08/12/2011 04:29 pm ET Updated Oct 12, 2011

Salads Safe For Picnics

The Splendid Table's® How to Eat Supper, By Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Dear Lynne,

I worry about picnic food in the heat of summer. Is there a picnic proof salad? I mean a salad that can sit out without becoming a science experiment, or worse.

Jon in Cleveland

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Dear Jon,

The general rule of thumb is that all dishes with proteins from animals (eggs, meat, fish, etc.), with dairy, or with mayonnaise need to be kept cool all the time. So sidestep any issues by doing vegetables and grains dressed in oil and vinegar. Keep them cool, but rest assured that they're safe for a few hours even at room temperature. A nice trick is to cook the flavor into the rice as in this recipe.

Summer-in-the-Park Saffron Rice Salad
Serves 6 and doubles easily.

5-6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 -1/2 cups medium-grain rice
3 generous pinches saffron threads, soaked in 1/2 cup hot broth or water, or 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 cups liquid (1 -1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth plus 1-1/2 cups water)
1/2 medium red onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 anchovy fillet, rinsed
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar or Spanish sherry vinegar
1/2 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small sweet red pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 heaping tablespoon capers
leaves stripped from 5 branches fresh thyme
leaves from 12 sprigs parsley
2/3 cup snipped chives, or thin sliced scallion tops

1. Heat three tablespoons of the olive oil in a 4-quart pot over medium heat. Cook the chopped onion (sprinkling it with salt and pepper) until soft. Add the garlic and rice, stirring 1 minute to coat the rice. Blend in saffron or turmeric and liquid.

Bring to a very gentle simmer, cover and cook over medium-low heat 20 to 25 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is just tender.

2. Cool rice quickly by spreading it out on a dish. As the rice cools, blend together the diced red onion, anchovy, and vinegar in the bottom of a large bowl.

3. Once the rice is cool, add it to the bowl along with the peas, red pepper and capers. Add enough olive oil to balance flavors, along with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Chill. Shortly before serving, taste for seasoning and vinegar, then blend in the green herbs.

Copyright 2011 Lynne Rossetto Kasper