When I was a young woman traveling in Italy I fell in love with the food—especially antipasti. The idea of room temperature dishes of different tastes, textures and colors was genius to me. I felt instinctively that it was a way of eating that suited the California al fresco lifestyle. I fell so hard that I co-wrote a cookbook that was based on the grazing feasts we loved.
As the farmers’ market ethos has become firmly embedded in Southern California home kitchens, this idea of simple recipes made with premium quality ingredients is our default culinary lifestyle. The dishes are suitable to pack up and take anywhere. They don’t require refrigeration and are better without it. You can make everything ahead so you’re less stressed. Just remember that the better the ingredients the less work is needed to transform them. I’ve shared a few of the updated recipes that fueled countless take-out baskets for picnics of every sort and easy grazing buffets in the years I had Angeli restaurants.
To round out the menu, add a leafy salad if you like. Dress it simply with extra virgin olive oil, that salt you’ve been hoarding, a squeeze of lemon and a tiny bit of soy sauce.
Pick up some great sturdy bread from those young bakers you’ve been hearing about. Don’t forget to pack a knife. While you’re at it splurge on some Beurre de Baratte, a French cultured butter you have to taste at least once in your life, or more locally a salted cultured butter from Vermont. Go with a wine that can handle some chill like a Rosé or Beaujolais. Or explore Lambrusco—not the sugary kind you guzzled in your youth, but real Lambrusco, a light, dry yet fruity red wine. For dessert, indulge in your favorite big cookies. Outdoor eating calls for something simple and finger friendly.
When making these dishes it’s important you don’t skimp on the quality or quantity of olive oil since it lends texture and flavor. Use an extra virgin you like—lately I’ve been favoring California oils. Buy the best produce and dairy. Most importantly, adjust seasoning to your own palate. Add salt to your taste and an acidic lift from vinegar or lemon juice if needed. And please don’t fuss! Cooking should be as fun as the eating.
Evan Kleiman’s recipes for steak salad with mushrooms and mustard-shallot vinaigrette; peach-tomato salad with burrata; Mediterranean potato salad and balsamic-basil marinated eggplant can be found at southcoastplaza.com/dining
Daytrip lidded split rattan basket, Pottery Barn; Riva flatware and picnic knife, Williams Sonoma; Caprice dark blue melamine plate and stacking acrylic clear wine glasses, Crate and Barrel Home Store; glass storage containers, Sur La Table