Friday, April 23, 2021

Pack the perfect picnic with sandwiches that don’t get soggy and “jarcuterie"

Dining al fresco is one of my favorite things about warm weather. Food tastes so much better outdoors. I love relaxing on a big blanket with a tasty sandwich as the sun warms my skin.

Packing the perfect picnic involves some strategy and planning, but I promise it’s worth it in the long run.

One of the greatest picnic problems is soggy sandwich syndrome, so I’m sharing several tips to prevent this.

Tip 1: Use dense, crusty bread.

Regular store-bought white sandwich bread won’t hold up over long periods of time. Breads like sourdough, rye, ciabatta, and baguettes will actually soak up all the flavors of your sandwich fillings without turning into a mushy mess.

Tip 2: Slather on a fat-based spread.

Fat-based spreads like mayonnaise, pesto, olive tapenade, cheese spread, butter, and olive oil create a moisture barrier and actually repel liquids from soaking into the bread. Mustard is not a good condiment to use because its main ingredients are vinegar and water.

Tip 3: Avoid juicy ingredients.

It’s best to avoid tomatoes and wet fillings like chicken salad and egg salad, and make sure you pat dry any of your other ingredients.

Now that you know how to avoid a soggy sandwich, you can use that knowledge when preparing my favorite packable sandwich recipe, a Grilled Vegetable Picnic Loaf.

A picnic loaf is a partially hollowed out loaf of bread, stuffed with your favorite fillings, and then chilled and pressed. Transport the entire loaf with you to your destination, and slice it when you’re ready to eat. Also, you can make the sandwich ahead of time. I actually like it better when I make it the night before because the flavors have time to mingle together.

Also, if you don’t want to grill your own vegetables for this recipe, Trader Joe’s sells Misto alla Griglia in the frozen department, and it works really well. Just make sure to pat the ingredients dry!

Grilled Vegetable Picnic Loaf 


  • 1 loaf of crusty bread, round or oval
  • 1/2 cup olive tapenade
  • 1/2 cup pesto
  • 1/2 cup arugula
  • 1 large eggplant, sliced lengthwise 1/4” thick, grilled or roasted
  • 1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise 1/4” thick, grilled or roasted
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips, grilled or roasted
  • 1/2 red onion, julienned
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into slices
  • Other options: Italian meats, artichokes, grilled portobello mushrooms, goat cheese


  1. Cut off top of loaf of bread (about 2 inches down) and set aside. Scoop out most of the inside. You can save breadcrumbs to use for cooking later, if desired.
  2. Spread inside of bread shell and underneath lid with layer of olive tapenade and layer of pesto.
  3. Place layer of arugula in bottom of bread shell. Then layer eggplant, zucchini, red bell pepper, red onion, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and top with more arugula.
  4. Place top layer of bread on top.
  5. Wrap the entire loaf in plastic wrap, move to refrigerator, and place something heavy on top for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  6. Transport whole loaf to picnic and slice when ready to serve.

Many people prefer to graze on snacks than have a sandwich, but elaborate picnic charcuterie spreads look like a pain to transport, lay out, and clean up. “Jarcuterie” is a much better option. Jarcuterie is just charcuterie in a jar. To assemble, I recommend sticking several tall crackers in first (crispy breadsticks and cheese sticks work best). Then fill in the bottom with dense ingredients like nuts and dried fruit. Then use skewers to layer meats, cheese, and olives, and fill any gaps in the center with berries and grapes.



  • Nuts
  • Dried fruit
  • Cured meats
  • Cheese
  • Olives
  • Crackers
  • Grapes or berries


  1. Layer durable ingredients like nuts and dried fruit in bottom of mason jar
  2. Layer meats, cheese, and olives on 2 skewers and stick in jar
  3. Fill in space on outside edge with crackers
  4. Use grapes and berries to fill in gaps in center


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