If the summer side dishes you’re thinking of this year seem a little mundane, I’m here to help. There are plenty of creative ways to dress up those old favorites in no time, giving you and your guests plenty of tasty new dishes at your next picnic or cookout.
Whenever I attend events I’m asked to bring my standbyes that everyone loves. It’s great, I appreciate how much they love them. BUT if we’ve hit a few bbq’s in a row or after a few weeks of events, I’m the one bored with them. Without disappointing friends and family I love to just tweak the original a little.
Summer Salads and Slaws
A great way to wow the crowd this summer is to create any number of new salad and slaw combinations. A summer slaw with ingredients like diced apples, bell peppers, carrots, and nuts gives your picnic meals a crunch people will love. Use corn and beans with a lively vinaigrette dressing and pimentos for a little summer spark as perky as the Fourth of July. And, when it comes to perky, don’t forget fruit in your salads and slaws. Chunks of fresh pineapple or diced apple in a cabbage slaw is a surprisingly refreshing take on an old favorite.
Add a little horseradish or fresh vinegar to your slaw dressing for a fresh, tangy appeal. Shred, slice, or even curl your ingredients as thin as possible for a colorful and attractive impression. When you take the time to prepare your ingredients a little differently, your salads take on a whole new look, and taste.
Don’t forget all those fresh garden vegetables. Tomatoes, beans, spring onions, beets, peas, radishes, broccoli, and cucumbers can turn any salad into a party. Fresh herbs like parsley, thyme, and basil will give an ordinary salad the boost it needs to gain favor at any picnic table. Most vegetables can be gently blanched or just cut up raw, toss with some fresh herbs and a vinagrette dressing and you have something that tastes fancy and fresh.
Spicy Gourmet Sides
Summer is also the time to get a little spicy, with ingredients, that is. Serving chutneys, relishes, salsas, and other spicy sauces alongside your summer dishes will perk up any meal. Chips and veggie snacks can be served with spicy dips, too. Looking to change up your ranch dip? Add half sour cream and half salsa to the mix. Add more sour cream to taste. I’d even be adding some tobasco sauce to it to really spice it up. After all, you’ve got plenty of sweet lemonade and other drinks to cool you back down.
Those who enjoy a little heat in their summer meals relish the opportunity to add some jalapenos, crushed red pepper, cumin, cilantro, cayenne, and other spices and herbs to their favorite side dishes. For instance, instead of serving your regular potato salad, spice it up with cumin. Chopped jalapenos added to your favorite baked bean dish will have your guests clamoring for more. Every picnic side dish you can think of probably has a spicy ingredient or two that could be added to give it a new twist. My husband would agree that there isn’t a dish made that can’t use some heat lol
Create New Comfort Food Casseroles
Some big gatherings call for classic ‘comfort food’ dishes like Green Bean Casserole or Au Gratin Potatoes. Why not get creative and try something a little different? Instead of green beans, why not create new classics like corn casserole or corn pudding. Take a look at turning a variety of vegetables into creamy comfort foods you and your guests will enjoy just like the old classics.
A great substitute for potatoes in casseroles is cauliflower. This healthy vegetable can be mixed with cheeses, onions, and other vegetables for a hearty summer side dish that will complement a number of main dishes at your next picnic. You can also create dynamic new comfort-food casseroles by mixing rice or small pasta with a number of colorful vegetables, like eggplant, summer squashes, zucchini, broccoli, or beans.
Gourmet summer side dishes simply require ingenuity, not culinary finesse. Creativity is really the key to making a new family favorite that will have people begging for more. Spend a little extra time in your grocery store and you’ll find plenty of possibilities for dressing up the side dishes you already love. Just try to remember what ingredients you changed up and added. You’ll be asked to bring the dish again.
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