More Girls’ Night Out & Rainbow Salad with Black Olive Vinaigrette

table_set_for_dinner_02March is perfect for a potluck and a Girls’ Night Out. After all, it’s Women’s History Month. Can you think of a better excuse to get together with friends and create a little history of your own? Last week I gave a few tips for a Girls’ Night Out Potluck. “Okay for the host,” you say, “but what about the potluckers who join in the fun? How about some advice for the guests?” All right then, here goes!

Follow your host’s lead. I admit it; I’m of those. A host who tries to bring a little order to the potluck clutter and chaos. It’s not that I don’t understand your frustration. I hear you when you extoll the deliciousness of your recently perfected Korean short ribs recipe. In spite of my empathy for you and your ribs, I’m declaring a theme and it’s not a Korean banquet.

When your host declares a soup and salad night (or tapas or an Italian feast or …), can you, should you ignore the theme? Remember, you love your friend, even if she is a certifiable control freak. Go with flow; toss a salad, roast some shrimp or whip up your world-renown brownies. Instead of the usual potluck hodgepodge, you may very well enjoy one of the best dinners of your life! And by the way, I’m free for ribs on Friday!

Come prepared. We’ve all heard the ancient saying about too many cooks in the kitchen. Don’t be one of them. If at all possible, your dish should be ready to serve when you arrive. And by ready, I mean on a serving platter with utensils. Your host has enough to do without hauling out the stepladder and pawing through the upper reaches of her cupboards for another platter. And it’s definitely not okay to arrive straight from the market with a bag of fresh veggies to wash, spin, chop and toss.

If you are going to need oven or stove space, call in advance. Or try my favorite trick. When you pull your casserole out of the oven or chili off the stove, wrap the dish in one, maybe two, old (but clean!) beach towels. Slide the whole thing into a cooler and it should stay piping hot for at least an hour.

We’re all busy and it’s okay. A Girls’ Night Out potluck is a wonderful opportunity to take a break and relax. That said, everyone will understand if you have to work late. Just don’t volunteer to bring an appetizer. Your fabulous artichoke dip is not so fabulous for dessert. Come when you can, we do want to see you but, if you know you will be late, sign-up for cupcakes.

And what if you need to leave early? Again, we get it; your babysitter has a Spanish test and must be home by 8:00. We’ll be delighted to see you, even for a short time. Bring an appetizer, grab a glass of wine and stay as long as you can.

“Ha!” you bark. You only wish it was about arriving late or leaving early. We all have days, weeks, months, when there’s no time to cook. Not even one, little dish for a potluck. Instead of turning down the invitation or showing up with a half-empty bottle of ketchup, be clever. Beautiful dishes don’t have to be complicated or homemade. Hint: a beautiful box of artisanal chocolates will be the hit of the party. Another hint: tired looking baby carrots with dried out hummus will not.

Have a fun. It’s been a cold and snowy winter. Although it’s not over yet, we’ve changed the clocks and temperatures are creeping upward. Give a good stretch and a big yawn and kiss the weeks of hibernation goodbye. It’s time to spend an evening with old friends, new friends and soon-to-be friends.

Bon appétit!

Rainbow Salad with Black Olive Vinaigrette
A salad is always welcome at a potluck. This one has an interesting combination of bitter greens, salty feta and olives, sweet cherries and crunchy peppers, cucumber and almonds. Enjoy!
Serves 12Rainbow_Salad_Olive_Vinaigrette_01

5 ounces baby arugula
1 small head radicchio, cut in ribbons
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/2 European cucumber, peeled and chopped
3-4 scallions, thinly sliced
Black Olive Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
4 ounces feta, crumbled
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/2 cup dried cherries

Combine the arugula, radicchio, bell pepper, cucumber and scallions in a large bowl and toss to combine.

If you are bringing the salad to a potluck, put the feta, almonds and cherries in separate containers or plastic bags.

Just before serving: add enough Black Olive Vinaigrette to lightly coat and toss. Sprinkle with feta, almonds and dried cherries and serve.

Black Olive Vinaigrette
12-15 black oil cured Greek olives, pitted
1 clove garlic
About 1-inch chunk red onion
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3/4 cup or to taste extra virgin olive oil

Put the olives, garlic, onion, mustard, anchovy paste and vinegar in a mini food processor, season with pepper and pulse to combine and finely chop. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil and process until smooth.

Cover and store extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Potato & Cheddar Soup
Two Years Ago – Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Three Years Ago – Guinness Lamb Shanks
Four Years Ago – Strip Steak with Gorgonzola Sauce
Five Years Ago – White Bean Dip
Six Years Ago – Warm Chocolate Pudding
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Do you have any special plans for Women’s History Month? Feel free to share – let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015

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