You've got certain things already decided. Hot dogs, hamburgers, cold beer — Fourth of July essentials that must be served to ensure you properly celebrate American independence.
But there is some wiggle room on the rest of your cookout's menu, specifically when it comes to side items. We've put together five ideas for three different kinds of classic picnic "salads" — fruit, potato and pasta.
Fruit salads are a colorful and healthy addition to a summer barbecue, and a refreshing way to cut through all of the mayonnaise that tends to show up at these sorts of events. A simple mixture of various fruits set in a large bowl could suffice, but we found five recipes that take the fruit salad up a couple of notches. For each, a few rules will guarantee optimal results. First, always use fresh fruit. Frozen won't hold up nearly as well, and as it starts to melt, the salad will turn into a soupy mess. Plus, this time of year, just about every kind of fruit is plentiful in its fresh form. Another rule of thumb is to prepare any salad with dressing fairly close to when you will be serving it. Most of the following recipes will keep overnight in the fridge with just the necessary fruits — but wait until the day you'll be eating it to dress with any sauces or garnishes like nuts and herbs (or bananas).
Michelle Stark, Times food editor
Quinoa and Berry Salad
The addition of quinoa makes this a hearty fruit salad. To make, prepare 1 cup uncooked quinoa according to package directions, then let cool to room temperature. While quinoa is cooling, slice 1 ½ cup strawberries and dice 1 cup mango. In a large bowl, combine quinoa, strawberries and mango, plus 1 cup blackberries and 1 cup blueberries. Now, make a honey lime glaze. In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup honey and 2 tablespoons lime juice, then drizzle over the salad and toss until coated. Serves 4 to 6. Recipe adapted from therecipecritic.com.
Caprese Fruit Salad
Here are two ideas for replacing the traditional tomato in a caprese salad with fruit. In both cases, thickly slice the fruit and cheese so that they are the same width, then make short stacks alternating layers of fruit and cheese, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Option 1: Pair strawberries and nectarines with mozzarella cheese and garnish with mint. Option 2: Pair watermelon with feta cheese and garnish with basil.
Honey Lime Rainbow Fruit Salad
This is an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink kind of fruit salad, including seven different kinds of fruit and a refreshing lime dressing. To make, dice 1 pound fresh strawberries, 1 pound fresh pineapple and 2 ripe bananas and add to a large bowl. Add 12 ounces fresh blueberries, 12 ounces halved red grapes, 4 peeled and cubed kiwis and 1 (15-ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained. In a smaller bowl, mix together ¼ cup honey, 2 teaspoons lime zest and 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice. Pour over fruit and toss to coat. Serve immediately. Serves 8 to 10. Recipe adapted from cookingclassy.com.
Spicy Melon Salad
This refreshing salad has a bit of a kick thanks to the heat from chiles and lemongrass. Start by making a lemongrass syrup with which you will dress the salad. In a medium saucepan, combine 2 plump lemongrass stalks, 2 fresh hot red chiles, the finely grated zest of 1 lime and a cup each of sugar and water. Bring that mixture to a boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer another 10 minutes or so, until sauce has thickened. Let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss a pound of sliced strawberries with a pound of honeydew melon cut into chunks. Add 2 tablespoons slivered mint leaves. Once it's cool, strain the lemongrass syrup, then pour over the salad and toss to coat. Refrigerate just until chilled. Serves 6. Recipe adapted from delish.com.
Citrus Ginger Salad
This salad brings out the beauty of zingy citrus by pairing it with sweet-and-spicy candied ginger. Start by grating 1 teaspoon each of zest from a navel orange, a clementine and a red or pink grapefruit. Add to a large bowl. Now, peel and cut the rest of your citrus. Using a sharp knife, remove the peel and white pith from 6 navel oranges (this includes the one you used for zest), 10 clementines and 2 grapefruit. Cut each fruit into segments (over the bowl, so you don't lose any juice), then add to bowl. To the fruit, add ¼ cup sugar, 2 tablespoons crystallized ginger and ¾ cup salted, roasted almonds. Stir to combine and serve immediately. Serves 8. Recipe adapted from delish.com.
There might be a rebellion if the beloved potato salad isn't served at your weekend barbecue. It's a lovely creamy anchor to the grilled meats. But our oppressive summer heat means the classic mayo-laden side dish could quickly get nasty. So we've included some fun alternatives alongside traditional recipes. But first, some general tips: Use small and creamy potato varieties (Yukon Gold, fingerling, new) and avoid russets. We're not making mashed potatoes here, so boil until they are just tender when pierced with a fork. And taste as you go, because potato salad usually needs more dressing than you think. Vinaigrettes get mixed in when the potatoes are still hot, but wait for the potatoes to cool when using mayonnaise. And whatever plop of potatoes you pick, you'll need to get out the sturdiest paper plates.
Brittany Volk, Times staff writer
All-American Potato Salad
This table-pleaser is exactly what you'd expect from a patriotic potato salad, but with a hint of sweetness from a fun ingredient: pickle juice. Peel and cut 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes into fork-friendly cubes then place them in a large saucepan with cold water and cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, add 1 teaspoon salt, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and spread potatoes out on a rimmed baking sheet. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons pickle juice and 1 tablespoon yellow mustard together then toss the mixture with potatoes. Refrigerate until cooled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, finely chop ¼ cup dill pickles, ½ small red onion and 1 rib celery. Place in a large bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon pickle juice, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper, ½ teaspoon celery seed, ½ cup mayonnaise and ¼ cup sour cream. Toss in cooled potatoes, cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes. Salad can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 2 days, but when you're ready to serve, gently stir in 2 peeled and diced hard-boiled eggs. Serves 4 to 6. Recipe from Cook's Country.
Potato Salad With Dill and Horseradish Aioli
In this colorful salad with more than just potatoes, aioli is a fancy word for homemade mayonnaise with a horseradish punch of flavor. Place 2 pounds small halved potatoes in a saucepan with just enough cold salted water to cover. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, make the horseradish aioli by whisking 2 egg yolks with 2 teaspoons lemon juice and 1 teaspoon salt so it begins to thicken. Very slowly, drizzle in ¾ cup canola oil while whisking nonstop until the mixture begins to emulsify and has achieved a thick, mayonnaiselike consistency. Whisk in 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish and, if necessary, season with additional salt and pepper. While the potatoes cool, halve 15 to 20 red and yellow cherry or grape tomatoes, slice 2 cups fresh sugarsnap peas lengthwise and chop 1 large handful fresh dill. Combine it all in a large serving bowl with cooled potatoes. Pour the aioli over everything, and toss to coat. Serves 4. Recipe from athoughtforfood.net and adapted from "Vegetarian Everyday" by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl.
Potato Salad With Herb Vinaigrette
This lighter version forgoes the mayonnaise and uses herbs and garlic to give it a light kick that withstands the summer heat. Quarter 2 pounds fingerling potatoes and gently dump into a medium pot; add enough water to cover them and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-high and simmer until the potatoes are fully tender, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make the herb vinaigrette: Put ½ cup fresh basil leaves, ½ cup fresh parsley leaves, the juice of 2 lemons, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 4 garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon tahini and 1 teaspoon maple syrup in a blender; season with salt and pepper. Process until the herbs and garlic are finely chopped. Drain the potatoes and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl, add the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Serves 4. Recipe from Slate.com.
Southwestern Grilled Sweet Potato Salad
Your guests, especially the vegetarians, will appreciate the extra grill work that goes into this untraditional potato salad that can serve as a main dish. Start by peeling and cutting 4 medium sweet potatoes into ¾-inch slices. In a large bowl, toss the slices with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the sweet potatoes on a grill over medium heat. Cook until tender, about 8-10 minutes on each side. When the sweet potatoes are close to being done, place 1 ear of corn on the grill and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, rotating so the kernels get slightly charred. Remove sweet potatoes and corn from grill and cool to room temperature. Cut the sweet potatoes into cubes and place in a large bowl. With a sharp knife, remove the corn kernels from the cob. Add the corn to the bowl. Stir in 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained, 1 diced red pepper, 2 chopped green onions, ½ cup chopped cilantro and 2 chopped avocados. Squeeze the juice of 2 limes over the salad and stir until combined. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. The salad will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 days. Serves 6. Recipe from twopeasandtheirpod.com.
Bacon and Shallot Potato Salad
Thanks to bacon, mayo won't be missed in this German-style potato salad. Place 2 pounds whole unpeeled potatoes (small waxy white or yellow potatoes) in a large pot with enough salted water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until potatoes are just tender, 15 to 25 minutes depending on size. Drain and cut potatoes into 1 ½-inch chunks as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Transfer to a large bowl. Meanwhile, fry 6 ounces thick-cut bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Stir ½ cup thinly sliced shallot into the skillet with the bacon fat and fry for a minute, until just slightly crisped. Remove from heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons whole grain mustard, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk in shallots and bacon drippings and crumble in bacon. Immediately toss potatoes with dressing. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and more vinegar if you like and serve warm or at room temperature. If you do make it ahead, pop it into the microwave for a minute or so just before serving. Serves 8. Recipe from the New York Times.
Let's be real. Pasta has nothing to do with salad, and most "pasta salads" are hearty enough to be entire meals. That's the case for most of the following options, so pace yourself if you are also filling your plate up with other barbecue goodness. Three of these use traditional pasta, and two use varieties you may not be as familiar with: Israeli couscous, a sturdy pasta shaped into tiny balls, and orzo, a form of short-grain pasta. For all of the recipes, start with cooked pasta, which can be prepared days in advance.
Michelle Stark, Times food editor
Buffalo Chicken Pasta Salad
Start with a pound of cooked penne or rotini pasta. Add it to a bowl, along with 1 cup cooked and shredded chicken breast, 4 stalks chopped celery and 1 cup shredded carrot. Mix to combine. Then, in a smaller bowl, mix together 1 ½ cups mayonnaise or Greek yogurt, ½ cup crumbled blue cheese, 5 tablespoons lemon juice, 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 2 to 4 tablespoons hot sauce, 2 tablespoons dark beer (optional), 2 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon pepper and 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Pour dressing over salad mixture and toss well. Serves 6 to 8. Recipe adapted from Food Network.
Macaroni Salad With Mozzarella and Prosciutto
The base for this creamy and meaty salad is 1 pound cooked shell macaroni. Add that to a large bowl, then add the following ingredients: ½ cup chopped red onion, 1 ½ cups chopped celery, ½ seeded and chopped red bell pepper, 1 cup thinly sliced pepperoncini, 1 cup sliced prosciutto, ½ pound smoked mozzarella diced into chunks, 3 tablespoons capers and ½ cup Italian fresh flat-leaf parsley. Now, make the dressing that ties it all together. In a smaller bowl, mix 1 ½ cups mayonnaise, ½ cup buttermilk, ¼ cup pepperoncini juice, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Add to pasta and mix gently to coat. Serves 6 to 8. Recipe adapted from twopeasandtheirpod.com.
Summer Pasta Salad
This is a classic pasta salad, brightened up with lots of veggies including diced peppers and artichokes. Start with a pound of cooked farfalle pasta. In a large bowl, combine the pasta with 3 small yellow bell peppers, seeded and diced (for a variety of colors, get 1 each yellow, orange and red peppers). Add 1 chopped cucumber, 1 (12-ounce) jar artichoke hearts in water and 1 pint halved grape tomatoes. Pour 1 cup of balsamic dressing (store-bought or homemade, your choice) over the salad and stir to combine. Add 1 cup crumbled feta cheese, ⅓ cup finely chopped basil and salt and pepper to taste. Serves 6 to 8. Recipe from twopeasandtheirpod.com.
Lemon Cucumber Couscous Salad
Start with about 2 cups cooked Israeli couscous. Cut 2 medium cucumbers into quarter rounds and place them in a large bowl. Add ¼ bunch parsley, roughly chopped, and the zest from 1 lemon. After it is zested, cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into a small bowl. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste. Add couscous to bowl with cucumber and parsley, then pour lemon dressing over top. Stir well, then crumble 3 ounces feta cheese on top. Serves 6. Recipe adapted from budgetbytes.com.
Orzo Salad With Grapes
Feel free to sub other small pastas in for the orzo in this recipe. Either way, add about 3 cups of the cooked pasta to a large bowl to start. Then, heat a medium skillet over medium heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 pint grapes. Cook about 5 minutes until skins split and they are cooked down a bit. Set aside. Using 1 lemon, grate about a teaspoon of lemon zest into a small bowl, then juice the lemon and add that to the same bowl. Set aside. Add orzo and ¼ cup water (reserved from cooking the orzo, if you have it) to the skillet, along with lemon peel and juice, 1 cup crumbled feta cheese, ⅓ cup pitted Kalamata olives, ⅓ cup fresh mint leaves and salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4 to 6. Recipe from XXX.