With less than a month until Labor Day, there’s precious few days left for enjoying the outdoors. Summer’s too short to eat inside, so pack yourself a picnic and dine al fresco. Whether you’re headed to the Harbor Islands or the Common, here are two ways to create a winning picnic menu: buy or DIY.


Buy: Country Loaf, $3.00, Flour Bakery (4 locations)
What’s a picnic without a carbalicious vehicle for your tasty tidbits? Skip that stale grocery store baguette and grab a loaf of Joanne Chang’s soft and satisfying country bread. If you have any leftover, it will make fantastic French toast or bread pudding the next day.

DIY: Country Bread, Joanne Chang’s Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe
Want the accomplishment of baking your own perfect country loaf? Joanne herself tells you how in her bestselling first cookbook. This recipe requires making a bread starter, so plan to bake a few days in advance, or you’ll be swinging by your local Flour to grab a pre-made one!

Buy: Mozzarella House Ricotta, $5.95, South End Formaggio (268 Shawmut Avenue, South End)
Ricotta often gets overlooked as a cheese. Break free of the lasagna and bring some of the creamy goodness to your next picnic. Peabody-based Mozzarella House makes a flavorful, not-too-wet ricotta, perfect for spreading onto bread with a little EVOO, sea salt, and pepper.

DIY: Homemade Ricotta Cheese, America’s Test Kitchen’s DIY Cookbook
For first-time cheesemakers, ricotta is the natural place to start. A soft cheese made from heating and stirring milk, it’s practically foolproof. Especially if you use a recipe from the authority on all things cooking, America’s Test Kitchen. The Brookline-based producers of Cook’s Illustrated released their DIY Cookbook last year, with step-by-step photos and clear, easy-to-follow instructions for anyone wanting to make their own pantry staples.

Buy: Housemade Bluefish Pate, $8.00, Bee’s Knees Supply Co. (12 Farnsworth Street, Seaport)
Pate is picnic food that’s fancy without being fussy. This spreadable seafood snack from local market Bee’s Knees is a must try.

DIY: Smoked Bluefish Pate, The Perfect Pantry 
Adapted from a Legal Sea Foods dish, this recipe from Rhode Island-based Lydia Walshin is a serious stand-in for the local chain’s knockout appetizer.

Buy: Pickled Green Tomatoes, $6.99, City Feed & Supply (2 locations, Jamaica Plain)
If you’ve ever had City Feed’s famous Farmer’s Lunch sandwich, you’ll recognize these tangy tomatoes. Harvested and pickled in Rhode Island, you can grab a jar of this tasty topper for your own lunch creations.

DIY: Pickled Green Tomatoes, Food in Jars
The queen of canning, Marisa McClellan, shares a recipe for these addictive summer staples. Make your own batch of pickled greenies while tomato season is in full swing, and you’ll be thrilled come January cold.

Buy: Macarons, $1.10 each, Ula Cafe (284 Amory Street, Jamaica Plain)
For something a little less messy than a cupcake and easier to transport than ice cream, pick up a selection of fancy French macarons. Ula Cafe has a rotating list of flavors, including classics raspberry and vanilla bean, and creative combos like mojito, honey lavender, and green tea matcha.

DIY: Rose Lemonade Macarons, We Are Not Martha
Fabulous food blogger and entertainer Sues Anderson is always coming up with tasty dessert and drink combos. Adapting a Martha Stewart recipe (natch), Sues makes this refreshing, summery take on a tried-and-true classic.

Buy: Morris Kitchen Preserved Lemon Syrup, $14.00, Eat Boutique Shop 
Upgrade your cocktail with the bright citrus of this Brooklyn-made syrup that tastes anything but simple. A splash in some sparkling wine or mixed with clear spirits, it’s the best way to toast to a perfect picnic.

DIY: Organic Limoncello, Eat Boutique
Lynnfield-based Maggie Battista knows how to entertain. Her food gifts are unmatched, buy them from her shop (see above), or make them yourself. Her upcoming cookbook, Food Gift Love, will have all sorts of prettily packaged nips and nibbles to give and receive. For now, we’ll make do with this well-used recipe for organic limoncello. It takes time, but is well worth the wait.

[Photo Credit: Simply Life]