Potlucks are back in vogue, and eating as a community—whether that’s your family, neighbors or old college pals— is almost always more gratifying than any other meal. But when it comes to cooking and entertaining, I admit to being a bit of a control freak. I like things the way I like them, fresh from the garden, subtly seasoned, packed with the flavors of the earth. So the idea of hosting a potluck—where your meal and your guests’ are left to the mercy of the guest list was enough to give me the heebie jeebies. I always imagined mish-matched American casseroles side by side with steamed dumplings and boxed brownies.
Not long after I joined a community garden, my hubby and I befriended our local pizza guy, and started buying his dough to whip up simple pizzas loaded with our weekly harvest. Soon we started inviting friends, and soon, inviting friends with vegetables. And before I knew it, we were hosting a regular grow and gather potluck, a delicious feast of fresh-picked, locally grown goodies everyone was eager to show-off and share.
With over seven million Americans growing some of their own produce, there’s never been a better time to celebrate the diversity and dedication of home-gardeners at your table. Invite the gardeners in your life over for a surprise dinner, asking them each to bring two fruits or veggies from their latest harvest. Of course there might be a run on zucchini in July, but with some careful planning it will surely be a feast to remember. Here’s how:
Master pizza dough, or befriend your local pizza guy: Make or buy several pounds of dough the day before (most dough is better when they rest overnight) and put them out at room temp an hour before guests arrive along with flour, rolling pins and a station for rinsing and prepping home-grown veggies for topping (like spinach, kale, zucchini and tomatoes). Have some sauce and shredded cheeses, like mozzarella, manchego and Parmesan in bowls nearby, plus a few sprigs of basil.
Plan on crudités, and make a killer dip (like bagna cauda or green goddess): Crudités is the perfect way to showcase any veggies that won't make it on the pizza (like green beans, carrots, radishes, kohlrabi and broccoli). Have a pot of salted, boiling water and a bowl of ice water waiting when guests arrive to blanch and shock veggies before arranging them on a platter with dip.
Serve Cheese: Set out a few artisan cheeses from your local farmer’s market to hold over guests while the pizzas cook. Two wedges of something you love are sure to satisfy meat-eaters and vegetarians alike.
Pour Something Sparkling: Serve sparkling rosé in the summer, prosecco or lambrusco in the spring, fall and winter. Garnish your sparkling water with the gleanings of your year-round herb garden. A sprig of mint or even rosemary plus several slices of citrus turn a pitcher of water into a conversation piece.
Plant a Seed: Invite a non-gardener or two to be responsible for bringing a dessert. It’s a perfect way to include and inspire a new green thumb among your circle of friends.
Swap Stories and Seeds: Welcome guests to bring seeds saved from their harvest or particularly well-producing local melon to share, sending everyone home with a little insurance that this will be the first of many memorable potlucks.
-This article was writen by blogger Sarah Copeland. To check out more of her tips and pieces take a look at her blog edibleliving.com.