It’s official. Summer barbecue season has begun!

Grill Season Side Dishes

Angie Sutton,

It’s official. Summer barbecue season has begun! We went for a family walk this past weekend and the air was filled with the aroma of a variety of meat cuts cooking atop hot charcoal briquettes. Neighbors waved from their patios or decks as we walked by. Kids were playing in the yard. It seems as if we’ve emerged from winter hibernation in our homes to enjoying one of life’s simple pleasures – backyard barbecue!

I recall being about 10 years old and watching my dad pile up the little charcoal bricks just so inside of an old tin coffee can. The can’s top and bottom were removed and he’d made little vent holes in the sides for air to circulate and encourage the initial flame. After the engineering of the pyramid, he would soak them down good with lighter fluid. There is a required amount of time for the fluid to soak in before lighting the match he told me, explaining what would happen if you rushed it. Finally it was time to fire it up. Little did I know that we still had quite a bit of time to wait before those mouthwatering hot dogs were ready to devour.  Patience was not my virtue.

I can appreciate when my husband rolls our pellet-powered smoker and grill out and flips the switch. He’s in charge of all things grill related. Particularly because I found I’m not tall enough to open the lid completely. Whether he’s cooking something slow and low like succulent smoked pork ribs or a quick-to-the-table dish like hamburgers, I’ve got the perfect sides to go with it! The best part is most side dishes can be made in advance so I can sit and enjoy my iced tea.

I like to take advantage of the fresh crop in the herb garden I have growing just outside my back door. Many recipes call for a bit of fresh dill or a handful of cilantro. My favorite is sweet basil! My sister brought me a wonderful bottle of aged balsamic vinegar from her recent visit to California. So I’ve been obsessed with adding a bit of that in many recipes as well.

The key to a winning side dish in our home is versatility. When we don’t have fresh tomatoes, onions, potatoes or cucumbers available in the garden, we must adjust to what is freshly in stock at the local grocery. The kids are sometimes picky about over-seasoned side dishes so I often divide a recipe and make a separate bowl with amped up flavor for the adults.  

Dessert is appreciated by the brood, so a simple rustic crostata with fresh colorful fruit is the answer. On my website, I’ll be testing some new ideas for on-the-grill desserts. Don’t overlook the simplicity of slicing a juicy watermelon for dessert so you too can enjoy family time (instead of slaving in the kitchen!)

So fire up the grill, gather the family, relax and enjoy outdoor cooking season!

Tomato and Cucumber Salad

I prefer to seed my cucumbers before using in this recipe. I’ve substituted Turbinado sugar for granulated to add a golden color. Fresh basil is a good substitute for dill weed.


1/4 c. cider vinegar

2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

1 tsp. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. chopped fresh dill weed

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 cucumbers, peeled, cubed

1/2 medium white onion, sliced

1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved

2 c. mozzarella cheese, cubed small


1. In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the first 8 ingredients.

2. Combine the last 4 ingredients in a large bowl.

3. Pour liquid mixture over the salad, and toss lightly. Chill for at least an hour.


The Best Coleslaw Ever

This coleslaw is an alternate to the traditional creamy version! It’s a simple mix of ingredients! You can use bagged shredded coleslaw, but I recommend using a food processor to chop it smaller.


½ c. mayonnaise

1/3 c. granulated sugar

¼ c. milk

¼ c. buttermilk

2 ½ Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 ½ Tbsp. white vinegar

1 tsp. celery seed

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

8 c. finely chopped cabbage (about 1 head)

¼ c. shredded carrots

2 Tbsp. onion, minced


1. Cabbage and carrots should be finely chopped (think a grain of rice).

2. Combine the first 9 ingredients in a large bowl and beat until smooth.

3. Stir in the cabbage, carrots and onion; mix well.


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