We’re smack in the middle of summer, which means days are filled with lots of sun and so many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors before the snow scares us back inside. Shabbat is a time to gather with friends new and old, winding down your week over good food and conversation. Unplugging is an important part of Shabbat, connecting with people at your table and focusing on the present moment. The best way to unplug is to take Shabbat outside and enjoy nature in every part of your meal, from mostly plant-inspired food to greenery and maybe even some background bird songs.
Picnics can seem intimidating—not only are you responsible for food and drink, but you have to make sure it’s easily transportable, won’t spoil (and make everyone sick) and doesn’t require a lot of setup before serving. That said, picnics are also some of the easiest meals if you plan ahead. With this toolkit of recipes, your picnic basket will be well packed and ready to go for your picnic Shabbat. Just don’t forget utensils (preferably recyclable or reusable), blankets and bug spray to make your night a summer breeze.
Salads are a great way to bring summer’s best produce to your picnic. Serve a variety of these along with some sides, and you won’t need to worry about a potentially spoilable roast chicken. You’ll want to focus on salads that can be dressed in advance without getting soggy, such as grain bowls, slaws (mayo-free) and hardy greens. Load up on this hearty Quinoa in Coconut Milk with Yams and Tuscan Kale salad that can be made days in advance and served at room temperature. Treat gluten-free guests to Cauliflower Rice Tabbouleh Salad full of fresh herbs, summer tomatoes and the crunch of cauliflower, and don’t be surprised when the carb-lovers go crazy for it, too
For more summer in a bowl, make this Watermelon Feta Salad, which you can prep in advance and assemble on-site. To cut back on waste, save the rinds for sweet-and-spicy Watermelon Rind Kimchi, which goes great with other salads, on a sandwich or even as a snack. You’ll need a few days for it to ferment, so get your watermelon early!
Dips and challah round out the salad spread. Add another element of adventure with Scallion Pancake Challah, which marries the well-loved egg dough with a Chinese-inspired scallion pancake filling.
Since challah is a Shabbat favorite for scooping up extra sauce and dips from your dinner plate, swap your chickpeas for edamame and fresh summer peas and blend up Edamame Hummus—perfectly on brand with your green surroundings. Hit the farmers markets for the freshest peppers, and make Muhammara, roasting your peppers on the grill instead (in advance, of course).
Wrap up your meal with something sweet and easy to transport—ahem, no show-stopping layer cakes. For picnics, bar desserts are just the thing. Pick up blueberries at the farmers market for Blueberry Crumble bars, which are wholesome, vegan, gluten-free and just sweet enough. Or go for the pucker factor with Whole Lemon Bars that require no zesting or squeezing. Add some fresh fruit, and wrap up your week with fresh air, fresh flavors and maybe even some fresh new friends.