Not Your Typical Picnic – How to Make a Gourmet Feast To-Go

By: The Art Institutes

March 20, 2015

This summer, whether you’re hitting the beach or heading for the mountains, why not pack a picnic that is worthy of your summer adventures? Culinary instructors from The International Culinary Schools at The Art Institutes offer simple recipes for a portable gourmet feast.

Instead of reaching for chips and pretzels, pack snacks and appetizers that have a more robust flavor. Chef Randy Johnston, Culinary Instructor at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Washington, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta, recommends spiced or candied nuts, prosciutto wrapped vegetables or an assortment of olives. “That’s something you can just throw in a cooler and not worry about time and temperature as much,” says Johnston.

Both Johnston and Chef Joseph Brown, Culinary Department Chair at The Art Institute of Raleigh —Durham, a branch of The Art Institute of Charlotte, recommend vegetable sandwiches, such as a Caponata Sandwich (see recipe below). These can be made a day in advance and are an unexpected change from cold cuts or mayonnaise-based salads. For side dishes with more of a dinner party than picnic flair, Johnston suggests grilled shrimp salad (cooked orzo, grilled shrimp and store-bought vinaigrette) and stuffed tomatoes (remove the tomato centers and fill with a mixture of chick peas, feta cheese and vinaigrette, or red peppers and parmesan cheese).

When making fruit salad, Johnston says to mix it up. “Throw in something you don’t normally use, like papaya,” he says. “If you want to ramp it up even more, shop the Asian markets and specialty shops for unique fruits such as lychee or longans, which are packaged in simple syrup.” For an adult version, you can try Chef Brown’s Fruit Salad with Tequila (see recipe below).

Johnston recommends white sangria, or cucumber water to quench your thirst. To make cucumber water, slice cucumbers into small strips and let them sit in the water for a few hours.

Caponata Sandwiches -6 servings
Chef Joseph Brown

• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1 celery stalk, chopped
• 1 medium eggplant, diced
• Salt
• 1 red bell pepper, 1/2-inch dice
• 1 medium onion, finely chopped
• 1(14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
• 3 tablespoons raisins
• 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
• 2 teaspoons sugar
• 1 tablespoon capers, drained
• 1 loaf ciabatta bread, cut crosswise into 6 equal pieces
• 4 garlic cloves, peeled
• 6 slices (1/3-inch-thick) mozzarella


Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and sauté until just tender. Add the eggplant and sauté until it begins to soften. Add the red pepper and cook for approximately 5 minutes. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the diced tomatoes with their juices, raisins, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer over medium-low heat until the flavors blend and the mixture thickens, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Add the vinegar, sugar, and capers. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Cut the bread pieces horizontally in half. Grill the bread cut-side down over medium-high heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Rub the whole garlic cloves over the toasted side of the bread. Place one slice of mozzarella on the bottom of each sandwich. Spoon the caponata on top, cover with the other bread half, and serve.

Chill until ready to serve.

Fruit Salad with Tequilla-6 servings
Chef Joseph Brown


4 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons frozen limeade concentrate, thawed
2 tablespoons tequila
2 cups cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and diced
2 cups honeydew, peeled, seeded and diced
2 cups seedless grapes, halved
2 cups pineapple, peeled and diced
1 cup strawberries, hulled and halved

Garnish with lime zest


In a large bowl whisk together the honey, limeade and tequila. Mix in fruit. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours.

To Serve: Garnish with lime zest.

The Art Institutes ( is a system of more than 50 schools located throughout North America. The Art Institutes schools provide an important source for design, media arts, fashion and culinary arts professionals. Several institutions included in The Art Institutes system are campuses of South University or Argosy University. OH Registration # 04-01-1698B; AC0165, AC0080; Licensed by the Florida Commission for Independent Education, License No. 1287, 3427, 3110, 2581. See for program duration, tuition, fees, and other costs, median debt, federal salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

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By: The Art Institutes

March 20, 2015