Last fall, I was invited by a good friend to join a Bunco group in Lewiston/Auburn. According to my American Heritage dictionary bunco is “a swindle in which an unsuspecting person is cheated.” But that is not what I do when I get together with 12 fabulous women once a month for a Friday night of fun. We gather to play a game with three dice. Sitting at tables of four women each, competing in teams of two, each one of us takes a turn at rolling the dice. Our goal is to accumulate points; and if we’re really lucky, we roll a Bunco, which is three 6s.

At the end of the night, we put our tally cards together to see the number of rounds we’ve won and how many Buncos we’ve rolled. Our hostess divvies out prizes to the various winners and we head home.

For me, however, the gatherings are not about the prizes (which is good considering I’ve yet to go home with a prize after at least five months of playing this game).

We gather about an hour before we’re ready to play to allow time to enjoy a potluck of delicious food. Calories are not discussed during this fun social event as we dine on the special dishes each woman prepares. From Liza’s popular hot spinach artichoke dip to Amy’s delightfully rich cupcakes, we happily fill our stomachs as we share what’s been going on in our lives for the past month.

One of my favorite Bunco dishes is Melissa’s tasty tortellini and spinach salad with sesame dressing. When several of us requested the recipe, she happily shared it (as I do with you, see accompanying recipe). She confided that the recipe originally came from Dana, one of our other Bunco members. I have added the recipe to my homemade cookbook of favorites and rely on it as a staple for the barbecues and picnics that I hope to enjoy someday soon.

Tortellini and spinach salad with sesame dressing

Ingredients:

For dressing:

1/3 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons Oriental sesame oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon tamari soy sauce

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

For tortellini

1 pound frozen cheese tortellini

1 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips

1 tomato, cut into small cubes

1/3 cup slivered red onion

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

4 cups fresh spinach torn into small pieces, washed and spun dry

Method:

Combine all ingredients for dressing in a jar or closed container and shake vigorously; set aside. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop in tortellini and cook until al dente, about 5 minutes. DO NOT OVERCOOK. Drain in a colander. Run COLD water over the tortellini until it is cold (very important step), then drain again very well. Pour into a large serving bowl. Stir in pepper, tomato and onion. Pour on half of the dressing and toss well. Let marinate at least 30 minutes or up to 8 hours. Cover and chill if longer than 1 hour. Bring to room temperature before serving. Roast sesame seeds and let them cool. Just before serving, stir the spinach into the tortellini mixture. Pour on the remaining dressing and toss well. Sprinkle on the sesame seeds and toss again. Serves 4.

Source: the cookbook “Main-Course Vegetarian Pleasures,” by Jeanne Lemlin


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