Summer Picnic Recipes

summer rooftop picnic

summer picnic

menu - summer rooftop picnic

Last week, since my longtime blog friend and colleague Lisa was in town, Hitha was kind enough to invite Lisa, Becca, Clara, and myself over to her home for a potluck picnic. The plan? Everyone would bring a dish to share, and we’d all enjoy it on the rooftop deck at Hitha’s building (and she’d be in charge of dessert and drinks). We couldn’t have lucked out more — not only because the view from the roof, looking back over the city was fantastic and the company delightful, but the weather and sunset were spectacular.

Funnily enough, all us gals ended up bringing healthy, fresh, vibrant dishes that were completely vegetarian. The result was that we stuffed ourselves to the gills, but didn’t feel so bad about it afterwards. Coupled with Hitha’s ridiculously good white wine sangria (here’s the secret: add watermelon, and don’t be afraid to use wines like sparkling rosé!), it was the perfect night, and one I hope we can repeat over and over this summer.

Today, all of us are sharing the recipes to the potluck items we brought. I opted for an old standby in summer: ratatouille. I’ve shared a fancified, baked ratatouille here on the blog before, but for this, I prepared it the classic way: lots of colorful, wonderful vegetables stewed together in their own juices, with olive oil and plenty of herbes d’provence. Of course, I put my own little twist on it too — I added corn, which isn’t traditional, but I think it adds great texture; I also served it with grated parmesan as a final garnish, just to make it feel a little more decadent. It’s so, so good (and from how rich it is, you’d never know it’s only made with veggies)! Here’s the recipe:  

picnic on the roof

ratatouille and watermelon salad - summer picnic


1/2 cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 small bulb of fennel, cored and chopped, plus some of the fennel fronds, picked and chopped
2 tbsp herbes d’ provence
1/4 cup white wine or chicken stock
4 small to medium vine tomatoes, chopped
1 small or half a large eggplant, diced
1 ear of corn, husked, silked, and kernels cut off the cob
1 yellow and 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 zucchini, diced
— kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
OPTIONAL: fresh basil and grated parmesan for garnish

In a large, heavy bottomed pan or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Once hot, add in the onion, garlic, and fennel, and allow to saute until the mixture begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the dried herbs, then cook for another 3-5 minutes, until the mixture turns golden brown and sticks to the bottom of the pan, about 8-10 minutes.

Deglaze the pan with the wine, and stir to release any bits stuck to the bottom. Add in the rest of the vegetables, and season very well with salt and pepper. You want to be sure there’s plenty of salt so that the juices are drawn from the vegetables, and they will stew in their own liquid. Stir to combine.

Cover, and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until all the vegetables are very soft and have blended together. Stir occasionally. Towards the end of cooking, taste the mixture for seasoning. If the flavor seems thin, you can also add a little more olive oil (the fat from the oil will help better carry the flavor of the vegetables, and make everything seem more vibrant). Season with more salt, pepper or herbs as desired.

Ladle the ratatouille into dishes, and garnish with freshly chopped basil and a sprinkling of parmesan. This can be served warm or at room temperature.


1 baguette, sliced into 1 in cubes and toasted. (Toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper and toast them in a saute pan with more olive oil. Work in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan, and ensure that each crouton gets nice and crisp)
1 red pepper – cut into 1 in cubes
1 yellow pepper – cut into 1 in cubes
1 cucumber – peeled, seeded, cut into small slices
1 tomato – (or you can use grape tomatoes, sliced in half. I love tomatoes, so I usually add a bit more than the recipe calls for)
About 20 leaves of fresh basil, washed and sliced into thin strips

For the Dressing
1 tsp of minced garlic
1 tsp of dijon mustard
3 tbsp of champagne vinegar
1 tsp of salt
1/4 or 1/2 tsp of black pepper
1/2 cup of olive oil

For the dressing: whisk together all the ingredients except for the olive oil. Once blended, add the olive oil in a slow steady stream, whisking as you pour.

To assemble: Toss the vegetables with the dressing first; about 30 min before you’re ready to serve so the flavors can blend. Then, about 15 min before serving, toss in the bread croutons (this helps ensure that they won’t get too soggy with the vinaigrette)

Get Hitha’s Cocktail Recipe Here:

Hitha’s White Wine Sangria with Peaches, Mango and Watermelon


{Images taken by Victoria McGinley for vmac+cheese}

Leave a Comment


  1. 6.27.13
    kelsey said:

    oh yum, this looks so delish
    kw ladies in navy
    $50 anthropologie giveaway!

  2. 6.27.13

    This sounds like the absolute perfect summer picnic — there’s nothing like fresh produce-driven dishes to really brighten up an evening, and who wants anything heavy or overcooked anyway!

  3. 6.27.13
    Ailee said:

    Ha, it’s only 9am, but now I’m hungry! This spread looks absolutely amazing (especially since I’m a vegetarian). That ratatouille recipe is definitely on next week’s dinner menu. Thanks for sharing! xo

  4. 6.27.13
    Elisabeth said:

    sounds like so much fun! and now i want to come visit new york and dine with all of you :)

  5. 6.27.13
    nora said:

    the get together sounded so fun! and all the food looked amazing.

  6. 6.27.13

    Looks delicious. We are vegetarian so these are great for us!

  7. 6.27.13
    Kristina said:

    Yummm everything looks really good! This is making me hungry ;)

    Kristina does the Internets

  8. 6.27.13
    Abby said:

    Oh my goodness it all looks so pretty and yummy! Need to try that watermelon recipe asap.

  9. 6.27.13
    meg said:

    Umm..yum and awesome view!

  10. 6.27.13
    kim said:

    Oh, thank you!! You’ve shared these recipes at the perfect time – it’s 4th of July potluck time and I’m always looking for the perfect recipe to share. Now that I’m on vacation and sans recipe books, this is wonderful! Watermelon and Feta Salad here we come!! (And the ratatouille is going in my favorites!)

  11. 6.27.13
    chelsie said:

    such a fun collab with other bloggers – love it!

  12. 6.27.13
    daisy said:

    what a perfect summer picnic with a stunning view! x

    & Pretty Things

  13. 6.27.13
    Nnenna said:

    This sounds like so much fun- blogger get-togethers are the best!

  14. 6.27.13

    that menu looks perrrrfect for dining al fresco in the summer. love a watermelon feta salad!

    XO, Stefanie
    Life on the Squares

  15. 6.27.13
    Elizabeth said:

    I’ve been seeing watermelon and feta salad all over the place. Two of my favorite ingredients- I’ve got to try it already!

    Elizabeth of The Corner Apartment

  16. 6.27.13
    Rose said:

    I loved seeing your pics on instagram in real time, it looks like you ladies had a fab night!!

    Blonde in this City

  17. 6.27.13

    Such a fun evening! Let’s please do it again soon :)

  18. 6.30.13

    What a spread! Peach, mango & watermelon sangria sounds so refreshing.