An outdoor special occasion calls for upscale picnic food. These recipes celebrate the Tuscan-style cuisine of central Italy: hearty food that is elegantly, yet simply, prepared and shared with good company.
Toppers for these savory appetizers start with purchased pesto and canned beans for one flavor and your choice of purchased olives for the other. Spread on lightly toasted, sliced baguette-style French bread.
Serve grilled chicken on a warm toasted roll with a sauce made of apple jelly or hot pepper jelly, chili sauce, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and chili powder. Cheese, bacon and tomato slices complete the hearty sandwich.
Grilled or baked Brie turns truly spectacular when topped with orange marmalade and sprinkled with almonds, hazelnuts or pecans. Serve with fruit, French bread and assorted crackers. For best results, prepare this recipe with aged Brie, which has a softer texture than younger cheese.
Ultra-thin Italian bacon (pancetta), along with feta or blue cheese, bumps up the flavor in this multicolor veggie side dish.
For another great picnic side dish, try Rigatoni Vegetable Salad, a combination of rigatoni, cauliflower, broccoli, cheese, olives and carrots. You can use purchased salad dressing and packaged fresh vegetable florets to shortcut the recipe.
Guests will enjoy nibbling on an assortment of olives, cheese, fruit and breads at your special event. Our suggestions: Olives: You'll find California Mission and Sevillano olives at most supermarkets, as well as some options from outside the United States, to create an olive sampler. Cheese: Want to keep to the Italian theme? Choose Parmigiano-Reggiano and shave off pieces to eat alone or with bread or crackers. Or try Asiago, Bel Paese, fontina, Gorgonzola or a wedge of mild fresh mozzarella. Cheese travels best to your destination chilled in a cooler. Breads: Try crusty loaves of French bread, Italian bread, focaccia, slim baguettes, crunchy crackers or rye party bread. Butter or olive oil: Serve with your sliced French bread, Italian bread or baguettes. Extra virgin olive oil is considered finest quality. Bring pepper to grind into oil, sprinkle with grated cheese, then dip in bread. Keep butter chilled.