Local chefs offer ways to dress up a picnic

Cold fried chicken, potato salad and deviled eggs: Those may have been the ideal of a picnic in Grandma’s time, but surely, in this era of artisanal ingredients and multicultural foods, you can do better. To help, we asked a few Las Vegas chefs what they would take on a picnic.

“The pressure’s always on,” said Yvonne Maatouk, corporate executive chef for PKWY Tavern Taphouse and Grille and PBR Rock Bar, because when you’re a chef, everybody expects you to bring your A game. And so Maatouk has a clever strategy: “There are two things that I typically take because I feel no one will bring them.”

One is a fruit salad, made up of whatever looks fresh and good at the moment, which in the summer might include melons, citrus fruits, peaches, plums or pears.

“And I always put a couple tablespoons of fruit preserves in there, and squeeze an orange on top of that, and it makes the best glaze ever,” Maatouk said.

The other thing, she noted, is fresh homemade pickles.

“You get some fresh pickling cucumbers, throw them in a jar with water, salt, pickling spice, garlic and dill,” she said. “Give them at least three days in the refrigerator, and they’re just fresh and tasty.

“And nobody else is going to bring pickles.”

She also has pickled cauliflower, grapes and sliced onions, the latter of which she said are particularly nice on freshly grilled burgers and hot dogs.

Michael Inginio, executive chef of Carmine’s at the Forum Shops at Caesars, takes an ethnic approach.

“I’m Italian, I work in an Italian restaurant, and who doesn’t like Italian food?” he said.

And so for Inginio, a picnic means Italian meats including mortadella, Genoa salami, soppresatta and capicola, cheeses including provolone, tallegio, an Italian blue such as Gorgonzola and burrata with a little olive oil and black pepper.

He will wrap prosciutto around melon for the classic combination of salty and sweet, or drizzle fresh peaches with fig balsamic. Or he will marinate a variety of olives, including kalamata and Cerignola.

“I would take some really good extra-virgin olive oil, lemon zest, orange zest, a little bit of red wine vinegar, fresh oregano, parsley and basil,” he said. “Make it the day before and have it marinate so the flavors blend really well. And I just pick on olives all day, along with the meats.”

Another option, he said, is an orzo salad with pesto, olive oil and a variety of grilled vegetables, or a panzanella salad with torn rustic bread, using ricotta salata instead of the more customary mozzarella.

Michael Goodman, executive chef at the Four Seasons, said his picnic foods tend to depend on his mood ’€” whether he’s feeling like a dedicated carnivore or is in a more healthful mood. Lately it has been the latter.

“The mood I’m in right now, I’m tending to eat healthier, so I’m tending to stay away from barbecued foods and stuff,” Goodman said. “Summer is one of my favorite times for all of the different vegetables and fruits that are out there.”

This is a great time of year for watermelon, Goodman said, so he likes to prepare a salad with chilled watermelon, feta cheese, kalamata olives, cucumbers, tomatoes and basil, drizzled with a little extra-virgin olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar.

“The flavors are fantastic ’€” all the freshness,” he said. “It’s very different than a traditional macaroni salad.”

Goodman also likes to take that picnic staple, cold fried chicken, but it isn’t fried, and he uses a nontraditional breading. Goodman uses boneless chicken, thinly pounded and breaded with a mixture of seasoned rice flour and cornstarch.

“Instead of frying it, pan-sear it in canola oil,” Goodman said.

Because of the “fantastic” corn available at this time of year, he makes a jicama, corn and black bean salad with a lime vinaigrette and cilantro, or marinated grilled salmon with a tamarind-hoisin glaze.

“You have a nice little outdoor picnic,” he said.

Eugene Santiago, executive chef of Carson Kitchen, likes to grill a variety of meats, plus vegetables including squashes, romaine, asparagus and broccolini.

“Break them down to servable portions,” Santiago said. “Get yourself set up so when you get to the picnic, all you have to do is throw it on the grill, pop open a beer and hope you don’t burn yourself.”

He also likes fresh fruit, cut up and easily picked up as a snack or even dessert.

Scott Wheatfill, head pastry chef for Bouchon Bakery and Bouchon Bistro, both at The Venetian, said the bakery sells boxed lunches with sandwich, chips, cookie, fruit and water, which don’t have to be ordered in advance unless it’s a large order. Another summer offering, he said, is house-made lemonade or strawberry lemonade.

“Those are a huge hit in the summer, especially at our express window at the clock tower,” he said.

If Wheatfill is going on a picnic, he might take a boxed lunch, or he might do his own.

“I always take sandwiches, that’s a staple,” he said. “Sometimes I build the sandwiches there, sometimes I will bring them prepared. I think it’s fun to build sandwiches at the park or at the beach. I’m going on vacation next week, and that’s what we do; I build everyone’s sandwiches on the beach in San Diego.”

Wheatfill said he favors turkey sandwiches, or pastrami with coleslaw, or pulled pork.

“PB and J for the kids,” he added. “I’ll bring some raspberry jam I made at the house.”

At Red Rock Resort, where the box lunches are popular with visitors in the Red Rock Adventures Program, executive banquet chef Lloyd Bansil also favors sandwiches when he goes on a picnic.

“I personally like to give people an option,” Bansil said. “Have the bread ready, and have certain condiments ready to go as well. And from that point, have them be interactive and build their own sandwiches, build the combinations.”

He said he likes to tailor the menu to the event ’€” whether it be, for example, a date or family outing ’€” and stressed the importance of planning ahead.

“Have all the proper utensils, plates, trash bags, all that stuff,” he said. “Certain games, like Frisbee.”

Leave messy foods like spaghetti at home, he said.

“Many people don’t think about the cleanup portion of it,” Bansil said. “Baby wipes come in so handy.”


4 garlic cloves

1 large sprig rosemary

4 to 5 slices whole orange, peel on

1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes

1 tablespoon Spanish smoked sweet paprika

2 cups extra-virgin olive oil

1 quart large green Spanish olives, unpitted

Combine garlic cloves, fresh rosemary, orange slices, red chili flakes, paprika and extra-virgin olive oil in a saucepan and set over low heat. Slowly warm up to infuse the oil and soften the garlic; do not let it fry. Once hot, about 5 minutes, pour in olives and steep until cool. Serve at room temperature.

Serves 4.

Recipe from Tyler Florence/The Food Network


For the pickling liquid:

2-½ cups distilled white vinegar

3 cups water

¾ cup sugar

5 tablespoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

½ teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes

For vegetables:

1 head cauliflower (2 pounds), trimmed and broken into 1- to 1-½-inch florets (6 cups)

1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 carrots, cut diagonally into ½-inch-thick slices (2 cups)

4 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch-thick slices (3 cups)

1 cup drained bottled whole peperoncini (4 ounces)

1 cup large brine-cured green olives (preferably Sicilian; 6 ounces)

½ cup oil-cured black olives (6 ounces)

To make pickling liquid: Bring pickling-liquid ingredients to a boil in a 3-quart nonreactive saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Transfer to a 4-quart nonreactive bowl and cool about 30 minutes.

For vegetables: Bring about 6 quarts unsalted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot. Have ready a large bowl of ice and cold water. Add cauliflower to pot and boil until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes, then transfer with a slotted spoon to ice bath to stop cooking. Cook remaining vegetables separately in same manner, allowing 4 minutes each for bell peppers and carrots and 2 minutes for celery. Drain vegetables in a colander and spread out on two large kitchen towels to dry.

Add cooked vegetables, peperoncini and olives to pickling liquid. Weight vegetables with a plate to keep them submerged, then chill, covered, at least 1 day.

Makes about 10 cups.

Recipe from Gourmet


1 cup vertically sliced red onion

¼ cup red wine vinegar

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1-½ tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2-½ cups cubed seedless watermelon

1 small cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)

¼ cup (1 ounce) crumbled feta cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Combine first three ingredients in a small bowl and let stand for 30 minutes. Drain.

Combine balsamic vinegar, oil and pepper in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add onion mixture, watermelon and cucumber; toss gently to coat. Arrange watermelon mixture on a platter. Top with cheese, mint, and basil.

Serves 6.

Recipe from Cooking Light

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com. Find more of her stories at www.reviewjournal.com and bestoflasvegas.com and follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

Life and times of a 90-year-old horse player
Leo Polito of Las Vegas describes meeting legendary jockey and trainer Johnny Longden on the beach at Del Mar. Mike Brunker/Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Learning the history of singing bowls
Presentation at Summerlin Library teaches residents about the history of singing bowls (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stop the bleed
Leslie Shaffer, an AMR paramedic, shows how to stop bleeding
Vicki Richardson speaks about on the power of art
Artist and arts advocate Vicki Richardson talks about the power of art to inspire and challenge. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DressCoders pairs tech with haute couture
DressCoders is a startup focused on haute couture garments. The company uses illuminated thread that is washable and can be sewn right into the fabric. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Brava infrared oven
In cooking with the Brava infrared oven,there’s no preheating. the bulbs can reach 500 degrees in less than a second. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sinks Merge Style And Utility
Study could determine cause of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases
Dr. Aaron Ritter, director of clinical trials at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, discusses his research on how inflammation in the brain impacts Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holocaust survivors talk about tragedy and friendship
Janos Strauss and Alexander Kuechel share their perspectives on life. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'Siegel Cares' Santa delivers toys to kids at Siegel Suites in Las Vegas
Siegel Cares, the charitable wing of The Siegel Group, delivered toys to families at their apartment complexes in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Revisiting “Christ the King” sculpture
A longtime admirer of the sculpture at Christ the King Catholic Community in Las Vegas shares her perspective. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye)
Henderson couple adds another school to their generosity
Bob and Sandy Ellis of Henderson, who donate to several Clark County School District schools, have added Matt Kelly Elementary in Las Vegas to their list of schools where every student gets new shoes, socks and a toy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terry Fator Christmas House
Arguably better than a hotel holiday display, is Terry and Angie Fator's home located in southwest Las Vegas.
UNLV Winter Graduation Packs Thomas & Mack
UNLV's 55th winter commencement ceremony included approximately 2,146 undergraduate and graduate students who recently completed their studies. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Build-A-Bear comes to Reed Elementary School
Students participated in a Build-A-Bear-Workshop at Doris Reed Elementary School in Las Vegas, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018.
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the LVRJ
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center art depicts names of God
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center founder Sharaf Haseebullah talks about new diamond-shaped art panels featuring some of the 99 names of Allah at the main entrance the Las Vegas mosque. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holiday poultry with Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine
Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine explain the different types of poultry available for the holidays. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Catholic Charities hosts early Christmas meal
Students from the Bishop Gorman High School football and cheerleader team helped to serve food at the Christmas meal sponsored by the Frank and Victoria Fertitta Foundation at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada on Sunday. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Incarcerated Christmas
This is the fourth year HOPE for Prisoners has worked with the Nevada Department of Corrections to create a Christmas for prisoners to visit their families. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2018 Homeless Vigil
Straight From The Streets holds its 23rd annual vigil to remember the 179 homeless individuals who died in Clark County this year.
Getting through the Holiday blues
Psychologist Whitney Owens offers advice on keeping your mental health in check during the Holiday season in Henderson, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military program gave meal kits to 200 families at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10047 in Las Vegas Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. It all started with a chance encounter in a supermarket in Utica, N.Y., near Fort Drum. A soldier, his wife and infant had a handful of grocery items they couldn't afford. A Beam Suntory employee picked up the $12 cost for the groceries. The program has grown from providing 500 meal kits to military families in 2009 to providing more than 7,000 nationally this holiday season.K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women at WestCare Women Children Campus in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Former 51s manager Wally Backman chats about new job
Former Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman talks about his new job with the independent league Long Island Ducks during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 10, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Roy Choi on cooking for Park MGM employees
As he prepares to open his new restaurant Best Friend later this month at Park MGM, celebrity chef Roy Choi took the time to cook for the resort’s employees Tuesday. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Great Santa Run
People participated in the 14th annual Las Vegas Great Santa Run which raises cubs for Opportunity Village.
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like