Grillin' and Chillin'; Super Sides to Kick Off the Unofficial Start of Summer
It's almost the unofficial start of Summer!!! Warm days, longer nights, fire pits, barbecues, pool days, weekends at the shore... and delicious food hot off the grill! If you are like me, you can't wait to change up the menu a little. Don't get me wrong, I am a true fan of comfort food but every year at this time my thoughts turn to lighter fare, less of using the oven and stovetop and more of outside cooking and raw sauces and fresh salads.
If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I am a big lover of vegetables (although I never turn down a juicy burger) and a serious lover of avocados and Mediterranean flavors. The first thing I think about when it comes time for grilling season is grilling zucchini and eggplant. I ABSOLUTLY love grilled zucchini and eggplant. I love it alone with a nice piece of ciabatta, on top of a field green salad with a light dressing, or on a sandwich with fresh mozzarella and a balsamic drizzle. I am starting to sound like a Dr Seuss book... basically I would it here or there or anywhere.
DO NOT be intimated by grilling veggies... it's super simple to make and only require four ingredients (plus kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper...but those are always a given for me). For every 2 medium eggplant and every 4 zucchini you just need the following ingredients:
2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1/8 - 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (depending on your "heat-liking" level)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 freshly ground black pepper
First, and probably the most important is to make sure that you cut the veggies thick enough where they won't disintegrate on the grill. Cutting them about 1/8 inch thick will do the trick. Place them in a Ziploc bag with all the above ingredients and massage it in lightly to make sure that all the veggies are coated with the oil. Sometimes they may need a little more oil and you can add that it a tablespoon at a time. NOTE: if you are not a spicy fan, omit the red pepper flakes. Grill them up on a hot seasoned grill about 1-2 minutes per side. I like to top both my eggplant and zucchini with some roasted red bell pepper slices, crumbled feta cheese, chopped kalamata olive and some extra fresh flat leaf parsley with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil ...but you can add whatever topping you would like. You can make a killer veg platter of this was any outdoor gathering. It makes a great side to just about anything!
If you are looking for more classic side dishes for the upcoming BBQ season, I've got you covered! You can always check out my Classic Coleslaw or creamy Potato Salad. These are always a big hit! If you are looking for a not-so run-of-the-mill salad than you have make this Edamame and Black Bean Salad. I make it with this citrus soy dressing that is somewhat addictive. And the longer it sits, the better it gets. If you're not a bean fan, my Mediterranean Couscous Salad is equally delicious. The best part about both of these salads is that there are no ingredients that spoil. So they are perfect for an all-day BBQ or an afternoon picnic. If you are looking to shake up your sides than trying my Broccoli Kale Slaw is a MUST! It's creamy, it's crunchy, it's slightly sweet and super yummy! This is a side you will definitely come back for seconds on. The dressing's base is mayonnaise with rice wine vinegar and lemon and then some sugar to add sweetness. It's the perfect balance of savory and sweet.
I can't finish this post off with out sharing this neat little grilling cheat sheet I put together. Print it out and put it near the grill to keep handy. Whether you are grilling up steak, chicken, pork or even some delicious fish on the grill... you will be sure to cook it perfect every time. Also, definitely invest in an instant-read thermometer. They area cooks life savers. You can get them anywhere from your local cooking shop to of course, Amazon.
Whatever you are grilling up these coming weeks, I hope you are surrounded by great company, many laughs and lots of memories and of course, some sunshine... because boy, do we all need some this year.