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Favorite cold main and side dishes

I have an event to go to in a few weeks and I need to bring either a main or side dish that can travel on ice in a cooler and be served either cold or at room temp. There will be no heating or prep facilities.

I don't really want to bring seafood or fried chicken. I may make a spaghetti salad or gazpacho but in addition would like to bring something else too.

Your thoughts?

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  1. Shrimp cocktail. A Mexican restaurant in my old town made a cross between the two. The shrimp were in the gazpacho.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Ikkeikea

      Room temp shrimp? Not so much, thinks moi.

      Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, best at room temp. Cheese tortellini salad with kalamata olives, feta cheese and halved grape tomatoes and olive oil... melon and prosciutto... depending how long it's going to be room temp.

      1. re: mcf

        Room temp shrimp? Yuck. She did mention that it could be served cold. That's the way I've always had it :)

        ETA: I didn't read it correctly, either. No seafood.

        1. re: Ikkeikea

          Thanks for the tips and keep them coming. Yes it can be kept in the cooler until the last minute and served or it can be served room temp. I would prefer non-seafood because I am allergic and would like to enjoy what I bring as well.

    2. Broccoli salad made with 2 heads of chopped broccoli flowerettes (include some of the stems but try to use as many flowerettes as you can), 1/2 large red onion, finely chopped, 1 cup of currants, 1/2 pound bacon (cooked crisp and chopped) 1/2 cup nuts (I like cashews) chopped. Combine 1 cup Best Foods/Hellmann's mayonnaise with 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar and 1/3 - 1/2 cup sugar (start small and add more to taste).
      Mix it all together, chill for a few hours.
      You can use a single head of broccolli and chop it all quite fine, but I like it best when the flowerettes dominate the bowl.
      Avoid using a food processor to make this one unless you're very watchful to ensure the solids aren't over processed into a powder.

      1 Reply
      1. Whether you call it a Nachitoches meat pie, UP pasty, Jamaican meat pie, or empaneda, they were all originally designed to be eaten cold at the job site. All vary in their crust and filling, thus giving you lattitude to go along with the theme of the gathering. Insert none soggy fruit for the filling, and you have a dessert that travels well cold.

        I prefer a Jamaican jerk sauce for dipping, number of habaneros at your discretion, and a brown sugar and sour cream sauce for the fruit filled desserts.

        1. Panzanella salad, quinoa salad, bean salad, etc. Any salad with lots of fresh veggies, some cheese and a little bit of starch & a vinaigrette. You can add chicken and or chopped hardboiled eggs for protein. You could also add roasted new potatoes and hold them at room temp so they don't soften.

          I recently had a lovely salad with watermelon & feta and a mint vinaigrette and I practically licked the plate it was so good (it also had little lamb chops, but that wouldn't work here for you).

          10 Replies
          1. re: lynnlato

            Panzanella doesn't hold up over time, so if it's for a buffet, it's not the best choice. The bread gets soggy and gross really quickly.

            Same goes for the watermelon salad -- the salt in the dressing leeches out the water and turns the whole thing into a wet mess.

            That said, both are great for dinner parties where the food is eaten immediately.

            1. re: piccola

              That's true for those who have wet bread syndrome. Some of us love it soggy, and that's how I've had it in Italy.

              1. re: lemons

                Sigh..... I suffer from wet bread syndrom. It all started in grade school with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in my lunchbag. It sadly has (shudder) become a chronic problem. :-(

                1. re: suzigirl

                  One of my stepdaughters has the same problem. No bread pudding, no turkey stuffing, and so on.

                  1. re: lemons

                    Bread pudding. Gastly stuff. Eeeww.

                    1. re: suzigirl

                      well, if you're not going to eat it -- push it over here (yes...it DOES seem I say that a lot)

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        No problem. You can have the hard sauce too.

                  2. re: suzigirl

                    Me too, suzigirl. Exact same deal, grade school lunchbox thing. It was the grape jelly soaking through Wonder bread. Have never gotten past it.

                    1. re: suzigirl

                      I thought I was the only one who suffered from this. Every year the day after Easter my mother would whip up this concoction called "Ham and Cheese Fondue" which was NOTHING like a fondue. It basically consisted of giant hunks of wet soggy bread soaked in milk, a sprinkling of cheese (never enough cheese), and cubes of leftover ham baked in the oven. Makes me shudder to this day.

              2. One of the best impluse buys I made was this type of Pyrex container. It comes in handy w/ this sort of situation because you can make hot or cold, easy to transport, all self contained.


                Other than that, I had the same thought as Lynnlato on the panzanella and different salads. I love this israeli couscous salad but improvise on vegetables:


                I also like to make braided bread for things like this. I usually make several loaves, different fillings. Something along these lines:


                I've tried all different variations but the most popular (which always surprises me) is something w/ bacon, cheese and sometimes hard boiled egg. I'll add oven dried tomatoes to it sometimes. I love this one:


                There is also torta rustica. I make it in a springform pan so it's easy to transport.

                I love the layered colors in King Arthur's but don't like that dough.


                I like the pizza rustica dough:


                That said, I usually improvise with this, too, and add what I want.

                1. Chicken Marbella can be served hot, room temp, or cold. When I make it, I add an extra step, first sauteeing the pieces skin side down to thoroughly render out the fat. I use a large enough baking pan that the skin is not submerged, and scrape the solids in the marinade off the skin and into the liquid before baking the chicken, so as to evenly brown the skin. I think this is especially important if the dish is not being served hot, so the skin, though not crispy, will still be delicious and not flabby/chewy.

                  1. Any sort of potato or pasta salad is the classic, I think.

                    Devilled eggs?

                    These rice balls are good: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/...

                    A melon and mint salad, as mentioned already, or a slaw, would work.

                    Summer rolls with a peanut or other Asian dipping sauce are delicious, and stuffable with almost any veg you want.

                    1. Nigella Lawson has a Vietnamese noodle-cabbage-turkey salad that is just divine. Always garners compliments. It's in her book FEAST.

                      1. Our standard "take it to a party" dish is pesto rice salad. Dead easy, dead tasty. You could make your own pesto but we always use a jar.

                        Cook risotto rice using a quarter of the pesto jar and stock, then let it cool. For absolute best results, the final additions should be just before serving but if there's no space to do that, then it will travel. You now stir in the rest of the jar of pesto, olive oil and lemon juice, then top with shavings of Parmesan or Pecorino and sliced spring onions. We chuck basil leaves on as well if we have them.

                        FWIW, it's also pretty good served hot but I much prefer it room temperature. Good buffet dish - it'll sit there all the time you need it to.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Harters

                          Ooooh, very impressive, Harters. Well played. That goes on The List.

                          1. re: Harters

                            Absolutely love this idea Harters! Do you cook the rice with the liquid all at once, not coating it with the pesto, or do you coat the rice with the pesto and then add hot stock? I assume you are using arborio rice? As a variation, I wonder how this might be with a little cut up poached chicken... For the cheese, instead of parmigiana...maybe pecorino? Although I love both.

                            1. re: TrishUntrapped

                              Coat the rice with the pesto, then add the stock. The stock can pretty much go in all at once, rather than keeping adding a ladle, like you would do if making a regular risottto. You're not aiming for the very creamy texture of a regular risotto. And, yes, we usually use arborio but have used carnoli, if that's what's in the cupboard.

                              Leftovers always find themselves on my lunch plate. I'm happy to eat it without addition, except maybe some lettuce and tomato on the side, but it is very user friendly and I'll stir in any protein leftovers as well - chicken is good. Ham's better. And crisped shards of pancetta is better still.

                          2. My 1st thought would be a contemporary version of Niscoise salad with poached salmon, or chicken and the traditional eggs, potatoes, green beans, and Niscoise olives. Dress with a simple vinaigrette.

                            1. our hands-down summertime favorite is tomatoes, cucumber, feta, black olives, green onions, and finely-chopped mint, tossed with a big bowl of cooled couscous, olive oil, lemon juice, and freshly ground pepper.

                              We rarely even put salt in it -- the feta and olives have plenty-- it's very different, completely delicious, and refreshing on a warm day. (and while I wouldn't want to eat it after it's sat out all afternoon, you don't have to stress this one much, either0

                              1. Cold sesame noodles are one of my favorites for this type of thing - you can add a protein if you like. A big muffaletta sandwich, cut into wedges, would also be delicious!

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: biondanonima

                                  The sesame noodles sound great. So does the muffaletta but with the meats cheeses and olives for the salad it can get really expensive. Even when i purchase the ingredients at my very reasonable local Amish bulk store its costly. Although I agree, its delicious

                                  1. re: biondanonima

                                    I love cold sesame noodles and consider the peanut butter protein, although there probably isn't enough to matter. Chicken is good in it. I've had the same experience as suzigirl with muffaletta. I can't get over how much it costs to put it all together! It's so good, though.

                                  2. Barefoot Contessa's cucumbers in yogurt,sour cream and dill.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Duppie

                                      Or her Roasted Vegatable and Orzo salad... serve cold or room temp. no mayo or dairy to worry about.

                                      1. re: breakfastfan

                                        I forgot about that.... she has so many good recipes based on roasted vegetables.

                                    2. I am a huge lover of antipasta salad.

                                      Farfalle pasta
                                      Cubed ham and hard salami
                                      Cubed mozzarella
                                      Green olives and kalamata
                                      Grape tomatoes
                                      Carrots and celery diced fine
                                      And a dressing made from olive juice, pepperoncini juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil,Italian seasoning, and parmesan. Simple and tasty. But it can get evpensive if you are on a budget so go easy on the pricey items and heavy handed on the veg and such.

                                      1. Chicken Salad with Curry-Ginger Dressing


                                        I've referred to this recipe many times on this board. Still worth repeating.

                                        1. What about pimento cheese sandwiches? Or Jezebel sauce or pepper jelly over a block of cream cheese?german potato salad, three bean salad, grilled marinated veggies, roasted pork loin sliced wafer thin, Reuben dip and mini pumpernickle bread? Just a few thoughts

                                          1. I make variations on this recipe -- it's kind of like a gnocchi salad, so a cross between a pasta and a potato salad. http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/...

                                              1. Tabouli salad, made the authentic way: Tons of chopped, flat-leaf parsley, a little bulgur (I often sub with quinoa), chopped scallions, a bit of diced cucumber and tomatoes, lemon juice and olive oil. It's cheap and refreshing. Add the lemon juice/olive oil at the event so the parsley doesn't wilt.

                                                1. Cobb salad (bring crumbled bacon and dressing in separate containers, peel and slice the avocado right before serving, add the bacon, avocado and dressing just before serving) I realize you mention no prep space- I often will do these steps at a picnic table.

                                                  I liked the curried chicken salad idea. I like the type made with West Indian or Jamaican curry powder, and mangos or pineapple. One friend uses store-bought rotisserie chickens for these salads when she's in a hurry.

                                                  The modernized Waldorf from 1999 on Epicurious, with dried cherries, red grapes and spicy pecans is also tasty.

                                                  Wheatberry salads also are pretty good at room temp or cold.

                                                  Asparagus frittata squares.

                                                  1. muffaletta would be perfect
                                                    country ham on beaten biscuits
                                                    ploughmans lunch!

                                                    too bad you dont want to do fried chicken,,,room temp is my favorite way to eat it.

                                                    1. Orzo or wheat berries with chick peas, feta, kalamata olives, cucumber, scallions, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, etc. It is good cold or at room temperature and it is pretty hearty.

                                                      1. tortilla de papa - made to be eaten warm or at room temp, with or without aioli on top (aioli can be kept cold til last minute). this is the basic recipe, though I've always cooked the onions first, separate from the potatoes, then the potatoes, then when the onions are cool, mix into the eggs, and then add the egg/onion mixture to the pan the potatoes are in.


                                                        6 Replies
                                                        1. re: mariacarmen

                                                          I think you linked the wrong recipe but that recipe for garlicky sesame broccoli looks really good. I'm going to have to make that.

                                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                              Bad short term memory--thanks! I remember seeing this back then and wanting to try it.

                                                              1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                Thanks--I have made that before now that I see it. It is a good one. But, I'm really excited about the broccoli error!

                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                  plus, the broccoli error can be used for the OP's purposes!

                                                          1. Bacon Curry Coleslaw is a wonderful thing on a summer's day. A family favorite from the 60s.

                                                            2/3 cup mayonnaise
                                                            4 Tb cider vinegar
                                                            2 t salt
                                                            ½ t pepper
                                                            ½ t curry powder
                                                            2 Tb sugar
                                                            8 cups shredded cabbage
                                                            8 slices bacon, cooked crisp

                                                            Mix sauce; pour over cabbage.
                                                            Crumble bacon & mix lightly.
                                                            Serve immediately or cover & refrigerate.

                                                            My other suggestion to hit a more elegant note would be vichysoisse. It's very easy, holds well, and is so velvety rich, an utterly decadent taste indulgence...

                                                            2 Replies
                                                              1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                Thanks, mariacarmen. Ditto for your French lentil & avocado salad!

                                                            1. This is a favorite I'm often requested to bring. Terrific at room temp.

                                                              BACARDI1 GREEK PENNE PASTA WITH KALE AND FETA

                                                              Half to 1 pound penne pasta (Barilla is my favorite brand), cooked according to al dente package directions & drained
                                                              1 block/container of Feta cheese, or to taste, chopped/crumbled
                                                              Approx. 12-24 Kalamata olives, pitted, & roughly chopped **
                                                              Approx. 1 pound/bunch of Kale, rinsed, stems removed & discarded, & leaves roughly sliced/chopped
                                                              ½ a large or 1 small red onion, peeled & chopped
                                                              A few dollops of extra virgin olive oil for sauteeing
                                                              Dash or so of chicken broth or water
                                                              Dash of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

                                                              While the cooked pasta is draining in a colander, heat the olive oil in the pot the pasta was cooked in & saute the onion until softened but not brown. Add the chopped kale, stir a bit until wilted, & add a dash or 2 of chicken broth or water if necessary to prevent burning. Add chopped olives, cooked pasta, feta cheese, & crushed red pepper & stir again – gently - until pasta is heated through. Serve hot or at room temperature.

                                                              ** If you can’t obtain pitted olives, pitting them is accomplished easily by simply placing your broad kitchen knife (sharp side away from you) over each olive & briskly hitting down on the knife with your hand. Olive will break open & pit will be easy to remove.

                                                              1. Here's a favorite:

                                                                french lentils, cooked, cooled to room temp. cut an avocado and a couple of hardboiled eggs into eighths. mix in arugula. make a dressing of extra virgin olive oil, juice of 2-3 lemons, tsp. dijon mustard, 1 large minced shallot, salt and pepper. Pour over, and stir gently together so as not to bruise the avos. the combo of these flavors and textures is irresistible!

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                  This sounds sooo good!! putting it on my list to make for lunches this week!!

                                                                  1. re: kubasd

                                                                    (psst - kubasd - my dirty little secret is i use Trader Joe's presteamed packaged lentils! they're awesome.)

                                                                2. As a side dish, homemade applesauce. If you make it yourself from McIntosh apples (best flavor for applesauce) and leave the apples kind of chunky, it becomes a delicacy not on the same planet with the canned stuff. Peel and core the apples. Barely cook them with minimal water. Remove from stove. Add sugar to taste while the apples are hot, to melt the sugar. Add cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg to taste. Mash apples coarsely with a hand potato masher. Freeze the applesauce. Start out on your day with the applesauce frozen in your portable cooler. By the time you serve it, it will still be ice cold. But sitting out a while would still not be as risky as, say, potato salad.

                                                                  Another option, unless bread is otherwise provided, is to take a nice variety of breads, which require neither heating nor cooling, and use your cooler to keep the butter cool.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: Querencia

                                                                    or leave the peels on and just remove them after the mashing. Less prep and you'll get a lovely pink color :)

                                                                  2. I grew up eating a small meal after Midnight Mass on Christmas and beyond the sweets and the ham and handmade hot chocolate, my favorite dish was always my aunt's macaroni salad with poached chicken, shredded sheddar, shredded savory and diced apples and celery, bound in a light mayo dressing, diluted with vinegar and Sriracha. My mouth waters just thinking about it's simple, spicy perfection. I am still working on recreating another aunt's fresh lumpia with paper-thin egg crapes made that morning used to hold a riot of lettuce, summer string beans, palm hearts, poached shrimp and shredded chicken, all dressed in a sharp peanut and soy garlic dressing. I can't imagine a better way to show off summer produce.

                                                                    If you want something a little heavier, Middle Eastern stuffed vegetables are always delicious, whether grape leaf, chard or squash, eggplant, carrot or bell pepper. Filling recipes differ only slightly, mostly between rice and bulgur and the various spices, but most are invariably served with a bright tomato sauce or herby yogurt sauce.