Memorial Day weekend is the semi-official kickoff to picnic and cookout season. With more opportunities to bring a dish to a barbecue or pack a meal to enjoy at a nearby park or beach, it’s a good time to work a few more make-and-take dishes into the rotation.
There will always be a place on the picnic table for classics like potato salad, deviled eggs and fried chicken, but it may be time to re-think the standbys. Almost every gathering is going to have a guest or two who is vegan or gluten-intolerant, and bringing a dish everyone can enjoy makes the party more inclusive.
Baked beans are a traditional barbecue side that can easily be made vegan by eliminating the pork, or can be literally beefed up into a hearty side that still meets the needs of those who do not eat pork. For a non-meat or non-pork version, be sure to use the kind specifically labeled vegetarian.
Not just vegans but all vegetable lovers will enjoy a salad made with chickpeas, carrots and savory dressing. The dressing on carrot-chickpea salad is basically a pesto, using cilantro as the leafy green and almonds as the nut binder.
Slab pies have become a popular make-and-take dessert, because they’re simple to make and easy to transport. They get their name by being a thin, flat rectangle instead of a circle. (Because many of the inner pieces won’t have a crusty edge for stability, they have to have a thinner layer of filling than a regular pie). By using packaged pie crust and a roll of sugar-cookie dough for topping, the slab pie comes together quickly and is equally good served hot or cold.
Carrying a slab pie to a cookout usually just involves picking up the rimmed baking sheet it was cooked on, but a slab pie could also be transported in a pizza box. That eliminates the common dilemma introverts face at potlucks, being ready to leave before the food is gone. Rather than leave the container behind, one option is to bring a one-way container, like filling a spaghetti squash shell with salad or a hollowed-out watermelon with fruit. That way, there’s no need to wait for the container to empty out before making a quick exit.
Round loaves of bread also make excellent edible containers for dips, creating a potluck container that disappears on its own. For the ultimate in disappearing potluck containers, Houston-based Igloo Corporation has developed a new compostable ice chest made from coated recycled paper. Much more environmentally friendly than Styrofoam coolers, the coolers are water-resistant for up to twenty hours and can be re-used several times before going in the recycling or compost pile.
The new recycled/recyclable ice chests are currently available at REI and igloocoolers.com for $10, and are expected to be in big-box and sporting goods stores by the beginning of summer.