It's summer, it's hot, and you're barbecueing to avoid heating the kitchen. Salads are the perfect accompaniment to barbecued meats of all sorts, from sauce-coated chicken and pork to skewered shrimp. Choose salads to contrast with the taste and texture of the main course. For spicy or sauced meats, creamy salads go well. For milder meats, tangier salads with robust flavors go well. Prepare salads without turning on the oven or stove and showcase some of the fresh garden produce available in summer.
An all-time favorite to serve at barbecues is potato salad. It seems as though each family has its own special recipe: with or without pickles, hard-boiled eggs, mustard; salad dressing versus mayonnaise; hot versus cold. It complements everything, and provided it doesn't contain too much salt, most people with restricted diets are able to eat it.
A second favorite is coleslaw. Again, there are endless variations on how to combine shredded cabbage and dressing with other vegetable ingredients. Confetti slaw incorporates shredded carrots, diced red and green peppers and red cabbage. Some coleslaws use a vinaigrette dressing instead of a mayonnaise- or sour cream-based one.
Macaroni salad is another creamy favorite that can be varied with what's in season.
Ethnic dishes have become very popular in everyday cooking. Add variety to barbecue offerings with a healthy Greek salad with feta cheese, incorporating tomatoes,cucumbers, red onion, green peppers, kalamata olives and feta cheese with a red wine vinegar dressing.
Milder-flavored chicken calls for a tangy salad like Moroccan orange, fennel and olive salad. The natural sweetness of fennel is paired with orange pieces, Kalamata olives, bitter salad greens and chives and topped with an orange-fennel vinaigrette.
A salad that pairs well with tuna is arugula, endive and shaved Parmesan.
Simple vegetables allowed to soak in a vinegar or vinegar-oil combination are refreshing barbeque menu items. Marinate cooked fresh garden green beans in a vinaigrette sauce with a dressing of sauteed diced onion and mushroom slices. Make colorful pickled beets or three-bean salad. Marinate cucumbers in a simple vinegar and water mixture and garnish with mint leaves. Slice beefsteak tomatoes and marinate in red wine vinegar and olive oil with touches of onion and basil.
The grill is going, so use it to also prepare the salad. Vegetables that take well to grilling are eggplants, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and bell peppers. Vegetables can be grilled whole, then chopped and combined with wine vinegar and olive oil dressing, or sliced and then grilled and combined with a favorite salad dressing. Most gardens give an abundance of zucchini, which grills very well. Julienne grilled zucchini slices and combine them with a lemon juice-olive oil dressing seasoned with parsley, garlic and mint.