Most neighborhoods have one: the resident party planner who revels in friendly get-togethers to meet, greet, and eat. This summer, why shouldn’t it be you? There’s no better season to get everyone out of the house and onto the street to catch up on each other’s news, marvel at how the kids have grown, and feast on summer’s incomparable foods and ice-cold drinks.

If throwing a block party sounds daunting, keep in mind that your neighbors—like yourself—probably have abundant resources available through their work or hobbies, not to mention hidden talents waiting to emerge.

Remember, a sense of community doesn’t just happen—it starts with one motivated individual and one good idea. Pass around these easy-to-share recipes and tips for your own neighborhood block party, and watch the fun spread down the street.

24-Hour Layered Bean Salad

Serves 10–12 / Assemble this a day early to let flavors marry. Make and serve in a clear plastic or glass container with a tight lid, so you can turn the dish over to distribute the dressing and so diners can see the colorful layers.

1 19-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced (white and light green parts only), divided
1 19-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups grated carrots (about 2 large carrots)
2 cups frozen shelled edamame
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
2 cups baby spinach, washed and dried

1. In a 10-cup container with a tight-fitting lid, layer salad ingredients as follows: garbanzo beans, half of the scallions, cannellini beans, grated carrots, edamame, remaining scallions, and halved tomatoes.

2. In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Pour over salad. Top with spinach leaves, press down, and cover. Refrigerate overnight, turning container over occasionally to distribute dressing.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 322 calories
% fat calories: 41
Fat: 15g
Saturated Fat: 2g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Carbohydrate: 15g
Protein: 34g
Fiber: 7g
Sodium: 233mg

Summer Corn Bar with Three Toppings
Makes 18 / This easy presentation is a fun way to serve a crowd. Keep toppings cool by nestling containers in crushed ice.

6 ears fresh corn, husked
18 wooden craft sticks
2 tablespoons salt (optional)

1. Cut each corn cob into 3 disks. Using a screwdriver, carefully push through the center of each cob to create a narrow hole. Insert a craft stick to form a handle.

2. Bring a large pot of water to boil; add salt, if using, and skewered corn. Boil 8–10 minutes. (If cooking ahead of time, undercook and reheat before serving; keep warm in the hot water.)

Nutrition Facts Per Piece:
Calories: 28 calories
% fat calories: 9
Fat: 0g
Saturated Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Carbohydrate: 6g
Protein: 1g
Fiber: 1g
Sodium: 4mg

Topping 1: Parmesan Butter

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. Blend all ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate. Makes 1-1/4 cups.

Nutrition Facts Per Tablespoon:
Calories: 93 calories
% fat calories: 98
Fat: 10g
Saturated Fat: 4g
Cholesterol: 13mg
Carbohydrate: 0g
Protein: 0g
Fiber: 0g
Sodium: 58mg

Topping 2: Three-Herb Pesto

1 bunch cilantro, stems trimmed
1 bunch Italian parsley, stems trimmed
1 bunch fresh chives (about 8–10 stalks)
1/3 cup grated Asiago cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste

1. In a food processor, combine cilantro, parsley, and chives; pulse until minced. Add cheese, onion, garlic, olive oil, and salt. Process until well combined. Refrigerate. Makes 1-1/2 cups.

Nutrition Facts Per Tablespoon:
Calories: 33 calories
% fat calories: 85
Fat: 4g
Saturated Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 1mg
Carbohydrate: 1g
Protein: 1g
Fiber: 0g
Sodium: 19mg

Topping 3: Southwestern Spice Rub

3 teaspoons sea salt
3 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons chipotle powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin

1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl or shaker. Makes 3 tablespoons.

Nutrition Facts Per Teaspoon:
Calories: 5 calories
% fat calories: 38
Fat: 0g
Saturated Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Carbohydrate: 0g
Protein: 0g
Fiber: 0g
Sodium: 720mg

August is National Night-Out Month
, designed to promote healthy, safe neighborhoods. Many cities have funding and other resources available. Check out www.nationaltownwatch.org, 800.NITE.OUT, and the National Neighborhood Watch Institute, www.nnwi.org, 888.669.4872. At one recent first-time neighborhood party, the event was supposed to start with a simple parade of kids on decorated bicycles, but adults quickly got in the spirit by offering a golf cart, a speedboat in tow, and even a police car, complete with flashing lights. One resourceful neighbor garnered $200 in city funds earmarked for community-building events, which handsomely covered a snow-cone machine rental and party supplies. By day’s end about 70 neighbors had gathered, and many were eager to help with next year’s party.

Grilled Buffalo Burgers

Serves 6 / This recipe hails from The Fort restaurant in Morrison, Colorado, a replica of the state’s original gathering place for mountain men, wagon-train travelers, and Native Americans—perhaps the first Western block party. Buffalo, also called bison, is extremely lean, so cracked ice helps keep it moist while cooking. Serve on whole-wheat buns, dressed up with sliced vegetables or spreadable condiments (we loved it with the Three-Herb Pesto).

2 pounds ground buffalo
1/2 cup finely minced white onion
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups finely crushed ice
Salt and pepper

1. Spray grill rack with cooking spray and heat to high. Place all ingredients except salt and pepper in a large bowl. Knead until well mixed. Divide mixture into 6 portions and form patties. Don’t press too much or you’ll lose the juices.

2. Place patties on the grill. Season with salt and pepper and grill, turning once. Because buffalo is very lean, it overcooks easily. Cook to desired temperature, but do not overcook.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 172 calories
% fat calories: 16
Fat: 3g
Saturated Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 94mg
Carbohydrate: 1g
Protein: 33g
Fiber: 0g
Sodium: 492mg

Broccoli-Pecan Salad

Serves 8–10 / The traditional version of this potluck favorite is loaded with saturated fat, sugar, and calories. This lightened but still flavorful recipe uses dried sour cherries for sweetness, while buttermilk and crunchy pecans provide healthier fats.

6 cups chopped broccoli florets and stems (about 1 pound)
5 slices nitrate-free turkey or pork bacon (optional)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup dried sour cherries
1/2 cup reduced-fat buttermilk
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1. Blanch broccoli in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain; spray with cold water to stop cooking. Place in a 6-cup serving bowl.

2. If using bacon, fry in a skillet until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, cool, and chop. Drain all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat from pan. (If not using bacon, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan.) Add pecans and onions. Sauté until pecans are toasted and onions are opaque, 6–8 minutes. Stir bacon, pecans, and onions into broccoli. Add cherries.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, mayonnaise, sugar, and rice vinegar until smooth. Pour over broccoli-pecan mixture and toss to coat. Chill.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 176 calories
% fat calories: 45
Fat: 10g
Saturated Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 4mg
Carbohydrate: 22g
Protein: 4g
Fiber: 4g Sodium: 66mg

Ginger-Cherry Ice-Cream Sodas

Serves 8 / This refreshing, spicy, homemade ginger ale tastes wonderful even without the ice cream. Canned cherries will work in a pinch, but take advantage of summer’s crop by getting kids to pit fresh cherries with a hairpin or cherry pitter.

3/4 - 1 pound fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (to make 2 cups)
2 cups water
2 cups black cherry juice
1/3 cup sugar
Blackberry sorbet
Vanilla ice cream
1 liter sparkling water
2 cups fresh cherries, pitted

1. In a medium saucepan, bring ginger, water, juice, and sugar to a boil. Reduce heat to a rolling simmer and cook until reduced by half, 25–30 minutes. Strain; discard solids. Refrigerate liquid.

2. Place about 2 tablespoons sorbet and 2 tablespoons ice cream in eight 8-ounce plastic cups. (Store in freezer until you’re ready to serve.) Just before serving, combine ginger-cherry juice with sparkling water. Place 1/4 cup cherries in each glass. Fill with ginger-cherry mixture and serve.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 195 calories
% fat calories: 11
Fat: 2g
Saturated Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 7mg
Carbohydrate: 42g
Protein: 2g
Fiber: 2g
Sodium: 34mg