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Pool party foods to sit at ambient temperature

Any great ideas for main or side dishes to bring to my neighbor's July 4 pool party? The format is that we show up about 4pm, and food sits in the shade of the garage while people pick away at it for quite some time (couple of hours). It'll be 90 degrees (C32) out. I already know that someone's bringing a Mac & Cheese and another is bringing baked beans.

In the past, I brought a quiche one year, a Turkish-style green bean salad another year, and then a delightful and simple dish of cooked dried beans (in case you wonder, cannellini cooked in flavorful broth, then well drained and served mixed with diced roasted peppers, minced herbs, S&P, and best-quality olive oil).

While those were all successes, I bet there are great other ideas around here. Thanks in advance!

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  1. i'll give you the same suggestions i had for another Hound who needed ideas for a potluck dish:
    - charred corn salad inspired by elote (Mexican grilled corn)
    - German potato salad
    - non-traditional guacamole...there are a zillion ways to get creative with it
    - gazpacho (traditional, white grape & almond, avocado...)

    BTW, the "shade" of the garage doesn't sound sufficient to me to keep things cool. i hope the hosts are planning to set up some ice baths!

    1. I make a great greek salad with chopped fresh cucumber (salted for 30 mins, drained and rinsed), chopped red onion, fresh tomatoes and feta cheese with mint and parsley and a light olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing. Corn salad is alsoa great idea. If you want to do a main dish, maybe go for pulled pork done in the crock pot over night.

      19 Replies
      1. re: jenhen2

        Great ideas so far!

        I think I grasp how to approach all of these except the charred corn salad. Any tips there? (I googled and ended up with some very different recipes, many to be served as salsas.)

        1. re: Bada Bing

          it's not an official dish you'll find anywhere on the web...i made it up :)

          shuck & clean several ears of corn, brush with a mixture of olive oil, toasted ground cumin and smoked paprika, and grill or roast until lightly charred in places. slice the kernels off the cobs and add to a bowl. fold in some crumbled or grated anejo or cotija chese and chopped fresh cilantro, and toss with a chili-lime vinaigrette.

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            Sounds terrific. I'll do a test run. Just bought 8 ears of fresh corn.

            1. re: Bada Bing

              that's the base recipe - you can jazz it up a bit if you want to. i love adding sliced grilled scallions and halved grape tomatoes or diced tomatillos. you can even toss in some diced grilled zucchini...

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                Second the tomatillos! It's excellent with some chipotle en adobo chopped fine and (if you're a fan) cilantro! Ohhh I'm getting hungry.

                1. re: WhatThePho

                  Great suggestions, whatthepho! I've already meant to add in roasted sweet peppers, and will roast some tomatillos, too. And anything I can get adobo-chipotles into, I go for it!

                2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  For chile-lime dressing, I'm supposing the basic approach would be one part lime juice to two parts oil, with seeded chile(s) and maybe cilantro pureed in to taste?

                  I ask, because I see there are some more elaborate chile-lime dressing recipes involving sweeteners, fish sauce, sesame oil, etc., but I think perhaps simpler will be better if I want to foreground the best produce going just now.

                  1. re: Bada Bing

                    I guess I didn't mix the dressing together, just squeezed lemon juice on the corn and drizzled olive oil. Cracked pepper, a little salt, chopped cilantro, chopped raw tomatillo, chopped up chipotle en adobo with whatever sauce clung to the peppers. I don't really know how much I used or proportions, but I didn't use much oil.

                    Sorry I'm not being more helpful!! :)

                    1. re: Bada Bing

                      shoot, i meant to elaborate on the dressing...that's where i usually hide the chipotles :) and i should have said "dressing" as opposed to vinaigrette because it's yogurt & sour cream-based.

                      Creamy Chipotle-Lime Dressing
                      2 ounces (¼ cup) nonfat Greek yogurt
                      2 ounces (¼ cup) light sour cream
                      1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced
                      1 tablespoon adobo sauce from chipotle peppers (or more if you prefer extra heat)
                      2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
                      1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
                      2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
                      1 teaspoon agave nectar
                      ½ teaspoon toasted ground cumin
                      ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
                      ½ teaspoon kosher salt

                      Whisk all ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to use. Makes approximately 1 cup. (Note, if there's a problem with separation/curdling, try whisking in a tablespoon of mayonnaise, or subbing low fat buttermilk for part of the dairy.)

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        <jaw dropping> holy smokes, GHG, that looks incredible! Drat...just mixed up a Basil Citrus Vinaigrette for my salad for tonight...but must try your chipotle lime dressing very soon!

                        1. re: Val

                          Val, your comments always put a smile on my face :) i've found that people who like my black bean dip tend to enjoy the dressing, so hopefully you will too...let me know what you think if you make it!

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            Excellent dressing, GHG! I ended up using it (subbing honey for agave nectar, which I don't have) as a dressing for a salad of grilled corn cut from the cob and tossed with roasted red peppers and tomatillos, coarsely grated pecorino romano (a foodsnob idea below), and cilantro. I also tossed in a small amount of ground roasted (but unsalted) peanuts I had left over from a pad thai (that was mainly a texture effect).

                            Everyone loved it! Thanks for all the help, and also for all the other Hounds' ideas that I'll be getting to work on pronto.

                            1. re: Bada Bing

                              awesome :)

                              always a pleasure - thanks for reporting back!

                            2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              GHG - how much in advance can you make the salad? how about the dressing? Should I expect the separation and add the mayo? How much does this yield (people wise)? Thanks!

                              1. re: smilingal

                                you can absolutely make the salad in advance. just be sure to leave it out for a bit before serving to take the chill out of the vegetables (you can even zap it for a few secs to warm it up), and if you want to add tomatoes or tomatillos, do it right before serving.

                                the dressing can be done a day or two ahead. as for separation, sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. so there's no need to add the mayo unless it does separate on you...or you can use buttermilk in the dressing from the start, and you should be in the clear.

                                as for servings, well, the dressing recipe makes a little over 6 ounces. i don't like my salads overdressed, so i can usually get anywhere from 10-12 servings out of it. but keep in mind that most people are accustomed to 1.5 - 2 Tbsp dressing, so that would only yield 6 - 8 servings.

                                oh, and a note about the recipe - i wrote that up when i was still using agave nectar on occasion, which is no longer the case. you're certainly welcome to use it, but i now use honey or coconut nectar/sugar.

                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  Thanks GHG! One more thing - as we finished the last of the mayo dressing that I had made as a spread for the roasted corn on it's cob from this past weekend - my husband remarked that it was too spicy for his palate - If I leave out the chipotle pepper from your dressing entirely will it be lacking some zing? what do you think? I didn't make mine with the chipotle - it was another ingredient that gave the heat - maybe even cayenne - i can't remember.

                        2. re: Bada Bing

                          I substitute pecorino romano cheese when I make elotes. It is amazing.

                          1. re: foodsnob14

                            pecorino is a great substitute - similar to anejo but with more bite :)

                  2. A Vinagrette based potato or pasta salad would be a good choice. Or a crudite tray with a non-mayo based dip. 3-Bean salad. Hummus and pita chips. Watermelon and feta salad. Grilled vegetable tray.

                    1. a couscous salad with a lemony vinaigrette and whatever fresh vegies look good.

                      1. fruit salad or fruit skewers or a rice or pasta salad with a pesto dressing or union square cafe nuts (yeah they won't stay warm but still good to snack on) or caprese salad

                        1. are you set on bringing a savory contribution? sweets are easy to find room-temp, heat-safe treats...

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Emme

                            You're right, but indeed I'm one of those people that prefers the savory. Thanks, though!

                            1. re: Bada Bing

                              This is a great one to briong for outdoor parties. Roasted Beet stacks with Goats Cheese and Cranberry Pistaccio pesto.

                              1/2 cup toasted pistachios
                              1/2 cup dried cranberries
                              3 cloves roasted garlic
                              2 sprigs fresh parsley
                              1/2 cups olive oil
                              salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
                              Place the pistachios, cranberries, garlic and parsley into a food processor and process until very finely chopped. While the food processor is running, slowly drizzle in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Spoon out the pesto into a bowl and stir in remaining olive oil. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. The pesto should be slightly sweet and salty.
                              Meanwhile, roast beets for an hour or so in a 425 oven, peel, then slice in abou t1" thick rounds.

                              Top beet slices with a dollop of Goats Cheese, then Pesto.

                              Amazing flavour combo.

                              1. re: RodVito

                                Thinly slicing vegetables make for great salads and stay crunchy for a long time. Thinly slice radish, celery, fennel (any vegetable that you like to eat raw). Add something sweet (maybe some dried figs) something salty (capers, olives, and thinly sliced Parmesan cheese), something rich (toasted pistachios, pine nuts, walnuts) and toss it in a champagne vinegar or lemon juice vinaigrette.

                          2. Southwestern grilled potato salad: grill off parboiled potato slices (cut about an inch thick)...for the dressing, quarter an onion (I like Vidalia), a few tomatillos,seeded poblano chiles and cloves of garlic; put them in a sheet of foil & drizzle with olive oil. Wrap it up and grill until the veggies are tender. Once the vegetables are cooked, put into a food processor and with it running, drizzle in enough olive oil to thin it out. Add the potatoes to a bowl, along with some sliced green onion, oregano, cumin, s & p. Mix in the dressing and some crumbled queso fresco. This is delicious and can be kept at room or outdoor temp without having to be on ice.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Cherylptw

                              I learned on CH that the (commercially prepared) mayo isn't the culprit; it's actually the potato (and other things).


                              1. re: c oliver

                                Haven't been on this thread for awhile; thanks for posting this...you learn something new everyday

                            2. Bada Bing, sounds like you have it figured out with the roasted corn salad! Sounds very good, too! Another option could be mayo-less slaw such as Epi's Super Slaw...really a fabulous salad.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Val

                                That's looks amazing, Val! Never heard of it before. If I don't make that also for tomorrow, I'm trying it very soon.

                                1. re: Bada Bing

                                  +1 for the Super Slaw. you can see one of our discussions about it here:

                              2. I think my all-time favorite easy app. is when tomatoes are ripe and beautiful: all colors of cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, heirlooms, cut if necessary; lightly crushed, topped with great olive oil, salt and pepper, and lemon juice or red wine vinegar; handful of crushed basil and some minced garlic (I don't use the garlic though.) A big bowl of this with crostini - Summertime!!

                                1. a stack of ham on rye w/mustard sandwiches

                                  cold fried chicken

                                  cold sliced meat loaf

                                  bbq brisket in a slow cooker

                                  cooler corn

                                  1. As a veteran of may pool parties, I'd say finger foods and simple dips seem the most popular:cheeses and crackers, fruit, vegetables, maybe simple non-dairy dips (I once had a great pureed ratatouille at one pool party), all things that don't require refrigeration. At the ones I've been to, the host provided the main dish, which was cooked just before serving.