Potluck Salad Kit and Dear Friends

May 11, 2012(updated on August 30, 2021)

Last night, I potlucked with a group of friends for the very last time. We came together nearly four years ago now to coordinate the auction fundraiser for the Unitarian church here in Philly. After that first auction was over, we realized that we’d found a little bit of friendship magic and kept getting together (we also ran that auction for two more years).

We became close and have now seen each other through the births of two babies, the writing of a cookbook, a dissertation defense and deep wedding planning (the happy event is this Saturday). We’re not breaking up over anything sad. It’s just that life keeps moving. One friend has already moved to North Carolina (she’s back for the wedding) and another is leaving for Virginia at the end of May.

For this final dinner, I offered to bring a salad. In my years of potlucking, I’ve mastered designing salads that are both easy to transport and simple to assemble once on site.   The essence is to keep it simple and make sure to include a couple snazzy ingredients so that people don’t feel like all you’ve done is offer them a bowl of plain lettuce.

This time, I used baby arugula as my base. Avocado and marcona almonds were the high impact flavors (and can I note that I was delighted by the fact that the three primary ingredients all started with the letter ‘a’). The vinaigrette (in a jar, of course) was a simple one made with orange juice, sherry vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil. Always shake your homemade dressings well before drizzling on your greens.

It was a great salad and was perfect with the roast chicken, purple potatoes and walnut bread that the others brought. At the end of the meal, we lingered longer than normal around Sarah’s table. It was the last time and we didn’t want it to end.

After a couple requests on Facebook, I’ve added the recipe for my vinaigrette to this post.

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Orange and Dijon Vinaigrette


  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • pinch salt
  • 5-6 turns of a pepper grinder


  • Combine all ingredients in a pint jar.
  • Screw on a leak-proof lid.
  • Shake well to combine.

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16 thoughts on "Potluck Salad Kit and Dear Friends"

  • I just had a bag of arugula like that last week, I couldn’t get enough of it. I’m happy whenever I see people using food to bless/spend quality time with others; I think that’s one of the great things that can come of smart cooking and preserving like you do.

  • It seems that usually we don’t realize at the time that things like this will be our last. This post makes me miss my good old friends, one of whom made a great salad with avocado.

  • It’s always sad to see friends go, even in this age of facebook, skype, email etc. I was a military wife for many years. I have friends scattered all over the country. I try to look on the bright side: I have all these wonderful places on my vacation list!

  • There is nothing like gathering around a table and sharing food together. What a lovely experience to emerge out of chairing an auction together! As you said, life keeps moving on – lots of memories to cherish and so much to look forward to. It doesn’t make the last time any easier, though. Thanks for sharing your terrific salad, too…I’ll never say no to marcona almonds and avocado.

  • Bringing all the ingredients and tossing a salad on the spot is definitely a perfect plan–no wilted greens!

  • Delicious … delicate … ’tis the season for beautiful, fresh salads and I wouldn’t mind enjoying this for dinner tonight!

  • That’s rad that you are Unitarian — so am I! I also just saw today that you will be in Seattle for your book and a demo on June 10th (it was mentioned by the blog Fresh Picked Seattle). I marked it on my calendar!

  • Transitions with friends, regardless of the reasons, can be sad – I hope that you thoroughly enjoyed your meal together.

  • That’s really similar to my new favorite lunch~ arugula, 1/4 avocado, a generous amount of sprouts, rice vinegar (splash), hummus (dollop), and nuts or seeds (today was spicy/sweet pecans). Your dressing recipe looks tasty- thanks for sharing!

    1. I bought that salad bowl used years ago (it was in desperate need of a good sanding and a little oil).

    2. try http://www.tenthousandvillages.com it is a fair trade store. part of the ministry of the Mennonite central committee, created to enable poor families from 3rd world countries a way to support their families. they have awesome stuff and everything you buy makes the world a better place. can’t shop much better than that!