Summer Fest: 5 Picnic Potluck Ideas

By: Patty Lee
GiadaDeLaurentiis_TomatoVegetableCasserole_H2

GiadaDeLaurentiis_TomatoVegetableCasserole_H2

Photo by: Renee Comet ©Renee Comet

Renee Comet, Renee Comet

By the time summer rolls around, we're usually ready to push our casserole pans and dutch ovens into the dusty back corners of our kitchen cabinets. Not so fast — by using fresh summer vegetables, seafood and even berries, you can make lighter one-dish wonders that will feed a crowd without sending them into a full-blown food coma.

1. Tomato Vegetable Casserole (pictured above)

Giada combines ripe tomatoes, zucchini and bell peppers with potatoes and yams to form a Parmesan-crusted casserole that boasts enough heft as a vegetarian main, but is still light enough for warm summer nights.

Photo by: Brian Kennedy ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Brian Kennedy, 2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

This Spanish classic was originally cooked outdoors over wood-burning flames and and we can't think of a better way to fête summer than with a paella party. Rachael's version — loaded with chorizo, cod and juicy sweet shrimp — gets a splash of sherry and generous pinch of saffron threads to give the rice subtle richness and body.

To make these personal veggie bakes, fill mini cast-iron pans with half moons of yellow squash, then top with crushed crackers and butter and roast until bubbling and golden brown.

Instead of the same-old marinara, this recipe from Debi and Gabriele calls for alternating layers of buttery besciamella, or white sauce, and fresh pesto made from basil and pine nuts. The result is a bright and lively lasagna featuring the season's quintessential herb.

Breathe new life into day-old loaves by turning them into a tender, custard-like bread pudding studded with sweet summer berries. Serve with maple syrup as breakfast or a dollop of whipped cream for dessert.

More casserole ideas from family and friends:
Domesticate Me: Caprese Quinoa Bake

Poet in the Pantry: Zucchini and Summer Squash Gratin

The Sensitive Epicure: Zucchini Souffle (Gluten-Free)

Cooking With Elise: Mexican-Style Lasagna
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