Just in case you didn’t know what to take to that barbecue you’re invited to for the 4th of July, here are a few suggestions of my favorite side dish salads. No surprise that they all involve oil and vinegar rather than mayonnaise, since that’s what I grew up eating and that’s my family’s preference. But the herbs and other ingredients in the dressings are different in each case. Even so, it could be kind of boring to eat all salads with only oil and vinegar-based dressing. If the shindig is at my house, I try to serve some other side dish that doesn’t involve the ubiquitous oil and vinegar, like deviled eggs, grilled zucchini or couscous. I’ve even been known to buck tradition and make potato salad with mayonnaise. Don’t worry if you throw caution to the wind too - they won’t take away your Italian citizenship or close the doors to St. Peter’s on you.
In the photo above, open a 15 oz. can of cannellini beans. Put into a colander and wash out all the goop that’s surrounding the beans. Drain and put in a bowl, along with some halved grape tomatoes, a couple of chopped scallions, a small handful of chopped parsley, a couple of cloves of minced garlic, salt and pepper, olive oil and vinegar. Use any kind of vinegar you like – I sometimes pick red wine vinegar, other times white balsamic vinegar and other times sherry vinegar. Depends on what’s on hand and how the mood strikes me. I have been steering away from regular balsamic vinegar since I don’t like the dark color it imparts to a salad. I ALWAYS use good extra-virgin olive oil in salads since the flavor is front and center. With the addition of a drained can of tuna, this salad also makes a great lunch or dinner.
For the following dish, peel and cut carrots into stick shapes. Cook until tender and cool. The dressing is simply oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and lots of chopped dill.
This broccoli salad is one of my favorite summertime salads. People don’t expect the flavor sensation from this dressing and they always ask what’s in it. Capers is the mysterious ingredient lending the unusual taste. Just clean your broccoli (I peel the stalks), boil in some water until just barely tender, then drain and let sit in cold water to stop the cooking. Drain and mix with a dressing made of the following: olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, chopped capers, chopped onion, lots of chopped parsley. No exact measurements in any of these recipes because it’s not rocket science, it’s just salad and you can use any proportion you like of oil to vinegar and however many herbs, salt and pepper that tickles your gullet. I generally like a 3 to 1 ratio of oil to vinegar, but other people prefer 2 to 1 or something different. You’re the cook so follow your taste buds.