In the Kitchen: Take it outside!

Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Fellow outdoor eaters,

There are so many things to love about Southern California, but near the top of any list has to be the phrase “72 degrees and sunny.” When you’re blessed with perfect weather, why would you choose to eat in some stuffy old dining room? Whether it’s on a blanket spread on the grass, under an umbrella at the beach or on a table in your garden, eating outdoors is one of our birthrights.

— Russ Parsons


A loaf of bread and a jug of wine are fine, but if you really want to picnic in style, you need to pack your basket with a little more. S. Irene Virbila details the Top 10 must-haves for your next excursion. Thank goodness for whoever invented plastic wine glasses.

Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

Meat and fire

What to eat on your picnic? Well, grilled meat, of course. It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what it is that is so compelling about the flavor, but Jenn Harris says some scientists have tried to do just that. Think Maillard reaction. And extra points if you know at what temperature myoglobin denatures. What’s the best meat to grill? Hamburger, naturally. And we’ve got 18 recipes for them.

American Chemical Society

Potato salad wars

Harris also chimes in with what she claims is “the only potato salad recipe you’ll ever need.” Considering it has bacon in it, I’m sure that some of you will tend to agree. But I’d suggest that it is a poor life indeed that is so narrow that only one potato salad recipe would satisfy. So I’ve got four more — plus a tip for how to make any potato salad recipe better. 

Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

Small and sweet

Finally, is there a better picnic dessert than a perfectly ripe peach or nectarine? They’re sweet, they’re juicy, they’re compact and they travel well. In fact, this year, peaches are especially compact — that crazy winter that wasn’t has resulted in a lot of small fruit. The golden lining? They’re especially sweet. If you need a refresher course on how to choose the best, we’ve got some tips. And some recipes. Lots of recipes. Peach and blackberry crisp anyone? Nectarine cardamom ice cream?

David Karp

All tested, all the time

By the way, one thing you can be sure of when you’re looking at the recipes we share — they’ve been thoroughly tried out in our Times Test Kitchen so they’ll work for you at home. And they have been since 1931.

We’ve got more than 5,000 of the best tested recipes collected in our free searchable database — the California Cookbook. Have you checked it out? While you’re at it, give our seasonal produce guide a spin, too. It’s curiously habit-forming, but it’s a good habit to have — at any time of year.

Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

What we’re reading:

In the New Yorker, food sociologist Laura Shapiro takes a look back at what Eleanor Roosevelt cooked. Let’s just say that she was a great first lady and leave it at that. “Much has been said about the bad food at the Roosevelt White House, and all of it is true,” wrote one housekeeper.

Check out the thousands of recipes in our Recipe Database


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