Five Favorite Summer Sides

Monday 3 July 2023

Summer Sides


Well, it is officially summer now the kids are all out of school. People are taking summer holidays, the mercury is rising, and many of us are looking for ways to keep things cool in the kitchen.  For a lot of us this will mean grilling, picnics, BBQ's.  

Here in Canada, we have just celebrated Canada Day, and I know many of my American family and friends will be celebrating the 4th of July tomorrow.    One of  my favorite childhood memories is of visiting our American family at this time of year and seeing all of the American flags.

Our cookouts may be as simple as hotdogs and hamburgers, or they can be as sophisticated as grilled chicken, fish, lamb, ribs, chops, or that delicious, tender perfectly grilled steak we have been waiting to enjoy since last year!

And I do look forward to all of those things.  But let me tell you what I look forward to even more.  Its the sides.  Truth be told, to me anyways, they are the best part of any cookout, and I have my favorites!

These are dishes which add texture, color and flavor to those  meals, complimenting whatever it is that you are planning on grilling.  The dishes that turn any summer cookout, BBQ or Picnic into a feast and not just a meal! The dishes that no summer get-together would be perfect without.

Let me share my favorites with you, and not just any favorites, but the best of the best recipes for adding to the side of anything you might be choosing to cook be it veggie burgers, steaks, kabobs, or whatever.

Mom's Potato Salad 


For me, no summer get-together would be complete without a dish of Mom's Potato Salad gracing the table.   I know that everyone thinks that their mom's make the best potato salad, and maybe it is true.  Maybe your mom does make the best potato salad, but this potato salad recipe is a recipe that will blow most of the others out of the ball park!

This is my most often requested summer salad recipe.  Whenever I am invited to someone's place for a pot luck or a BBQ they always ask me to bring my potato salad.  I am not surprised actually. It is the perfect potato salad with just the right ratio of potato and veggies to dressing.

I am not fond of potato salads that are overdressed in mayo and gloopy.  There is such a thing as too much when it comes to potato salad. This really IS the best potato salad recipe.  Its secret is a preliminary dressing of a simple vinaigrette.  This gets flavor right into the potatoes and prevents them from absorbing too much mayonnaise when it comes to adding the mayo dressing. 

I also like to include plenty of chopped boiled egg, crisp chunks of celery and some onion and of course I always add a layer of sliced boiled egg to the top of the salad which really dressed it up to perfection.  A dusting of paprika and we are good to go!  I also have a very classic small batch recipe which is perfect for the smaller family.

Basic Macaroni Salad 


Another must have for me and which makes a change from Potato Salad is this Basic Macaroni Salad recipe.   And when I say basic I mean really basic.  There is no need for bells and whistles here.  This is as basic as you can get.

One thing I like about Macaroni salad is that it goes together a lot quicker than potato salad.  You boil the macaroni, drain it and cool it off in cold running water. It doesn't take long. The macaroni I buy takes 5 minutes to cook and about 3 to 4 to cool down. Drain it again and its ready to add the dressing to.

It encompasses many of the flavors of a potato salad, but its faster. You get the crunch of the chopped celery and onion, the richness of the boiled egg, that creamy dressing, along with the bite of al dente macaroni. 

This simple salad is about as unpretentious as it gets.   Don't let its simplicity fool you into believing that its not really special however.  This is the best.  It is perfect just as is.  

Sometimes my sister will add a can of drained tuna to it. My brother in law likes it that way, and it is very good. Myself, however, I like it just the way it is.

Cake Pan Salad 


Cake Pan Salad.    So called because it is arranged in a cake pan and is frosted with a delicious dressing on the top.   Also called 7 Layer Salad, there are a ton of recipes out there for this salad.  Most of them are pretty similar. You will also find some Tex Mex versions of it with corn chips and other bits added.

This basic layered salad recipe is a favorite for a reason.  Its delicious!  It is a beautiful marriage of layers, colors, textures and tastes!

One of the reasons I like mine the most is because I have managed (through trial and error) to reduce the fat and calorie content of it without compromising on taste!  My version tastes every bit as delicious as the original.  In fact I dare you to tell the difference.

You get the same tasty layers of crisp vegetables and lettuce.  Peas, tomatoes, spring onions, cos lettuce.  I use a strong cheddar cheese.  If you use a strong cheese you need less of it to give you the same flavor impact that a milder one would give.

I use a low fat mayo and sour cream in the dressing.  I still add bacon to the top, just not as much, and let me tell you, nobody notices. This salad is so delicious that nobody notices that it isn't slathered in an abundance of bacon.  Lower in fat and calories and diabetic friendly.  For me this is the best layered salad out there.

Chinese Coleslaw 


For me, every BBQ and summer get together is not complete without some coleslaw and there is no better version than Chinese Coleslaw.  This is the perfect blend of crunch and color and flavor without a cloying mayonnaise based dressing.   I have eaten far too many mayo soaked coleslaws in my life and if you are already having a potato or macaroni salad with mayonnaise in it, why do you need another salad full of mayonnaise?

Why Indeed?

This salad is the perfect antidote to that. It is a wonderful blend of crisp shredded vegetables. Carrots, two kinds of cabbage, the red and the green.   You could use a ready blended coleslaw mix for speed if you wanted to.

Add to that the crunch of toasted almonds and sunflower seeds, and the piece de resistance  . . .  wait for it  . . .  a crumbled package of crispy ramen noodles.   Crunch perfection.

Add a beautiful sweet and sour vinaigrette dressing and you have a salad that everyone will want seconds of!    I always, always, come home with an empty bowl.  

There are a bazillion versions of this recipe out there as well. This one uses  water chestnuts and sesame seeds.  

If you are wanting a slaw recipe that stands out from the crowd, is colorful and tastes delicious, with plenty of crunch then you cannot go wrong with Chinese Coleslaw.  This is guaranteed to be the hit of your get-together!

Perfect Deviled Eggs 


Finally, no cookout, picnic or BBQ would be perfect without a platter of Perfect Deviled Eggs.   Again, no bells and whistles here. Just simple ingredients done well.  

I don't want to brag or anything, but everyone love LOVES my Deviled Eggs.  They are a very simple make.  Just three ingredients, including the eggs.  Oh, a bit of seasoning as well, according to taste.

When I cooked at the Manor the Mr and Mrs requested that a platter of my Deviled Eggs be in the refrigerator at all times.  I wish I had a dollar for everyone that I have ever cooked. I would be a very wealthy woman.  

In the above link I give all my tips for cooking eggs perfectly and my hints and tips for making the best deviled eggs ever.  For instance did you know that fresh eggs are notoriously difficult to peel, but if your eggs are a bit older they peel much easier.  I also like to peel mine under running water.

These are quite simply excellent, and the first thing to disappear on any buffet table, I guarantee!

And there you have it, my five favorite Summer Sides!   What are some of yours?  I really would love to know. Lets all share. With a bit of cooperation there is no reason why this summer can't be the tastiest one ever!

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