Now that I’m a mom, I’ve learned firsthand what many of you all have known for a long time: entertaining with a baby is a challenge. Not an insurmountable one, but nonetheless, it’s hard. During those early months, getting a meal prepared felt darn near impossible, much less cleaning the apartment and setting the table for guests. Now that Evie is a little older, I’m back to throwing dinner parties, but they’re more laid-back affairs, and most importantly, my expectations have shifted. I no longer try and do it all – I often have groceries and wine delivered (perks of living in Brooklyn!), I’ll buy a pre-made appetizer or dessert instead of making everything from scratch, and if people ask if they can bring a dish, I wholeheartedly say YES.

Throwing a party where everyone brings a dish is a great way to entertain when you’re short on time or money, and it’s especially ideal for busy parents who want to have friends over, but don’t have the energy to make all of the food. I’m definitely a fan.

Which is why I absolutely love my friend Kristin Donnelly’s gorgeous new cookbook Modern Potluck: Beautiful Food to Share. Full of 100 delicious, make-ahead recipes, her book is all about sharing food with friends in a way that’s completely accessible. Potlucks aren’t a new concept (goodness knows I went to a ton of them as a kid, complete with cheese-laden casseroles and weird Jello concoctions) but Kristin puts a healthy, modern spin on it, with lots of fresh salads, ethnic dishes, and a variety of vegetarian and vegan recipes. Of course, there are still some classics, like a cheesy baked Mac ‘n Cheese, made healthier with the addition of roasted winter squash. She also includes recipes for fabulous hors d’oeuvres (like this pretty Herbed Whipped Ricotta with Summer Tomatoes) and pitcher cocktails (you must try the Riesling Punch!), as well as easy-to-transport desserts like Peach Blueberry Slab Pie.

**Scroll to the bottom of the post to learn details about the Modern Potluck + Corningware Cookware Giveaway!!**

I love the story behind the book. Kristin was an editor at Food & Wine for many years and shares my passion for cooking and dinner parties. But after her daughter was born, she ran into the same dilemma I did – she had the desire to entertain but lacked the time and energy. So she and her husband started throwing casual potlucks in their back yard, where everyone brought a dish (and their kids!). It was a win-win – they still got to see their friends, but weren’t stuck doing all the cooking. Her solution to kid-friendly entertaining, coupled with her desire to lighten up the typically indulgent potluck fare, turned into Modern Potluck.

Kristin’s recipes are not only delicious, but they’re simple enough to make for a weeknight meal or a large gathering. I honestly want to make everything in the book, and I’d happily eat the cover recipe – a lentil dish with spice-roasted carrots and cilantro – every day if I could. In the spirit of the potluck, Kristin reached out to a few food blogger/writer/editor friends to contribute recipes to the book and I’m honored that she included my recipe for Summer Vegetable Tian (page 112!), a Provençal dish of roasted tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini.

One final thing: beyond the great recipes, this book is full of really useful tips, like how to host a potluck, food safety tips (important when food is sitting out for several hours), and “Potluck Prep” tips for every single recipe. Modern Potluck is a must-add to any cookbook collection, and makes a great gift – especially for busy moms!

I had to share the recipe with you all for this super-simple Whipped Herb Ricotta with Summer Tomatoes. It’s the perfect easy appetizer for right now, when tomatoes are at their peak. Be sure to buy good, freshly-made ricotta (sheep’s milk is especially good), as the store-bought variety can be gritty. And of course use the best heirloom tomatoes you can find – this is a recipe that’s only as good as the ingredients! Scoop it onto plates and serve with crusty bread (or crisp flatbreads) – it will become a bit messy, but the taste is worthwhile!

As an end-of-the-summer present, I’m giving away a copy of Kristin’s book, as well as a Corningware 1.5 quart red clay oblong baking dish that’s perfect for transporting food to a potluck. In order to enter, comment below with your favorite potluck dish and hashtag it #modernpotluck. Winners will be announced on the blog soon!


Xo, Anna

(Photos in today's post by the talented Brie Passano!)