10 Summer Side Dishes You Can Make From Your Garden

A BACKYARD BOUNTY

There is nothing fresher than food that makes its way straight from the backyard to the dining room table. Get the most out of your vegetable garden and cut grocery costs by incorporating homegrown produce into as many summer meals as possible. Here are 10 simple side dish recipes that transform summer veggies into the star of the meal.

CUCUMBER AND TOMATO SALAD

Use Big Boy, heirloom, cherry, or any type of tomatoes on the vine for this refreshing summer salad. Cut as many or as few ripe tomatoes and cucumbers as you need to feed everyone at the table (aim for about half cucumbers and half tomatoes). Then add a splash of vinegar and olive oil, plus salt and pepper to taste, and that's it. If desired, add onion slices and mint or basil sprigs if they're on hand. Soak the vegetables in the dressing for at least an hour for a more intensely flavored salad.

CILANTRO-CORN SALSA

This versatile salsa can be used as a dip with tortilla chips or as a condiment layered over fish, chicken, burritos, or tacos. Cut the kernels off two corncobs to equal about 1.5 cups. Add one to two diced jalapeños, depending how spicy you like your salsa, along with one-third cup chopped red onion, three-quarters cup chopped cilantro, the juice of two limes, salt, and pepper. Be sure to refrigerate, preferably overnight, to let the flavors blend together.

TOMATO-BASIL BAKE

For this quintessential summer side dish, halve about 1 pound of cherry tomatoes. (A hack to faster slicing, courtesy of Food52, calls for sandwiching a layer of tomatoes between two tops from plastic containers and running the knife through the center.) In a bowl, mix tomatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, pepper, and two cloves minced garlic (plus or minus some depending on your fondness for garlic). Transfer the tomato mixture into a baking dish and broil until the tomatoes are soft, about 12 minutes. Combine one-third cup bread crumbs and 2 tablespoons melted butter; pour over the tomatoes and broil another 30 seconds. Sprinkle chopped fresh basil and optional grated Parmesan cheese over the bake just before serving.

SUMMER VEGGIE SLAW

This refreshing slaw, which really follows no recipe, can be a side dish or a topping for burgers or hot dogs. Using a box grater, peeler, or mandoline, thinly slice strips of vegetables at your disposal, such as zucchini, yellow squash, or bell peppers. Toss with a bit of olive oil and lemon juice, incorporating basil, black pepper, or shredded cheese for a slightly different flavor profile.

ZUCCHINI CAKES

The ultimate bargain vegetable, one large zucchini can yield up to eight zucchini patties. Grate one large zucchini or two smaller ones onto a thick layer of paper towels. Don't skip the next step: squeezing as much liquid from the grated vegetable as possible. In a bowl, combine the zucchini with one-half cup Parmesan cheese, 1 cup bread crumbs, one-quarter teaspoon paprika, one minced garlic clove, one egg, salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. Mix thoroughly and make into patties. Heat 2 tablespoons canola oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Carefully lower patties into warm oil and cook three to four minutes per side or until golden brown. Serve with ranch dressing or sour cream.
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BRUSCHETTA

Tomatoes and basil are the star of this Italian appetizer that can do double duty as a side. Finely chop a few tomatoes with a handful of basil leaves. Add to a bowl and toss the mixture with olive oil, salt, and pepper; let sit for at least 30 minutes. Serve piled high on pieces of toasted French bread.

ROASTED SQUASH

One of the easiest side dishes to pull off, roasted squash is even more satisfying when made from your own garden harvest. Place half-inch slices of summer squash or zucchini (or both) on a large baking sheet and drizzle with a thin layer of olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees until the slices are soft and semi-caramelized, about 20 to 30 minutes.

PEAS WITH BACON

Jazz up garden peas with a pop of porky flavor. Finely chop a few slices of bacon and cook in a small pot until almost crisp, eight to 10 minutes. Stir in peas and about 1 tablespoon of chicken stock (or water plus a dab of powdered chicken bouillon). Cook just a few minutes until peas are tender. Season with salt and pepper and serve as a side with dinner.

VEGGIE KABOBS

Break out the grill and char all those garden vegetables. Thread chunks of bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, or just about anything else onto kabob skewers. Add variety with slices of meat or fruit, or a heavy sprinkling of chili powder. Drizzle with olive oil and cook on a grill heated to medium-high using time guidelines found online at sites such as My Recipes.

LEMON-GARLIC GREEN BEANS

Into a wok or a large sauté pan warmed on high heat, stir freshly picked green beans, 1 heaping tablespoon of garlic, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss using tongs, adding a little salt, pepper, and lemon juice until the beans are just soft, only a few minutes. Dish out and enjoy with an entree.