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Jazzy Vegetarian Recipes: Festive Picnic Menu

Memorial Day is the first holiday of late spring and it ushers in the season of sharing outdoor fun with family and friends. Nothing livens an alfresco party like festive food served in an attractive setting. When preparing a portable picnic, focus on foods that travel well, taste great and provide a pretty presentation when serving.   

This festive open-air menu begins with a fresh asparagus salad that gives a welcome pop of green to this delightful meal. There’s no need to pack bowls in your picnic basket when you serve colorful and hearty stuffed peppers as the star of your meal. This delightful main-dish salad is served in edible “pepper” bowls.

For dessert, kids of all ages will adore fancy homemade lollipops, and a mint-infused fresh lemonade rounds out this perfect picnic menu.

Whether you are picnicking with vegans, vegetarians or omnivores, they will love this scrumptious “start of summer” menu! Happy Memorial Day!

Marinated Asparagus Salad

Peter Capozzi

Asparagus makes a refreshing summer salad, adding color and crunch to any meal. It makes a nice light lunch perched on top of a bed of lettuce or presents an enticing first course to an elegant party meal.

Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)  

  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon reduced-sodium tamari
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch asparagus, cleaned and trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (for garnish)


  1. To make the dressing, put the lemon juice, tamari and garlic in a small bowl and briskly whisk until smooth. Steam the asparagus until crisp-tender. Put the hot asparagus in a large bowl and add the dressing.
  2. Toss gently to coat the asparagus with the dressing. Cover and refrigerate for 3 to 24 hours.
  3. Serve chilled, garnished with lemon zest and arranged on a pretty platter or over a bed of baby greens.

Chickpea and Quinoa Salad in Sweet Pepper Boats

Andy Ebberbach

These appealing pepper “boats” are filling enough to serve as a main dish for any festive summer meal. Perfectly portable, they make a wonderful picnic entrée.

Ingredients (Makes 8 servings) 

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed thoroughly and drained
  • 2 cups filtered or spring water
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ¾ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, plus more as needed
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt, plus more as needed
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • 4 large sweet red, yellow or orange peppers
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish (optional)


  1. Put the quinoa and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 15 to 17 minutes, until all of the liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork.
  2. Transfer to a medium bowl. Let cool (see note). Put the cooled quinoa, chickpeas, parsley, tomatoes and olives in a large bowl. Put the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, chili powder, salt and turmeric in a small bowl and whisk briskly until smooth. Pour the dressing over the quinoa mixture and stir gently to incorporate.
  3. Taste and add more chili powder, salt and/or olive oil if needed. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to let the flavors blend. Right before serving, split the peppers in half lengthwise and seed them. Scoop the quinoa mixture into the pepper halves. Garnish with parsley, if using.

CHEF’S NOTE: The quinoa may be cooked up to 24 hours in advance and stored in the refrigerator. 

Minty-Maple Lemonade

David Kaplan

Refreshing to serve at any summer party or family meal, this lemonade gets its sweet taste from the pleasing flavor of pure maple syrup.

Ingredients (4 to 5 servings) 

  • 32 oz spring or filtered water
  • 2 small lemons, freshly squeezed, plus more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, plus more as needed
  • 4 to 6 fresh spearmint or peppermint sprigs
  • 16 ice cubes, plus more as needed


  1. Put the lemon juice and maple syrup in a small bowl and whisk vigorously to combine. (If sweeter lemonade is desired, add more maple syrup, to taste. If a stronger lemon flavor is desired, add more lemon juice, to taste).
  2. Divide the lemon-maple mixture into four or five tall glasses. Pour 6 to 8 ounces water into each glass, while stirring constantly. Add several ice cubes to each glass. Stir well.
  3. Tuck a fresh mint sprig into the ice cubes, leaving an inch of mint peeking out at the top. Serve immediately!

Chocolate Date-Nut Lollipops

Andy Ebberbach

Fun, fun, fun! That’s how I describe these lovely little lollipops. The dates help to hold the pops together while also standing in for much of the processed sugar. They’re perfect for any party, whether you are entertaining kids or adults!

Ingredients (Makes 8 to 10 lollipops)

  • ½ cup vegan dark chocolate chips (grain-sweetened variety works well)
  • 6 Medjool dates, pitted
  • ¼ cup whole pecans
  • ⅛ teaspoon vanilla extract


  • 2 tablespoons pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts, ground (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons dark, nondairy cocoa powder (optional)


  1. Put the vegan chocolate chips in a double boiler over medium-low heat. When the chocolate has melted, remove from the heat. Meanwhile, put the dates, pecans and vanilla extract in a high-performance blending appliance and process to the consistency of soft dough. Transfer the date mixture to a medium bowl, pour in the melted chocolate and stir until well combined. Put the date mixture in the freezer for 7 to 15 minutes or until the chocolate has set enough to roll into small balls.
  2. Line a small baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper. Spoon out a heaping tablespoon of the chocolate mixture, and quickly roll it into a ball. Roll it in one of the optional toppings until completely coated. Continue in this way, forming all of the remaining chocolate mixture into balls and coating them in one of the optional coatings.
  3. Insert the end of a lollipop stick into each chocolate ball and place all lollipops upright in 2 separate mugs or shallow glasses, making sure they do not touch each other. Chill for 1 to 2 hours before serving. For a festive presentation, wrap each lollipop in cellophane and tie with a pretty ribbon. Stored in an airtight container, leftover lollipops will keep for up to 3 days.
Jazzy Vegetarian Laura Theodore