While the meat may be the main event at a barbecue, a summer grill out is nothing without its side dishes. From corn on the cob, baked potato, roasting vegetables to salads, the choices are limitless. The conundrum is deciding which ones.
For me it is simple — salads are the perfect accompaniment to a barbecue.
Why salads? There are so many reasons.
First, it’s their contrasting temperatures. The cool salad has a tendency to soothe the heat coming off of “right of the grill” meat.
Besides keeping the palate cool, it also keeps the temperature down in the house. For most salads, there is no cooking just assembling; so no need to turn on the oven or the stove.
Another reason for salads is that they are an easy way to get a serving of vegetables; it is hard to entice anyone with a piece of lettuce but if you tear up, shred, cut and toss leafy greens with other vegetables, it will lure even the pickiest eaters.
Finally, these days salads are much more than just lettuce with some dressing covering it; instead, they are appearing with different flavours, textures and ingredients. Simple lettuce is being replaced with leafy greens like arugula, endive, mâche or kale, and being paired with varying colours of peppers and tomatoes.
Different textures are being included into the dish by adding creamy avocados and cheeses, and the crunchiness is no longer imparted by just the lettuce, but with nuts and grains.
Since sweet and salty are seducing today’s palate, even fruits are making their way into the savory salad.
With so many variations to the salad, it really comes down to personal preference. If you are stuck or unsure of the crowd attending the barbecue, stick to the classics — potato salad and coleslaw. They are all-time favourites and you really can’t go wrong with these two.
Although it has evolved to include different flavours and ingredients, the traditional potato salad is a delicious concoction of skinned potatoes, onions, celery in a tangy, sweet and sour vinegar dressing. Served hot or warm, this budget-minded salad makes a scrumptious addition to a light dinner.
Coleslaw was brought to us by the Dutch immigrants and translates to what it is — a cabbage salad. Shredded cabbage is mixed with grated carrots and marinated with a creamy dressing.
Both of these salads are ideal for making ahead of time allowing the flavours to combine.
The mango and the watermelon salads are my absolute favourites. It is convenient because both fruits start appearing in the produce aisle at the same time that barbecues season begins. Although it is commonly eaten as a fruit, at my house mango appears mostly in this salad. With the ripe mango, red pepper and green cilantro, it is visual foreplay while the taste of lemon-based dressing seduces the taste buds.
Watermelon screams summer, so why not use the fruit as the main ingredient in a salad? Adding a salty cheese like feta, is a perfect match for the sweet juicy fruit.
Finally, to bring a little elegance to the patio table, a tomato and mozzarella salad can easily step up to the plate. Using elegant, tiny cherry tomatoes mixed with bite-sized cheese, and then seasoned with fresh green basil and a light oil-based vinaigrette, hints of simple sophistication!
Madhu Badoni is a Red Deer-based freelance food writer. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @madhubadoni. Watch for Madhu’s Masala-Mix blog on bprda.wpengine.com.
8 medium potatoes, cooked and diced
1½ cups mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon pepper
2 celery ribs, sliced
1 cup onion, minced
5 hard-boiled eggs
Boil peeled potatoes in salted water until done. Cool to room temperature. Place diced potatoes in large bowl. Mix mayonnaise, cider vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt, garlic powder, and pepper in another bowl. Add to potatoes. Add celery and onions and mix well. Stir in eggs. Sprinkle a little paprika on top.
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup chopped green onions
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons wasabi paste
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 (16-oz.) package shredded coleslaw mix
3/4 cup lightly salted peanuts and sunflower seeds
Whisk together first 10 ingredients in a large bowl; add coleslaw mix, stirring to coat. Cover and chill one hour; stir in peanuts just before serving.
½ cup sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup chopped pecans
5 cups seeded and cubed watermelon
1 (6-oz.) package mâche, thoroughly washed
1 cup crumbled Feta cheese
Preheat oven to 350F. Arrange pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake at 350F for five to seven minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant. Cool on a wire rack 15 minutes or until completely cool. Whisk together dressing ingredients. Combine watermelon and mâche in a large bowl; add vinaigrette, tossing gently to coat. Transfer watermelon mixture to a serving platter, and sprinkle evenly with pecans and cheese.
Tomato and Mozzarella Salad
250 g or ½ lb cherry tomatoes
250 g or ½ lb fresh mozzarella cheese
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chop your tomatoes into quarters, dice up the mozzarella and throw both into a bowl. Rip up the basil leaves and mix this in, season with salt and pepper and round it off with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
2 mangos, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, diced
½ cup red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup lime juice
garlic taste, to taste
salt, to taste
Mix, mango, red pepper, onion and cilantro together. Sprinkle, the rest and mix to coat all.