You see it at every picnic--a line of bowls containing salads packed with potatoes, beans, fruit, veggies, and just about every other food and spice known to man. And while fully understanding the vast world of picnic salads is daunting, there are a few essentials that serve as a base for all that variety. Building on this list of picnic essentials, you'll be able to branch out into the world of picnic salad diversity.
Potato salads hold a hefty share of the picnic food market. They range from a handful of spices tossed into cool potato chunks to German-style salads served hot and decked with bacon. Regardless of the style you prepare a potato salad, one of the most important factors is the potato itself. The type of potato chosen is the basis for any salad. The difference between a standard yellow potato and the less common blue variety plays a lead role in how a potato salad will taste. Try a skin-on salad for a little extra crunch and fiber.
Pasta salads are another staple of the picnic food scene. Many picnics sport a bowl of macaroni salad or a rotini-based salad mixed with favorites like peperoni or olives and spices. But the variety of pasta salads, like that of potato, is nearly endless. With an expansive list of pasta types and shapes to chose from, the textures and visual appeal of pasta salad are easily customizable. Enjoy fresh pasta salad on a summer day as a delicate dish that pairs with almost anything.
Though the children aren't usually clamoring to the bean salad bowl, this picnic salad's importance cannot be understated. Beans come in many varieties and are an excellent source of protein and fiber. In an article on Goodhousekeeping.com, "Nutritional Facts About Beans," author Janis Jibran extols the virtues of the salad legume, saying beans are a nutritionist's dream food. Try a bean salad with nuts or spiced up with chilies for a nutritious addition to the picnic platter.
Whether you consider fruit salad to be appetizer or dessert, its prominence as a picnic food is undeniable. The best of these use fresh fruits that aren't overripe or bruised to avoid a mushy mess. The more common fruits (apples, oranges, grapes and bananas) form the base of the salad while some exotics (kiwi, star fruit, mango and papaya) are mixed in to give the salad a little sense of adventure. If you're hosting a healthier picnic, incorporate fruit salads instead of chips and other greasy snacks.
The garden salad is a simple, fresh way to add color to a picnic table. Fresh vegetables, herbs, spices, dressings and myriad toppings and garnishes form these delicate summertime meals that can serve as an appetizer or a main dish. The portability and versatility of the garden salad is a big help on picnic day. Experiment with meats, cheeses and other toppings.