The Foolproof Potluck
You have a vision: an enjoyable evening filled with your closest friends, delicious food and lively conversation. You even know what you want to serve—a crisp green salad glistening with Champagne vinaigrette, a spicy pork loin with ratatouille and, for a sweet finish, ginger cake drizzled with caramel sauce and topped with whipped cream. The only problem is that you don't want to spend the whole day laboring in the kitchen.

Think potluck, instead. You can still prepare the main course, but ask your guests to bring the appetizers, salad, side dishes and dessert. Don't hesitate to give them specific recipes, either. They'll be glad to receive your guidance. Remember, though, to match the talent of the cook to the difficulty of the dish. If you're inviting friends who can't or don't like to cook, ask them to provide a loaf of olive bread or a bottle of wine that will complement the roast pork.

Once everyone arrives, it's entertaining in a snap. Put the finishing touches on the dishes, set up the buffet and relax in the company of your friends.