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Potluck Recipes and Planning Tips for Summer


Potluck parties are perfect for summertime, when the livin' is (supposed to be) easy. I was reminded of this this month when the mood struck for a party but my schedule, well, had a mind of its own. The days of old-school entertaining may be gone in my demographic, but when folks bemoan the death of the dinner party, my solution is the humble potluck. These informal communal meals are easy to pull together, fun to attend, and no one has to lose sleep or blow the budget hosting. And if the notion of a potluck carries a whiff of the déclassé in some circles, at least the tradition and word have a fine pedigree, dating back to 1592: "from pot + luck, with notion of 'one's luck or chance as to what may be in the pot.' "

Lately, I've seen potlucks go very 21st-century, with large-scale events planned via Google doc. But among friends, email works fine for figuring out who's bringing what. And this time around, I simply suggested folks send their preference for bringing dinner vs. dessert, and let it go at that, favoring surprise over specifics. We stocked up on drinks soft and otherwise, and I made pitchers of my favorite summer sangria. Couscous salad and a bushel of greens for a bottomless green salad completed my contribution. Then when I detected that the vegetarian lobby seemed to be gaining the upper hand (and foot), I put out a call for chicken. A friend brought a raft of balsamic-y baked chicken, and balance was restored to the universe.

The biggest hit of the evening, though, was a neighbor's quinoa salad with green apple, the daintiest diced cukes, and macadamias for crunch. Which pretty much proved my long-held theorem that grain salads are a summer potluck's baked ziti: comfort food-ish, versatile, easy to stretch, and--a boon in warm weather--long-lived at room temp.

Are you pro-potluck? What potluck recipes and planning tips are your favorites?
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