Since we only get a few good months of sunny weather here in Colorado, we like to make the most of them with lots of outdoor meals. During the summer, we usually try to eat a picnic at our local park at least once a week. Our park has a beautiful, large expanse of grass that is perfect for stretching out and lots of big trees for shade. This is our favorite way to end the day or enjoy a leisurely weekend afternoon. More often than not, our picnics are very simple and consist of a hunk of cheese, a baguette, and fruit or some hastily assembled peanut butter sandwiches. However, I’ve been trying to make these picnics more of a “real” meal with substantial food packed into an actual hamper. This series will feature some of my favorite picnic foods. Some will be original recipes and others will just be links to recipes that I love on other sites. To start off, I have a recipe for easy Cheesesteak sandwiches and the most summery, refreshing cucumber salad that I have ever tasted! But first, here are some of my favorite picnic essentials:
– A good, sturdy picnic blanket, preferably one with a waterproof lining. Ours folds up very compactly and has convenient carrying handles like this one.
– A trusty picnic hamper. We have a lovely picnic basket handed down from my husband’s family that is just the right size. Spacious, but also easy to carry and made of pleasantly creaky wicker. This one looks similar to ours.
– A portable cutting board and knife. We always keep a small wooden cutting board and serrated knife in our basket and we use them on almost every picnic to slice cheese, bread, fruit or meat. However, I’m thinking that I might be trading mine in soon for this model . . .
– Hand wipes. Napkins are often not quite adequate for cleaning greasy, sticky fingers, especially when there is no running water available.
– Sturdy reusable drinkware. These shatterproof wineglasses look practical and elegant.
– Lightweight, portable utensils. I love that these reusable bamboo utensil sets include a set of chopsticks and a carrying pouch.
– Food containers that seal well to prevent leaks. Kinetic Glass Lock containers are my favorite because the lids lock down tightly enough that even sloppy foods never spill.
– Portable salt and pepper shakers with lids to prevent spilling.
– Small lidded containers for condiments.
– Disposable plates because half the fun of picnics is not having to do as many dishes!
Notice that I am intentionally not calling the recipe below Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches because I know that they are far from the conventional cheesesteak. I add mustard, use cheddar instead of american cheese, grill the steak instead of pan frying and put it all on a crusty baguette instead of a soft roll. So, these are just plain cheesesteak sandwiches, but no less delicious for that!
- 3/4 pound piece round steak
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 baguette, cut into 4 equal chunks
- 4 teaspoons spicy brown mustard
- 1 cup sharp white cheddar, shredded
- 1. Bring steaks to room temperature by letting them sit on the counter for at least 15 minutes. Heat a grill to high. While grill is heating, pat steaks dry with paper towels and season well on each side with salt and pepper.
- 2. Cook steak on the grill until medium-rare, about 4 minutes per side. Remove meat from grill to a cutting board and tent with foil. Let steak rest for 15 minutes.
- 3. While steak is resting, heat oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic and saute until softened, about 5 minutes; remove from heat.
- 4. Preheat broiler. Cut each piece of baguette in half horizontally and remove some of the soft bread from the center of each piece. Toast all the bread under the broiler until it just begins to brown.
- 5. Remove the foil from the steak and slice steak as thinly as possible, cutting against the grain.
- 6. Assemble the sandwiches: Thinly spread the bottom pieces of the baguette with 1 teaspoon mustard each. Layer on the sliced steak and vegetables and sprinkle each sandwich with 1/4 cup cheese. Place the bottom pieces of the sandwich back under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes or just until cheese is melted and bubbly. Top with remaining pieces of baguette and serve immediately.
Since the steak sandwiches are somewhat heavy, I decided to forgo the usual chips or fries as a side dish and instead made this light, refreshing cucumber salad. I also packed a bowl of fresh cherries to finish off the meal with something sweet.
- 1 English cucumber
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 3 Tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped
- 1 Tablespoon fresh basil, thinly sliced
- Wash the cucumber well and slice it as thinly as possible. There is no need to peel English cucumbers as the skin is not bitter or tough, but if only regular cucumbers are available, you will probably want to peel them before slicing.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, lemon juice, zest and salt.
- Add the cucumber and herbs to the mixing bowl and toss lightly until everything is well mixed. Refrigerate for at least one hour to let the flavors blend, or up to 24 hours.