Cool Summer Potluck Inspiration

Whether on a wharf, at the park or in someone's backyard, a potluck screams good old-fashioned summertime.

Blue dress by Sway Fairhope • Modeled by Whitney Gordon • Photos by Elizabeth Gelineau

The balmy days of July call us to the water’s edge, gathering with family, friends and a dish to share. But the heat of summer also begs us to leave off the oven and serve cool salads made to be toted in the cooler, no fuss and no heat required. Make the most of the bountiful local produce at this time of year, add some herbs and bold flavors, pick up some fried chicken and call it a party.

fried chicken plated upon a wood table next to a blue linen napkin

Don’t feel like you have to make your own fried chicken; MB editors buy ours at Greer’s on both sides of the Bay for the easiest entertaining! Serve piping hot, at room temp or even chilled from the cooler. A store-bought main dish keeps entertaining simple. Just serve a few fresh sides and herbs alongside. Corn, zucchini, cucumbers and watermelon from roadside stands are bursting with flavor this time of year.

Three Cool Summer Salad Recipes

Charred Corn and Zucchini Salad

This versatile salad makes the most of summer produce fresh from the farm stand. It travels well and is delicious at any temperature!

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plate of charred corn and zucchini salad  and blue corn tortilla chips plated at a potluck meal


4 ears Silver King corn 
2 tablespoons light olive oil 
2 medium-sized zucchini 
1/2 red onion 
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 ounces feta cheese crumbles
kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

1. Preheat a cast-iron skillet or grill pan until very hot. Husk the corn and brush with oil. Add corn to the pan and allow it to cook until darkened with char marks, turning occasionally until all sides are cooked. 

2. While the corn is cooking, slice zucchini in half lengthwise, and cut the red onion into thick rings. Brush all sides of both with oil. Remove corn and set aside, adding zucchini and onions to pan. Cook until softened and charred. 

3. Hold an ear of corn standing up in a large bowl and run a knife down the sides of the ear to remove the kernels into the bowl. Repeat with each ear of corn. Slice zucchini into half-rounds about 1/4-inch thick. Chop onion into pieces. Add all vegetables to the bowl. Add basil and toss to combine. Stir in feta, salt and pepper to taste. Can be served warm, at room temperature or chilled.

Thai Cucumber Salad

This crunchy and refreshing salad is the perfect accompaniment to something heavy, like fried chicken. While the ingredients are all familiar to South Alabama residents, the flavor combination is punchy and exciting. Leftovers take on the flavor of pickles and can be enjoyed as condiments on grain bowls or tacos. Recipe adapted from Gimme Some Oven

hands holding up a plate of thai cucumber salad in a blue bowl


juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 small garlic clove
1 tablespoon honey
red chili flakes to taste (optional)
2 – 3 large cucumbers
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts

1. In a large bowl, whisk together first 7 ingredients. Set aside.

2. If cucumbers have a very thick peel, either fully or partially remove peel with a vegetable peeler. Slice cucumbers in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Slice into half-round pieces and add to the bowl of dressing. 

3. Add onions and cilantro and toss to combine. Refrigerate until serving, adding peanuts right before serving.

Curried Crab and Watermelon Salad

This beautiful salad is served plated, and the flavors are bold and exciting. If your gathering is a little more casual, the curried crab makes an excellent dip with blue corn tortilla chips. 

curried crab and watermelon salad plated in a white bowl on top of a textured place setting and next to a blue linen napkin


1/3 cup mayonnaise
juice of 1 lime
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
2 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped mint
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly cracked pepper, to taste
1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat
8 watermelon triangles,
1/2-inch thick
1 cup baby arugula

1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, lime juice and curry powder. Fold in onions and mint. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Pick through crabmeat for shells and then add to mayonnaise mixture. Gently fold to combine and place on ice until ready to serve.

3. Arrange 2 watermelon triangles on each of the 4 plates. Top with crabmeat mixture and sprinkle with arugula leaves. Crack a little more pepper over the top of the watermelon and add a pinch of salt. Serve immediately.

Click here for more summer recipes!

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