Summertime picnic

Summer is a perfect time to share a picnic meal with friends. There is something exciting about eating outdoors, even if you are only heading to the local park.

We have had season tickets for the Hollywood Bowl for as long as I can remember. Friends meet up with us there and we enjoy an entire evening sharing a picnic dinner and music under the stars.

One of the most interesting salads we have had was when a guest was asked to bring a Caesar salad to the Bowl. The ingredients were packed individually; when we got to the Bowl, our friends put the romaine, grated Parmesan and anchovy dressing into a plastic bag — shake, shake — and served. It was delicious.

Your picnic meal may be nothing more than tuna salad and a selection of cheeses, but you’re still likely to have a good time, which is probably why many of us remain devoted to the same picnic foods we’ve eaten forever.

Here are some ideas for a successful, frustration-free picnic, which you can enjoy at the Hollywood Bowl, the Santa Barbara Bowl, the Libbey Bowl in Ojai, the beach, a park or in your own backyard.

Begin with Roasted Peppers prepared in a simple, foolproof method and served with anchovies. When not planning to serve the peppers immediately, cover them with oil and garlic, and store them in a bowl in the refrigerator. The olive oil serves as a preservative, and the garlic actually brings out their flavor. Although people may bring store-bought roasted peppers in the jar, they cannot compare with peppers prepared at home.

Meatloaf is a favorite and can be made with ground beef, chicken or turkey. Serving is no problem —  heat it in the oven just before leaving for your picnic. Cover tightly with aluminum foil, wrap in several layers of newspaper or a towel, and it will stay as warm as if you just took it out of the oven. During the preparation, I include hard-boiled eggs that I place in the center when shaping the meatloaf. When you cut the loaf, it is very festive to see them in each slice.

Don’t forget to include Potato Salad, which traditionally goes with meatloaf as well as it does with most picnic foods. Spoon into Tupperware or a similar snap-top plastic container, and place on a plastic bag filled with ice to keep cold.

Rich, chewy Chocolate Pecan Brownies covered with a creamy chocolate frosting are a perfect take-along dessert — they can be baked in advance and are easy to transport.