Food&Wine- 16 Summer Side Dishes Everyone Should Know How to Make, According to Chefs

Summer Side Dishes

Summer Side Dishes

Upgrade your cookouts with these show-stopping seasonal sides.

By Lane Nieset | July 06, 2021

The grill may steal the show at summer barbecues, but what’s smoking is truly amplified by the sides being served. Potato salad and coleslaw are classics, but why not step up your culinary game a notch (after all, isn’t that what you spent all pandemic perfecting?) with a spruced-up take on a traditional side. From charred green beans to Tex Mex-style corn salad, these chef favorites are sure to become your go-to summer staples.

Maple Baked Beans

“This classic New England summer side also serves as a hearty main for your vegetarian guests. Combine slow-cooked Jacob’s Cattle beans that are whole-sweetened with molasses and Vermont maple with tomatoes, which bring just a touch of smoky flavor and a light acidity. If smoked tomatoes are a bit out of reach, substitute roasted or grilled tomatoes.” — Dan Miele, head chef of Bluebird Barbecue in Burlington, VT

 

Grated Summer Squash Salad 

“This dish is great for home gardeners with bumper crops of squash and zucchinis. You can grate squash with a few carrots for color, salt for 15 minutes, squeeze off excess liquids, and toss with bottled salad dressing or just a fresh squeeze of lime juice, drizzle of olive oil, chopped basil, mint, scallions, and salted nuts for a healthy summer side dish.” — Sophina Uong, chef of Mister Mao in New Orleans

Charred Green Beans

“This is one of my favorite summer side dishes because it can be prepared in less than 20 minutes, requires only a handful of ingredients, and can be served hot or at room temperature. Toss with a simple vinaigrette made from tomatoes, which are best enjoyed when they are at peak during the summer.” — Nina Compton, chef and owner of Compère Lapin and Bywater American Bistro in New Orleans

 

Grilled Asparagus

“Grilled asparagus is my ultimate go-to. Salt, olive oil, asparagus—that’s all you need. Bend the stalks and discard the bottom that snaps off, and give them a quick rinse to get rid of any lingering sand. Toss them in some olive oil and a good pinch of salt, then place straight on the grill. They don’t take any time at all—2 to 3 minutes—so they make for a good last-minute side. I’m lucky if they make it to the table! Anything leftover is great chopped up and tossed into a pasta salad.” — Brian Yurko, chef de cuisine at Queensyard in NYC

Yellow Heirloom Tomatoes with Yellow Watermelon and Fresh Basil

“I’d never had an heirloom tomato until we opened Uchi and found some incredible farms to help with our seasonal daily menu selections. A play on a Caprese salad, with the incredible sweetness and texture of yellow heirloom tomatoes, is such a nice complement to super sweet summertime watermelon and the delicious combination of fresh green herbs like basil or ooba (shiso). I love it simply like this with some great aged balsamic, but adding cheese like mozzarella is always an option, too.” — Tyson Cole, executive chef and founder of Uchi Restaurants

Vegetable Tian

“In the summertime, when you go to the markets of Provence, you will find yellow and green zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, onions, and peppers. A vegetable tian is a simple preparation you can eat either hot or cold. All the vegetables are sliced and baked in olive oil, then layered in a dish lined with cooked onions, peppers, and garlic. It is the perfect summer side dish that can go well with any roasted or grilled meat, fish, or even eggs for brunch. To make it a more hearty, vegetarian dish, you can add sliced potatoes to the mix.” — Daniel Boulud, chef and restaurateur

Gazpacho

“For me, summer is all about great fresh produce—fruits and vegetables are growing so fast, you almost can’t keep up! One of our favorite ways to utilize these vegetables is in a refreshing gazpacho. Blend up your tomatoes, bell peppers, and cucumbers with a little garlic, sherry vinegar, good extra-virgin olive oil, and a splash of Spanish oloroso sherry and enjoy!” — Justin DePhillips, head chef of José Andrés’s Jaleo Chicago

“Take a break from red tomatoes and go green instead with zucchini, cucumber, green peppers, tomatillos, basil, parsley, chives—you name it. Because what grows together, goes together. Here’s your chance to nose-to-tail the whole garden in one refreshing shot.” — Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of Blue Hill at Stone Barns in NY

F&W Recipe: Summertime Gazpacho

Succotash

“How can you go wrong with sweet summer corn, ripe tomatoes, and beans? There are dozens of different ways you can make it your own; I like to add okra, fresh oregano, and cayenne to mine. Add some shrimp or andouille sausage the next day and your succotash is officially the main dish!” — Jammir Gray, executive chef of Compline in Napa Valley

“Succotash is a simple, fresh dish that embodies summertime. I make variations of it all summer long based on what is growing in the garden or what I have at home. I mix up the herbs and vegetables, and pair it with everything from fish to beef. Leftovers are versatile, too, and can be turned into a salad or mixed with scrambled eggs for breakfast.” — Rachel Haggstrom, chef at JUSTIN Winery in Paso Robles, CA

Ceviche

“You can’t go wrong with a side ceviche in the summer. Use freshly squeezed citrus, ripe fruit, and the best quality fish, and you’ll have a great dish every time.” — Jimmy Lebron, executive chef of Bar Lab restaurants, which includes Margot Natural Wine & Aperitivo in Miami

“The versatility of a Peruvian ceviche comes from its simplicity. From this basic recipe, you can explore and make your own versions. The most important thing to have in mind is to find the balance of flavor and textures; acidity should be there but never overpower, there should be just enough spiciness to enhance aromas, and it is really important to serve ceviche cold.” — Diego Muñoz, chef de cuisine of POPULAR and Cantina & Pisco Bar at PUBLIC hotel in NYC

Grilled Peaches and Plums

“I like to char peaches and plums quickly over high heat and then let them come down to room temperature and have them simply seasoned with really good olive oil, sumac or tajín, and lemon juice. Then, I top them with bright herbs like cilantro, basil, or mint, and, to top it off, I add stracciatella cheese and nice, country-style ciabatta.” — Niven Patel, chef and director of culinary at Mamey Miami and Orno at THesis Hotel Miami

“At The Grocery, we roast peaches in our wood-burning oven, but they can certainly be grilled. We like to pair them with roasted shishito or padrón peppers to add a little kick; some torn basil; crumbled goat cheese for some creamy acidity; and toasted pecan for texture. For an added bonus, drizzle the whole plate with some really good olive oil, sprinkle with some coarse finishing salt, and spritz with just a whisper of aged sherry vinegar.” — Kevin Johnson, executive chef and owner of The Grocery in Charleston, SC

Corn Salad

“My go-to summer side is a Tex Mex-inspired corn salad: grilled corn, grilled poblanos or jalapeños, cilantro, onions, vinegar, and oil. It’s easy, perfect when served chilled or right after it’s made, and great for leftovers. You barely need to follow a recipe, and you can sub out different types of onions and peppers (or skip the cilantro) and it will be just as good.” — Liz Solomon Dwyer, founder of King David Tacos in Brooklyn

“In the height of summer, a corn, tomato, and basil salad with a bracing red wine vinaigrette and lots of freshly ground pepper seems to be on my counter pretty much every night. To me, it is an ode to the season, and matches with pretty much everything you put next to it. It’s also a 10-minute, start-to-finish delight.” — Hugh Acheson, James Beard Award winner and chef at Ovide at Hotel Effie in FL

Coleslaw

“My go-to summer side dish takes you away from the mayo-laden classic coleslaw. This one brightens up the table with passion fruit pulp (for added crunch, keep the seeds in it, if you can find fresh passion fruit). I then add julienned jicama, mint, rainbow carrots, and purple and green cabbage. It’s fantastic with any kind of taco, pork, shrimp, or chicken.”  Cindy Hutson, chef of Cervecería La Tropical Miami in Wynwood

Heirloom Tomato Salad

“In summer, I recommend heirloom tomatoes with marinated Persian cucumbers, avocado, cilantro, and lime. It’s a nicely marinated summer bounty that can accompany anything on a hot day.” — Henry Zamora, chef of Tacos Güey in NYC

“One of my favorite things to cook right now is simply a salad of fresh heritage tomatoes that are beautifully seasoned and served with a chunk of sourdough bread. Voilà!” — Raymond Blanc OBE, founder of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, A Belmond Hotel, Oxfordshire in England

Ratatouille

Ratatouille is a dish requires a lot of knife work, but it’s worth it. It’s best if it’s made a day in advance, and it lasts a few days in the fridge. It’s like money in the bank for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.” — Jonathan Benno, chef and partner of Leonelli Restaurant & Bakery in NYC; Michelin-starred BENNO in NYC; and Cafe Leonelli in Houston, TX

“Ratatouille utilizes peak summer veggies, concentrating their flavors into a glorious, silky side. I love it on crusty bread with fresh basil as an appetizer.” — Caroline Schiff, pastry chef of Gage & Tollner, executive chef at Slow Up, and author of “The Sweet Side of Sourdough”

Sautéed Zucchini with Mint

“Sautéed zucchini with mint is a super simple dish that will impress all your guests by showing off this peak season produce. At Rosemary’s, we caramelize the zucchini and serve with chopped mint—both from our rooftop garden. The fresher the zucchini, the better!” — Michael Han, executive chef of Rosemary’s West Village in NYC

Labneh with Charred Habaneros

Labneh is a great option for a side dish. I like to add charred habaneros, a little lime zest, and salt. You can serve with any of your favorite raw veggies. My favorite are radishes, but this can also be served with bread. You can also dress a plate with spicy labneh and grilled carrots and top with La Boîte Urfa—a delicious, smoky-sweet, mildly hot chile.” — Valerie Chang, chef at B-Side by Itamae and Itamae Miami 

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