Every superhero has a sidekick. Whether barbecuing or grilling, the main dish needs a supporting cast to help fight the crime of bad barbecues. Rather than offer ho-hum sides from the grocery store, add pizzazz to the cookout with these twists on classic dishes.
- Upgrade cool watermelon into a savory salad. Cut off the rind and trim fruit into bite-sized pieces. Toss in a bowl with small chunks of one peeled grapefruit, a few radishes sliced or cut into matchsticks, fresh juice from the grapefruit rind (gently twist and squeeze over the bowl) and half of a lime, 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Chill the salad for 30 minutes. Garnish with leaves of fresh mint and basil before serving. Pair with chicken or seafood.
- Coleslaw usually falls into two categories – creamy with a touch of sweetness or vinegar-based slaw popular in Southern states like the Carolinas, West Virginia, and Tennessee. Try an Asian-style slaw for a fresh take. Add 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, and 2 teaspoons brown sugar, to a slaw of thin-sliced red cabbage, shredded carrot, julienned snow peas and fresh ginger, and sliced green onion. Add salt, pepper, garlic powder (optional), and red chili flakes (optional) to taste. Toss in dressing, chill for 30 minutes, and serve. If you opt for creamy slaw, dress it up with a pinch of fresh tarragon and minced green apple. Pair with glazed pork belly or chicken.
- Load plain mac-and-cheese with toppings or make a self-serve bar for guests. Use minced chives or scallions, chopped crispy bacon, chopped prosciutto, crumbled goat cheese or blue cheese, smoked shredded pork, minced bell pepper, or grilled onions. Try adding a blend of breadcrumbs, fresh minced herbs, Parmesan cheese, and roasted garlic. Pair with everything, especially ribs.
- Instead of sweet, smoky baked beans, serve a light, room temperature cannellini bean salad. Drain and rinse 2-3 cans of cannellini. Place in a large bowl with ½ cup olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Add a teaspoon of fresh minced rosemary or thyme, chopped red onion (about ½ cup or to taste), two teaspoons of wine vinegar, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Toss ingredients and chill. Serve over one bunch of washed, dried arugula. Miss that smoky flavor? Add a ½ cup of sautéed smoked ham cut into ¼-inch cubes. Pair with chicken, pork, or grilled fish.
- Step aside, three-bean salad. Hello, steamed green beans tossed in gremolata. Gremolata, a fancy Italian name for a chopped herb condiment, is made with lemon zest, garlic and parsley. To make it, wash and dry a small bunch of flat leaf parsley (about one cup, loosely packed). Chop fine until parsley yields a half-cup and add to a small bowl. Remove skin from one clove of garlic. Mince or microplane garlic over parsley. Grate zest from two lemons onto mix. Toss well and chill. Steam 1-2 pounds of cleaned green beans until brightly colored and semi-firm. Drain in a colander and run beans under cold water until chilled to shock them and stop the cooking process. In a large bowl, toss beans with ½ cup olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Add 2 tablespoons of gremolata (or to taste). Toss and serve. Top with lightly toasted slivered almonds, if desired. Great with grilled chicken and pork chops.
- Some Kansas City barbecue restaurants are known for their version of cheesy corn casserole. For a lighter take on the dish, grill corn on the cob with the husk (1 per person) for 15 to 20 minutes over medium heat, turning regularly to ensure even cooking. Remove from heat, let cool, and peel off husk and corn silk. Standing the corn cob on end, use a sharp knife to carefully shave kernels onto a cutting board. Add corn kernels and juices to a bowl. Toss with a proportionate amount of cubed cheese (¼ cup per cob), such as Velveeta, mozzarella, cheddar or pepperjack. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika to taste. Top with chopped crispy bacon before serving. Pair with barbecue beef or steak.
- You don’t have to settle when it comes to dessert. Better yet, go ahead and add a little dessert to your dinner. Grilled Pineapple with Rum Glaze will add some tropical kick to your meal. You’ll just need a pineapple that you’ll slice in half and core. After that, you’ll add vanilla, brown sugar, Coconut Rum, and a touch of Three Little Pig’s Touch of Cherry Rub. Pair with pork or ice cream.
Get creative and play with these recipe suggestions to make your own great sidekick. Your backyard barbecue is counting on you.