An Answer To That Perplexing Question: What To Take To A Potluck?



Call me anti-social if you like, but in general, I’m not a big fan of potlucks. I guess, I’m afraid there won’t be anything I want to eat. My worst nightmare is a table laden with boxes of cold Kentucky Fried Chicken, tired raw veggies and dip, congealed pizza, cookies from Safeway, and convenience store soda.  And so, when someone says “potluck,” I tend not to hear. But once in a while, to be social, I violate my unwritten rule against participating in these sometimes sad affairs, and promise to attend.

And what then? Then I must come up with something to bring.  As a professional cook, I’ve convinced myself that a contribution like purchased salsa and chips would be an embarrassment. I feel obligated to cook something from scratch. But what?  My goal each time is to conjure up a dish which will serve as a complete meal, so I’ll have at least one dish that’s satisfying even if there’s little else that seems appetizing. By complete meal, I’m thinking: whole grain, protein and vegetables all in one dish. And that’s what today’s recipe represents.  Here’s what I took to a potluck yesterday: a wild and long grain brown rice salad with marinated tofu (I also made a version with poached and diced chicken breasts), arugula, roasted sweet potatoes and mushrooms, celery, dried cranberries and toasted sunflower seeds with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. If my approach seems selfish, so be it, but in reality I’m always thinking to make a dish lots of other people will enjoy as well.

Lest you think I’m a total curmudgeon, let me admit that I had a great time at yesterday’s potluck. I realize that the most important part of these events is not the food, but the getting together with folks, in this case gay and lesbian people and our friends in Vallejo (thanks to Ric and Richard for being such gracious hosts).  And by the way, there was a table laden with a wide variety of items, and I found a great plenty to eat. All in all, a good day–bright sun, warm conversation, and despite my worst fears, enjoyable food. A recipe for the wild rice and arugula salad is after the jump.



On a cool, spring day, I peeled, diced and roasted a small sweet potato to add to this salad, but use whatever raw or lightly-steamed vegetable is in season, or appeals to you.

Serves 3 or 4 (scale up to whatever size of potluck you’ll be attending!)

3 cups (fluffed) cooked long grain brown rice and wild rice

6-8 ounces baked, seasoned tofu simmered for 15 minutes in broth of water, soy sauce and mirin, drained and diced

2 small/medium stalks celery, trimmed and diced

2/3 cup dried cranberries, soaked in hot water to cover for 1o minutes, drained (use leftover juice, if any, in the dressing)

2 green onions, trimmed and chopped small

1 cup peeled and  diced, cooked sweet potato

3-4 shiitake mushrooms, trimmed of the stem and sliced thin, then steamed or sautéed (optional)

1 tablespoon slivered pickled ginger

1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds or chopped, toasted almonds or pecans

a generous handful of arugula or raw or lightly cooked green of choice

You could use any good quality leftover rice for this, but I think the wild rice adds a bit of class. To cook the rice, wash one cup long grain brown rice along with 1/3 cup wild rice. Bring two cups of lightly-salted water to a boil, add the rice, cover and cook over low heat about 50 minutes or until the rice is done to your taste. Cool the rice.

Combine all ingredients in a salad bowl and toss with a few tablespoons of  salad dressing. Use your favorite dressing, but I think a balsamic vinaigrette really works with this salad. Yesterday, I whisked together olive oil, lemon juice, apple juice, mirin, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard and salt and pepper. My colleague, James Holloway’s more precise recipe for a balsamic vinaigrette is here.


4 responses

  1. The main potluck I go to here in Asheville is the monthly macrobiotic potluck. Then I don’t have to worry about not finding anything to eat. We will give your recipe a try. I’m sure our macro friends will love it!

  2. Reporting back that we made this recipe for our macrobiotic potluck. We made a big batch, so there was a little bit left, which I had for lunch today. It tastes even better on the second day!

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