Does the word potluck evoke images of heavy, gut-busting dishes piled into Tupperware? Ali Rosen, host of the show Potluck with Ali and author of "Bring It! Tried and True Recipes for Potlucks and Casual Entertaining," is about to radically change your perception of the potluck.
Her approach to shared plates? Modern, healthful dishes that are so good it's guaranteed you'll be the talk of the party. Here, Rosen reveals her clever alternatives to the usual creamy salads, plus pork ribs featuring a tangy watermelon sauce that you'll want to slather on everything you make.
1. Cauliflower Salad With Lime and Turmeric
"Sometimes an occasion calls for brightness," writes Rosen. "Turmeric has been lauded for its supposed health properties, but I love it for its subtle, lovely bitterness. It brings balance to the lime and adds a beautiful color. This simple salad will stand out both visually and in flavor."
How to Bring It: "Toss all the other ingredients together with the dressing at least a day ahead if needed, but save the arugula until the last minute before serving."
Full Recipe and Nutritional Info: Cauliflower Salad With Lime and Turmeric
2. Farro With Charred Vegetables
"A hearty grain dish doesn't have to serve up the grains with a heavy hand. Sometimes the extra ingredients can have as much heft as the grain itself," explains Rosen. "This dish works because it breaks down the vegetables to the same size as the farro."
How to Bring It: "A winning combination for any season, make it ahead of time and then serve it either hot or cold."
Full Recipe and Nutritional Info: Farro With Charred Vegetables
3. Roasted Watermelon Pork Ribs
"One of my favorite chefs, Floyd Cardoz, makes a dish that uses watermelon as a sauce for fish. The whole concept delighted me: The little bit of sweet balanced out and complemented the savory," explains Rosen. "I have always loved watermelon with barbecue, so the fish dish inspired me to take the concept and flip it around with pork. It is unexpected, but works so perfectly that you'll wonder why you weren't making a watermelon sauce before."
How to Bring It: "These are easily served cold or at room temperature. They can be made a day or two ahead. Just store them in the aluminum foil until you are ready to serve them. The biggest thing is not to remove them from the aluminum foil: You never want to lose the sauce, so try to keep it inside until ready to serve, whatever the scenario."
Full Recipe and Nutritional Info: Roasted Watermelon Pork Ribs
4. Okra in Tomato Sauce
"There is a restaurant in Charleston where I grew up that used to make a dish like this, and every time people came to visit I forced them to order it," says Rosen. "It was my one trump card when people said they hated okra: It changed their minds every time. I devised my own version, which still serves the same purpose. The big change I made was that instead of cooking the okra and sauce together, I cook them separately to leave the okra with a nicer texture. Roasting the okra gives it much-needed caramelization without any mushiness."
How to Bring It: "This dish is best hot, but it can easily be briefly reheated because the okra and sauce are very forgiving. Place it back on a stovetop burner, in the oven or even in the microwave for a few minutes to bring up to temperature."
Full Recipe and Nutritional Info: Okra in Tomato Sauce
5. Orange, Parsley and Walnut Salad
"Parsley is one of the most reliable additions to a dish, but what about making it take center stage?" asks Rosen. "This salad can be the perfect light start to heavier dishes served in colder months, like shepherd's pie or baked chicken casserole, bringing a pop to winter meals. An ingredient as strong and sweet as an orange is a perfect companion for the parsley and the sharp crunch of endive."
How to Bring It: Make this salad up to a day ahead and keep in the refrigerator. Simply toss together and dress right before serving.
Full Recipe and Nutritional Info: Orange, Parsley and Walnut Salad
What Do YOU Think?
What's your favorite healthy potluck meal to take to a party? Let us know in the comments below!