Among the true pleasures of summer is dining alfresco. Whether it's a picnic at a favorite park or a simple supper on the patio, eating outdoors is something that most of us enjoy. We like it even more when it can be prepared quickly and--better yet--when it can be prepared in advance during cooler hours. Picnics, whether close to home or off the beaten track, will be most successful when the food is made to look as pretty as possible. Ordinary sandwich fillings may taste fine, but they'll seem stylish served in pita breads. And a simple curried chicken salad takes on a special-occasion aura when stuffed in large pasta shells. See how easy it is? PRODUCED BY ROBIN TUCKER / PHOTOGRAPHS BY JEFF BURKE / FOOD STYLIST: LORRAINE TRIOLO CORNED BEEF-AND-EGG SANDWICHES 1 4 1/2-ounce can corned beef spread 3 tablespoons mayonnaise 2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped cup chopped celery 2 tablespoons chopped dill pickle teaspoon dry mustard teaspoon salt 2 whole-wheat pita breads Softened butter or margarine, optional Shredded lettuce
Blend corned beef with mayonnaise. Stir in eggs, celery, pickle, mustard and salt. Cut pita breads in halves and butter inside surfaces. Spoon 1/2 cup filling into each pocket. Top with lettuce. Makes 2 servings. PITA POCKET SANDWICHES 1 6 1/2-ounce can chunk light tuna in water 1 cup shredded carrot cup plain yogurt cup sliced water chestnuts 1 tablespoon sliced green onion 1 tablespoon soy sauce teaspoon minced ginger 2 6-inch pita breads 1 3-ounce package alfalfa sprouts
Drain tuna and combine with carrot, yogurt, water chestnuts, green onion, soy sauce and ginger. Slice pita breads in halves to make 4 pockets. Fill pockets with tuna mixture and with alfalfa sprouts. Makes 2 servings. CHICKEN-STUFFED SHELL SALAD 1 12-ounce package jumbo shells Boiling salted water 3 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken 1 cup finely diced celery cup finely diced green pepper cup finely chopped toasted almonds 1 tablespoon pickle relish Curry Dressing
Cook shells in boiling salted water until tender but firm, following package directions. Rinse and drain well. Combine chicken, celery, green pepper, almonds and pickle relish. Toss with Curry Dressing. Stuff shells with salad. Cover and chill until serving time. Makes about 6 servings. Curry Dressing cup sour cream 1/2 cup mayonnaise 1 teaspoon curry powder 1 tablespoon lemon juice teaspoon coriander Salt, pepper Mix together sour cream, mayonnaise, curry powder, lemon juice and coriander; season to taste with salt and pepper. HERO-IN-THE-ROUND 1 round loaf Italian bread Lettuce 2 cups diced ham, chicken, or turkey 1 8 1/2-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and sliced 1 1/2 cups diced celery 1 1/2 cups chopped peeled apples 2 cups sour cream 2 tablespoons prepared mustard 2 tablespoons drained sweet-pickle relish cup golden raisins
Cut bread in half crosswise. Cover bottom half with lettuce. Combine diced meat, water chestnuts, celery, apples, sour cream, mustard, relish and raisins. Heap on lettuce. Top with remaining half loaf of bread. Cut in wedges to serve. Makes 6 servings. BIKE WHEEL SANDWICH 1 13-ounce package hot-roll mix Water 2 eggs, beaten 2 tablespoons oil 1 2 3/4-pound frying chicken, cut up 2 1/2 teaspoons salt 1 bay leaf 1/2 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning 2 teaspoons cornstarch 1/2 cup chicken broth cup mayonnaise 2 tablespoons chopped green onion 1 tablespoon chopped pimento 1 teaspoon prepared mustard 1 teaspoon lemon juice cup grated Cheddar cheese 1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine
Soften yeast from hot-roll mix in 1/2 cup hot water. Add eggs and oil. Gradually blend in flour mixture to make a soft dough. Knead smooth. Place in mixing bowl, oil top of dough lightly. Let rest 10 minutes. Shape dough into circle and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Cook chicken in 1 1/2 cups water with 2 teaspoons salt, bay leaf and Italian seasoning 30 minutes or until tender. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Bone and skin chicken and cut meat into chunks. Stir cornstarch into 1/2 cup chicken broth and cook in small saucepan, stirring constantly until thickened. Cool, then mix with mayonnaise, onion, pimento, mustard, lemon juice, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and chicken.
When dough is doubled, divide in half to make 2 sandwich wheels. Pinch off about 1/8 of each half for tops. Pat out large piece of dough to fit bottom of greased 8-inch layer-cake pan, building up a rim about 1/2 inch higher at sides of pan. Spread half the chicken mixture over each and sprinkle with cup cheese.
Divide each reserved piece of dough into 2 or 4 portions, depending upon number of servings, and roll each into an 8 1/2-inch strand. Place strands spoke-fashion over each pan, tucking ends down at sides of pan. Brush edges of dough and "spokes" with melted butter. Let rise in warm place about 30 minutes. Bake on lowest rack of oven at 375 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes or until browned. Serve warm or cold, cut into wedges. Makes 2 sandwich wheels, 4 to 8 servings.