Life » Culture

Three no-fail side salads to bring to any backyard BBQ

By

A trio of summer sides: potato salad, pasta salad, and macaroni salad. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • A trio of summer sides: potato salad, pasta salad, and macaroni salad.
Have you ever been invited to a backyard BBQ or block party, asked the host if you can bring anything, and been given the anxiety-inducing task of preparing a side dish for everyone to share? Of course you have, and you will again. But don’t fret next time. We’ve got you covered with three easy-to-prepare, crowd-pleasing side salads.

These no-fail salads are familiar cookout staples — potato, pasta, and macaroni salads — but with unique twists on ingredients so that you won’t have to worry about someone else bringing an identical dish to the party. For example, I prefer to use avocado oil mayo as a substitute for regular mayonnaise. It’s healthier and has a richer, creamier flavor, and better texture.

The best part is these recipes are simple enough to be whipped up on short notice with little effort. Each can easily be expanded by doubling the ingredients or modified to your own liking by adding in more vegetables or protein of your choice. Have fun!

PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
MOM'S HEIRLOOM POTATO SALAD
My mother’s potato salad is the stuff of local legend. Her version is a riff on her grandmother’s equally-famous potato salad. The following recipe is my attempt to capture the generational magic of these concoctions — although they are utterly impossible to accurately reproduce because there is no written recipe — for a crowd-pleasing addition to any summer gathering.

Serves 6-8
You will need:
8-10 medium to large red potatoes (boiled, peeled and chopped into cubes)
1 medium red onion (small diced)
6-8 hard boiled eggs (peeled and cut into quarters)
2 ribs of celery (chopped into small wedges)
1 tablespoon of fresh chives (finely chopped)
1 tablespoon of fresh parsley (chopped)
1 cup of avocado oil mayo (more to taste)
2 tablespoons of white vinegar (or Dijon mustard)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large mixing bowl starting at room temperature (or chilled) combine all the ingredients and mix well, taste-testing and fine-tuning the salt, pepper, and vinegar (or mustard) as needed. Served chilled.

PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
THE BEST PASTA SALAD
This pasta salad is my go-to for every summer gathering. It is quick and easy to make ahead of time, and always shocks in its simplicity, minimal ingredients, and fresh, bright flavors. You can jazz it up by adding green olives, capers, marinated baby octopus, or artichokes, if you want to experiment; but I think less is more with this dish.



Serves 6-8
You will need:
1 pound of pasta (radiatore or farfalle are best) cooked al dente
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley (finely chopped)
3-4 tablespoons fresh basil (roughly chopped)
1/2 cup of sundried tomatoes (or 1 cup fresh chopped tomatoes)
1 large ball of fresh mozzarella (cut into small cubes + 1 tablespoon of the brine)
3 cloves of fresh garlic (finely chopped)
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper (to taste)

Prepare the fresh ingredients while the pasta is cooking. As soon as the pasta is finished and drained, immediately combine all the ingredients and cover. Let rest at least one hour so the flavors can marry before serving. Serve at room temperature.


PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
MACARONI SALAD THAT DOESN'T SUCK (More than just mayo)
Macaroni salad is a ubiquitous side dish of summer. But it is unfortunately more often than not a flat, mayo- and ketchup-based concoction sprinkled with celery and shredded carrots in a pathetic attempt to jazz it up. My version ratchets up the flavor with a Tex-Mex flair that is sure to delight. You can experiment with additional ingredients such as black beans, shredded roasted chicken, and slices of fresh jalapeños.

Serves 6-8
You will need
1 pound of al dente cooked pasta (small elbow is best)
1 cup of avocado oil mayo
1/4 cup of sour cream
1/2 red onion (finely chopped)
1 10-oz can of diced tomatoes with green chilies (drained)
1 3.8-oz can of sliced black olives (drained)
1 tablespoon of Goya adobo seasoning (or to taste)
2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro (finely chopped)
3-4 strips of well-cooked bacon (crumbled)
Salt & pepper (to taste)

In a large mixing bowl starting at room temperature (or chilled) combine all the ingredients and mix well, taste testing and fine tuning the salt, pepper, and mayo. Let sit at least one hour so the flavors can marry before serving. Serve chilled.

J. Nevadomski is the author of the long-running "Highlife for Lowlifes" series and is a food and culture contributor to CITY.

Feedback on this article can be directed to Rebecca Rafferty, CITY's life editor, at becca@rochester-citynews.com.