12 Sides That Highlight Summer's Best Produce
Peach and Celery Salad
The flavors of peach and celery meld beautifully in this no-cook side. Pistachios amp up the crunch factor.
Blistered Peppers and Tomatoes
Popping up in more grocery stores these days, shishito peppers are a mild, thin-skinned pepper that have a secret—about one in eight has a surprising kick of heat. For a milder dish, substitute mini bell peppers.
Any cucumber will do in this salad, but we love the thin-skinned English variety—no peeling or seeding is required.
Chile-Lime Charred Squash
Charring the squash in a skillet quickly adds smoky flavor without having to fire up the grill. Best served right away, this side pairs well with grilled chicken and brown rice.
Spicy Tomato-Cucumber Salad
This tomato cucumber salad is summer in a bowl. Sunshine-yellow and ruby-red wedges of juicy tomato anchor this cucumber salad recipe with a hefty dose of lycopene, a heart-helping, cancer-fighting antioxidant. Remember—summer tomatoes are extra juicy, so plan to serve this salad soon after making it for the most concentrated flavor.
Oven-Fried Smashed Okra
Forget frying—this oven-fried version delivers the must-have crunch of fried okra without the hot mess of oil and all the calories that come with it. The secret is gently smashing the okra pods—you can use a skillet or rolling pin if you don’t have a meat mallet—it opens them up and provides more surface area (i.e., more opportunities for extra-crispy action). For the best results, pick out smaller okra pods; the larger they grow, the tougher they get.
Fruit and Arugula Salad with Fig Vinaigrette
There’s only one thing better than the juicy watermelon and peaches in this salad—the outstanding fig vinaigrette. Jammy and sweet with a subtle savory essence, fig preserves provide a flavor foil for tart vinegar and act as an excellent thickener for this dressing, which helps it cling to all the ingredients in this salad.
Peppery arugula adds the perfect spicy bite that stands up to the sweet summer fruit. Make a double batch of the vinaigrette and use it to marinate chicken or brush over salmon before grilling.
Squash-Ribbon Salad with Herbs
Ethereal squash ribbons plus a simple vinaigrette combine for a salad that takes the edge off soaring summer temperatures. Customize this no-cook side with a generous handful of your favorite herbs—we love the combination here, but sneaking in some cilantro or tarragon would add a flavorful twist. If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, toss the squash mixture with some cooked whole wheat penne for a summery pasta supper.
For an Italian-inspired version, use cannellini beans in place of the chickpeas and chopped fresh basil instead of chives. Eating fish? Serve with broiled salmon or grilled shrimp. Or, if you want to keep it vegetarian, spoon over whole-wheat linguine and top with an extra drizzle of olive oil and a grating of fresh Parmesan.
Spiced Sweet Potato Fries
Here are two tricks for crunchy baked sweet potato fries: Toss them with cornstarch to absorb moisture, and don’t crowd the pan—so they’ll crisp instead of steam.
Nectarine and Bulgur Salad
No nectarines? Sub in your favorite stone fruit, such as peaches or plums. You can make this side dish gluten-free by using quinoa in place of the bulgur.
Early Summer Succotash
In this fresh take on succotash, we use a pan-steaming technique (no steamer basket required) to cut down on cooking time and keep the beans and corn crisp-tender rather than ultra-soft. For succotash, fresh corn always tastes more delicious than frozen, but thawed frozen corn would certainly be a good stand-in here in a pinch. If you are using fresh corn, after you cut the kernels off, run the dull side of your knife down the kernel and scrape some of the corn “milk” into the pan, too. This recipe makes a small portion but can be doubled or even tripled to serve a crowd.