To tell you the truth, I have been dreaming about summer potlucks – over the winter, over the past two years, and ever since we built a new deck on the back of our house. We bought a big, long teak table (it extends!) and chairs on sale at Vineyard Decorators in West Tisbury a few Labor Days ago, and the deck became an outdoor living area way nicer than the inside of our house. (Friends can confirm this.) And during the hiatus from large gatherings, I’ve been working away on the perennial gardens surrounding the deck. The deer have been helping too, doing their part to shape up the perennials. But while they prefer a closely cropped look, I have finally outsmarted them with an unpalatable smorgasbord of lavender, bee balm, catmint, lamb’s ears, and other furry-leafed plants. Things are looking okay out there, and I’m ready to gather, people!

I’m happy to come over to your place too – don’t get me wrong. Your back porch, your patio, your firepit, your picnic table, your hay bales. Once at the farm years ago, we loaded the picnic table into the back of the pickup, drove it up to a little shady oasis next to the cornfield, and had our potluck there. We all trekked behind the truck with mason jars of cosmos and zinnias, platters of just-sliced tomatoes and grilled chicken cooked earlier in the day, coolers of wine and seltzer, and even black raspberry ice cream. It was a perfect night.

On the Vineyard, I’ve been to pig-roast potlucks, harvest potlucks, solstice potlucks, wedding potlucks, Fourth of July potlucks, work potlucks, New Year’s potlucks, boat potlucks, beach and bonfire potlucks, you-name-it potlucks. The best potlucks are down a dirt road, over a sandy dune, or back by the barn. We love our potlucks so much that Tamara Weiss (with friends and neighbors, of course) wrote an entire cookbook about them years ago. Potluck at Midnight Farm: Celebrating Food, Family, and Friends on Martha’s Vineyard (Clarkson Potter, 2002), photographed by Nina Bramhall, is worth tracking down for its sunny slice of our summer world.

For Islanders, potlucks solve many problems in the off-season. Few restaurants are open, and the long, dark evenings make gathering with friends imperative if you don’t want to go too crazy (like we did the last couple of years). Potlucks are also an economical way to entertain. But during the summer, potlucks are even more important – with everyone working so hard to make a living during the high season, no one has hours to prepare a fancy dinner solo. And who wants to? What we want to do is eat good food and be with friends. Ideally outside.

Some potluck hosts prefer to have email sign-up sheets or to assign dishes, but I’m not quite that organized. I’ll let people know that we’ll have something on the grill and plenty to drink (though extra bottles are welcome) and that they should bring whatever they’d most like to make and eat. Of course, if you’re the potluck guest, this leaves you with some quandaries, so if you want an assignment or don’t have time to cook, definitely ask your host for a suggestion.

Otherwise, think outside the box. And think side dish. Don’t fall back on brownies (one cannot eat three kinds of brownies for dinner) or a green salad (ditto, though debatable). Consider a room-temperature vegetable dish, grain salad, fruit salad, savory bite, or other single-serving nibble. It’s summer, so we’re all happy to have corn off the cob, tomatoes of all kinds, berries, beets, carrots, zucchini, green beans, and anything from your garden or a local farm stand. If you like to bake, biscuits, cornbread, or a puff-pastry tart can be nice.

To make your host’s life easier, label the bowl or platter you bring with your initials. Bring your own serving utensils. Don’t bring something that requires busting into the host’s hot, tiny, crowded kitchen to use the broiler. Bring something that’s manageable to scoop or slide on to a plate full of food and that’s manageable to eat.

Now about that secret fear we all harbor to some degree: potluck-dish-failure. Will people like my favorite dish? Will anyone eat it, or will it be the last thing left on the table? To assuage your worries, I’d first remind you that usually everything at a Vineyard potluck is devoured. Second, if you’re truly worried, it’s okay to bring a tray of cheese and charcuterie or fruit.

And third, you can feel glad that you do not have my problem. As a cookbook author and food writer living on this tiny Island, I have the unfortunate luck of attracting great scrutiny to anything I bring to a potluck. And come on, people; I’m scrambling just like the rest of you. I’m not at home dreaming up Bon Appétit–cover worthy potluck dishes! My solution is to fall back on an age-old strategy: I bring nearly the same thing to every potluck – something I know is an unequivocal crowd-pleaser. It’s cheating a bit, but at least I vary the presentation and the accompaniments.

It’s crispy smashed potatoes. Before you go telling me that this is a ubiquitous internet sensation, I have to inform you that I first developed my crispy smashed potato recipe for Fine Cooking magazine more than fifteen years ago (pre-Instagram!), so I’m not embarrassed to own it. For years I’ve served these little gems year-round, usually soon after they emerge from the oven. But once I began taking them to my West Tisbury friend Katharine Long’s famous solstice potluck, I discovered that no one had a problem eating them at room temperature. The problem was more along the lines of never bringing enough.

So, for this summer’s potlucks, I’ve settled on a new twist for crispy smashed potatoes. I’m turning them into a salad by topping them with a Summer Corn–Cherry Tomato Dressing, as well as a bit of Limey Drizzling Sauce. Having two dressings is a cheffy thing, but the contrasting flavors and textures are worth it, and neither is hard to make. Be generous with the corn-tomato dressing and judicious with the limey sauce. As a salad, you lose some of the intense crispy-crunchiness you get straight out of the oven when serving roasted smashed potatoes as a hot dish. But what you gain is a lot of texture and flavor in a potato salad that’s nothing like the old standbys.

Arranged on an oval or round platter, this Crispy Smashed Potato "Salad" is a festive and delicious dish, perfect for serving at room temperature. If you’re serving this at your house, you can assemble and dress it shortly before your guests arrive. If you’re transporting, you can put the toppings in separate containers and assemble the platter when you arrive. Bring some fresh herbs from your garden to garnish. And be prepared to take home an empty platter.