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Your Summer Potluck Strategy for Memorial Day and Beyond

Your Summer Potluck Strategy for Memorial Day and Beyond

Ah summer, the season of fresh tomatoes, corn, Popsicles, and potlucks when you’re expected to bring a dish — but what? What stands up well to travel, doesn’t need refrigeration, and tastes good at room temperature (or warmer)? Forget delicate leafy salads and fussy desserts. See what our food editors make for Memorial Day and potlucks throughout the sultry weather.

Related: 14 New, Lighter Comfort Food Ideas

Grilled Asparagus Flatbreads

"This flatbread is like a really, really delicious pizza." says food editor Shira Bocar. "Kids love it. Vegetarians love it." And you can assemble it quickly once when you arrive at the picnic or potluck.

1 loaf olive bread (about 1 pound), cut into 1-inch slices
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Coarse salt
8 ounces burrata or fresh ricotta
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
1/2 cup radish sprouts
Red-pepper flakes

1. Heat grill to medium-high. Brush both sides of bread slices with 1/2 cup oil. Grill until golden and charred in spots, about 1 minute each side. Season with salt. Dollop cheese among slices.

2. Toss asparagus with remaining 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt. Grill, turning occasionally, until crisp-tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Divide among bread slices. Top with sprouts; drizzle with oil. Season with salt and pepper flakes; serve.

Related: 47 Ways to Maximize Space in Your Kitchen

Soy-Lemon Flank Steak with Arugula

It’s easy to make and uses an inexpensive cut of steak, plus “the meat is marinated, which gives it a really great flavor,” says recipe tester Laura Rege about her new favorite meaty main. “Slice it and garnish with the arugula when you get to the potluck.”

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
2 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 1/2 pounds flank steak
1/2 bunch arugula (about 2 ounces), leaves torn if large
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Lemon wedges, for serving

1. Whisk together oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, brown sugar, and garlic in a bowl. Place flank steak inside a gallon-size resealable plastic bag. Add marinade, press out excess air, and seal. Let stand, turning bag occasionally, at least 1 hour at room temperature, or up to 6 hours in refrigerator (if refrigerating, let come to room temperature before grilling).

2. Heat grill to medium-high. Remove meat from marinade, reserving marinade, and pat off excess with paper towels. Grill, uncovered, turning once, until a thermometer inserted into thickest part registers 130 degrees for medium-rare, about 5 minutes on each side. Transfer to a cutting board and let stand 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, transfer marinade to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.

4. Slice meat against the grain and arrange on a platter. Arrange arugula on top; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons sauce over meat and arugula. Serve with remaining sauce and lemon wedges.

Related: 19 Easy Barbecue Recipes to Make This Season

Campanelle with Corn, Scallions, and Arugula

This just might be “the best pasta salad you’ve ever had.” says Jennifer Aaronson, editorial director of food and entertaining. “It’s fine served at room temp, and the corn and scallions are so summery and perfect together.”

4 cups corn (from 5 ears)
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces sliced smoked bacon, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 red Thai chile, finely chopped
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound campanelle or other shell-shaped pasta, such as orecchiette, cooked until al dente (1 cup cooking water reserved)
3 scallions, white and pale-green parts only, thinly sliced
2 cups baby arugula
Garnish: shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan cheese

Cook’s Note
Follow these steps when you cook the pasta for this dish: Bring a large pot of water (6 quarts) to a boil — you want enough water so the pasta can move around. Season the water with 1/4 cup coarse salt. (The water should be well seasoned; think “salty like the sea.”) Cook 1 pound of pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving at least 2 cups cooking water. The pasta releases starch as it cooks, and the starchy water is essential to the sauce.

1. Puree 1 cup corn and the chicken stock in a blender.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook bacon until crisp, about 8 minutes. Add corn puree, remaining 3 cups corn kernels, 2 tablespoons butter, and the chile. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until corn is soft, about 5 minutes.

3. Toss in pasta, reserved cooking water, and remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Cook until sauce is creamy, about 3 minutes. Toss in scallions and arugula. Garnish with cheese.

Related: 22 Chicken Dinner Recipes in Less Than 30 Minutes

Bread-and-Butter Potato Salad

What is a potluck without potato salad? Laura recommends this recipe because “the pickles and snap peas make it different and extra delicious.” Plus it is best made the day before.

1/2 to 3/4 cup bread-and-butter-pickle brine, plus 3/4 cup chopped pickles (from one 16-ounce jar)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 pounds baby Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed
3/4 cup sliced cornichons
2 cups sugar snap peas (about 8 ounces), trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup packed fresh dill fronds, coarsely chopped

1. Whisk together 1/2 cup brine, mustard, and oil. Add more brine to taste, if desired, and season with salt and pepper. Dressing can be made up to 1 week ahead and stored in refrigerator; bring to room temperature before dressing salad.

2. Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with 2 inches of cold water. Add 2 tablespoons salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender when easily pierced with a knife, about 18 minutes; drain. Return potatoes to pot and cook over high heat just until water has evaporated and potatoes are dry; remove from heat. When just cool enough to handle, cut potatoes in half and transfer to a large bowl along with dressing. Generously season with salt and pepper and gently fold to combine. Let mixture cool, tossing occasionally.

3. Add bread-and-butter pickles, cornichons, sugar snaps, and herbs. Gently toss to combine; season with salt and pepper.

Kale and Farro Salad with Feta

Kale is great for parties because, unlike more tender salad greens, it stands up to dressing without getting soggy. “And this is not just a kale salad; I like that the grain and the cheese elevate this dish,” says Laura. “The recipe can easily be doubled, plus you make and dress this salad ahead, so you’re ready to go when you get to the party.”

1 cup farro
2 cups packed torn Tuscan kale leaves (about 2 ounces)
1/4 red onion, finely diced (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup packed mint leaves, thinly sliced, plus whole small leaves for serving
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup crumbled feta, preferably French

1. Cover farro with 3 inches of water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until grains are tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Drain and let cool completely.

2. Transfer farro to a large bowl and add kale, onion, sliced mint, lemon zest and juice, and oil. Toss until farro is well coated. Season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with feta. Let stand 30 minutes before serving, topped with small mint leaves. Salad can be stored in refrigerator up to 2 days.

Israeli Couscous with Mint and Lemon

"This salad is at every single backyard event I attend or host." says Shira. "It improves with time, so I can make it the night before –- and it tastes great straight out of the fridge or at room temperature."

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for pasta water
8 ounces (1 1/2 cups) Israeli or pearl couscous (or orzo)
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
5 scallions, thinly sliced diagonally
1/3 cup golden raisins
3 tablespoons very thinly sliced lemon zest (2 to 3 strips)
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/8 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add couscous, and cook until al dente. Drain, and drizzle with just enough oil to coat. Spread on a baking sheet, and refrigerate 10 minutes.

2. Combine couscous and remaining ingredients. Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Three-Bean Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is eternally popular and pretty forgiving, making it a good potluck option. Sarah likes this recipe because “it gets better as it sits, so you can make it ahead (the day before if you like), and it will only get better.”

Salt and pepper
6 ounces small pasta shells
3/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 can (15.5 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 scallions (white parts only), thinly sliced
5 stalks celery, thinly sliced

1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 3 minutes less than package instructions. Add green beans and cook 3 minutes more. Drain and rinse with cold water.

2. In a medium bowl, combine mustard, vinegar, honey, and oil. Add pasta mixture, pinto beans, chickpeas, scallions, and celery; toss gently. Season with salt and pepper.

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