Block Party Side Dish
Hey everyone. We are having the first annual block party in my court this weekend (I live in Florida) and I have been asked to prepare a side dish. Now I assume that this would normally be a pasta salad or potato salad or something, but I want to make something really good that everyone can enjoy and won't get mixed up with everyone else's pasta salad and potato salad generic creations. Any advice would be helpful and I would need enough for a bunch of people.
There are several factors you need to think about, based on personal experience. Your best bet would be food that doesn't involve much cutting or scooping when someone is taking a portion. Having said that, homemade lasagna is a favorite potluck dish, although it gets mushy-looking fast when a lot of people are digging into it. Anything in individual pieces is a lot easier for a group to take one (or several) item(s) without making the rest of the dish look unappetizing.
You definitely want to take into consideration the sanitary arrangements; obviously if the food is outside in the summer, you don't want anything that will spoil quickly. Even indoors in the winter, if something will be sitting out for a couple of hours, you need to think about that. If your dish is supposed to be served hot or cold, how are you going to handle that? Will a microwave, fridge, running water, paper towels, utensils, plates or plasticware be available? You need to take these in consideration, too. If it's supposed to be finger food and you bring homemade soup without means for people to partake of it, it's going to be wasted, no matter how delicious it may be.
Think about who is going to be there --- a lot of kids, people who are adventurous or not about food, etc. What time of day/night is this going to be? About how many people will be there? And so on.
I'd also suggest that you bring your own serving utensils, but don't bring anything you would hate to lose, and definitely use a disposable container with a lid.
LOL -- some of these may seem obvious, but, believe me, I have seen ALL of these ignored at one time or another, sometimes with disastrous results. Maybe I should be a pro; at least I know how to avoid the worst of these problems!
I am a Block Party Captain for the Block Party in my neighborhood and I can tell you some of the popular items we have. I generally make potato salad and baked beans to be certain that we have filler dishes; it is a picnic after all. Someone always brings a hot German Potato Salad in a crock pot, the usual shredded potato casserole, a big green salad is always appreciated by just about everyone in attendance. Ours is in September, so there are any number of tomato dishes, tomato with feta, tomato with mozzarella, stuffed banana peppers, beets in vinaigrette with walnuts, pinto beans and corn bread, eggplant parmesan, stuffed cabbages, on and on. We have one area for the appetizers, the main table for dinner food, and a dessert table. Wine and beer in another area, away from the childrens drinks. Of course anything not taken home by the person who brought it is thrown out at the end of the evening. We serve grilled chicken, and hot dogs.
Can you get fresh whole green beans where you live? And, small red potatoes?
Wash and prep the grean beans (leave them whole, just snip the ends - cut in half to shorten length if longer than four inches). Parboil and set aside.
Boil red potatoes (skin on) until toothpick tender. Cut into bite-size pieces (this could be a little as quartering if they are small enough). Don't peal them. (any small "waxy" potatoe is okay)
Combine both with olive oil, Italian herbs (or herbs de provence) (or just rosemary), and a little garlic and salt and pepper. Toss. Best served with tongs or criss-cross salad utensil.
Or, you can grill the green beans and red potatoes for that added flavor.
Or, you can sub out the olive oil, herbs and spices and use a great tasting ranch dressing.
Or just make with the green beans and no potatoes.
(In California, there are packaged whole French green beans in the freezer section at Trader Joe's. Perfect small size green bean)
I think I have the answer, or a good answer at least. This recipe is delicious, easy, quick (although you need to start 24 hrs in advance), inexpensive, colorful, exotic and nutritious. It is also sturdy, travels well to parties, and is a good main dish for vegetarians.
TABOULI SALAD WITH CHICK PEAS AND FETA
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup medium grain bulgur wheat, also known as tabouli or tabbouleh*
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 can chick peas, drained
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
Green part of 4 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup Kalamata or oil cured olives, pitted
2 or 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
A few hours in advance, or the night before, put the bulgur in a large bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Stir occasionally until most of the water is absorbed. Add the oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Mix well, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Double the recipe for a party size amount.
This is my mother's cousin's husband's recipe and there is never a bit of it left. The recipe is for 6 servings but you can increase it.
1 c. creamed corn
1 c. corn kernels
1/3 c. quick cooking grits, not instant
1 med. onion chopped
5 green and red jalapeños chopped
1/4 c. oil
1 c. grated Longhorn cheese
2 eggs, beaten
3 tsp. baking powder
Mix all of the dry ingredients with the wet pour into a greased baking dish and bake at 350ºF.
for one hour.
When my husband was single and shared a house with another guy, they came up with a crunchy, appealing salad that stands up to dressing. I called it "Lost Boy Salad"
1 head broccoli
Chop into florets, thin slice stems. Plunge into boiling water to blanch, then immediately in ice bath. Drain and add to bowl.
2-3 celery ribs
2-3 green/red peppers
1/2 sweet red onion
cut all into dice
Toss with dressing of choice--we used ranch.
Crumbled bacon, garbanzo beans, nuts, shredded cheese, fresh herbs chopped finely
Leftovers are good as sandwich filling in pitas.