When I make side dishes, I don’t wrangle with lots of ingredients. Sides should burst with color and flavor and complete a meal with flair (no steamed peas please).
I wrote these side-dish delights with Memorial Day in mind because they’re perfect for parties. In my new cookbook, Robin Takes 5 (out in November), there are 500, 5-ingredient recipes. Salt, pepper and olive oil are the only staples, and the same is true here! And they’re all darn good. Enjoy them as quick weeknight sides or at your next backyard bash.
Red Potato Salad With Honey-Basil Vinaigrette
In this potato salad, I paired honey with white balsamic vinegar for the perfect balance of flavors. I chose white balsamic because regular balsamic turns the potatoes brown. The secret to a great potato salad: Add the dressing or vinaigrette while the potatoes are still warm so they soak up the flavor.
Yield: 6 Servings
6 medium red potatoes (about 2 pounds), cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
3 celery stalks, chopped
Place potatoes in a large saucepan and pour over enough water to cover by about 2 inches. Set pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Boil 8-10 minutes, until potatoes are fork-tender. Meanwhile, combine basil, oil, vinegar and honey in a blender and puree until smooth (if necessary, add a little water or chicken broth to create a vinaigrette-like consistency). Drain potatoes and transfer to a large bowl. Add basil mixture and stir to coat. Fold in celery. Season to taste with salt and freshly-ground black pepper.
Broccoli and Chickpea Salad With Yellow Pepper
This can easily become a complete meal by adding cooked chicken, shrimp, pork or steak.
Yield: 4 servings
6 cups broccoli florets
2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Blanch broccoli in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds, until crisp-tender. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add chickpeas and bell pepper; set aside.
Whisk together oil, vinegar and mustard. Add mixture to broccoli mixture and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
I used quartered artichoke hearts packed in water instead of oil to keep the fat and calorie count down in this hearty side dish.
Yield: 4 servings
2 (14-ounce) cans quartered artichoke hearts in water, drained
1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Barbecued White Beans
These are a must for any cookout and you can adjust the ingredients to suit your needs (more or less mustard, sugar and/or liquid smoke).
Yield: 4 servings
2 (15-ounce) cans white beans (Great Northern or cannellini), rinsed and drained
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and set pan over medium heat. Bring to simmer, reduce heat to low and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Penne With Pesto, Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzarella
Here I combined pesto, fresh grape tomatoes (I used cherubs) and little balls of fresh mozzarella called ciliegine. If you’ve never tried them, please do for this dish — you truly can’t beat the flavor and texture of fresh mozzarella.
Yield: 6 servings
16 ounces penne pasta
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon prepared basil pesto
10 ounces grape tomatoes
8 ounces ciliegine (cherry-sized) mozzarella balls, or larger balls called bocconcini, quartered
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Cook penne according to package directions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Robin Miller is a nutritionist, host of Quick Fix Meals, author of “Robin Rescues Dinner” and the busy mom of two active little boys. Her boys and great food are her passion. Check her out at www.robinrescuesdinner.com.