10 Picnic-Perfect Dishes That Won’t Wilt In The Summer Heat

Now is the time to eat outside every chance you get. Here are a few sturdy and filling salad and dessert ideas that won’t turn to gross mush in the hot sun and are easy to make and pack for alfresco dining. Just bring a bottle of chilled white wine to make sure you don’t melt, either. posted on

1. Quick-Pickled Cucumber-Melon Salad

Time is the real draw here: the cucumbers in this salad only need about 15 quick minutes to pickle. Add some sweet melon and a bit of salty prosciutto, and you’ve got yourself a portable picnic side in less than 20 minutes — giving you more time to spend outside, on a blanket.

Serves 4-6

4 Kirby cucumbers, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thin
3 cups sweet melon, cubed
2 tablespoons plus two teaspoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon salt
black pepper, to taste
2 slices high-quality prosciutto, cut into thin ribbons

In a bowl, mix together the cucumbers and melon. Sprinkle over with the sugar and salt. The salad will begin to expel liquid almost immediately. Let sit 10-20 minutes and drain well. Return to the fridge until ready to pack.

Before your picnic, drain the salad again and remove to a serving bowl. Add a grind of black pepper and sprinkle over the prosciutto. Spoon into bowls or eat straight from the serving dish with your fingers, trying to keep the cucumber-melon juice off your chin.

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In-season tomatoes and briny kalamatas star in this summery side. Nutty farro is sturdy enough to stand up to the heat of your summer picnic, and red onion and parsley that keep the dish from feeling heavy.

3. Haricots Verts à la Dijonnaise

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The name of this recipe might summon thoughts of raised pinkies, sparkling rosé, and objet d’arts. It’s the ultimate picnic salad: the green beans and Persian cucumbers stay crisp, and all ingredients are safe for a summer day. Raise your pinkie if you like — we won’t judge.

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In case you didn’t know, lentils are best enjoyed on lawns. They just are. Eat this earthy salad, made brighter by a citrusy dressing, al fresco on a sunny day. (An added bonus: you probably have most of the ingredients already on hand in the pantry.)

5. Watermelon and Goat Cheese Salad

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Goat cheese and lemon verbena are the secrets to spicing up a pretty common picnic classic. When added to cubed watermelon, they redefine fruit salad as we know it. The tangy cheese and slightly vegetal herbs serve as the perfect foils to sweet chunks of summer melon, making this salad the most refreshing option in your picnic basket.

6. Radish and Pecan Grain Salad

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If the thought of a grain salad feels too crunchy for you, think again. This starchy do-gooder sounds healthy - good news, it actually is - but it won’t taste that way. The grains are threaded with pecans, raisins and dried cranberries, and given a good kick from sherry vinegar. You’ll want to eat it every day for lunch, just watch.

7. Dilled, Crunchy Sweet-Corn Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

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What is better than fresh, summer sweet corn? Fresh summer sweet corn cloaked in homemade buttermilk dressing. Herbal from dill and parsley, zippy from onion and garlic, this dressing (and salad) might not even make it out of the kitchen.

8. Summer Squash Couscous with Sultanas, Pistachios and Mint

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Pack your picnic basket full of this couscous, and your kids won’t know they’re eating the healthiest lunch they’ve had all week. (We won’t tell them if you won’t.) It’s sweet and savory, has a healthy crunch from pistachios, and is great both cold and at room temperature.

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Plums and avocado got married and made the best tart-sweet summer salad yet. This simple salad is a study in contrasts, brought together with a cilantro garlic dressing. And, the ripe plum and avocado will hold their shapes in the summer heat.

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After you’ve eaten all of your virtuous, non-wilted picnic salads, you’ll need something sweet. This cake is the perfect way to cap everything off. No need to feel guilty, either — peaches make it healthy, right?

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Come summer, zucchini seems to be the most prolific vegetable. This summer, turn it into lemony, delicate cookies for an alfresco lunch. Your surplus of zucchini will be gone in no time.

Food52 is a community for people who love food and cooking. Follow them at Food52.com and on Twitter @Food52.

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