Summer Side Superstars
Do you have your main dish all figured out, but are scratching your head about what sides to pair with it? Or have you been invited to a cookout, but don’t know what to bring? You want to look like you put in a bit of effort, but don’t want to spend too much time. Also, you aren’t sure what other sides will be offered and want to make sure to bring something healthy but delicious.
As we kick off the unofficial start of summer on this Memorial Day weekend, let me solve those problems for you with this brief line up of summer side superstars.
What Makes a Great Side?
What I look for in a side dish are the following characteristics:
- Seasonal: Do the ingredients fit the season? Am I serving fresh tomatoes in the summer and berries in the spring, or are they pale, lifeless tomatoes in winter and hard, flavorless berries in the fall? Look for ingredients that are actually in season in order to get the best flavor and highest nutrition out of your ingredients
- Healthy: I often don’t know what will be served when I bring a side, so I want to be sure to bring something that I like to eat, but also something that will get eaten. There’s no worse feeling than bringing home a mostly full dish that you brought to a party. I strive for balance: often the main dish is heavy on protein, or heavy on carbs. I like to include healthy fats in my side, like avocado or nuts (on the side). I also like to have produce be the focus, since often times people may grab chips or crackers to bring to a party, but may not have as much time to prepare produce-centric dish
- Real: Is the side I prepare full of real, whole ingredients? Or is it heavily processed? I like to focus on real food, even if it’s a dessert. For example, sourdough desserts or berries with real whipped cream win out over store bought items with lots of preservatives.
The Lineup of Summer Sides
- This first side dish was featured on this blog over ten years ago! It’s hard to believe I’ve been blogging that long. But this salad has stood the test of time and remains a favorite. Crisp lettuce, creamy avocado, sweet strawberries and crunchy walnuts deliver a feast for the senses. The full-flavored balsamic vinaigrette is the finishing touch to round out this Summer Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette.
2. Next up we have Corn Off the Cob Salad. This is fresh corn sliced off the cob, mixed with summer basil and tomatoes, and tossed with a light white wine vinaigrette. It feeds a crowd, too, depending on the serving size, making 6 cups total of salad. While you can find corn in grocery stores, it usually comes later in the summer where I live.
3. Farm Fresh Roasted Sweet Potato Salad is absolutely delicious. Usually people associate sweet potatoes with fall and winter because they store well. But they are grown in the summer and can be found in the spring as new potatoes or later as full, mature potatoes. I love to eat this sweet potato salad as a meal sometimes. It has a wonderful intersection of sweet, spicy and well-seasoned from the sweet potatoes and raisins, chili pepper and onions, and cumin and red wine vinegar. I guarantee that you will be bringing home an empty dish if you bring this to your next cookout.
4. What is a party without dessert? I love these Einkorn Honey Lavender Cupcakes that I made when my oldest turned one. The cupcakes were sweet and flavorful, and making them mini ensured everyone got one or two and no one got too much. I use einkorn flour, which is an ancient form of wheat that is easier on the digestive system. Try them as a unique dessert that is sure to please.
Prepare With Confidence
Now that you have a list of options to choose from, take your pick and make it with confidence. Recognize that everyone has different tastes, but good, real food is sure to please most people.
Take some time to choose your ingredients, put on some music and enjoy the process of cooking (or baking). Think of it as a time to unwind and create some edible art.
So let me know what you choose to make, and whether or not it was a hit in the comments below. Snap a photo of it with the tag #akukskitchen.
Thanks for reading, and until next time.