Enjoy It Al Fresco: A Summertime Tradition

As summer approaches, savor sunsets and starlight with these picnic food ideas.

Summer is a unique time of the year, sparked with its own traditions.

Maybe it can't always stir up nostalgia like Thanksgiving or Christmas, but it can be a powerful reminder of cruising neighborhoods on bikes until dusk as kids, or receiving a first kiss under the light of Independance Day fireworks.

People spend more time outdoors camping, hiking and laying for hours on the beach. They plan picnics and barbecues in the sweltering sun, not just because it's fun but because they know that summer is fleeting.

Food brings people together all year long, but this summer let it become part of an inspiring landscape and a key player in a warm, fuzzy memory with these outdoor menu ideas.

4 Foods to Eat Under the Stars

  1. Italian Antipasto - Proscuitto, briny olives, roasted red peppers and summer sausage can turn a boring night into a picnic celebration. Antipasto dishes are versatile and can include cheese, pickled vegetables or marinated artichoke hearts. Finish it off with some canoli from Valenti's Meat Market & Bakery in St. Peters.
  2. French delicacies - This one's easy. Pick up a crusty baguette or two, a few high end cheeses (think brie, goat cheese and camembert) and a nice bottle of Pinot Noir and you're good to go. Head to your local grocery store for everything you need.
  3. Old-Fashioned Traditional Treats - You can always buy store-bought potato salad or sandwiches, but make it extra special by going back a bit in time. If nothing else, take the time to make your own apple pie, complete with homemade whipped cream and caramel sauce (see recipes below).
  4. British Invasion - This is great fun for the whole family, especially if you have a child who loves to throw tea parties. Make refreshing cucumber sandwiches, iced tea and fresh scones for an elegant afternoon tea in the park. Figuero's International Gourmet Foods in St. Charles carries specialty teas for any occasion.

Homemade Vanilla Whipped Cream


  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1 - 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Either in a mixer or in a bowl with a whisk, whisk the ingredients together continuously until light, fluffy and double in volume. Keep refrigerated (in a cooler if heading outdoors) until you are ready to serve.

Marinated Artichoke Hearts


  • 1 can artichoke hearts, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 leaves fresh basil, chiffonade
  • 1/8 cup vinegar - white or regular balsamic, red or white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp whole grain mustard
  • Optional: 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste

Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, oil, garlic, salt and pepper (and crushed red pepper if included). Mix together with the artichoke hearts well. Cover and refrigerate. 




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