A Beach Picnic for Your Weekend Dinner Plans

July is one of the busiest times of the year in the Hamptons and it seems crowds are everywhere. This weekend I neglected to race and secure any coveted dinner reservations at our favorite restaurants or set the table elaborately for a large gathering because we plan to pack it up and take our weekend guests to the beach for dinner. Our guests will enjoy the relaxing evening under the starry night while listening to crashing surf. I am hoping for a relatively crowd-free experience in the hopes that many will be partaking in the variety of social events going on in the area. What better way to celebrate with weekend guests than a good old-fashioned picnic on the beach complete with a campfire and topped off with roasted marshmallows. I find it to be a relatively easy way to spend the evening and entertain. There are no dishes to wash and clean up, no traffic to contend with and the added bonus is the children can frolic on the sand while we clink our glasses and enjoy a delicious dinner. [expand]

I have a few go-to recipes that I rely upon for picnic dinners on the beach and of course our local cooking guru extraordinaire Ina Garten provides a plethora of easy-to-make recipes in her various Barefoot Contessa cookbooks. Garten’s sesame noodles are a perfect accompaniment to a picnic and top my list. Since I just picked up her new cookbook, How Easy Is That?, I plan to make the roasted shrimp salad to bring along. Sometimes we grill hot dogs at home and wrap them individually in foil, or barbeque skewers of teriyaki beef and wrap them as well, warming them on the fire just before we eat. It’s important to have a couple of small folding tables for drinks and plates. I use a variety of containers from raffia-tied lacquered bento boxes to colored Chinese-style takeout containers to provide individual-sized salads and dishes for everyone. King Kullen even offers a S’mores Kit, complete with sticks and all the fixings. My daughter plans to make her delicious summer cupcakes frosted in bright hues to pass out after dinner.

It does take a bit of organization to plan ahead of time but somehow the food just seems to taste more delicious on the beach, provided you can keep everyone from kicking sand onto your food. I have a great collection of tin plates, and I add a bit of luxury with rolled linen napkins, and of course we fill the cooler with lots of refreshing drinks.

For a roaring fire I rely on my husband to bring the logs, a metal container to hold the fire and all the necessary tools to build it. My son likes to bring his fishing gear in case he has the urge to throw a line, all for fun of course. But I will give you one final helpful hint: don’t forget to bring a battery-operated portable lantern so you can shed some light once the fire is doused and you’re left to clean up your mess. It is not fun to look for your sandals in a sea of sand ensconced in a pitch-black night. [/expand]

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