Perfect Summer Wingmen: 8 Great Dishes to Bring to the Next Backyard BBQ

Summer’s here, and things are opening up all over. We are craving connection with our friends and family after this last year of seclusion, and what better way to celebrate summer and togetherness than a backyard BBQ? Be the best guest ever by offering to bring one of these great summer side dishes to keep the party going. It’s not really a party until the calorie-worthy food arrives!

Smitten Kitchen’s Corn Salad with Chile and Lime

corn salad with chile lime summer recipes 2021
Photo Courtesy of Smitten Kitchen

Corn is a summer staple, but it can be so much more than just grilled corn on the cob dripping in butter (not that there’s anything wrong with that)! The great Deb Perelman has created this scrumptious offering, which is basically elotes for a crowd, and no one will be sorry you brought it. A guaranteed empty platter at the end of the night! You lightly pickle some red onions and set them aside, then grill off the corn and cut the kernels off the cob. Spread the crema mixture on your platter, pile the corn on and queeze some lime over the top. Scatter with pickled onion rings, chopped cilantro, and a sprinkle of Tajín (chile-lime powder). Gorgeous to look at, and everything you want in your tummy right now.

My Name is Yeh’s Farro with Dukkah, Things from the Garden, and Grilled Lemon

farro with dukkah, things from the garden, and grilled lemon my name is yeh's summer recipes 2021
Courtesy of My Name is Yeh

Now that she’s got “Girl Meets Farm,” her wildly successful Food Network show, seems like Molly Yeh isn’t posting on her longtime blog very often these days. But not to fear, as she has a vast backlog of recipes to pull from. This is a delightful summer grain salad, lightened with loads of cherry tomatoes, radishes, and cucumbers — all the things you’re growing in your garden right now — along with crumbled feta cheese, a scattering of fresh herbs, and a surprisingly tart and smoky vinaigrette made with charred lemons.

Virginia Willis’ Lightened-Up Pimiento Cheese

Lightened-Up Pimiento Cheese food network summer recipes 2021
Photo courtesy of Food Network

Southerners know that every party must have Pimiento Cheese. If not, was it ever truly a party? Southern chef and cookbook author Virginia Willis knows this deep in her bones, but she’s made a concerted effort in the last few years to find ways to make Southern dishes that are still delicious, but lighter. The recipe for this Southern staple comes from her book, “Lighten Up, Y’all,” and you won’t miss the calories because the flavor is still there. She serves it in cucumber cups, which is perfect for a hot summer day.

Love and Lemons’ Watermelon Gazpacho 

Watermelon Gazpacho love and lemons blog summer recipes
Photo courtesy of Love and Lemons

Bring a big pitcher of this refreshing gazpacho and some plastic wine glasses to the next summer soirée and expect everyone to ask for the recipe. Perfect for people like me who love the flavor profile of gazpacho but can no longer stomach (literally!) the acidity of an all-tomato soup. Here, the tomatoes are a background note. It whips up in seconds in a Vitamix or other power blender. Just throw in chopped watermelon, cucumber, tomatoes, bell pepper, scallions, garlic, and basil, some vinegar and olive oil, and seasonings. Garnish with chopped veggies and microgreens; sometimes I’ll add a little squiggle of Greek yogurt. Summer in a glass.

Ottolenghi’s Tomatoes with Wasabi, Mascarpone, and Pine Nuts

summer recipes Tomatoes with wasabi mascarpone and pine nuts
Photo courtesy of Ottolenghi

Is there anything more visually appealing than a mixed heirloom tomato salad? The wide range of colors (red, green, yellow, gold, purple) and sizes (plum, cherry, beefsteak, vine), all readily available at any summer farmer’s market, provides an extra win to any dish. Here, Ottolenghi whips mascarpone cheese with wasabi paste, chives, tarragon and chopped scallions. He mounds the heirloom tomatoes on top with glorious abandon, then sprinkles with toasted pine nuts, torn basil leaves, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper. Delicate rings of pickled shallot give it just the right bite. You could gild the lily with a drizzle of excellent olive oil — this is the time to crack out the good stuff.

West of the Loop’s Harissa Deviled 

Photo courtesy of West of the Loop deviled eggs summer recipes 2021
Photo courtesy of West of the Loop

Chicagoan Emily Paster has a way with bright Mediterranean flavors, and her writing is SO entertaining. If you don’t follow this food blog yet, you absolutely should… and be sure to grab a copy of her newest book, “Instantly Mediterranean,” when it comes out in September. About these deviled eggs, which are de rigeur for any summer BBQ: Emily’s husband is a hater of mayo, so she took it as a challenge to recreate the dish to accommodate his palate. Instead of mayo, she uses Greek yogurt, and seasons the egg yolk mixture with ground cumin, spicy harissa paste, salt, and Aleppo pepper. Pipe or spoon it into the egg white halves, and sprinkle with ground sumac to complete the Middle Eastern flavor profile. 

Fit Men Cook’s Asian-Inspired Ginger-Sesame-Brown Rice Slaw

It’s vegan, it’s healthy, and this side-dish salad is STILL DELICIOUS. Kevin Curry is adorable, and his smile and laugh are downright infectious. He started this blog to document his fitness journey; now he has a zillion Instagram followers, a #1 selling app, and a cookbook. His videos are fun and informative and encourage everyone to discover the fun of working in the kitchen. As he says, bodies may be sculpted at the gym, but they are built in the kitchen. This slaw has many of the usual suspects — cabbages, carrots, green onions — and a few surprises (basil, brown rice, tahini, ginger) that put it over the top. 

Food & Wine’s Blueberry Mousse 

Blueberry Mousse summer recipes
Photo courtesy of Food and Wine Magazine Credit: © Eva Kolenko

Yes, I know it’s a dessert, and not technically a side dish. But every BBQ needs a little something sweet, right? This easy recipe from food writer Ben Mims could be just the ticket and will make the most of this glorious summer berry. No delicate whipped egg whites need apply; Mims opts for a combination of smooth cream cheese and tangy sour cream to lend body to the mousse, purees them in a food processor along with freshly made blueberry jam (quickly made, I promise!), then folds in whipped cream and spoons it into individual glasses. Top with chopped pistachios and fresh blueberries, et voila! And it’s a lovely shade of purple to boot.

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Julie ChernoffBetter’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz Scaggs, Rick Bayless, and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and counts Northlight Theatre and Les Dames d’Escoffier International as two of her favorite nonprofits. She currently serves on the national board of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, an advocacy group addressing hunger issues in the U.S. and Israel for the nearly 46 million people — veterans, children, seniors, tribal nations, and more — who go to bed hungry every night.

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