Picnics, quaint or upscale, are on the menu this summer

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published June 7, 2017

 Flank steak and grilled vegetables can make for an upscale picnic without the fine-dining price tag, according to chef Bobby Nahra.

Flank steak and grilled vegetables can make for an upscale picnic without the fine-dining price tag, according to chef Bobby Nahra.

Photo by Tiffany Esshaki

METRO DETROIT — You know what pairs perfectly with just about any summertime meal? A side of fresh air.

It’s picnic season, and whether you’re looking to change up the family’s nightly dinner routine or plan a romantic afternoon lunch date, a blanket in the grass is always the best table in the house.

But not all picnic foods are created equal; some fare better in a wicker basket than others. 

For Royal Oak resident Nicole Hudson, the first rule of picnicking is keeping things easy. 

“Pepperoni and parmesan breadsticks,” Hudson said when asked about her favorite picnic recipe. “Use phyllo or crescent dough and get two packs, or multiple sheets. Unroll two doughs, spread with olive oil, sprinkle with basil, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes if you want a kick. Use a mixture of cheese with parmesan, asiago or mozzarella. Lay the pepperoni or prosciutto (on the dough), slice into thin strips, then twist them as you set them on a cookie sheet. Cover with an egg wash and sprinkle of cheese.”

Hudson said to bake the sticks at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, then serve with a side of canned pizza or marinara sauce. Those are a hit, in her experience, but she’s got other simple tricks up her sleeve.

“For picnic sandwiches, just use two pieces of cheese on each side of bread to keep the condiments and meat from making the bread soggy,” she added. 

Chef Bobby Nahra, of Lakeland Catering in St. Clair Shores, is a big fan of sandwiches for picnics, but the TV culinary personality likes to elevate food whenever he can.

“Get a good baguette, some fresh-roasted turkey, brie and some pesto, some fresh fruit and a nice bottle of wine, and you’ve got a nice (meal),” Nahra said. “Or any type of smoked salmon paté, a few good cheeses, and grilled or roasted vegetables. Oven-roasted tomatoes are great, and so is asparagus.”

If you have the opportunity to grill at your picnic site, you should take advantage of it, according to Nahra. He’s a big fan of grilled flank steak and shrimp alongside grilled vegetables. Both are easy to prepare and relatively inexpensive per person.

“A nice prime piece of flank meat you can get for under 12 bucks, and that’ll feed a family of three or four,” he said. “And I love barbecuing shrimp, and those big-box retailers lose money on shrimp the way it’s priced.”

If you don’t have time to plan the perfect picnic spread, don’t let that stop you from heading outside even for a cocktail with your sweetie. Nahra said a reasonably priced bottle of wine and some good chocolates make for a unique and easy date.

“We never make enough time to do the simple things in life, like just throw a blanket down and sip on some wine and hang out,” he said. “If we turned our phones off and got back to basics like that, we’d all be better off.”