On Your Table: Summer is a great time for pot luck dinners

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And how to get your guests to do most of the work

By Cathy BranciaroliFood Correspondent, The Times

For a potluck, individual servings can often do better than large casseroles.

There’s no better time of the year to gather small groups of friends or relatives for dinner on warm summer evenings. The best approach is to enlist anyone who can work the grill, and beg everyone to make his or her favorite dish.

Group meal gatherings, often called potlucks, involve everyone making a crowd-pleasing dish, preferably one that can sit outdoors for some period of time. The host, therefore only needs to grill something or make a main dish casserole.

Some rules for success on this. Give your guests their marching orders. For instance if they are going to bring something mayonnaise based, or with meat or eggs, suggest they put that dish on ice till it will be served in the interest of food safety. Also, suggest they keep it simple. Unfussy dishes work do very well perhaps with an added dressing or garnish.

Tell them to be conscious of the many dietary restrictions today, for instance dishes for celiac or gluten free eaters, peanut allergies, vegetarians or vegans should be considered in preparing their dish. Ask everyone to prepare a small placard with the name of the dish, the ingredients etc. Ask them to let you know what they are bringing so you don’t have six plates of deviled eggs. Individual servings also work well rather than large platters

Finally. Relax. Everything usually works out. Keep a list of what everyone is bringing. It is best if guests don’t make something that needs to be prepared at your house. Haul out all your serving utensils in advance so in case someone forgets that what they are bringing needs is a spatula or serving spoon on hand. While it’s nice to clean up casseroles at the end, it’s even better to provide aluminum foil or plastic wrap so folks can take their dishes back to their own kitchens for clean-up. Iced beverages like ice tea or canned sodas help too. Of course it there will be a bar try to get someone to manage that for you.

See, this doesn’t need to be that hard, and think about what fun everyone will have.  Remember, it’s your party and you should have as much fun as anyone else.

Rice Cakes with Spring Vegetables


4 slices bacon

1 tbs olive oil

1 onion chopped

3-4 spears asparagus

¼ pint cherry tomatoes, sliced lengthwise

2 cups leftover rice, refrigerated

½ cup Parmesan cheese grated

4 eggs lightly beaten

handful of parsley chopped

salt, pepper and chili flakes to taste


Preheat oven to 375 degrees, spray individual muffin pans with cooking spray. Set aside. Saute the bacon over medium heat with a dash of oil till the fat renders. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel. Add onion to the pan and cook till wilted. Then add remaining vegetables. Season to taste. Add rice and Parmesan to the skillet and toss till combined.  Poour mix into muffin tins and bake 15-20 minutes till golden brown.

If making the cake version, heat oven to 400 degrees, lightly oil an 8X8 baking dish and bake for 35 minutes or till golden brown. Cut into neat squares or diamond shapes.

Cathy Branciaroli also writes about her adventures in the kitchen on her award-winning blog Delaware Girl Eats

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