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Please help me with salad/appetizer ideas for block party

The party will be cookout style with the hosts providing burgers, chicken, and hot dogs. We just moved to the neighborhood a few months ago so I'm really looking forward to meeting all of the neighbors and the chowhound in me wants to bring something that impresses. My first thought was a roasted corn salad, but I have a hunch that there will probably be more than one person who signs up for that. I can go to the farmer's market in the morning so recipes/ideas that could highlight the early august bounty would be fantastic.

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  1. How about Corn and Black bean Salad

    1. What about a confetti orzo salad? You could use chopped red bell pepper, corn, peas, green onions, tossed with cooked orzo, and then make a vinaigrette of your choosing to toss the salad with when you get there.

      1. This is a NYT recipe that I found on Ciao Chow Linda's blog. I've made it twice for experimentation's sake and gave it away to eager offices and friends. It is very rich, and cutting small slices is difficult -- you almost have to cut a slice and then cut that slice again. It needs a LOT of fresh dill. That totally makes the dish. I never put out honey, but a few people thought it was a dessert and needed some sweetness, so consider the honey. I always thought it was a savory appetizer. Use a serrated knife.

        Is fresh dill available where you are? I regret, that's the only nod to the farmers' market for this recipe. But you mentioned appetizer, so take a look.


        1. What about a melon (s), kalamata olive and crumbled feta salad? It's fantastic and absolutely beautiful; can also be done with cubed fresh peaches and tomatoes added.

          1. Tomato salad - I've been using the campari tomatoes, but heirloom cherry tomatoes would be great too - quarter tomatoes, toss with thinly sliced shallots- let sit for a few hours - then toss w/ lot's of chopped fresh tarragon and a vinaigrette made with rice vin, little mustard, s&p, olive oil - make sure to add enough salt to the finished salad, it makes a huge difference - serve over very lightly dressed arugula (or leave it undressed so it won't wilt).

            Or - Pesto pasta salad - make pesto (basil, toasted pine nuts, parmesan, lemon zest, s&p, olive oil) - mix with a little mayo (this keeps is creamy and green) toss w/ cooked pasta and one or all of the following - 1/2'd grape tomatoes, steamed string beans, roasted peppers, cubed mozzarella....etc.....

            1. I say if you want to impress make something that you know and that represents you. You obviously have a passion for food so showcase that so when you meet your neighbors your food says something about you. What may seem too simple and easy to you can amaze others who dont eat that everyday.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ZagChef

                This is such good advice, I feel like I should cut it out and put it in my cooking notebook. Thank you.

              2. This orzo and roasted vegetables is really, really good. I made it for the first time recently and I roasted the vegetables a day ahead, cooked the orzo a day ahead and then assembled all with the dressing on the day it was to be served.

                I just made it again this week, but I used quinoa instead of orzo. Worked out great.


                1 Reply
                1. re: valerie

                  Hmmm, roasted veggies, garlic, orzo, pine nuts, feta and fresh basil. How bad can that be? I've saved this one off to try very soon. It sounds just right for a summer supper, maybe with some shrimp for a complete meal.

                2. Seems to me for a street party, you have to have some kind of finger food like maybe Chicken yakitori but if you want to impress, you could serve Aqua Fresca.

                  Here is a recipe:
                  Agua Fresca


                  5 cups cubed peeled pineapple
                  4 cups water, divided
                  1/2 cup sugar
                  2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
                  Ice cubes


                  Puree pineapple, 1 cup water, and sugar in blender in batches until smooth. Pour into 8-cup measuring cup. Mix in 3 cups water and 2 teaspoons ginger. Cover; chill until cold, about 4 hours. Strain pineapple mixture into pitcher, pressing on solids in strainer. Add more ginger to taste.


                  Cucumber and Lime
                  Cantaloupe and a little lime juice
                  Watermelon and lime
                  Watermelon and mint
                  Cantaloupe and Pineapple
                  Watermelon and Lime juice

                  Use seltzer water or club soda instead of regular water.

                  Add tequila, rum or vodka

                  Make it a smoothie by straining the juices and blending with ice cubes maybe add a frozen banana

                    1. re: pasuga

                      It's only 8 a.m. and that looks yummy! Must try, thanks pasuga.

                      1. re: pasuga

                        Even if this doesn't make it to the potluck it's making it's way to my dinner table. I've been looking for a good recipe for an asian noodle salad, Thanks!

                        1. re: justlauralibrarian

                          Yer welcome! :) That Nina Simmons cookbook is worth the $.

                        2. re: pasuga

                          This exact noodle dish from the Simonds cookbook is the first recipe that came into my mind too! It's delicious. (Book is "Asian Noodles" Nina Simonds).

                          I would also suggest inari sushi -- finger food, addictive.

                        3. I think a fresh roasted corn salad would be great. I've never seen that at a potluck. Various canned and frozen corn salads, yes, but not fresh. Start w/ that and add whatever you find at the farmers market.

                          1. This orzo salad is a go-to for me - it's easy and very delicious. Always gets RAVE reviews at potlucks or cookouts at home: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...


                            3 Replies
                            1. re: gansu girl

                              This one is similar and good too (but GG I have been on a quinoa kick ever since I tried your chicken and quinoa recipe!).


                              1. re: valerie

                                That also looks great! I'll have to try it sometime, although my husband is neither an olive nor a caper fan (unlike me, so sad), so it'd be less highly rated by him, I'm sure.

                                Here's to quinoa! So glad you liked the recipe - a good kick to be on!


                                1. re: gansu girl

                                  I love summer salads with feta cheese and olives, they are so perfect for the season. I'm rewarming myself towards capers after a bad experience which I suspect was my own fault. I didn't properly rinse them before putting in my puttanesca sauce and I didn't taste caper, just salt. lots and lots of salt. So the next time I use capers they will be probably the most well rinsed capers ever. But there is an olive divide in my household as well. I am in the pro-olive camp...my SO, not so much.

                            2. Two ideas, both of which I've made and were well-received: a watermelon and arugula salad http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... and a black bean, jicama and grilled corn salad (REALLY delicious!) http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                              1. A large platter covered with large chunks of heirloom tomatoes of all colors (red, orange, green & yellow) and chunks of fresh mozzarella; then sprinkle with a chiffonade of Genovese basil: Drizzle with Trader Joe's Vinaigrette (best on the market). Make sure to top amply with Maldon sea salt & freshly ground Tellichery pepper...summer salad perfection!

                                1. I have a panzanilla recipe that I got from the LA times years ago that is always a hit. It uses cornbread, cilantro and red & yellow cherry tomatoes It has a tangy lime dressing. It looks and tastes amazing.

                                  1. Thanks everyone for all of these wonderful ideas. I've combined several of them and think I've decided on doing a fresh tomato panzanella with goat cheese. I can get all of the ingredients at the farmers market including local goat cheese and bread, and the tomatoes have been looking really nice lately.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: justlauralibrarian

                                      Excellent! I think a panzanella is just sooo simple, refreshing and delish! mmmm, I haven't done one with goat cheese, do you throw in chunks at the end?

                                      1. re: lexpatti

                                        Yup, that's the plan. At first I thought about Mozzerella, but thinking about the previously mention bruschetta and the awesome goat cheese at the market I decided to go with that.

                                      2. re: justlauralibrarian

                                        Okay, so I found the baby heirloom tomatoes that I wanted at the farmer's market today, halved them and now I face a conundrum. Do I put this mixture in the fridge until I mix everything together this evening, or should I let it sit at room temperature. You're not supposed to refrigerate tomatoes, right?

                                        P.S. I know I could mix everything including the bread together now, but I'm going by the less authentic method of adding croutons last minute. Less chance of mushy bread that way.

                                      3. OK Laura, you just moved to this neighborhood. The panzanella is all well and good, but might I suggest making an appetizer as well? See, when I first meet new neighbors, I figure I better cook something that will make the kind of impression that makes sure I don't get voted off the island. I want to fit in, but I want to make something that won't alienate the strong-but-maybe-a-little-simple ones that are going to rush over and help me if my house is on fire, but only because if my house burns down, then my kitchen burns down, and then they won't get any more homemade sticky buns. Capiche? For god sakes make something that'll make your future handyman/dogwalker/neighborhood watchman's heart thump. Panzanella is not going to get your sidewalk shoveled. Something recognizable on a stick is. Tenderloin skewers or roasted shrimp. Think of your future!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: runwestierun

                                          What a great piece of advice (runwestierun)! I too just moved to a new neighborhood and though I was tempted to try a new, more sophisticated recipe, I think I will go with an oldie but goodie. It's simple and delicious and a friend's father actually tasted it at a party last year and told me he wanted to marry me. I have to bring something that represents me because I will need help around the house one day!