It seems to me that main dishes and desserts get all the glory. Lots of times side dishes are an afterthought, and coming up with something to put “on the side” ends up being a hunt through the fridge or pantry for anything that can fill in the empty space on the plate. When we do that, we shortchange both our plates and our palates.
I think it’s time we gave humble side dishes their due. Not only do most side dishes prop up the entrée in terms of providing contrasting textures and flavors, they also fill out the plate with produce (which usually means more nutrients and fiber). Making summer sides that shine should not be time-consuming (who wants to spend these glorious days in the kitchen while everyone else is outside having fun?). Sides also shouldn’t be boring: a ho-hum veggie platter or handful of potato chips won’t excite anybody. Our selections are familiar, yet have enough twists to keep things interesting.
Here are some ideas for side dishes that will perk up your plate and won’t be out-shined by any entrée this season.
Get Kicky With Coleslaw
Coleslaw is a summer staple, and there are many variations, so there truly is a coleslaw for everyone. If you haven’t met your favorite yet, keep looking! Slaws vary in veggie components and dressing typically. If you’re not a creamy slaw person, there are plenty of other dressing options; and if you’re not a cabbage person, consider a slaw that relies on other veggies such as broccoli, beets, or even sugar-snap peas (the key is just to cut the veggies uniformly in thin matchsticks).
Tip: Don’t forget that leftover coleslaw is great the next day because it holds its crunch better than regular salad.
Go Ahead, Be Corny
If you’re like me, fresh sweet corn is one of the best things about summer. However, one can only eat plain boiled or steamed corn so many times before it gets a bit dull. Not to worry, we’ve got you covered with plenty of ideas to keep corn interesting! One of my favorite ways to use a few ears of leftover cooked corn is in a salad. Sometimes if I have just one ear of corn leftover, I simply sprinkle it over a green salad the next day.
Tip: You could also switch up your corn game and grill those ears.
Toss a Show-Stopping Salad
Take your salad game up a notch by skipping the deli counter and making a stellar summer side salad at home using fresh ingredients with bright color, crunch, and plenty of flavor. Most people enjoy classic summer salads like potato salad and pasta salad, and in many cases, these traditional salads can be made more nutritious with just a few switches. Sometimes all that’s needed is a dressing switch, or the addition of a few more veggies.
This is an unusual mix of red potatoes and summer veggies (zucchini, summer squash, carrots, snap beans, and scallions) with a light garlic dressing. Beans and whole grains make summer side salads more substantial and also contribute healthy fiber and added nutrients.View recipe »
For a few more ideas and tips, check out our slideshow, 10 Tips for Sensational Summer Salads.