Memorable side dishes for a potluck

With Memorial Day weekend coming up, there might be at least one gathering on your calendar that calls for a food contribution. If you are asked to bring a side dish, be a little adventurous. Avoid the usual baked beans that get cold and fatty tasting as they sit, the cold pasta salad that gets warm and limp, or any of those other ubiquitous casserole items that aren’t really made to be eaten at room temperature. Make something memorable, and you’ll be guaranteed another invitation.

Sicilian Orange Salad

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Adding brilliant color to the buffet table, this easy side dish from Food &Wine magazine makes 20 servings. The oranges can be peeled a day ahead, but wait to slice them closer to serving time.

18 navel oranges

2 large red onions, very thinly sliced crosswise

1 cup Moroccan (or Mediterranean) oil-cured olives

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt

Using a sharp knife, peel oranges, making sure to remove all the bitter white pith. Slice oranges crosswise about 1/4 inch thick. On a large serving platter, arrange half of the orange slices; scatter half the onion slices, olives, red pepper and oil over the oranges and season lightly with salt. Top with remaining ingredients and serve at room temperature.

Tortellini Salad with Pine Nuts

Comfort food, both creamy and crunchy, from “Picnic” by DeeDee Stovel; makes 8 to 10 servings.

2 pounds fresh tortellini pasta (filling of your choice)

1 cup seeded and chopped green bell pepper

1 cup seeded and chopped red bell pepper

1 cup chopped green onions, with some green tops

1/2 cup chopped pine nuts

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Dressing:

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

Fresh ground black pepper to taste

3/4 cup salad oil

Cook tortellini according to package directions; drain. Place tortellini in a large bowl with the peppers, green onions, pine nuts, basil, dill and Parmesan; toss. Make dressing: combine vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk in the oil until well combined. Pour dressing over tortellini and chill. Put salad into a 2-quart covered bowl to take to your picnic. When serving, stir gently.

Lemon Rice Salad with Peanuts

This salad can be made 3 hours in advance and kept covered and chilled until ready to use. Goes with just about anything from the grill. Serve chilled or at room temperature. If you think peanuts might be an allergy issue, substitute toasted sliced almonds for the peanuts. Recipe from Gourmet magazine; makes 6 to 8 servings.

3 teaspoons salt

1-1/2 cups unconverted long grain rice

1/4 teaspoon fresh grated lemon zest

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

6 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

3 scallions, sliced thin

1/2 cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts, chopped coarse

In a large saucepan bring 4 quarts water to a boil with the salt. Sprinkle in the rice, stirring until water returns to a boil; boil rice for 10 minutes. In a large colander drain rice and rinse; set colander over another large saucepan of boiling water and steam the rice, covered with a kitchen towel and the lid, for 15 minutes or until it is fluffy and dry. In a small bowl, whisk together the zest, lemon juice, oil and salt and pepper to taste. In a serving bowl combine the rice, parsley, scallions, peanuts and lemon dressing. Chill until ready to transport.

Jeweled Muffins

I’ve had this recipe for so many years that I can’t remember where it came from. They aren’t too sweet, so try as an accompaniment to just about any savory dishes; makes 12 three-inch muffins.

1 can (17 oz.) fruit cocktail

1-3/4 cups flour

1/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

2 eggs, slightly beaten

14 cup melted butter

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1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

Grease muffin tin and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drain fruit cocktail, reserving liquid. If necessary, add water to liquid or syrup to make 2/3 cup; set aside. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cardamom. Stir reserved liquid into flour mixture along with eggs, melted butter and grated rind, combining only until all dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the drained fruit. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven, turn out muffins onto wire racks to cool.