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Chicken Caesar Salad with Homemade Buttermilk Dressing

Potluck parties are nice, but just the word ‘potluck’ is a bit unappealing to some people who say that the idea of hoping to be ‘lucky’ about what ends up at a dinner where everyone brings a dish is more risk than they’d like to take with regards to their food. Jokes abound about this concept of communal eating, but no doubt it’s a common way of gathering and eating and can be a great way to experience variety, whether the party is big or small.

Cuban Sandwiches and a Table Spread at a Small Cuban-Inspired Iftar Dinner

When I was a college student (won’t say how long ago that was), I enjoyed potluck parties so much because it was a great way for everyone to have home-cooked meals from a small apartment dining room table that looked like a beautiful international buffet. My university had a large international student population, some of whom became good friends, so I was able to try things that I don’t even have the opportunity to eat now: South American specialties from places like Columbia, Peru, and Ecuador; Middle Eastern specialties from small villages, Malaysian curries, Indonesian satays, Indian sweets and so much more.

Medjool Dates Presented Beautifully at a Potluck Iftar

Soft cheese with cranberries perfect for spreading on crackers

In the {many} years after college, I have been on the search for interesting takes on global cuisine and what I always enjoy most is trying out the foods that are home-spun twists on national favorites- tasting how each family makes their particular tabbouleh, lasagna, or pad thai is like being personally invited into their kitchen.  I’ve not, however, participated in a whole lot of potluck dinners in recent years.

I have enjoyed entertaining guests by cooking all of the food myself- from appetizers to desserts, in an effort to please and welcome them by offering my labor of love straight from the kitchen.   I still love to be the person who nurtures my family and friends and shows gratitude to visitors through food, but lately it isn’t always so possible. Having busy lives and growing responsibilities drastically reduces one’s ability to do it all. And that really crushes my plans to invite family and friends for iftar (the meal to break the fast during Ramadan).

Indian-Spiced Potato Samosas

Packets of Chutney Sauces- a clever way to offer condiments at a party

This year I decided to host a potluck iftar at my home for some of my closest friends where we chose a Mexican theme on the food and delegated either dishes or ingredients for everyone invited. It got a great conversation going on traditional recipes made halal. We also did the same at someone else’s home with a Cuban-themed iftar.

Fried Plantains at a Cuban Iftar Party

Later in Ramadan, I was invited to what felt like a really posh iftar at a friend’s place in downtown Chicago. She had an amazing spread of finger foods that included vegetable kebobs, spicy potato samosas, Mollys cupcakes, fruit salad with chaat (Indian spices).   Contrary to popular belief, potluck food doesn’t have to be from a crock pot, an over-sized pan of something or even homemade food; it can and should be anything you think people will enjoy. People love interesting salads, finger foods and even exotic drinks, so why not bring them? In fact, those are the things that I see go the fastest.

Caramel corn and incredibly delicious cupcakes from Molly’s Cupcakes in Chicago

Platter of Dates with Lemon Zest, Pistachios and Cream Served to Guests for Iftar

For super busy people or college students- you can incorporate healthy convenient food into a recipe you have in mind but don’t have time to make the entire thing from scratch, especially when it comes to meat dishes, which can also turn expensive.

Although it may seem unconventional to bring to a potluck, I just love this homespun version of a Chicken Caesar Salad with Homemade Buttermilk Dressing. I use Saffron Road’s meaty chicken tenders on top of Romaine lettuce and drizzle the dressing over the cooked chicken. Add croutons, fresh garden tomatoes and other vegetables, if desired. Cut up the chicken to make it easier for guests to take a share. It’s really perfect for a small potluck, but can also be multiplied to serve as many people as you want.


hicken Caesar Salad with Homemade Buttermilk Dressing

Serves 4-6


3 tablespoons whole-milk yogurt

1 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

salt, to taste

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon dried parsley


Homemade Buttermilk Dressing


In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt vigorously to break up any lumps.

Into a separate bowl pour the buttermilk.

Add the yogurt to the buttermilk and whisk to combine.

Add the heavy whipping cream and whisk again, creating a smooth texture.

Add salt, pepper and parsley.  Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Saffron Road’s chicken tenders are so versatile- what’s your suggestion for the best way they can be used at a potluck gathering?


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