West Elm + REI: 3 Easy Recipes for a Better Picnic

A picnic spread that looks like a dinner party, without the fuss

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This spring, REI Co-op and West Elm are partnering on a first-ever co-curated collection of on-the-go outdoor pieces to help people feel more at home outside, from the campsite to your own backyard. As part of our partnership, we’re publishing a series of guest posts from our friends at West Elm. Here, they share three super tasty and totally doable picnic recipes that you can make ahead of time and assemble in the sunshine. 


There’s no better way than to get a little taste of spring than with a picnic. Although your local park may not be an option these days, that doesn’t mean you can’t have some delicious food al fresco with your family, your partner or solo. A picnic can be in your backyard, in your garden, on your balcony—even in your living room.

We all know sandwiches, dips and other easy-to-serve items are classic picnic fare, but we’re all about trying something new (but still simple!) to shake things up. On the menu: a bright and crunchy citrus salad, a Mexican-inspired chicken bowl with spiced corn and sweet potatoes, and for dessert, a berry clafouti, which is basically the easiest cake-pie hybrid ever. If you can’t get to the market to make the recipes exactly as written, don’t stress. Use whatever you have at hand and swap ingredients as needed (we’ll give some suggestions below, but you can totally wing it). The main idea is to create a nice picnic with whatever you can get your hands on.

How to Prep, Assemble and Serve This Picnic Menu

Before you head outside, make sure all your ingredients are chopped, prepped and ready to go. Keep all dressings and other leaky items (such as sliced citrus) separated from the rest—this will keep all the food fresh and crunchy. Pack them up in reusable to-go containers or add them separately to a large platter or bowl so you can mix once you’re ready to eat.

In terms of dinnerware and serveware, ditch the disposable stuff and opt for reusable outdoor dinnerware instead, like this set from West Elm + REI. They stack up nicely for easy transport and the colors are so fun. I’m also a fan of bringing actual flatware to a picnic, It feels so much nicer to have a good fork and knife instead of flimsy single-use ones that break when you try to cut a cherry tomato. Here, I used the Capri Flatware Set from West Elm. Real linens are great too; I used the Textured Cotton Napkins from West Elm.

You can easily pack this whole menu in one cooler, like this one from West Elm + REI. This helps keep everything at the right temperature and makes sure everything gets to your destination without a hitch.

Finally, you’ll need a tablecloth or blanket, and the Organic Double-Woven Go Everywhere Blanket from West Elm + REI does the trick. I love that it’s thicker than a thin tablecloth so it gives the setting a bit more structure. Plus, it’s super cute.

All the recipes are made to be mixed on site, so you just need to either unpack them onto a platter and stir in a dressing, or just plunk it on a plate and you’re good to go. It’s honestly the easiest, Instagramable and drool-worthy picnic ever.

Once everything is out, take all the photos you want, and just dig in and relax. Lie down, chill, read, snack, eat some more and repeat. And if you share your picnic on social, tag @westelm and @REI so we can see.

Ingredients

Image courtesy of West Elm

Super Crunch Citrus Salad

So crisp, so crunchy, so refreshing

Makes 4-6 servings 

Citrus Salas

Image courtesy of West Elm

Ingredients:

  • 2 oranges, peeled and sliced
  • 1 blood orange, peeled and sliced (or one more regular orange)
  • 2 grapefruits, supremed
  • 2 mangoes, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 green apples or 1 jicama, cut into matchsticks
  • ¼ cup mint, chopped

For the dressing:

  • 2 lemons or limes, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 inch ginger, grated
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • Sea salt to taste
  • ½ cup cilantro

Directions

  1. Arrange the fruit on a platter, set aside.
  2. Add the citrus juice, Dijon, garlic and ginger into a blender or food processor. Pulse to combine. Slowly add the oil while the blender is running. Add the cilantro and pulse until combined. Season with salt to taste.
  3. Drizzle the dressing over the fruit and serve.

The Mexi Zen Plate

This recipe serves a crowd, so bring your family outside with you

Makes 6 servings

Chicken Bowl

Image courtesy of West Elm

Ingredients: 

For the spiced yams:

  • 2 yams
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon Mexican (or regular) oregano
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

For the roasted corn:

  • 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 tablespoon oil

For the coriander dressing:

  • 1 jalapeño
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • Sea salt

For the salad:

  • 4 cups salad greens
  • 3 lbs. chicken (any kind), roasted and sliced
  • 1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 2 sliced avocados
  • ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds or any kind of nut
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro

Directions:

For the spiced yams:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Peel the yams and slice into ¼-inch half-moons. Toss the yams with oil and spices.
  3. Arrange the yams on a parchment-lined tray and bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring halfway through.

For the roasted corn: 

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy bottom frying pan.
  2. Add the sliced green onions and spiced and saute until tender.
  3. Add the corn and cook  for about 10 minutes, or until it starts to brown.

For the coriander dressing:

  1. Puree all the ingredients in a blender.
  2. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

To assemble the salad bowl, arrange the lettuce on a platter. Top with sliced chicken, spiced yams, tomatoes and avocado. When ready to serve, drizzle with dressing. Garnish with pumpkin seeds and chopped cilantro.

Berry Clafouti

Silky, sweet and an early ode to spring and summer

Makes 6 servings 

Berry Desert

Image courtesy of West Elm

Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup cane sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1½  teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • ½ cup flour
  • ¾ cup mixed fresh or frozen berries
  • Powdered sugar, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. In a bowl whisk together the milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, lemon and butter. Add the flour and mix until there are no lumps.
  3. Pour the batter into a pie dish and sprinkle with berries. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

Photography and recipes by Gabriel Cabrera