Some of the happiest picnics I've enjoyed were in southern France, where the sun seems to shine to order and little roads wind invitingly among the orchards and truck farms. Even the Provenc,al cooking seems ideally designed for out of doors. This chilled daube is a variation of the classic dish in which ingredients are all baked together in an earthenware pot, a daubie re. When cooked, the daube is packed in a terrine, then left to jell for serving. It can be unmolded or served in the pot.

With the chicken comes a trio of cooked vegetable salads, all of which benefit from being prepared in advance so the flavors mellow. The first salad of zucchini is vivid with saffron, a popular medieval spice that has never lost favor on the Mediterranean. Equally typical is bell pepper salad in which the peppers are roasted in the oven so they can be peeled and, at the same time, acquire a touch of char.

Chickpea salad, too, is piquant with garlic, lemon and anchovy. If the chickpeas are cooked from scratch, they can be left with a slight crunch, which I happen to like. However, canned chickpeas do save time and are a perfectly acceptable substitute. Note that each salad recipe serves four, adding up to enough for 12 on the picnic.

Many desserts fare poorly outdoors but these lemon almond cakes will remain moist and intact under the most trying of outdoor conditions. Almond trees are a feature throughout Provence and lemons can be induced to grow in the sheltered corner around Nice. Surely the best Provenc,al end to a meal must be fresh fruit. The choice is wide -- peaches, apricots, plums, figs and, most delicious of all, the little, golden-fleshed melons. Timetable

Up to one week ahead: Bake almond cakes and store in an airtight container.

Up to two days ahead: Make chicken daube and refrigerate. Soak chickpeas for salad.

Up to one day ahead: Make zucchini, bell pepper and chickpea salads. Pack in containers to carry and refrigerate. Chill the wine, soft drinks and water.

30 minutes before departure: Pack picnic basket. Pack chicken daube and drinks with ice in an insulated box. Pack salads, bread and almond cakes to carry at room temperature. DAUBE DE POULET EN TERRINE (Terrine of Cold Chicken) (8 servings)

In the recipe, I've called for two medium roasting chickens, but one big bird would be even better, whether a roaster or a boiling fowl. The bigger and older the bird, the more flavor it will have. A big bird will, of course, take longer to cook -- I'd count on about 1 1/4 hours for the roaster and up to 2 hours for the fowl.

FOR POACHING:

2 4 to 5-pound roasting chickens

2 medium onions, quartered

2 carrots, cut in 1/2-inch slices and quartered

2 stalks celery, cut in 1/2-inch slices

2 teaspoons peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon salt

Bouquet garni (1 sprig thyme, 1 bay leaf and 12 parsley stalks)

1 1/2 quarts water, more if needed

FOR THE ASPIC:

3 ( 1/4-ounce) envelopes gelatin

1 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup chopped parsley

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/2 cup very finely chopped shallots

Put the chickens in a casserole with onions, carrots, celery, peppercorns, salt and bouquet garni. Add water to half-cover the chickens. Cover and bring to a boil on top of the stove. Cook in a 350-degree oven until chickens are very tender and no pink juice runs from thigh when pierced with a skewer, 45 minutes to an hour. Leave chickens to cool in liquid.

Drain chickens, reserving liquid, and take meat from bones. Tear it into chunks with your fingers, discarding skin. Cut or chop bones into large pieces, replace in cooking liquid and boil until well reduced. Strain it and measure 3 cups.

For the aspic: Sprinkle gelatin over wine in a small bowl and leave until spongy, about 5 minutes. Bring cooking liquid to a boil, add softened gelatin, and stir until melted. Stir in parsley and vinegar. Let aspic cool and taste for seasoning. Note: The hot liquid turns the parsley bright green.

In a 2-quart terrine mold or deep bowl spoon a little aspic. Add a layer of chicken, sprinkle with shallots and spoon over aspic to barely cover. Continue adding layers until chicken, parsley, and shallots are finished, then pour over remaining aspic. Chill until set, at least 6 hours. The terrine can be prepared up to 48 hours ahead and refrigerated.

To finish: Run a knife around edge of aspic and pull mixture away from sides with your fingers. Turn it out onto a platter. Alternatively, the terrine can be sliced and served from the mold. SALADE DE COURGETTES A L'ANCIENNE (Zucchini Salad with Saffron and Fennel) (4 servings)

When you can find them, substitute chopped fresh fennel or dill for the fennel seed.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound small zucchini, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon fennel seed

Pinch of saffron infused in 2 tablespoons boiling water

Salt and pepper to taste

3 to 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar

In a large skillet heat oil. Add zucchini, garlic and onion and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Put fennel seed in a manila envelope and crush with a rolling pin.

Stir in saffron and liquid, crushed fennel seed, salt and pepper and vinegar and continue cooking until zucchini is just tender, about 5 minutes. Let salad cool and taste for seasoning.

Zucchini salad can be prepared up to 24 hours ahead and refrigerated. Serve salad at room temperature. SALADE DE POIVRONS ROTIS (Roast Bell Pepper Salad) (4 servings)

Use red, green or yellow bell peppers for this salad or, best of all, a combination of all three.

6 bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut in half

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoon chopped Italian or regular parsley

Put peppers on a baking sheet and roast in a 450-degree oven until soft and skin is black, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool, then peel peppers and cut in wide strips.

In a small bowl whisk garlic, mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper until mixed. Gradually whisk in oil so dressing emulsifies and thickens slightly. Mix dressing with peppers and taste for seasoning.

Bell pepper salad can be prepared up to 24 hours ahead and refrigerated. Let salad come to room temperature and stir in parsley before serving. SALADE DE POIS CHICHES MEDITERRANEENNE (Mediterranean Chickpea Salad with Anchovies) (4 servings)

You can try this salad with red kidney beans instead of chickpeas.

1 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained

Bouquet garni (1 sprig thyme, 1 bay leaf and 6 parsley sprigs)

1 onion, stuck with a clove

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 anchovy fillets, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

3 scallions, sliced

To cook chickpeas: Put them in a saucepan with bouquet garni, whole onion, salt, pepper and water to generously cover. Cover pan and simmer until chickpeas are tender, about 1 hour. Add more water during cooking if chickpeas get dry.

Drain chickpeas, discarding bouquet garni and onion. While still warm, mix them gently with lemon juice and oil and leave to cool. Mix in anchovy, garlic and scallions and taste salad for seasoning.

Salad can be prepared up to 24 hours ahead and refrigerated. Serve it at room temperature. PETITS GATEAUX PROVENC,ALES (Makes twelve 3-inch cakes or one 9 to 10-inch cake)

The secret of this almond cake is in working the almonds so they release their oil, making a moister texture. (If making the larger cake, allow 35 to 40 minutes cooking time.)

5 tablespoons butter plus extra for molds or pan

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup whole blanched almonds, ground

2/3 cup sugar

3 eggs

Grated rind of 2 lemons 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Grease the individual tartlet molds or cake pan. Soften the butter over low heat until creamy enough to pour. Note: Do not melt butter to oiliness. Sift cornstarch with baking powder and salt.

In a bowl, mix ground almonds and sugar. Add one egg and beat until very light and thick, about 5 minutes to ensure moist texture. Add remaining eggs, one by one, beating well after each addition. Lastly beat in lemon rind and juice.

Sift cornstarch over mixture in three batches, folding it in as lightly as possible. Finally fold in softened butter.

Spoon mixture into prepared pans, set them on a baking sheet and bake in a 375-degree oven until brown and cakes spring back when lightly pressed with a fingertip, 15 to 20 minutes, longer for a single cake. Turn cakes out on a rack to cool. Cakes can be frozen.

Tip: This is an instance where the food processor is a boon. To make almond lemon cakes in a processor, process almonds, sugar and lemon zest until powdery. Add 1 egg and process until a ball is formed on top of the blade. Add 2 remaining eggs one at a time, working until smooth between additions. Sift over cornstarch, baking powder, and salt and, using pulse, mix just until blended. Repeat with butter. Pour into pans and proceed with baking instructions.