A picnic needn't be a big deal: All you really need is some good takeout and a pleasant place to enjoy it. Here are four whimsical ideas, hold the potato salad.
AL FRESCO On Long Island, you're never more than a stone's throw from a good pork store and, thus, a good picnic. A loaf of bread, a sweet soprassata and a hunk of Parmesan can hardly be improved upon, but we got a little more creative at Gemelli in Babylon: The zucchini frittata can be cut into wedges and eaten with the fingers, ditto the antipasto salad, an easy-to-eat assemblage of salumi, cheese, peppers and olives. Eggplant caponata, a chunky sweet-and-sour spread, demands to be smeared on bread.
Fried chicken may be the world's greatest picnic food, but the Colonel has nothing on the Korean chicken chain BonChon. The addictive chicken, drumsticks or wings, is fried skinless and is then dipped in a spicy or soy-garlic glaze. BonChon operates a franchise at Koreana in Hicksville which is adjacent to the Asian supermarket H & Y where we bought appropriate accompaniments: spicy baby bok choy, spicy shredded daikon radish and raw sugar snap peas.
VEGGING OUT A selection of colorful vegetable salads makes a particularly fuss-free picnic: serve them right out of the containers. If you'd like the salad-centric meal to have a focus, add a wrap or two. From the extensive vegetarian offerings at FeelGoods in St. James, we selected roasted root-vegetables, raw kale with tahini and raspberry-quinoa salad. Also on hand, a Southwestern chicken wrap.
With customers increasingly pressed for time, most fish markets sell as much prepared food as raw seafood. And if you want a well-cooked piece of fresh fish, you can hardly do better than to buy it at a good fish market such as Marine Fisheries of Great Neck. The centerpiece of this meal is poached salmon with creamy dill sauce. We rounded it out with three of Marine Fisheries' most popular side dishes: sweet potato wedges, black-bean-corn salad and "burnt" broccoli.
KEEPING IT SAFE AND SOUND
1. MAKE A LIST. Write down everything to take including, but not limited to, napkins, flatware, plates, cups, a corkscrew, salt, pepper, wipes and insect repellent. Also write down all the food you intend to take so you don't leave anything in the refrigerator.
2. PORTION BEFORE PACKING. The less cutting and spooning you have to do at the picnic site, the better. So try to serve food that is already in serving pieces such as cut-up chicken rather than a whole bird, brownies instead of cake.
3. COLD FOODS SHOULD BE STORED AT 40 DEGREES OR LESS UNTIL SERVING. Using an insulated carrier and frozen cold-packs, this shouldn't be a problem. Don't let perishable foods sit out for longer than two hours or, if the temperature is higher than 90 degrees, one hour.
4. RELAX ON THE MAYO FRONT: Because of its acidic nature, commercial mayonnaise actually provides a relatively inhospitable environment for bacterial growth. Canned tuna is more likely to "go bad" if it hasn't been dressed with mayonnaise. That said, mayonnaise will not protect tuna, potatoes, eggs or macaroni indefinitely, so make sure you adhere to rule No. 3.