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Fun Add-Ons To Summer Meals

Outdoor meals and/or cold or semi-cold ones, in general, have a “fun” connotation. In addition to salads which compliment or complete the meal, regular side dishes and condiments, which indeed do perk up the taste, we look forward to sampling some extra side offerings, ideally lively combinations, to give zing by providing a sharply contrasting taste. These are the add-on dishes that make you remember that meal. For want of a better term, I’m going to call them “accompaniments’.

Now, I don’t mean fries with a burger or potato chips with cold chicken The type of side dish I’m talking about, though it is a carbohydrate, is usually a healthy vegetable or fruit based one with low impact on the caloric intake. Perhaps the absence of guilt over consequences increases our enjoyment, but in any case, most accompaniments are anticipated, welcome and quickly consumed.

Perhaps the appeal of accompaniments can best be explained by the fact that their recipes are usually found in the ”Relish” category. The name is self-descriptive. According to Webster the word defines a taste which gives pleasure by being distinctive, appealing, appetizing, enjoyable, peasant and zesty. That really says it all!

The funny thing about cold or semi-cold meals, especially if served and/or cooked outdoors, is that we get the featured item on our plates, a burger for example, and immediately look around for other foods to add on. If we were inside, we’d probably calculate the carbs and protein in the burger, not even consider having the second one, as we do outdoors, as well as take small portions of the other offerings, focusing on veggies. This is why these accompaniments are so helpful. They can satisfy the desire to eat more.

Accompaniments have a couple of other attributes too. They can endure exposure to hot weather, because, as a rule, they’re pickled, and children usually love them for their sweet-sour taste and crunchy texture. I’m providing 11 recipes for easy add-ons below. Some, you may notice can be served as, or made into salads. Others, like the melon salsa might be crisper kept chilled, but all will remain stable and safe in hot weather. Moreover, all are easily prepared, rather inexpensive to make and I’ve included the shelf life on each. Please remember, however, that NO food should be left standing in the heat for longer than 1 hour. So enjoy the summer meals but be safe.

Mushroom Salad: Serves 6
1 lb. button mushrooms
2 Tbs. oil
2 Tbs. white vinegar
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 tsp… red wine vinegar
2 tsp. honey
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
Clean the mushrooms by wiping with a damp cloth and snap off stems. Save for another use or cook with caps. Toss mushrooms with the next 2 ingredients and bake on a foil lined sheet in a 350 deg. oven until they release their juice, about 5 min. Mix the other make a marinade. Drain the mushrooms, cool and toss with the marinade. Allow flavors to meld in the refrigerator several hours or overnight. Serve at room temperature. Keeps for several days chilled, but discard after serving.

Chinese Cucumber Pickle: Serves 4
1 lg. (at least 10 oz.) cucumber
1 jicama (3/4 lb.)
1 small carrot in 2 inch matchsticks
2 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. vinegar—preferably rice but white or cider will do
1 clove garlic-chopped
¼ tsp. each cayenne pepper and salt
Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, seed it and slice in ½ inch pieces. Peel and cut the jicama in ½ inch dice. Spray or heat oil in a skillet over medium heat until sizzling; add vegetables and toss until cucumber is bright green. Add other ingredients and stir to incorporate. Chill in glass or plastic at least 3 hrs. before serving. Keeps for several days chilled, but discard leftovers.

Melon Salsa: Serves 4- 6
½ cantaloupe- meat cut in 1 inch cubes
½ green bell pepper in ½ inch dice
1 small onion halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
½ tsp. lime zest
1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1 Tbs. chopped fresh min
1 Tbs. fresh mint leaves—a few extra for garnish
Toss all the ingredients in a salad bowl and chill for 30 min. before serving to let flavors meld
NOTE: Especially good with other meats than beef. Use at once.

Pickled Beets: Serves 4-6
(2) 15 oz. cans tiny whole beets – drained, juice reserved
3 Tbs. cider vinegar – or to taste
Combine beet juice, vinegar and sugar in a pot and bring to a simmer. Correct sweet-sour ratio to preference. Add beets and simmer for 5 min. Cool beets in broth then store, still in broth, garnished with chopped fresh chives. Save the beet juice! Keep chilled for 3 weeks.

Pickled Eggs: Allow 1 egg per person
Reserved beet juice from above recipe\
Hard boil and shell the eggs
Place eggs with beet juice to cover in a closed container and marinate in the refrigerator for several days and up to 2 weeks or possibly longer. Serve drained whole, halved or quartered. This is a recipe ethnic to Northern and Eastern Europe devised to preserve eggs for long periods, now considered a delicacy. Pickled eggs are colorful, ranging from pink to burgundy depending on marinating time, and taste mildly deviled. Best of all, they require no other ingredients. These are best served whole. The pickling gives the whites a protective coating which preserves the freshness of the yolks. They take several days to pickle and keeps chilled about 2 weeks.

Onions Rosemary: Serves 4-6
14oz. bag frozen pearl onions thawed OR 1 lb. fresh, skinned
1 Tbs. oil
2 tsp. powdered rosemary
Fresh rosemary for garnish – optional
If using fresh onions drop into boiling water for about 2 min, until water returns to a boil; drain and dry. Pour oil on a foil lined baking sheet; roll onions in oil to cover and sprinkle with rosemary, rolling to make sure they’re covered. Roast in a preheated 400 deg. oven for 15 – 20 min until beginning to brown. Serve at room temperature. If making ahead, store chilled. Serve within 2 days and discard leftovers.

Pickled Baby Corn: Serves 4-6
(2) 12 oz. jars of baby corn cobs
1 whole roasted red pepper (from a jar) halved crosswise and julienned
1/3 cup green “salad” or chopped olives
1 Tbs. oil
1 tsp. white vinegar
½ tsp. Dijon or spicy brown mustard
½ tsp. honey
Pinch turmeric—optional

Fresh ground black pepper to garnish
Place first 3 ingredients in a salad bowl; whisk next 5 together and pour over the corn mix. Toss gently and add a bit of the reserved corn juice if dressing seems stiff. Chill to marinate, tossing occasionally until ready to serve. Garnish with pepper. Keeps for weeks chilled, but discard after serving.

Tomatoes Basil: Serves 4
2 large “beefsteak” tomatoes OR 3 medium ones—ripe
1 Tbs. oil
1 tsp. garlic powder – or to taste
Salt to taste
2 tsp. dried basil OR
1 Tbs. chopped fresh basil leaves
Core and cut tomatoes in 1 inch dice. Toss gently with the other ingredients and ½ the fresh basil, if using. Allow to marinate, chilled for at least an hour, tossing occasionally. Serve garnished with the rest of the fresh basil. Use at once.

Pennsylvania Dutch Tomatoes: Serves 4
2 large “beefsteak” tomatoes or 3 medium ones
1 ½ Tbs. cider vinegar
1tsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
Peel tomatoes by plunging in boiling water for a few seconds. Remove the cores and cut each tomato into 4 thick slices. Begin layering slices in a flat bottomed dish or soup plate and top each layer with a bit of vinegar, then salt pepper and sugar, ending with the seasonings. Chill for several hours to marinate. Use at once.

Roasted Tomatoes: Serves 4
4 medium tomatoes
Cooking spray
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
¼ tsp. garlic powder or to taste
Pinch Kosher salt
2 Tbs. chopped fresh herbs or 1 Tbs. dried – Optional choices: basil, rosemary, oregano thyme
Chopped fresh chives – for garnish optional
Fresh ground black pepper
Core tomatoes and cut an “X” through the skin of the other end; place on a lightly sprayed, foil covered baking sheet,; brush with 1 Tbs. of oil and roast in a preheated 350 deg. oven for 20 min. Cool, gently remove skin and place on a serving plate. Whisk oil, vinegar and garlic and pour over tomatoes. Sprinkle with herb(s) of choice and a little salt’ Allow to marinate a few minutes, or chill, and serve garnished with chives and pepper. Use at once.
Watermelon Pickle:
1 Watermelon- Green rind peeled and meat removed. White rind cut in 1 inch cubes.
1 cup cider vinegar per pound
1 cup water per pound
1 ½ cup sugar per pound
3 inches stick cinnamon per pound
4 cloves per pound
1 Tbs. sliced ginger root per pound
Cover melon cubes with salted water and soak for 2 hrs. Drain and rinse well. Boil in fresh water until half tender, about 10 mins. Drain again and rinse in cool water. Weigh melon and measure the other ingredients into a pot accordingly and boil them for about ½ hr. until a syrup forms. Add drained melon rind and boil for another 10 mins. or until rind is crisp-tender. Allow to cool and pack cubes with syrup, including spices, to cover, into glass jars with secure fitting lids. Store refrigerated for up to a year.

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