Throw a bash these days, and you’ll likely be faced with a barrage of requests from friends who are gluten-free, dairy-free, meat-free — you name it. But that doesn’t mean these guests are fun-free! Whatever your pals’ eating styles, they will be primed to party (and think you are the Best Host Ever) when you serve one of these dishes.
For the (Gluten-Free) Quinoa-tarian: Quinoa Salad (above)
Here, the gluten-free king of the grain aisle gets tossed with cubes of cucumber, red onion, and tomato in a simple oil-vinegar-lemon dressing. Fresh mint and parsley add bright flavor, and when the salad is spooned into endive spears with diced avocado, the whole thing becomes a party on a platter.
For the Flexitarian: Creamy Broccoli Salad
A little bit of bacon goes a long way in this tasty side — good news for friends who are trying to cut back on meat, especially the processed variety. Two strips of crisp bacon are finely chopped before being tossed with the broccoli, onions and golden raisins. Buttermilk, reduced-fat sour cream, lemon and bacon drippings form the irresistible dressing.
For the Gluten-Free Vegan: Grilled Polenta with Roasted Pepper Salsa
Scenario: Your friend is not just vegan or gluten-free, but both! What’s a cook to do? Whip up this healthy dish, which works great as a side or appetizer and takes less than 20 minutes to make. Top slices of lightly grilled polenta with a homemade pepper-olive-caper salsa that whirs together quickly in a food processor.
For the Old-School (Carb-Loving) Vegetarian: Lighter Macaroni Salad
Nothing says summer like classic macaroni salad, and this healthier version is guaranteed to please vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Mayonnaise is combined with dry mustard, sugar, cider vinegar and a touch of sour cream to create a light yet creamy dressing. Mix it with elbow macaroni for an awesomely retro picnic fave.
For the Farm-to-Table Fanatic: Grilled Vegetable Salad with Feta
Here, firing up the grill elevates summer’s bounty from good to great. Fresh pepper, eggplant, onion and zucchini take a turn on the grill before being tossed with a simple dressing, grape tomatoes and fresh mint. A sprinkling of feta cheese will pull it all together in a wonderfully tangy way.
For the Guest Still on the Low-Fat Bandwagon: Healthy Chopped Slaw
News about why fat isn’t the enemy keeps rolling in. But if your friends just can’t kick the low-fat craze, serve this healthy take on slaw. Shredded cabbage and carrots are tossed in a sweet-savory dressing consisting of low-fat mayonnaise, mustard and a dash of cayenne pepper.
For the Non-Vegetarians Who Love a Good Vegetable Dish: Confetti Corn
Fresh corn is getting ready for its close-up. Sweet, crunchy and juicy, it deserves its status as the star of this dish. Combine it with sauteed red onion and orange bell pepper, and you’ve got a crowd-pleasing veggie side that everyone will jam on.
Abigail Libers is a freelance writer and editor living in Brooklyn. She is also the creator and editor of notesonfatherhood.tumblr.com.