By Elke Probkevitz
Summertime should be easy-breezy, with family-style meals that are light and simple. During the summer heat, the last thing a girl wants to do is slave over a hot stove. A potluck meal is the easiest way to entertain and, just like a picnic or a barbecue, it can be perfect for a summer Shabbos. Everyone shares the work and gets to enjoy the company, without too much preparation. The key to a successful potluck is all in the planning and making sure you have all the details covered.
Organizing. First thing is to choose who’s the host and how many people to invite. Make sure you have enough space for the families you want to include. Keep in mind that there will need to be space for the children to eat and play as well. The best summer potlucks are when the kids can play outside and let the parents enjoy some grown-up time. Dining or just dessert can also be brought outside as well, if it’s not too hot and you can find a cool, shady spot.
Delegating. Next thing on the list is delegating who makes what. You want to make sure the menu is cohesive and no one person is making too much. Assign each person a category of food, like salad, fish, challah, meat, chicken, sides, or dessert. Let them choose what dish they want to make—but find out what it is so you don’t have more than one of the same kind of dish. You don’t want three kinds of chicken and two potato kugels in one meal. Keep track of what everyone is making so you have a complete and diverse meal. Inform your guests how many servings they need to prepare as well.
Use serving dishes. Potlucks are even easier when you ask your guests to bring their food in serving dishes. The salads will be ready to serve, and the hot dishes can be warmed up and served in the same dish. This way you won’t have as much mess and hassle finding bowls and platters for each dish.
Transporting the food. If the potluck is not at your house, it might get tricky to transport the food from your kitchen to theirs. For hot, liquidy dishes, place in a cardboard box and line with dishtowels to secure and prevent spills. Other dishes should be sealed tightly with a cover, plastic wrap, or aluminum foil. When covering a cake or cupcakes with plastic wrap, first spray the plastic with nonstick spray so the frosting does not get stuck to it. Once all the food has arrived safely at its destination, all that’s left is to gather and enjoy. v
Apple Pie Bars
3 sticks butter substitute
¾ cup sugar
3 cups flour
½ tsp. kosher salt
6 Tbsp. butter substitute
½ cup light brown sugar
12 Granny Smith apples, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1 cup water
3 cups quick-cooking oats
2 cups flour
1½ cups light brown sugar
1¼ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. kosher salt
3 sticks butter substitute, cubed and chilled
¾ cup toasted walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a 15” × 17” rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Beat butter with sugar at medium speed in electric mixer with paddle until fluffy, 2 minutes. Add flour and salt and beat on low speed until soft dough forms. Press dough onto baking sheet and up the rim. Bake for 20 minutes in center of oven until golden. Let cool.
In two large skillets, divide the butter and brown sugar, and melt. Divide apples into pans and cook over high heat until softened, 10 minutes. Divide cinnamon and nutmeg into pans and cook until apples caramelize and liquid evaporates, 10 minutes. Scrape up bits stuck to bottom and add ½ cup water to each pan. Let cool.
Mix oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Cut butter substitute into mixture with a knife until crumbly. Add in walnuts, and stir. Spread apple filling over crust. Scatter crumbs on top and press lightly into an even layer. Bake in center of oven for 1 hour, until topping is golden. Let cool completely, then cut into 2-inch bars.
Want to learn how to cook delicious gourmet meals right in your own kitchen? Take one-on-one cooking lessons or give a gift to an aspiring cook that you know. For more information, contact Take Home Chef personal chef services by calling 516-508-3663, writing to elke@TakeHomeChef.net, or visiting www.TakeHomeChef.net.