flavors meld as this salad sits in the refrigerator. Shop your local farmstand or farmer’s market for the ingredients).

1 bunch broccoli

1 cup diced celery

1 cup lightly salted peanuts

½ cup chopped onion

1 cup raisins


¾ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup sugar

3 tablespoons vinegar

Separate broccoli into flowerettes and chop. Combine with other salad ingredients, add dressing and refrigerate.


Blue Grass Berries

(Use fresh berries. This dessert recipe can be doubled or tripled according to the crowd.)

1 cup blackberries

1 cup raspberries

1 cup blueberries

1 cup strawberries

Juice from ½ lemon

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons Wild Turkey bourbon

Mix ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to use. Spoon over store-bought pound cake or vanilla ice cream or both. This is the best summer dessert ever.


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