Summer is the season of out-and-about. Warmer weather and holidays lure us away from our wintertime ruts of home/work/school/repeat into a relaxing, dream-like world where it’s light till very late, the wind blows warm, and we’re stretching our winter-weary legs and wandering away from the four walls that we’ve huddled between for so many months. Ah, brief bliss, enjoy it while you can—routine is just around the corner, waiting to settle heavily around our shoulders again with the advent of autumn. Planning to make a meal somewhere else, anywhere else, but preferably outside, is an excellent way to claim some summer: if you’re away from the house and the phone, then you can do whatever you want! Take-out and concession stands offer quick meals, but with a bit of preparation, picnic food can be brought from home and the money saved used for ice cream or a trip to the petting zoo. Salads are always easy; avoid mayonnaise-based dressings and make big batches of hearty main dish salads to use towards several meals. On the weekend, toss a panful of baby beets, sweet potatoes, and fennel bulbs in a skim of olive oil, then roast them. During the week they can be bundled in a sprouted tortilla with some chevre and pine nuts for a delicious picnic wrap. Bake a big macaroni and cheese casserole, stirring in some spinach and red pepper, and spread it in a rectangular pan. Allow it to cool and set, and cut into squares to bring along as an alfresco main dish. Roll very tiny meat balls from ground meat, cook, then cool, and bring along to stuff into pita pockets with tzatziki sauce, hummus, or peanut sauce. Life is short and sweet, summer even more so. Go and get it while you can!

Potato Salad
2 lbs red new potatoes, cut into eighths
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp sour cream
1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp horseradish
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
4 stalks celery, trimmed and diced
3 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
Cook potatoes in boiling, lightly salted water until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain; refrigerate 1 hour. Whisk olive oil, wine vinegar, garlic, sour cream, mustard, horseradish, sugar, salt and pepper in a large bowl. When potatoes are cool, add to dressing along with celery and green onions. Toss to combine.

Potato Persillade Salad
10 (approximately) potatoes, peeled
4 green onions, thinly sliced
Persillade Sauce:
1 cup loosely packed fresh parsley
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
To make Persillade sauce: In food processor, process together parsley, oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper until fairly smooth. Set aside. In large pot of boiling salted water, cover and cook potatoes until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain and let cool slightly. Cut into chunks. In bowl, toss potatoes with green onions. Pour sauce over top; toss to coat.

Tabouleh with Parsley
1 cup bulgur
2 cups finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped mint leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
4 green onions, chopped
1 or 2 tomatoes, chopped
black pepper, to taste
large lettuce leaves, for serving (optional)
Place bulgur in large bowl: cover with hot water and soak for 45-60 minutes (or until most of the water has been absorbed and the bulgur has puffed out a bit). Drain well in a colander, squeezing out any excess water. Put parsley, mint, oil and lemon juice into a blender & process until well mixed. Add herb mixture to bulgur and mix. Stir in onions and tomatoes: mix well. Can be served on lettuce leaves, or scooped into wraps or pita shells.

Tortellini Salad
1/2 package fresh cheese tortellini
1 container grape tomatoes (or cherry), halved
1/2 cup seedless black olives
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 cup cubes of mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup small button mushrooms, washed well & thinly sliced
1 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
Cook tortellini according to package directions. In the meantime, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl. When tortellini has cooked, drain well and allow to cool for a few minutes. While still warm, pour into bowl with dressing; toss well to combine. Stir in remainder of ingredients. Allow salad to sit for 30-60 minutes before serving, to allow all flavours to combine.

Kathy Humphrey lives in Victoria with her husband and two children. She tries to see cooking for a family not as a chore but as a creative outlet.