Chicken satay

Photo: Thinkstock

1. Chicken That Won't Put Them to Sleep
Grilled chicken can seem like such a ho-hum contribution to the buffet table, but there is a way to make cheap, quick-cooking poultry taste brand new. It's simply a matter of saucing. You can start with any kind of chicken, from boneless breasts to chunks of thigh meat threaded on skewers, then grill or cook it in a grill pan. As soon as you remove it from the heat, "paint" the chicken with this wonderfully fragrant but not too spicy mixture of ginger, coriander, turmeric, salt, cayenne, cardamom and melted butter. One more reason this is such a winning potluck dish: You can serve it hot or cold.

Get the recipe: Punjabi Spice Paint
Chickpeas and Radicchio with Tahini Dressing

Photo: Alison Gootee

2. The 20-Minute Salad That Goes with Almost Anything
Canned chickpeas are a great base for a substantial salad; all it takes to soften them up is simmering them in a skillet with a little bit of water for four minutes. Drain them, then toss them with a lemon-tahini dressing and spoon the legumes over sliced radicchio for a quick and easy side with an adaptable, Mediterranean flavor.

Get the recipe: Chickpeas and Radicchio with Tahini Dressing
Mark Bittman's No-Roll Meatballs

Photo: Alison Gootee

3. The Meatballs That Change Everything
Forming meatballs into perfectly rounded spheres is one of the most time-consuming aspects of making them, and half the time, the meatballs still wind up flattening on one or two sides when you cook them. This drop-meatball technique changed our lives. You mix up ground beef with seasonings, then use two spoons to roughly form the mixture into rounds and drop them into the pan. They taste just as delicious as ones made the traditional way, and are a snap to reheat in a warm oven.

Get the recipe: Mark Bittman's No-Roll Meatballs
Cherry and Brie Pie Pops

Photo: Alison Gootee

4. A Brand New Way to Present a Cheese Plate
Put some Brie and fruit on a plate, and you're squarely in the realm of passable but hardly wow-inducing sides. Wrap those ingredients in pie crust, secure them on sticks and bake until golden and watch out. These pie pops are surprisingly easy to make: just use a cookie cutter to punch circles from a store-bought crust; top each with a square of cheese and a spoonful of cherry preserves; add a lollipop stick; finish with another circle of dough; crimp shut and bake for 15 minutes.

Get the recipe: Cherry and Brie Pie Pops

Photo: Coral von Zumwalt

5. The Supermarket Shortcut You Can Dress Up to Go with Just About Anything
Almost any classic potluck dish—whether grilled meat or anything slow-cooked, such as chili, pulled pork or ribs—will taste even better when served with this delicious slaw. And only you need to know that the bright and tangy salad is really just two packages of broccoli slaw, doctored up with garlic, Dijon mustard, hot sauce, lemon juice and herbs.

Get the recipe: Broccoli Slaw with Cilantro and Garlic
Bean dip

Photo: Peden + Munk

6. A Homemade Masterpiece from the Pantry
Chef and O food columnist Curtis Stone makes a cannellini bean dip that's great with just about any dipper, from raw vegetables to chips and crackers. The best part, though, is that the creamy and tangy spread is unbelievably easy and quick to make. As Stone puts it, "Do you have a food processor? You're 99 percent there."

Get the recipe: Cannellini Bean Dip with Piquillo Peppers
Kale salad

Photo: Marcus Nilsson

7. A Salad They'll Never Believe Is Kale
Bringing a superfood salad to a party may strike some as a bold move, but this combination of brightly hued greens and sesame dressing is so tasty, we're willing to bet most of the guests would never guess it's made with kale and raw brussels sprouts (no cooking = superfast prep). A pinch of red-pepper flakes and thinly sliced scallion rings add a zippy finishing touch.

Get the recipe: Kale Salad with Sesame Dressing


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