Saturday, April 02, 2011

blast from the past ::
101 fast recipes for inspired picnics

Spring is in the air, and that means it's time to pull out your bike, a good book, a bottle of wine and  a picnic basket. I thought it was a good time to repost this golden oldie, which I originally published on 7/7/08.

On the cookbook front, the manuscript is finished and will go to the publisher next week. So I should have more time to devote to blogging. In the meantime, I hope that you'll find something among these 101 ideas to inspire your own picnic.

Mark Bittman did it again. He published "101 Fast Recipes for Inspired Picnics" in last Wednesday's New York Times. So of course, I had to do it again, and publish a vegan version. Most recipes here are Bittman's, others are Bittman-inspired and the rest are mine. So now, there's no excuse not to slather on the sunscreen, pack yourself a picnic, and get out and enjoy the sun.

  1. Gazpacho: Combine a few pounds of ripe tomatoes, one cucumber, a slice or two of bread, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in a blender. Chill and pour into a thermos.
  2. Thai Gazpacho: Combine tomatoes, one cucumber, soft parts of lemongrass, cilantro, a dab of miso, and lime. Chill and pour into a thermos.
  3. Mix peel, grated carrots with chopped dates, cumin, minced chili. citrus juice, mint or cilantro.
  4. Slice fennel, apple and tart apples. Dice some jicama. Toss with freshly chopped tarragon, basil or chervil, olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice. You can also add oranges.
  5. GuacasalsaMash an avocado into some salsa. Add chips. Voila. A picnic meal.
  6. PazzanellaCut day-old bread into cubes. Just before leaving for your picnic. toss with chopped tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and fresh basil. Pack dressing separately: olive oil, red wine vinegar. miso paste, capers, salt and pepper.
  7. Toss toasted pita with olives, parsley, mint, salt, pepper, bits of chopped lemon (rinds and all), chopped, seeded tomatoes, chopped, seeded cukes, and chopped red pepper. Take olive oil to dress.
  8. Thinly slice Savoy or Napa cabbage (and think of Malcolm Gladwell). Toss with thinly sliced red onion. half a dice jalapeno, and some chopped cilantro. Dress with olive oil, lemon, with wine vinegar, salt and pepper.
  9. Halve cherry tomatoes and toss with firm smoked or regular tofu, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, scallions and a pinch of sugar or mirin. Add chopped Thai basil and or cilantro, mint just before serving.
  10. Toss cooked couscous with oil, parsley, black olives, capers, red onion. salt and pepper. Scoop out medium red tomatoes and fill with mixture. Pack carefully.
  11. In a food processor, mix a cup or two of cashews, a chili, garlic, a splash of soy sauce, and enough water to process. Add cilantro or chives. Fill celery sticks or endive leaves with this and chill
  12. Peel and grate cooked beets. Add nuts, & citrus zest. Dress with citrus juice and olive oil. Finish with chopped parsley.
  13. Tomatoes and Peaches: Toss together sliced, seeded tomatoes, peaches, thinly sliced red onion, and chopped cilantro or rosemary. Dress at last minute with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  14. Grapes and Soy Cheese: Mix cheese chunks and grapes (or grape tomatoes and watermelon pieces). Add salt, pepper, mint, olive oil, and a bit of chili.
  15. Pesto Seitan Rolls: Season and grill seitan strips. Brush wrap with vegan pesto. Layer with seitan, sun-dried tomatoes and arugula. Roll up and cut diagonally.
  16. Cornflake Tempeh Bites: steam tempeh for 10 minutes and cut into "bites." Dip in rice milk and dredge in seasoned, crushed cornflake or panko crumbs. Pan-fry in oil. Drain, cool and eat cold with celery sticks, with a creamy vegan dressing or dipping sauce.
  17. Curried Tofu Salad: Mix drained, pressed tofu with Veganaisse, curry powder, Dijon mustard, fresh lime juice, pepper, cilantro, red onion, and sliced apple.
  18. Cold Peanut Noodles: Cook spaghetti, drain and rinse. Toss with sesame oil and peanut butter or tahini, sugar, soy sauce. ginger, vinegar, black pepper and chili oil. Pack shredded seeded cucumber, shredded carrots and chopped scallions separately.
  19. Poach 2 pounds of dark leafy greens, like kale, collards or spinach. Drain, cool, squeeze dry and chop. Then toss with oil, salt and lots of lemon juice. Serve with more lemon, oil, salt and pepper. Call it horta.
  20. Brown fresh corn kernels in hot oil with chopped chili and garlic, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and toss with cilantro and lots of lime juice.
  21. Cook whole unpeeled eggplant in a dry, hot skillet, turning occasionally, until collapsed and soft. (Or grill, or roast, or hold with a fork over an open flame.) While it’s cooling, whisk together tahini, lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic and parsley in a bowl. Chop the eggplant flesh (leave the peel behind) and roughly mash in the bowl. Add red pepper flakes if you like. Serve with pita
  22. Giardiniera: Simmer one part olive oil, two parts red wine vinegar and four parts water with herbs, salt and pepper. Add chopped vegetables, firmest to softest — maybe carrots first, then cauliflower, then peppers — and poach until just getting tender. Remove from heat and chill overnight in the liquid.
  23. Cut zucchini into big chunks and roast or grill with olive oil (and, if you like, whole garlic cloves). Combine with chopped seeded tomatoes, lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper.
  24. Toss cauliflower florets with oil, salt and pepper, and roast in a hot oven until browned and cooked; while still warm, toss with curry powder and a handful of raisins. Pour on the lemon juice.
  25. Soak wakame or other seaweed in hot water until soft; drain and squeeze dry. Toss with chopped celery, sesame oil, soy sauce, mirin (or agave nectar) and rice wine vinegar. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.
  26. Clean a bunch of mixed mushrooms; quarter any large ones. Steam for about five minutes. When still warm, toss with sliced shallots, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, cracked coriander seeds, chopped fresh cilantro, sherry vinegar and more olive oil if necessary.
  27. In a blender or food processor, combine ginger, a half cup or so light miso, a little more than that of walnuts, and enough soy sauce to make a sauce. Toss with cooked green beans or eggplant.
  28. Steam or boil a bunch of asparagus; slice on the bias. Toss with orange segments, zest and juice, some olive oil, salt and pepper. Garnish with sesame seeds. Add your legumes of choice, if you like.
  29. Steam or boil green beans or asparagus; slice on the bias. Toss with thinly sliced red onion, a dash of liquid smoke, olive oil, lemon juice, a pinch of red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
  30. Combine cooked or canned (and drained) black beans, kidney beans and chickpeas. Add diced red and green pepper, some corn kernels and a minced jalapeño. Season with lime juice, chopped marjoram or oregano, salt and pepper.
  31. Cook lentils with garlic, onion and thyme. Toss with salt, pepper and fresh chopped herbs: marjoram, tarragon, chervil or basil. Dress with vinaigrette made with oil, vinegar and mustard.
  32. Toss cooked or canned white beans with chopped seeded tomato, a bit of miso, chopped olives, oil, lemon juice, lots of black pepper, salt if necessary and parsley.
  33. Steam frozen (shelled) edamame or limas. Toss with chopped seeded tomatoes, cilantro, soy sauce and a suspicion of sesame oil. Salt and pepper.
  34. Steam frozen edamame and chill. Toss with olive oil, lemon juice, a pinch of sugar, lots of chopped mint, salt, pepper, and as much nutritional yeast as you like.
  35. Mix cooked rice and cooked lentils with very, very well caramelized onions. Add sherry vinegar, salt, pepper and, if necessary, a bit of oil.
  36. Combine cooked brown rice with small, barely cooked broccoli florets and chopped pecans or walnuts and parsley. Dress with salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon.
  37. Combine cooked Arborio rice with thin pesto, peas, toasted pine nuts, salt and pepper.
  38. Soak a tablespoon or two of black beans in sherry or wine; toss with cooked rice, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and cilantro.
  39. Mix cooked couscous with olive oil; add pimentón, cumin, salt and pepper, chopped shallot or red onion, toasted slivered almonds and orange zest and juice. Cooked cauliflower is good, too.
  40. Toss a load of chopped parsley with a little cooked bulgur — say three to one in favor of the parsley. Chopped seeded tomatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper and lots of lemon juice. Call this real tabbouleh.
  41. Make tabbouleh as above and embellish with more vegetables — like cucumbers and radishes — and/or toasted nuts. Or smoked tofu or smoked tempeh, whatever you can think of. How can you go wrong?
  42. Make potato salad with mustard vinaigrette. Add chopped cooked asparagus, peas, green beans, etc.
  43. Make potato salad with Veganaisse and crumbled tempeh bacon, and add grated vegan Cheddar, celery, and onion.
  44. Roast or boil sweet potatoes, but not too soft. Make a blended vinaigrette with a little chili, cumin, sherry vinegar and olive oil. Pack separately and toss together with scallions and mint.
  45. Make eggless salad with pressed, crumbled extra firm tofu, sesame oil and seeds, soy sauce, rice vinegar, scallions and chilies.
  46. Tofu salad with chopped seeded tomato, basil and extra virgin olive oil.
  47. Tofu salad with vegan sour cream, a shot of liquid smoke and chopped chives.
  48. Take cold vegan pizza and lemon. Squeeze lemon over pizza. Really.
  49. Mix a few cups of cold leftover cooked short-grain rice (if you happen to have risotto lying around, so much the better) with a few T of oil and some nutritional yeast. Form balls; and roll in bread crumbs. Refrigerate if convenient. Deep or shallow fry until golden. Packed carefully, these will be fine. Call them supplì al telefono.
  50. Purée roasted red peppers (jarred are O.K., piquillo are even better) with vegan feta [or oil-cured tofu], marjoram or oregano and parsley, olive oil and garlic. Serve as a dip.
  51. Make burritos, using the biggest flour tortillas you can find: rice, beans, cilantro, salsa.
  52. Marinate extra-firm, presseed tofu or vegan cheese in olive oil, with rosemary, garlic, lemon zest, red and black pepper. You don’t need much of this, but it’s good.
  53. Make a cheese ball: Mash together equal parts good grated vegan Cheddar, crumbled vegan blue and vegan cream cheese, maybe thinned with a little vegan sour cream. Shape into a ball and roll in fresh chopped herbs and/or hazelnuts. Take Triscuits. You think people won’t eat this? [Yes! It CAN be veganized!]
  54. Make simple syrup with rosemary; purée in a blender with watermelon, rum (optional) and lemon juice. Use more rum and call this a cocktail, or omit rum, and eat with a spoon. Keep it cold in either case.
  55. Use a spoon or melon baller to make equal size pieces of watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, or, I don’t know, Charentais. Mix together and sprinkle with lemon juice and salt or (better still) chili, sugar, salt and lime.
  56. (A) Make fruit salad, however you like it; pack it. (
  57. (B) Take seeded papaya halves, well wrapped. Put (A) in (B), drizzle with lemon, and serve.
  58. Husk and quarter strawberries; at the last minute, combine with a little chopped tarragon, black pepper and balsamic vinegar.
  59. Cut melon into wedges and wrap thin slices of tempeh bacon around them. Stack in a container, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper. Take romaine lettuce and serve the wedges over the greens, with the accumulated juices as a dressing. It works.
  60. Toss cornbread cubes with blueberries, lemon juice, olive oil and hazelnuts. Yes.
  61. Toss lightly mashed chick peas with lemon juice, chopped chives, salt and pepper. Use this to fill avocado halves. (If the avocado browns, blame me. It’ll still taste great.)
  62. Boil potatoes, corn kernels and cooked chickpeas; drain and chill. Serve with crusty bread and lemon wedges along with Veganaisse mixed with garlic and crumbled saffron. Call this Aegean  salad.
  63. Soak 1/4 cup hijiki in warm water for 10 mins. and drain. Mix with cannellini beans, chopped tomato, diced shallot, chopped black or green olives, chopped parsley and basil. Dress with olive oil and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper. Serve on bread (scooped out ciabatta is very nice) or over greens.
  64. Combine a bunch of watercress or arugula with thinly sliced radishes and red onion; Dress at the last minute with olive oil, sherry vinegar, Dijon mustard, a few drops of liquid smoke, salt and pepper.
  65. Sear tofu fillets in oil on both sides until brown; set aside. Sauté onions, garlic, fresh chilies if you like; deglaze the pan with one part red wine vinegar, two parts each red wine and water and a handful of soaked hikiki or arame. Pour over tofu and chill for up to two days. Call this vegan escabeche.
  66. Make escabeche with white wine and vinegar, dill and lemon slices.
  67. Pan-cook tempeh in oil. Separately sauté fresh and dried chilies with lots of onions and garlic; add beer, reduce and pour glaze over tempeh.
  68. Mix canned beans with diced fennel, tarragon, lemon juice, salt and pepper. No mayo.
  69. Mix canned beans with some miso, dissolved in olive oil), nutritional yeast, bits of lemon and some lemon juice, olive oil and perhaps a thimbleful of Worcestershire. No mayo.
  70. Mix canned beans with Veganaisse and mustard; add capers and dill.
  71. Cut seitan strips into two parts, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and grill or roast until crisp and golden. Whisk together mustard, agave nectar and lemon juice, and toss with warm strips. Chill overnight (or eat them and take something else to the picnic).
  72. Combine equal parts soy sauce, mirin and sake with a little sugar and sesame oil; boil for a minute. Use this to baste tofu or steamed tempeh as you grill or broil it. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and/or chopped scallions — ginger and/or lemon are good too — just before serving. Call it teriyaki.
  73. Make seitan teriyaki as above, then toss with a little Veganaisse and perhaps more soy. Awesome.
  74. Toss seitan with lemon juice, olive oil and herbs of your choice.
  75. Pack in three containers: grilled sliced seitan, with its juices; watercress or arugula tossed with mint, basil and/or cilantro; a dressing of lime juice, sesame oil, soy sauce and sugar. Dress greens; put seitan and its juices over all.
  76. Thinly slice grilled seitan; toss with cherry tomatoes, olive oil, mint, and chopped red onion.
  77. Grind reconstituted TVP in a food processor with onion, parsley, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Make into small meatballs and sauté or roast. Serve sliced with pita wedges or in pita, with lemon, and a dollop of soy yogurt or vegan tapenade.
  78. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (Duh!). Or cashew butter and jelly. Or almond butter and jelly, of you can afford it.
  79. Hummus wraps with sprouts and red peppers. (Duh again!)
  80. Chop various vegan cold cuts. and combine with your vegan cheese of choice, bell pepper, red onion and fresh oregano. Heavily dress in vinaigrette. Take shredded romaine lettuce for tossing. And bread, obviously.
  81. Make chopped olive salad (eg, onion, thyme, capers, a little garlic). Hollow out a medium-size round bread, or a few rolls. Put in olive salad and cured vegan cold cuts of your choice. Call this a muffuletta.
  82. Slice open a good baguette and fill it with chopped or shredded cooked seitan tossed with soy sauce, chili, sugar, lime, garlic, scallions and Thai basil (or, in a dire emergency, regular).
  83. Take pitas, chopped seeded tomato, avocado, sliced red onion and shredded romaine. Add cooked seitan and tempeh. Assemble sandwiches in situ; dress with olive oil and cheap vinegar.
  84. Blanch frozen fava beans in salted water. Pulse in a food processor with some mint or parsley until roughly chopped; season with salt, pepper and fresh lemon juice. Slice baguette and spread one half with crumbled, pressed tofu, then drizzle with olive oil. Spread the other half with the fava beans. Put arugula in there and sandwich-ize.
  85. Spread both halves of a sliced baguette with extra virgin olive oil. Layer with thinly sliced vegan coldcuts — and many halved cornichons. Call this une sandwich.
  86. Halve a cucumber or two; scoop out the seeds. Slice it thin and salt it for a bit if you have time; in any case squeeze out some of the liquid. Combine it with shredded cooked seitan or tofu, ginger, soy sauce, salt, pepper and cilantro. On a baguette, it’s reminiscent of banh mi.
  87. Grill a seitan steak; slice it thin. Butter a baguette on one side; put Dijon on the other side. Pile the bread with steak, roasted peppers (canned are fine; piquillos are best), and something crunchy, like radicchio or fennel. A little avocado wouldn't hurt.
  88. Toss drained chickpeas with pesto: lots. Put on small rolls. (In fact: cook anything; toss with pesto: lots. Put on small rolls.)
  89. Dredge pressed, thawed frozen tofu fillets in cornmeal. Sauté in abundant olive oil until crisp. Let cool a bit, then use for sandwiches, packing tomatoes separately.
  90. Make a foccaccia. Adorn with grilled veggies and plenty of olive oil. Cut into slices and call this lunch.
  91. Cook fusilli or other cut pasta; rinse in cool water, but don’t bother to chill. Combine with chopped seeded tomatoes, cubed fresh mozzarella, chopped basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. (Good with olives, too.) Do not call this pasta salad, because pasta salad is no good, and this is.
  92. Shred carrots and zucchini. Mix lime juice, soy sauce, grated ginger and sesame oil. Cook soba noodles, drain and rinse under cold water. Toss noodles with the vegetables and dressing.
  93. Cook rice vermicelli and drain. Toss with kimchi, lots of cilantro and cooked chopped seitan, if desired.
  94. Cook garlic in olive oil until just sizzling; about 2 pounds of chopped spinach and a shot of dry white wine, and, cook, stirring, until wilted. Remove and combine with the garlic, oil, any liquid in pan, chopped tomato and cooked pasta. Add more oil as needed, with lemon juice, parsley, salt (if needed), pepper and oregano, if you like.
  95. Combine equal parts agave nectar and brown sugar with a little oil and bring to a boil; toss with good granola until the mixture is very sticky. You can add more nuts, or raisins and, yes, O.K., you can add dark chocolate chips. Line a pan with waxed paper or film with oil. Press mixture into pan and let cool. Call these granola bars.
  96. Cook a couple of pounds of berries with some sugar and a little water until they break down. Layer in a plastic container with slices of good pound cake. Pour any remaining juices on top. You might want some nut cream.
  97. Make sandwiches of vegan sponge cake and ganache or fruit compote.
  98. Mix peanut butter and vegan cream cheese. Spread between two good cookies and make sandwiches. Or mix maple syrup, lemon zest and vegan cream cheese. Make sandwiches with ginger snaps
  99. Put sorbet (make it yourself if you have time) in a really cold thermos; it will be slushy by the time you open it. Add a splash of Champagne or Gewürztraminer if you like, maybe some mint, and eat like cold soup.
  100. Take a container of melted chocolate thinned with vegan creamer or vegan sour cream with strawberries, pineapple or bananas for dipping.
  101. Take the makings of vegan S’mores [Be sure to read the label on those grahams!]. Build a fire.


Shear Sensations said...

what a great list. thanks!

Amanda said...

This is an awesome post! How will I ever make it through this entire list?! Thanks for sharing and inspiring =)

Tamara said...

Just a quick comment to say that I love your blog. I've been following faithfully for a few years now, I own your first cookbook, and am going to buy your next one as soon as it comes out. Whether a post includes a recipe or not, I am always inspired by your posts, both as a vegan and a fellow stray cat lover ;) Recipes or not, keep 'em coming!

urban vegan said...

Thank you Tamara--and thanks for coming back. XOXO

Loads of people have actually messaged me & tweeted me to say the same. I don't take comments to heart, esp from anonymouses (mices?). But this said, I truly have been pressed for time with work and the cookbook, and have not been able to post as often as I'd have liked to. I am looking forward to some more creative posts now that I will only have one job instead of two, LOL.

Us said...

I'm heading to France in two weeks with my husband and little boy and I have more questions for you.

What common vegan products were you able to find in Paris? Tempeh, seitan, Vegannaise? We are renting an apartment and I'll be making dinner and picnic lunches most days so I want to get an idea of what I'll be able to work with that's familiar to me. TIA!

Erica said...

i love this list.

Erica said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
urban vegan said...

Us: I didn't see tempeh, seitan or Veganaise.But the French bio stores carry amazing products. You will become addicted to the soy yogurt.

Anyway, all U need is vegan pate (all the stores carry it), a nice whole grain baguette and some buttery mâche....

Be sure to visit Bob's Juice Bar for lunch.

Where are you staying? DM me on Twitter (theurbanvegan) and I can give U specific tips.

Us said...

We are staying in the 10th right on the Canal St. Martin. Then we are headed to the Dordogne region, Loire Valley and Normandy. I'm a little concerned about the other places but I think I'll stuck up on vegan pates before we leave Paris. I'm not on twitter but if you wouldn't mind emailing me I'd love any tips you have!

J - jandm1 @

mamapasta said...

I've got a glass left over Gewürztraminer....I will try your sorbet idea this afternoon..

Jesse said...

I love these suggestions!! Can't wait to try the "Non- Pasta Salad" on my next outing. :)

urban vegan said...

Us: There are tons of vegan restos in Paris: Le Potager du Marais, Loving Cup, Au Grain de Folie, etc. Many. many organic ("bio") markets and tons of health food stores that stock everything you'll need. My only tip is to try everything.

Also, read Virginie's blog (Absolutely Green--on my blog roll). She lives in Sweden now but she's originally from Nantes. Bon voyage!

Anonymous said...

Just want to let all tofu fans know that there is a new tofu press we found that will press the water from a tofu block in 15 minutes. Its very easy to use, no assembly required and inexpensive. Take a look at