Ideas for Block Party Potluck
I'm co-coordinating our second annual block party for August 5 and am on the hunt for a fab side dish to bring. While I definitely want to wow my neighbors with my culinary creativity I know that many (most?) of them are in no way, shape or form chowhounds.
I thought it would be a good thing to get a head start with ideas...anyone have some to share?
It's hard to make a reccommendation without knowing more about your tastes, other dishes being served, etc. I like to make an eggplant dip (basically just roasted eggplant, mashed with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper) that can be spread on bread. It's very easy and tends to be a crowd favorite.
I can't help but note the irony in the request, saying that you want to wow your neighbors with culinary creativity, but you ask us for ideas. :)
Ok, Darren. Good point. I've got zillions of recipes I could use (from books, from my own head, from this board, from epicurious, etc.) but I was curious if some hound had something that I had never thought to try out.
I think maybe it stems from me being a fan of brainstorming. It helps me weed out bad ideas from potentially amazing ones.
As for what's being served - we divided up the street so that certain houses will bring sides or salads (like me), chips/dips, a beverage of some sort, or a dessert. We're collecting money for beer, a keg of birch beer, burgers and dogs. So, I assume there will be a decent variety.
A crowd pleaser that I often make in the summer is as simple as it comes. The key is to use the best ingredients available-tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella. For a crowd I just roughly chop the tomato and mozzarella into the same size hunks. Add lots of torn up basil. Toss w/ evoo and a generous helping of fresh ground pepper. Basically-Insalata Caprese.
I layered my home grown tomatoes (green, yellow, orange, red) with my garden basil, fresh mozzarella, and red onions (soaked in water overnight).
The vinaigrette was served alongside (poured some over the top just before serving also). The serving vessel made it look especially nice (photo below). This combination of flavors epitomizes summer to me.
There are "green pineapple" (KILLER good) and "lemon" (excellent) tomatoes layered in the salad...
Mango would be pretty, but not sure it would complement these flavors; love the tomato/mozz/basil/onion/vinaigrette combo. But what do I know! If you try it with mango, please do report back. :)
(And take a picture!)
One of my favorite side dishes is called Orzo with Everything, from Bon Appetit magazine. You can find the dish on epicurious, but I've copied and pasted it here. I make it often and it's always a favorite.
Orzo with Everything
1 1/2 cups orzo (rice-shaped pasta; about 10 ounces)
1/3 cup (packed) chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup (packed) chopped Kalamata olives or other brine-cured black olives
1 cup finely chopped radicchio (about 1 small head)
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 large garlic cloves, minced
Cook orzo in pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain well. Transfer to large bowl. Add sun-dried tomatoes, oil, vinegar and olives and toss to blend. Let stand until cool. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before continuing.)
Mix chopped radicchio, pine nuts, chopped basil, Parmesan and garlic into orzo mixture. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
Chicken Wing Dip with tortilla chips is always a pleaser at the parties I attend. Cream cheese base, cooked chicken breast mixed with hot sauce, butter and blue cheese dressing, topped with shredded mozzerella and baked for awhile. I've got a more specific recipe if you're interested.
How about some dips...one sweet and one savory. I've done cream cheese whipped up decoratively on a platter drenched in mixed berries(the frozen type that comes in a bag, thawed) surrounded by wafer crackers..Like Carr's. For the savory, cream cheese blended with garlic spread in a dish, topped with pesto, then topped with chopped or pureed sundried tomatoes that have been packed in oil..on top of that garnish with a fresh sprig of basil. Serve this with thinly sliced baguette. They are both colorful presentations and taste quite good.
I don't know if you would consider a fruit salad a dessert, this one I came up with a few weeks ago was definitely a side and so refreshing. This fed about 35 people
1.5 lbs. cherries, cut in half and pitted, I know I know, labor intensive
2 pints blueberries
2 qts. strawberries topped and quartered.
2 bags frozen pineapple chunks, defrosted and drained
2 bags frozen sliced mangoes, defrosted and drained
2 bags frozen sliced peaches, defrosted and drained
I know your next question, so what is with the frozen fruit? Well it was less expensive at 2/$5 it is dead ripe fruit, no iffyiness about it and it is sliced, cored, pitted and ready to go.
While fruit is defrosting brign 1 C. sugar and 1 C. water to a boil. Then peel and sliver a good sized knob of fresh ginger and let it steep in the syrup. Make sure the ginger is finely slivered or grated and you will wwant to have 2-3 Tbs. worth and will not be draining it out.
Pick a bunch of fresh mint stem and sliver the leaves. Then in a large glass bowl layer the fruits in, red, then yellow spooning some of the ginger syrup over each layer and sprikling with mint beofre adding the next layer. Finish with any remaining syrup. Serve cold.
I brought 2 salads to our bloack party last year: pesto pasta salad (pesto, cooked pasta, grated parm, salt and pepper to taste and grape tomato halves) and a simple version of Chinese chicken salad (canned chicken, sliced onion, celery, seasoned rice vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, lime olive oil). I picked those 2 because neither had mayo in them, therefore can sit out in the sun for a little while.
I love the tomato/mozzarella thing but, easier is to mix with pesto-I buy the one from T.J.'s in the fridge section.
How about vietnamese spring rolls. They're very easy to prepare. It's the sauce that get's ya. The rice paper sheets come round and hard and found in any true asian market: 99 Ranch, Han Kook (Korean), seafood city (Filipino), Bangluck (Thai). Just soak for a minute or two in H20 to soften. Then fill with your fav's: bean sprouts, shredded carrots, tofu, cucs, avocado, shrimp, shredded lettuce, bell peppers, etc. and vermicelli noodles (cooked). Wrap the same as you would any roll- put items in mid section, roll over one side tucking the sides in and continiue rolling till end. Slice in half on the diagonal. Looks pretty, lite, summery and nutritious. A little exotic without being too foreign. Check the web for ideas of insides and for sauces. good luck :)kq