On Your Table: Enjoy Summer potlucks with no-fuss dishes

A few tips to make your warm-weather event a success

By Cathy Branciaroli, Food Correspondent, The Times

Layered salads make for spectacular potluck dishes.

Layered salads make for spectacular potluck dishes.

Potlucks are cropping up everywhere these days in a resurgence of popularity and it’s time to jump on the bandwagon. Who would not enjoy an event where there are so many dishes to choose from? Generally there is something for everyone, from gluten-free to paleo, to vegan or just plain omnivore.

The lure of potlucks is that people love to share their favorite dishes and in fact, I’ve tasted some of the best foods I have ever had at these gatherings. Plus I have gained the bonus of learning some new cooking tricks from fellow contributors.

If you are going to host a potluck this summer, here are some planning tips to consider. Make things easier for your guests by coordinating along a theme. This helps guests become more confident in what to bring. Make sure there is something for everyone by encouraging guests with special food preferences to share their favorites. During the event, don’t forget about food safety. Meats or mayonnaise-based dishes sitting out in the hot sun are a recipe for food poisoning. Make sure to have ice chests or coolers on hand. And speaking of coolers, plan for both non-alcoholic as well as boozy beverages

To make things easy at potluck gatherings, remember that all perfect potluck dishes fit certain rules.   They must travel well, be heated in advance or served at room temperature, feed a crowd and easy to prepare. Whether they are classics like potato or pasta salad, or inventive side dishes, they all offer a little something—whether it’s an interesting ingredient or a smart prep technique—that sets them apart.

Which is why a layered salad is such a potluck stalwart. These can be among the most interesting-looking and widely appealing dishes on the table. Somehow, when everyday ingredients like lettuce, beets, potatoes, carrots, eggs, peas or chicken chunks are spread in layers in a glass bowl, they become a whole much greater than the sum of the parts.

I like to think of these as a free-form expression of garden delights, presenting layers of colors and textures so that the salad is as enticing to view its ingredients are tasty to eat.  For my layered salad the ingredient list below is really just a starting point.  Creativity and the availability of ingredients are the only limit to what might be included. And, to top off this salad experience, I am offering a well-loved topping from the past – Green Goddess dressing. Its bright lemony, herbal and creamy flavors complement any salad composition.

So join the fun this summer. Armed with a no-fuss casserole or layered dish, you will be the hit of any gathering.

Layered Salad with Green Goddess Dressing


  • 2 Heads Iceberg Lettuce, rinsed and cut
  • 5 Hard Boiled Eggs, quartered
  • 8 Cherry Tomatoes, quartered
  • ½ Red Onion, sliced
  • 8 oz Goat Cheese, Feta,Cheddar or other flavorful cheese
  • 1 10-oz bag of frozen peas, thawed or garden-fresh peas blanched
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Green Goddess Dressing:

  • 1 Cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 Cup Sour Cream
  • 2 Tsp Chopped Garlic
  • ¼ Cup Lemon Juice
  • ¼ Cup Basil Leaves, chopped
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

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

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