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Perfect summer picnic: Recipes & basket packing tips

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When you think of planning a picnic it seems simple enough–find a lush grassy spot under a tree, with plenty of shade and lay out your blanket and picnic spread–easy enough, right? Well, it’s usually a bit more difficult than that–especially when you start thinking about the menu of your outdoor escape. Chef John Kurapatwa, executive chef of Italian restaurant Spigola Ristorante in Hamilton, New Jersey, shares his tasty tips for packing the perfect picnic basket as well as his favourite selection of summer picnic recipes. So if you want your next picnic to be perfect, read on!

couple with picnic basket

CHEF’S TIPS FOR PACKING THE PERFECT PICNIC BASKET

Who better than a chef to suggest tasty picnic tips and recipes? But don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert chef or culinary whiz to follow a chef’s lead–these tips and picnic suggestions from Chef John Kurapatwa’s are surprising simple.

1Keep the theme in mind

Chef Kurapatwa advises, “If it is a romantic lunch for two, pack a CD of love songs and bite-sized foods to feed each other. If it is family outing, make sure to bring easy, fun things for the kids to eat and some games to entertain them.”

2Plan ahead, don’t overpack

With 20 years of culinary experience, Chef Kurapatwa knows the importance of being prepared. “Planning ahead will allow you to pack only necessary items and help you resist the urge to keep adding things to your basket that you really don’t need,” he explains. “Bring the essentials including your favourite foods, some comfy pillows and a blanket.”

3Pack your items properly


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“Make sure that wine bottles, and any other breakable items you bring, are packed securely and cushioned against breakage,” says the executive chef. “Also, pack condiments, sauces and liquids, such as dressings, securely in Tupperware or other tight lidded containers. The last thing you want is a nasty spill ruining the rest of the items in your basket.” Chef Kurapatwa also recommends using hot and cold packs to keep foods at their proper temperatures. Frozen beverages such as iced tea and lemonade make great ice packs.

4Don’t forget the clean-up

Make sure you bring items such as wet naps, wipes, paper towels and garbage bags to make cleaning up easy and manageable.

5Pair your food with good wine

“As a general rule, I think your personal tastes should come first with any wine pairing, but for a picnic, you should definitely chill whatever wine you choose, white or red,” says Chef Kurapatwa.

He offers the following picnic pairings:

  • Rose wines and Rieslings tend to have the broadest appeal and go well with several different types of traditional picnic food–such as chicken, BBQ meats and even hot dogs.
  • Cheese and meat plates are well paired with a Cabernet or Beaujolais.
  • Fresh fruits, like berries, peaches and nectaries, would do nicely with a Chardonnay.

Next – perfect picnic recipes

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