Summer Side Dishes – Traditional Sides With A Whole New Personality

Picnics and cookouts require lots of food to satisfy hungry, active people. Like any other menu item, your summer side dishes shouldn’t be limited to standard ingredients, just because that's how Mom always make them. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking about how to turn traditional side dishes inside out and upside down.

Deconstruct the Classic Summer Salads

Make common salads uncommon with a little deconstruction. Taking your regular Potato Salad from ordinary to extraordinary may only require a few tweaks of your old recipe. For instance, use new red potatoes with the skins on, or Yukon Gold, and add a bit of tarragon infused olive oil and crème fraîche instead of your basic mayonnaise dressing for a different flavor. Or depart entirely from your grandmother's potato salad with a homemade remoulade style dressing. Toss in radishes, cucumbers, and even okra for a whole new experience. Of course, next time you may want to try capers and pimentos.

How about that quintessential favorite Three Bean Salad? Why limit yourself to three? Combine a bevy of beans for delightful combinations, choosing a variety of colors, textures, and flavors outside of the traditional green, wax, and kidney.  If you add the right complimentary ingredients and spices to any ordinary summer salad, a world of flavors will be yours to explore with free abandon.

Use Exotic Ingredients

Sometimes all it takes to turn a side dish upside down is to incorporate something unconventional, something you wouldn’t expect to 'work.'  Take tabouleh or couscous, for instance. Both are staple ingredients in a number of Mediterranean dishes, but they can also dress up a corn and tomato salad very well. Consider using quinoa in salads and side dishes. This nutty seed tastes great cold or hot and can be used in so many ways to add flavor and super-nutrition to a variety of dishes.

With the right spices, a side dish can even take the stage all by themselves with extra touches that range from tangy lemon juice, dill, parsley, mint, chives, Dijon mustard, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and other delicious delicacies. With the right spices, herbs, and sauces, a simple lettuce,  cucumber, or any salad can become a taste sensation.

Try a Different Combination

The key is to be creative with your combinations. Green Beans Almondine is a popular side dish during the summer when green beans are fresh and plentiful.  But, why not change things up a bit and substitute chopped walnuts for the almonds. It's all about serving familiar summertime dishes at your cookout or picnic, but making them a bit unexpected.  Perhaps you are making a classic creamy broccoli salad with raisins.  Substitute dried cranberries for the raisins.  It's all about putting a new twist on an old favorite.

There are a number of beautiful summer squashes that are delicious when just baked and served alone. However, a mixture of squash, sautéed together in butter and oil, with onions, garlic, bacon, or a variety of other ingredients, will turn a simple squash side dish into a colorful production. Don't forget to add a sweet or savory surprise by adding spices, sauces, or other condiments to your new squash side dish.

Turning summer side dishes upside down doesn't have to cost a lot or take lots of time to prepare.  Just take a look at your favorite picnic recipes and rethink the ingredients you are already using.  Try something a bit unconventional and enjoy your new side dish favorites.

p.s. Summertime cooking calls for cool cooking. Whether you're grilling something scrumptious, tossing a tasty salad, or piling a sandwich high with goodies, you need recipes and ideas.

We've put together a nice collection of tips for cooking cool along with recipes for everything from grilled meats, vegetables, and desserts (yes, desserts!), to fruit salads, veggie salads, rice salads, and bean salads.

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