Summer's Best Potluck Dish: Three Bean Salad

REAL Sour Cream & Onion Dip in wooden bowl on a serving platter with crinkle-cut potato chips and celery stalks
It’s Party Time – Recipes for all Your Sunny Hangouts

Whether you’re hosting an intimate gathering, having a party or bringing a dish to share, the ones on this list are sure to please. Perfect for a 4th of July party, or any summer shindig throughout the season:

Refreshing Cocktails

Key Lime Mojito

Fresh squeezed juice is key for optimal flavor, bottled won't cut it. If key limes aren't available, you can use regular limes. If you like your drinks sweet, use the full amount of sugar, otherwise, pair back for a nicely balanced cocktail.

Strawberry Spritz

Sweet vermouth, red or white, makes for a delicious and light aperitif. Here, white vermouth is infused with fresh strawberries for a few hours before being poured over ice and topped with sparkling water. It is a light and refreshing cocktail for a balmy evening.
View Recipe

Bourbon Punch

A cocktail that is short on ingredients, yet big on flavor. Even non-bourbon lovers get behind this refreshing punch, sweet from the vermouth and splash of grenadine, balanced by fresh grapefruit juice.
View Recipe

Orange Pomegranate Sangria

This lightened up fruity sangria relies upon Creme de Cassis for it's sweetness, along with orange juice and pomegranate juice for flavor and acidity. It is simple to put together, and perfect for a summertime gathering. Any sort of fruit you have on hand will do, but during the summer I'm particularly fond of peaches and blackberries. Make a pitcher, chill it down and serve with lots of ice.
View Recipe

The Southerly

Bourbon, lime, and ginger beer combine in this refreshing and light cocktail. Make sure to use a good quality bourbon and ginger beer, not ginger ale, for the best results. The drink is sweetened with agave syrup, which is a shelf-stable sweetener which you can find at grocery stores. I keep a bottle on hand for mixing drinks, as it dissolves easily and removes a step, however, if you'd prefer, you may use simple syrup. Just mix equal parts sugar and water over heat until the sugar dissolves, then let cool before using.
View Recipe

Elderflower Margarita

Good ingredients yield good results. This is especially true with margaritas. St. Germaine and Cointreau are pricier than other brands of elderflower and orange liqueurs, respectively, but will make for one killer margarita. Make sure your tequila as well is on equal par. You'll find this drink to be a more floral version of a traditional margarita and is quite delicious.
View Recipe

The Tempest

As passion fruit can be difficult to source, I've created a riff on the traditional Hurricane that is every bit as delicious, if not more so. Pineapple acts as the stand in, and lime juice takes the place of lemon, creating the perfect cocktail for a hot day. If you like, frozen pineapple can be used, but steer clear of canned pineapple, which will be cloyingly sweet. And as always, freshly squeezed citrus juice is key to good drinks.
View Recipe

Fun & Festive Dips

REAL Sour Cream & Onion Dip

Making your own sour cream and onion dip is not at all difficult and is indeed a worthy endeavor. The flavor and texture gained by caramelizing sweet onions is unmatched by store-bought mixes. Besides the classic potato chip pairing, this dip is also excellent slathered on a burger, or smeared inside pita bread and filled with grilled chicken or falafel.
View Recipe

Zucchini Baba Ganoush

The seasonings used to make baba ganoush, a Middle Eastern spread made with tahini, garlic and lemon, can be applied to a variety of vegetables with great success. One of my favorite go-withs is zucchini. When roasted slowly, the firm and watery texture of the summer squash transforms into a luscious, almost creamy texture which soaks up all the flavor. The best part is, no food processor required. A slightly chunky dip is preferred.
View Recipe

Tomato Strawberry Salsa with Habanero & Fresh Mint

This is a fresh and bright salsa, slightly sweet but not overly so. A fun and festive break from the standard salsa roja when served as an appetizer with tortilla chips, but shines over grilled fish, too. If habanero chilis are too much for you, dial the heat back by using jalapeno or serrano chili instead.
View Recipe

Charred Pepper & Walnut Dip

A versatile dip that shines as part of a tapas spread, it is also wonderful served alongside grilled vegetables, chicken skewers or grilled meat. The aroma when grinding the nuts, garlic and salt together is to die for, and almost worth making it for this alone. Use either sweet or smoked paprika, per your preference.
View Recipe

Pineapple Avocado Salsa

This versatile salsa can be enjoyed as an appetizer with chips, spooned atop grilled fish, or tucked into a shrimp taco. It's best served soon after it's made, as the pineapple will begin to leach much of it's juice if it sits for more than a few hours.
View Recipe

Shrimp with Spicy Chili Tomato Dipping Sauce

I can’t call this a shrimp cocktail, even though presentation and preparation-wise it’s not too dissimilar. But the dipping sauce, while tomato based, is far from the usual ketchup and horseradish combo. This supremely flavorful dish uses tomato paste for depth of flavor, chipotle chili flakes for a kick, and fresh lime juice to brighten it up. This will serve 4 people as a light appetizer, with about 4 shrimp per person.
View Recipe

Cucumber, Poblano & Orange Salsa

This salsa can be served with chips as an appetizer, but shines on fish, chicken or shrimip tacos. It is a delightful alternative to the usual condiment. The poblano does not contribute much heat, but has a pleasant piquant flavor which is an excellent match to the sweet oranges. Leave the cheese out for a dairy-free option.
View Recipe

Sides and Salads

Sheet Pan Corn with Zesty Lime & Feta

Enjoy this version of Mexican street corn at your next summer soiree. Sheet pan cooking is easy, and also saves space on the grill, but if you'd rather grill the cobs go ahead. The key is the sauce, a thick mayo and feta mixture seasoned with chili flakes and lime zest. Make sure it goes on while the corn is still warm, so it seeps into all the little crevices.
View Recipe

Betty’s Three Bean Salad

This recipe comes by way of my grandma, who used to make huge batches to have on hand and take to relatives' houses for a potluck, or simply to snack on. The upside of the big batch was an extended marinating time. It sat in the fridge until it's curtain call, allowing the beans to soak up all the flavors. I've updated her recipe to use fresh green beans, as I like the texture better than canned, and to use olive oil, in order to add a bit more flavor. It needs at least two hours to marinate before serving, but longer is better.
View Recipe

Caesar Salad Potatoes

I love a descriptive title. And here it is… caesar dressing, flavored with the traditional anchovies, garlic, lemon, dijon and parmigiano, tossed with still hot potatoes so they are able to soak up all of the flavor. Make up to a day ahead and refrigerate – which really allows the potatoes time to absorb the dressing – but before serving make sure to allow them time to come to temperature so they are not fridge-cold. This dish is perfect picnic fare – a potato salad that gets better as it sits, without the concern of mayo, which can spoil at al fresco gatherings.
View Recipe

Tailgating Potato Salad

Use any sort of waxy potato you like, I call for Yukon, but fingerling or red bliss will work well. Steer clear of starchy potatoes, like russet, that won't hold up in a salad. You'll love how the potatoes soak up the salt and vinegar, meaning each and every bite is full of flavor. Tossed with sundried tomatoes, celery for crunch and dill for freshness, this is one mean side next to a juicy, char-grilled burger.
View Recipe

Greek-Style Couscous Salad

When I think picnic lunch fare, I think of this dish. Easy, healthy and flavor packed. Occasionally I will make this salad using farro or barely, if I'd rather skip the pasta, but it really is wonderful with large couscous, which soak up the dressing, and have a nice chewy consistency against the crunch of fresh veggies. Substitute quinoa or rice to make it gluten-free.
View Recipe

Sweet Corn Salad with Feta & Mint

This salad travels and keeps well, up to 6 hours after assembling, making for excellent picnic fare or a dish to bring to a friend's summer barbeque. It can also be served with tortilla chips as a dip. Lemon, fresh mint and feta bring out the best in sweet summer corn and tomatoes. It's a sunny, bright salad that won't weigh you down in hot weather.
View Recipe

Smoky Corn Chowder with Lime Crema

Chowders can be rich and heavy, not the best during the heat of the summer when corn happens to be at its prime. This chowder, though, uses white beans instead of cream to thicken the soup, resulting in a hearty bowl that won't weigh you down.
View Recipe

‘Cue the Main Course

Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Mango Barbecue Sauce

Mangos add a subtle sweetness to this barbecue sauce, which you won't find to be overly fruity. There are enough savory ingredients and spices, like onions, garlic, chipotle and cumin, to keep it grounded. I call for cooking the chicken directly in the sauce, then removing it and shredding it before adding it back to the pot, but if you'd like to skip a step feel free to use precooked poultry. Store-bought rotisserie chicken works great.
View Recipe

Chipotle Maple BBQ Sauce

I came across this recipe years and years ago in the long since defunct Gourmet magazine, and while I would love to give credit where credit is due, I can no longer find the source copy for reference. Fortunately, I had committed it to memory, as I make it all of the time – it is one of the best barbecue sauces I've ever tasted and most simple to make. You would never guess there is not one drop of tomato sauce in it; instead, it is based completely upon roasted bell peppers. Because of this, it is important to roast your own peppers, as jarred will not yield the same depth of flavor. Baste the sauce over bone-in chicken breasts as they grill. Serve a separate portion in a big bowl alongside the chicken.
View Recipe

Smoky Maple BBQ Chicken Sliders

Make this sweet and tangy BBQ chicken for any of the major summer holidays. The best part – it's warm and waiting in your crock pot, so no sweating over a hot grill. Using rotisserie chicken cuts down on the work, and ensures a soft and tender result.
View Recipe

Sweet Summer Treats

Mixed Berry CrispPie

This is a pie for the pie-crust challenged. A simple, press in crust is as easy as it gets, and is the perfect base for my CrispPie – a fruit crisp and pie mashup. I developed this recipe to give you the structure of a pie and the best part of a crisp… think loads of gooey baked fruit topped with a sweet and crunchy streusel. I like to let mine cool and set up so that it cuts a neater slice, but if you just can't wait, serving it warm and sloppy with a scoop of ice cream is divine as well.
View Recipe

Lemony Vanilla Pudding with Summer Berries

An egg yolk and cornstarch thickened stovetop custard, gently flavored with cinnamon and vanilla, is just the match for ripe summer berries. This do-ahead dessert will be the perfect ending to your al fresco dinner party.
View Recipe

Glazed Summer Strawberry Cake

Adapted from Yossy Arefi's Fresh Strawberry Bundt Cake
Make this cake when strawberries are at their sweetest. Of course, one can get strawberries year-round, but in-season berries that don't have to travel across hemispheres to reach you, make this dessert really shine. Yogurt in the batter keeps everything moist, and its tanginess is a delightful interplay with the sweet and fragrant fruit. A beautiful, pink snacking cake is less than an hour away.
View Recipe

Mango Cupcakes

The mango flavor here is subtle; you'll recognize it as a fruity floral note. For this recipe, seek out ripe, sweet mangos such as Kent. The cupcakes can be made ahead and refrigerated – though bring them up to room temperature before serving.
View Recipe

Cherry Almond Brown Butter Squares

(Adapted from Deb Perelman)
Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen posted this recipe on her blog years ago, from one that she herself had adapted from Bon Appetit magazine. That recipe called for raspberries, and was baked in a round tart pan so that it could be sliced as a more elegant dessert. I firmly agree that squares are the way to go, which allows one to eat them as a cookie and thus is more of an "everyday" kind of treat. Though, I do sometimes revert to using raspberries when cherries are not in season, or if I don't feel like pitting them, and recently have had great success with a strawberry / blackberry combo.
View Recipe

Pull-Apart Strawberry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Pull-aparts are a fun way to party. Fresh, pureed strawberries in the batter gives these cupcakes a light, delicate crumb with a subtle fruit flavor, perfectly offset by a rich, fluffy cream cheese frosting. For an Americana themed party, top with red and blue fruit, or skip the berry decoration when serving for a birthday or other celebration.
View Recipe

Dulce de Leche Swirled Cinnamon Ice Cream Pie

On the surface, the title would indicate a complex dessert that requires a bit of effort to put together. In reality, store-bought ingredients make quick work of the steps. As per usual, you get out what you put in, so make sure to buy good quality ice cream and jarred dulce de leche for the best results. I like to make this in a false-bottom tart pan, however if you do not own one, go ahead and use a regular pie pan. Make sure to press the crust up the sides of the pan, otherwise the filling will stick and you won’t get a clean slice.
View Recipe

Lemon Raspberry Ice Cream Pie

Make a simple no-churn ice cream, fold in raspberries and swirl in lemon curd for a simple summertime treat. This has sweet fruit flavor, and a lemony tang tamed by the creamy ice cream filling. Nestled in a graham cracker crust, it’s a fun, frozen twist on a lemon meringue pie. Take it out of the freezer at least 10 minutes before serving for easier cutting and serving, and for optimal texture of the ice cream filling.
View Recipe

Chocolate Crusted Key Lime Bars

When in doubt, add chocolate – it's the flavor you didn't know your limes were missing. With a crunchy cookie base, these puckery lime bars are a break from the usual, packing a little more oomph. If key limes aren't available, substitute with regular lime juice, but also add the zest from one lime to supplement.
View Recipe
5 1 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments