It’s hardly a picnic without potato or pasta salad, but even if they are made to perfection, not everyone is into mayo-based salads.
Of course, you can make these quintessential Fourth of July salads with olive oil instead of mayonnaise, but maybe your guests aren’t eating gluten or carbs. Perhaps your family is the kind that spats over whether boiled eggs, pickles or onions belong in the salad in the first place. Or maybe you hope to serve a more nutrient-dense side dish to balance out all the hot dogs and hamburgers.
No matter your reason for looking for alternative sides, we have collected six side dishes, including a fruit salad, that will keep your Independence Day party a little more interesting. Some of these salads having dressings that you could mix and match with other salad fixings, while others, like those potato bacon skewers, are heavy enough to serve on their own, especially if you add a few more kinds of vegetables on the skewers.
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Tomato, Cucumber and Green Bean Salad with Walnut Dressing
In this summer salad, the walnuts are ground with garlic to make a creamy dressing before they are blended with the olive oil and vinegar. This simple but distinctive dressing can be adapted with different kinds of nuts or summer vegetables, including thinly sliced raw summer squash instead of cucumber.
1/3 cup broken walnut pieces
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tsp. coarse salt
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 lb. green beans, stem ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch lengths
2 large firm ripe plum tomatoes, quartered and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup thinly sliced (lengthwise) red onion
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
Combine the walnuts, garlic and salt in a food processor and blend until finely ground. If preferred, the walnuts, garlic and salt can be pounded into a paste with a mortar and pestle. Combine the walnut mixture, oil and vinegar in a salad bowl and whisk until blended.
Cook the green beans in boiling salted water until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain well, rinse with cold water, spread on a dish towel, and pat dry. Add the green beans, tomatoes, onion, cucumber and herbs to the walnut dressing and toss to blend. Serves 4.
— From “Whole World Vegetarian” by Marie Simmons (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $23)
Edamame and Quinoa Salad
Alive with color, this quick, nutritious salad can be prepared with other whole grains, such as millet, amaranth or spelt, for variety.
For the Thai salad dressing:
4 Tbsp. lime juice
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 to 2 hot green chilies, chopped
1 Tbsp. agave syrup
1 garlic clove, finely chopped or crushed
1 Tbsp. rapeseed oil
For the salad:
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 cup edamame beans or peas (frozen or fresh)
1/2 cucumber, cut into small chunks
1 large carrot, cut into long thin strips or strands with a julienne peeler or spiralizer
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 bunch coriander, roughly chopped
Salt, to taste
Whisk together the salad dressing ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Put the quinoa in a saucepan with the measured water and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid and cook for 10–12 minutes until just tender.
While the quinoa is cooking, cook the edamame beans or peas in a saucepan of salted boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain and rinse under cold running water. Add the salad vegetables to a large bowl and add the edamame.
When the quinoa is cooked, rinse under cold running water and drain well. Mix the quinoa with the salad vegetables and coriander and stir in the dressing before serving. Serves 2.
— From “Itsu 20 Minute Suppers” by Julian Metcalf and Blanche Vaughan (Mitchell Beazley, $24.99)
Mediterranean Bean Salad
For the vinaigrette:
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
1 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the salad:
2 (14. oz.) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 (14. oz.) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 (14 oz.) cans cooked garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 English cucumber, cut into large dice
4 Roma tomatoes, cut into large dice
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
Add all the dressing ingredients except for the oil in a bowl and whisk together. Drizzle in the oil while continuing to whisk.
In a large bowl, combine the beans and the vegetables. Pour the vinaigrette over the mixture and toss to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
— Austin Catering
This is a dairy-free take on creamed spinach. Instead of using milk or cream, use cashews, miso and nutritional yeast to make it a super-nutritious and delicious side dish. Serve with grilled or seared seafood or on its own for a hearty protein-rich vegan dish. Spinach or Swiss chard can be substituted for kale.
2 large bunches of kale, de-stemmed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Sea salt to taste
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/4 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups full-fat canned coconut milk
3/4 cup raw cashews, covered in water and simmered for 30 minutes, then drained
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp. white miso
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 Tbsp. coconut oil
Put the chopped kale in a mixing bowl with the lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Rub the kale between your hands for a few minutes, massaging the leaves until they have a silky texture. Set aside.
Heat the broth in a small pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.
Transfer the seasoned broth to a blender or food processor. Add the coconut milk, cashews, nutritional yeast, miso, and nutmeg and puree until smooth. In a medium sauté pan, heat the coconut oil and sauté the kale until fully cooked. Add the coconut milk mixture and reduce until the sauce has thickened. Serve immediately. The final product should be loose but not soupy. Serves 4 to 6.
— From “Eat Drink Shine: Inspiration from Our Kitchen: Gluten-free and Paleo-friendly Recipes by the Blissful Sisters” by Jennifer Emich, Jessica Emich and Jill Emich (Kyle Books, $29.95)
Grilled Potato, Onion and Bacon Skewers
This is a smack-your-forehead, wish-I’d-thought-of-it, glad-someone-else-did dish that could just as easily be hors d’oeuvres or even breakfast with a side of fried eggs. Because you parboil the small spuds to barely tender while the grill heats up, the skewers don’t take long to cook. They are simply dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper, but you can spice things up as you like.
We tested this using a chimney starter and charcoal grill; if you have a gas grill or are relying on a stove top and a grill pan, you’ll beat the 40-minute time estimate.
— Bonnie S. Benwick
30 thin-skinned whole potatoes, each no larger than a table-tennis ball
1 Tbsp. plus 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 medium onion
About 6 oz. thick-cut bacon
3 Tbsp. unseasoned rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Leaves from 4 stems flat-leaf parsley (optional)
Flaked sea salt, for serving
Prepare a grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (450 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them under the cooking area for direct heat. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for about 4 or 5 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Lightly coat the grill rack with oil and place it on the grill.
Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with water by about 2 inches. Add the tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to medium and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or just until the potatoes are fork-tender.
Meanwhile, cut the onion into 1-inch chunks; separate the layers. Cut the bacon into 1-inch pieces.
Drain the potatoes in a colander set in the sink; immediately splash the vinegar over them and toss gently to coat. Transfer to a large bowl, then add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, onion and bacon pieces and the oil. Toss gently to coat.
Thread 2 pieces of the onion, a piece of bacon and a potato onto 1 skewer, forming a tight grouping. Repeat to fill that skewer, then repeat to fill the remaining skewers using the remaining ingredients.
Place the skewers on the grill and close the lid; cook for 10 to 20 minutes, turning as needed for even and light charring.
Chop the parsley while the skewers are cooking.
Transfer the skewers to a platter; scatter the parsley over the top, if using, and drizzle with a little more oil, if desired. Sprinkle with flaked sea salt; serve warm. Serves 6.
— Adapted from “Camp Sunset: A Modern Camper’s Guide to the Great Outdoors” by the editors of Sunset magazine (Oxmoor House, $24.95)
Fresh Fruit with Celery Seed Dressing
Julia Reed, author of “Julia Reed’s South: Spirited Entertaining and High-Style Fun All Year Long,” says she copied this recipe — a mainstay at gatherings when she was growing up in Mississippi — from her mother’s handwritten files and has made it since she was in college. Change the combination of fruits to suit your liking. The dressing and prepped fruit can be refrigerated, separately, a day in advance.
For the dressing:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. powdered mustard
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup vegetable oil or other neutral-flavored oil, such as canola
For the fruit:
1 ripe cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 (10 oz.) bunch green seedless grapes
1 (10 oz.) bunch red seedless grapes
Scant 1 lb. strawberries, hulled and cut into halves or quarters, as needed (2 generous cups)
For the dressing: Combine the sugar, celery seed, salt, powdered mustard and paprika in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the balloon-whisk attachment or a hand-held electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed for a minute or two, then pour in the vinegar. On medium-high speed, gradually drizzle in the oil, beating until thick and emulsified, to form a shiny dressing. The yield is a scant 1 2/3 cups.
For the fruit: Combine the cantaloupe, pineapple, green and red grapes and strawberries in a large serving bowl. Toss the fruit with the dressing, or serve it on the side. Serves 10.
— Adapted from “Julia Reed’s South: Spirited Entertaining and High-Style Fun All Year Long,” by Julia Reed (Rizzoli, $50)