How to pack the perfect Hollywood Bowl picnic at home

Sicilian tuna salad from Scopa Italian Roots features baby potatoes, haricots verts, capers and celery.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Try one of these 23 recipes for creating your own picnic basket at the Bowl this summer.


Plenty of restaurants will pack you a beautiful basket or box to eat alfresco at the Hollywood Bowl. But if you like to cook, there is another way to picnic there: Make it yourself, tailored specifically to your tastes, dietary requirements and budget.

Keep it simple, as in easy to eat, and make its contents earlier in the day or even a day or two before concert night. Opt for pre-cut finger foods and dishes prepared in bite-size pieces that are easy to transport from plate to mouth. Leave leafy lettuce salads and anything that requires cutting at home. Pre-slice your bread or use pita or tortillas that you can fill and eat out of hand. Be sure to pack plenty of utensils and napkins. And finally, bring handheld desserts like cookies, bars and hand pies for dessert.

Easy to cook is the way to go, though sometimes it is fun to take on a culinary project and make something particularly elaborate — and worth all the time and effort. Mezze — a selection of salads, small bites and finger foods on small plates, similar to tapas — is perfect Hollywood Bowl fare. Carrot Salad With Lemon Turmeric Vinaigrette is a delightful blend of color, texture and flavor. It gets its earthiness from turmeric and cumin, its tang from fresh lemon juice, its soft chewiness from bulger and garbanzo beans and its vivid color and crunch from carrots and cabbage. Also colorful is this Brazilianesque Black Bean Salad, a mix of black beans, red bell peppers, hearts of palm, tomato and avocado tossed in a bright cilantro-lime vinaigrette. It is a good salad to make the day before, as it tastes even better after it sits overnight.


With sourdough croutons, prosciutto, chopped greens and loads of fresh herbs, Jonathan Waxman’s Wild Mushroom Salad has it all, including a heady sherry vinaigrette made with hazelnut and walnut oils.

Aunt Mary’s Yalanchi (Stuffed Grape Leaves) is another dish to make at least a day ahead. Rolling the leaves is also fun to do with a companion, and many hands will make the work go faster. Allspice, cinnamon and dill lend delicate flavor to these delicious, hand-held treats. Roasted Peppers Stuffed With Homemade Ricotta are a less time-consuming project. Include different colored peppers for a vivid presentation, and feel free to use store-bought ricotta.

This Sicilian Tuna Salad From Scopa Italian Roots, which includes haricots verts, capers, celery and baby potatoes, comes together quickly. Do use Sicilian tuna if you can find it. If you can’t, be sure to use tuna packed in oil, preferably dark, as it is more flavorful.

Briny seafood, creamy potatoes and a tangy, herbaceous dressing come together in this simple Potato Salad With Spicy Green Goddess Labneh and Lobster. It sounds much more complex — and expensive — than it really is. Lobster? It is the Hollywood Bowl. But the recipe calls for only a small amount, keeping it affordable.

If you prefer to leave the forks at home, sandwiches are always a good bet, though you may want to consider bringing the components in separate containers and assembling on location. This Fried Chicken Sandwich With Chili Crisp Mayo is spicy and tangy with a satisfying crunch.

If you have steak for dinner during the week before your Bowl visit, you’ll have the filling for Grilled Steak and Roasted Tomato Sandwiches. Roasting the tomatoes is hands-off, leaving you time to prepare and dress the watercress. Again with the leftovers (they make such great sandwich fillings), Chicken Kebab With Dried Lime and Mint has a very distinctive flavor — thanks largely to the dried lime — and makes a terrific sandwich. Use boneless thighs and stuff kebab chunks into a pita with fresh chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, perhaps some sliced green onion and a dollop of labne or homemade ricotta and you will be very happy.


Sardines are an easy banh mi filling (as compared to barbecued meats), and this Sardine Banh Mi does not disappoint. Spread your baguette (make your own or buy a good quality one) with pork liver pate, add the sardines and plenty of lightly pickled carrots and daikon radish, a few slices of cucumber, several mint leaves, a few sprigs of cilantro and jalapeño slices as desired. This too you may want to assemble while you are picnicking — you don’t want that baguette to get soggy.

If sandwiches are not your thing — or if you love cold chicken at a picnic — Jonathan Gold’s Barefoot Fried Chicken always brings rave reviews. Whether it’s the two types of oil or the country ham that cooks in the oil along with the chicken that give it its oomph is hard to say. All I know is that it’s crispy and delicious.

For a little less mess in the kitchen, try Oven-Fried Nashville-Style Hot Chicken. It gets drizzled with hot, spicy oil after it’s cooked, so it still has that signature Nashville heat (you also use hot sauce in the dredging and coating process).


Any of the vegetable salads above would make a great accompaniment for the fried chicken, though a creamy, sweet-and-spicy-with-a-hint-of-mustard Potato Salad is a classic side for both a picnic and chicken. And if a slaw makes it a picnic for you, try this crisp, crunchy and vibrant Jicama Slaw or this vivid, sweet Bell Pepper and Corn Slaw. The vegetables may seem tame, but it gets a hit of smokiness from cumin and chipotle in the dressing.

Be sure to leave room for dessert. These Giant Ginger Molasses Cookies might need a little “extra,” because each one could be a meal in itself. Full of flavor and come-back-for-more texture, they are as amazing as they are gargantuan. Zooies Oatmeal Raisin Cookies are also nice and chewy, with a perfect sweet-to-savory balance. Tahini gives these Tahini Shortbread Cookies a savory edge. They are just sweet enough, with a great chew and nutty, sesame flavor.

If you don’t say they are vegan, nobody will guess they are. Moist from the fruit and a bit crumbly from the sable-inspired cookie base, Vegan Berry Bars are sweet, tart and rich.

These Apple Hand Pies are portable, so you can get your fix of fruit baked in a flakey crust without having to tote and slice a whole pie. And, of course, there must be chocolate. Flourless Fudgy Brownies are full of it, divine and gluten-free. ‘Nuf said.

Carrot Salad with lemon turmeric vinaigrette

In this Moroccan-inspired salad, carrots, chickpeas, red cabbage and a few grains of bulgur are tossed in lemony-turmeric vinaigrette.
Time 35 minutes
Yields Serves 4 to 6

Jicama slaw

Sticks of jicama are dressed with lime juice and minced serrano chiles. It's got some crisp and some tart and just a little heat. It's like a salad and a salsa combined.
Time 25 minutes
Yields Serves 4 to 6

Tahini shortbread cookies

Soft and chewy, with a rich, nutty flavor and just the right hint of sweetness, these tahini shortbread cookies were one of the five favorites from the Los Angeles Times seventh Holiday Cookie Bake-Off.
Time 40 minutes
Yields Makes about 3 ½ dozen cookies

Roasted peppers stuffed with homemade ricotta

Homemade ricotta really shines when mixed with herbs and used to stuff roasted and peeled red and yellow bell peppers.
Time 40 minutes
Yields Serves 4 to 6

Fried Chicken Sandwich with Chili Crisp Mayo

This crunchy fried chicken katsu sandwich combines a chili crisp mayo with tangy pickles.
Time 10 minutes
Yields Makes 1 sandwich

Chicken Kebab With Dried Lime and Mint

Dried limes, which have long been a staple of Persian cooking, impart to these tender, juicy chicken kebabs a special, distinctive tangy and earthy flavor.
Time 1 hour 10 minutes, plus overnight marinating
Yields Serves 6 to 8

Jonathan Gold’s Barefoot Fried Chicken

When Jonathan Gold was gathering people at his house in Pasadena for a night off from eating out, fried chicken was usually what he made.
Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Yields Serves 8 to 12

Vegan berry bars

The sweet-tart notes of the fruit complement the richness of the sable-inspired cookie crust, and your guests might never guess the treat is vegan.
Time 1 hour
Yields Makes 12 to 16 bars

Oven-Fried Nashville-Style Hot Chicken

Inspired by Nashville hot chicken, this version swaps deep-frying for oven frying but retains the signature spiced oil that coats the chicken at the end. Crunchy and hot, it's a great option for making fried chicken at home.
Time 55 minutes
Yields Serves 6 to 8

Giant Ginger Molasses Cookies

Fresh ginger packs a warm punch in these spiced, chewy molasses cookies, crunchy on the outside with turbinado sugar. Chill overnight and bake in the morning.
Time 1 hour, plus overnight chilling
Yields Makes 16 large cookies

Sicilian tuna salad from Scopa Italian Roots

Crisp haricots verts, capers, celery, baby potatoes and Italian tuna tossed with a generous drizzle of fresh lemon juice make for an elegant appetizer, first course or simple dinner.
Time 35 minutes
Yields Serves 4 to 6

Grilled Steak and Roasted Tomato Sandwiches

Roasted cherry tomatoes and grilled steak with crisp watercress dressed in a mustardy vinaigrette make a delicious sandwich.
Time 30 minutes
Yields Makes 4 sandwiches

Flourless Fudgy Brownies

This simple, flourless fudgy brownie recipe requires only six ingredients and is a foolproof formula to a tender, chocolaty dessert.
Time 45 minutes
Yields Makes one 8-inch-square pan.

Aunt Mary's yalanchi (stuffed grape leaves)

Aunt Mary's yalanchi (stuffed grape leaves) are filled with rice, herbs and pine nuts in classic Armenian fashion.
Time 2 hours
Yields Makes about 5 dozen yalanchi

Potato Salad With Spicy Green Goddess Labneh and Lobster

Green goddess dressing, spiked with fresh chiles, dresses this simple potato salad, topped with salty prosciutto and rich, lemony lobster.
Time 40 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Zooies Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Crisp edges and chewy centers prove Zooies oatmeal raisin cookies are the best version of the sweet, classic dessert.
Time 1 hour, plus chilling
Yields Makes about 3 dozen

Daily bread

This is a bread you can knock together quickly and vary at will. A plain batard, rosemary baguettes, a dozen currant rolls — the possibilities are endless.
Time 4 hours
Yields Serves about 16 (makes 2 batards)

Homemade ricotta

This ricotta is so good it can be used as a starring ingredient or eaten just by itself. The flavor is delicate with a wonderfully milky combination of sweet and tang.
Time 45 minutes
Yields Makes about 1 pound, or 2 cups

Potato Salad

Lots of vinegar and lemon juice brighten this traditional picnic side dish full of creamy potatoes and topped with piquant dry spice rub.
Time 40 minutes
Yields Serves 8 to 10

Brazilianesque black bean salad

Black beans are mixed with hearts of palm, roasted red peppers, diced avocado and white onion for a sprightly blend in a cumin- and cilantro-spiked vinaigrette.
Time 15 minutes
Yields Serves 6 to 8

Bell pepper and corn slaw

The vivid shades of bell peppers and fresh corn kernals make a beautiful slaw. The earthy cumin and smoky chipotle pepper in the slightly assertive dressing deepen the flavors.
Time 35 minutes
Yields Serves 6 to 8

Sardine banh mi

This classic banh mi loads a baguette with pork liver pate, sardines (preferably in tomato sauce), pickled carrots and daikon, slices of cucumber and jalapeño and fresh herbs.
Time 20 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Apple hand pies

Behold the hand pie: This convenient little wonder is pie’s answer to the cupcake, without the fussy decorations.
Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Yields Serves 12