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Best Summer Sides for Cook Outs

Best Summer SidesSome of the best summer sides for cook outs can also make great meals: coleslaw, pasta and potato salad are delicious on their own, but adding cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, olives or cheese can quickly transform them into a brand new dishes. Simply top with sliced leftover meat or cold cuts for a more substantial meal.

Spicy Peach Salsa

Spicy Peach SalsaOne of the best recipes for peach salsa you will find, both for its mouthwatering colors as well as blend of sweet and spicy which makes it a perfect accompaniment for either fish, pork or chicken dishes.

TIP: reduce the strong flavor and odour of the red onion by soaking it in a cup of water for 10-15 minutes before use. Also for best results, make this salsa the night before serving to give the flavors a chance to blend and allow the peaches and onion to soften to a nice consistency.

6 fresh peaches cut into small pieces
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
½ medium shallot minced
3 tbsp red onion cut into small, thin slices
1-2 tsp jalapeno peppers very finely minced (seeds and veins removed)
3 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves (stems removed and chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste

Caution: make sure you start with a very small amount of jalapeno pepper and taste before adding more.

Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight or on the counter at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Serve with foil packet citrus-y orange roughy or other minimally seasoned fish, chicken or pork recipe. This can also be served in place of regular salsa with tortilla chips.

Carolina Coleslaw

Carolina ColeslawWhile not a creamy coleslaw, this southern Carolina coleslaw recipe marries perfectly with Carolina-style BBQ, or with grilled burgers, chicken wings or any other picnic or potluck favourites! For best results, first soak the red onion in a mixture of 1 part water to 1 part vinegar for 10-15 minutes in order to tame its strong flavor and odour. Another tip: tough kale leaves can be tenderized by rubbing them with some olive oil for a few minutes. And finally, use a food processor to shred your veggies, specially if you are making a large batch.

1 head green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1 small or ½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 small white onion, thinly sliced
3 large carrots, grated
4 large kale leaves (stalk removed and cut into thin ribbons)
Salt and pepper to taste

¾ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup white sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp celery seeds

Add cabbage, red and white onions, carrots and kale leaves to a large glass bowl and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Add vinegar and sugar to a small saucepan on medium-high heat. Stir mixture until the sugar thoroughly dissolves. Remove from heat and whisk in the vegetable oil, mustard and celery seeds. While still warm, pour over the cabbage mixture; toss to combine thoroughly.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Red Potato Salad

This red potato salad recipe is for the creamy version so familiar at picnics all over. Great last-minute dish which can be ready in no time as the potatoes are cooked in the microwave, though you may want to make it a day ahead in order to allow flavors and fresh herbs to permeate.

Red Potato Salad3 pounds red potatoes, washed, dried, cut into quarters
¾ cup mayonnaise
¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
1 medium shallot, outer skin removed and finely chopped
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
½ cup fresh dill, chopped
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Place cut potatoes in a large microwave-safe dish and add 2 tablespoons of water. Cover and microwave for 2-3 minutes or until fork tender. (i)Cooking time will vary by microwave, so check after 2 minutes for potatoes that are still firm but tender enough to split with a fork.(/i)

Remove potatoes from dish and spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet to dry. Blot gently with a paper towel if needed.

In a small glass bowl, add mayonnaise, yogurt, shallot, mustard, fresh herbs and stir to combine thoroughly. Add potatoes to a separate bowl; gradually add mayonnaise mixture and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 1-2 days.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Mediterranean Pasta SaladThis salad packs a lot of interesting flavors into each bite. From the peppery taste of fresh arugula to the salty appeal of Kalamata olives, preserved lemons and feta cheese, there is nothing bland or boring about this dish. Yet, its strong flavors aren’t overwhelming because they are tempered by the satisfying addition of penne pasta and fresh herbs. This robust salad has enough presence to serve as a light, yet satisfying main course – or it can perfectly complement more neutral dishes like grilled chicken breast or a mild white fish.

1 pound penne pasta, cooked according to package directions and cooled

2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, washed and chopped (seeds and excess liquid removed)
12-15 large fresh basil leaves, washed, dried and cut into thin strips
2 tsp fresh oregano, stems removed and chopped
½ cup Kalamata olives
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup fresh or preserved organic lemon, chopped into small chunks with rinds
2 cup fresh arugula
2 tbsp Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
3oz block feta cheese, cut into equal sized chunks

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

To make the vinaigrette, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and mustard together in a small bowl until blended smooth. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Add olive oil and garlic to a cold pan and set heat to medium high. Sauté for approximately 2 minutes before adding chopped tomato. Cook for 3 minutes or until the tomato softens. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked tomato and garlic mixture with the basil, oregano, olives, red onion and preserved lemons. Add the cooked pasta, arugula and both types of cheese. Finally, add the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Himalayan salt blockNOTE: A little trick to achieving the very best Mediterranean pasta salad: use preserved lemons for a more intense flavor.

If you’re feeling adventurous, why not try making your own with a Himalayan salt block and perhaps a little help from Mark Bitterman.

Just remember to taste before adding some extra salt!

Orzo Pasta Salad with Tomatoes and Capers

Orzo Pasta SaladA great way to keep cool on a hot day, but here’s a twist: this orzo cold pasta salad tastes even better after the flavors have a chance to mingle so for your next picnic or cookout, simply make it a day or two in advance!

2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, washed and chopped (seeds and excess liquid discarded)
1½ cup dried orzo, cooked according to package directions and cooled
2 tbsp capers
1 tbsp caper liquid
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp fresh thyme, stems removed and chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley, stems removed and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Add olive oil and minced garlic to a cold skillet and turn heat to medium high. Sauté for 2 minutes, then add tomatoes and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until soft. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine cooked orzo, capers and caper liquid, lemon juice, thyme and parsley with the tomato and garlic mixture. Toss until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight. Stir and serve chilled with grilled chicken breasts or your favorite main dish.

Parmesan Green Beans

Parmesan Green BeansThis green beans parmesan recipe elevates basic green beans to a whole new level. Perfect for entertaining, as it’s quick and easy to prepare but looks and tastes like you busted your chops creating it… All because these crisp and tender green beans were roasted first for maximum flavor. A touch of freshly grated Parmesan cheese completes the dish.

1 pound fresh green beans, washed, trimmed and patted dried
3 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp high-quality extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Line a rimmed baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper. In a medium bowl, toss the green beans, garlic and olive oil together until completely coated. Spread the coated green beans on the lined pan in a single layer without crowding.

Season with salt and pepper and roast in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven once during this time to turn the beans so they cook evenly.

When finished roasting, remove from oven and place beans on serving tray. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

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