Summer Picnic Salads from Scratch

“Roll out those lazy hazy crazy days of Summer”.  Hot days on the beach or in the park, chilling with family and friends on a blanket with the picnic basket filled to the brim with awesome summer treats.  Summer weekends chocked full of fun with Family Reunions, Corporate Challenges and just plain relaxing all require some fun foods to share. Here are some simple and quick salads to make for a couple or a crowd.  Amaze them all with your summer picnic culinary skills.

Put on the music and dance around the kitchen while making summer time tasty with these salads.


  • 1 large head romaine lettuce
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 3 anchovy fillets, plus more fillets for garnish, (optional)
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar or lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon bottled white horseradish
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 Tablespoons croutons, for garnish

Wash and dry the lettuce well, tear into 1 1/2 inch pieces, and place in a salad bowl.

Combine all the remaining ingredients except the oil, Parmesan and croutons in a medium bowl or in a food processor. (if using a bowl, anchovies must be finely chopped) Whisk or process the mixture until it is smooth, about 30 seconds.  Add the oil in a slow, steady stream until it’s completely incorporated.  Add the Parmesan and mix briefly.  Just before serving, pour 2/3 of the dressing on the lettuce and toss until it is lightly coated.  Add more dressing if needed.

Garnish with croutons and added anchovy fillets if using.


Boxed croutons are fine, but making your own is a snap and they taste way better.  Any stale bread will do, though day-old french bread is preferable.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Cut the bread into 1/2 inch cubes.  In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 clove garlic minced, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some freshly ground black pepper.  Add the cubes of bread and toss them until they are lightly coated with the oil mixture.  Spread the cubes of bread on a baking sheet and bake, shaking the pan occasionally, until crisp and golden brown, about 5 – 8 minutes.


Prepared with 2 optional dressings.  One creamy and one vinaigrette. 

  • 2 1/2 pounds small new potatoes (I leave skins on) chopped or mashed
  • 2 ribs celery or sugar snap pea pods seeded and chopped
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 2 scallions or 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1 red or green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Creamy Dressing

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise or full-fat greek yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons sour cream
  • Splash of milk for consistency
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon or yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl.

Vinaigrette Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar or cider vinegar, rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.

Rinse the potatoes, scrubbing off any spots of dirt with a potato brush or dish towel.  Put the potatoes in a large pot.  Cover with cold water to about 1 inch above the potatoes and bring to a boil, uncovered, on high heat.  When the water reaches a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the potatoes until just tender (when a paring knife can pierce the potatoes easily), about 15 minutes.  Drain and cool in a colander.

While the potatoes are cooking, rinse and dry the celery ribs or podded edible pea pods and cut them on an angle into 1/8 inch slices.  Cut the onion in half and then into thin slices.  Chop the green parts of the scallions into 1/2 inch pieces. Seed the bell pepper and cut it into short thin strips.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them into quarters and transfer them to a large bowl or mash, what ever consistency you prefer. Add the vegetables and chopped parsley.  Pour the dressing of your choice on the potato mixture and gently combine with your hands or rubber spatula.  Refrigerate, covered for at least 2 hours.  Remove from the refrigerator 1/2 hour before serving.

Plain yogurt may be substituted for the mayonnaise. Chopped eggs add extra yumminess. Sweet Potatoes work well too.


  • 1 pound plain cooked chicken, cut into 3 inch strips
  • 1/2 pound bean sprouts
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 3 inch match sticks
  • 2 large carrots, cut into thin 3 inch match sticks


  • 3 Tablespoons peanut butter or sesame paste
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth
  • 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon dry sherry or rice wine
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 – 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Combine the chicken, bean sprouts, cucumber, and carrots in a large bowl.  Put the dressing ingredients in a glass jar, cover and shake vigorously.  Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss gently.  Sprinkle the cilantro over the salad if desired.

Note If you don’t have any pre-cooked chicken in the refrigerator, place one pound boneless chicken breasts on a rimmed baking sheet, cover the pan securely with foil and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 – 25 minutes, until cooked through but still juicy.

Now out you go to enjoy the fun in the sun, and good luck with the tug-of-war and the three-legged-race!


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