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Seasonal menu planning for the perfect dinner party.

Serious Entertaining: Picnic Recipes for a Concert in the Park

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[Photograph: Mike Flippo / Shutterstock]

Anyone else pumped for concerts in the park this summer? Is there anything better than picnicking with friends on a blanket on a warm summer night? My picnic spread usually includes a fresh crusty loaf of bread, whatever cheeses looked good at the market, and various hummus-y dips.

This isn't supposed to be a "real" meal per se; picnics in the park should be very nibbles-centric with plenty of graze-able foods that can be easily passed around to whoever's on the blanket. Pack foods that travel easily, won't be spill-hazardous en route, taste fine at park-temperature, and can be eaten with your hands or minimal cutlery.

White Bean Dip

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This pureed white bean dip is easy to whip up in five minutes, and always a crowd-pleaser. You'll also upstage the person who brought storebought hummus (and that person will undoubtedly be at the picnic, and we've all been that person). Just whiz together white beans, olive oil, fresh herbs, and a head of roasted garlic. Break open the bag of pita chips and start dipping.

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Asian Chicken Noodle Salad with Ginger-Peanut Dressing

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So this does require a little more effort than the dip, but fellow picnickers will remember you for this. The cold noodle salad is summer-light and satisfying. The soba noodles get tossed in a punchy soy, ginger, and peanut dressing, then brightened up with a mix of crunchy bits: red peppers, scallions, chopped peanuts, and sesame seeds.

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Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

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Oatmeal cookies are always comforting. Fact. Cherries feel like summertime (soak the dried cherries in boiling water first so they plump up and stay moist) and are nicely accented by the dark chocolate in this cookie dough.

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In Your Thermos

It depends what kind of picnic you want this to be (the lemonade kind? the six-pack of tallboys kind?) but a thermos full of this Fizzy Gin and Lillet Punch is an instant party. A little tart, a little sweet, and it keeps just fine in a thermos. Everybody loves the friend who brings the special thermos to the picnic.

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