07/28/2014 11:20 am ET Updated Mar 12, 2015

Sensational Summer Sides With Just 5 Ingredients

You already know the quickie versions of coleslaw and potato salad. These seasonal dishes are just as easy but definitely not as expected.

By Lynn Andriani

  • The Garden Celebration On A Platter
    Lynn Andriani
    If we had to pick the most-loved summer vegetables, they'd probably be the ones that chef Katie Hagan-Whelchel of Ad Hoc (one of Thomas Keller's restaurants in Yountville, CA), packs into this stunning yet simple salad. She layers tomato slices, peeled cucumber slices and grilled corn kernels that have all been seasoned liberally with olive oil, salt and pepper on a big plate, and scatters sliced red onion and basil leaves on top. Be sure to make it ahead of time for the best flavor.

    Get the recipe: Tomato Salad
  • The Totally Weird And Delicious Way to Eat Warm (Yes, Warm) Watermelon
    Jim Franco
    We had never considered eating watermelon at any temperature other than ice cold until we tried this untraditional salad; now, we're hooked. You puree the melon into a juice, and then warm it in a saucepan with onion, olive oil and vinegar. As it simmers, it thickens slightly and turns into a delightful dressing for chunks of (cold) watermelon piled with arugula, almonds and sliced scallions.

    Get the recipe: Watermelon, Arugula and Toasted Almond Salad
  • A Beloved Green-Bean Dish With A Seasonal Makeover
    Lucy Schaeffer
    This bright and fresh-tasting side takes the best elements of a classic green-bean casserole and gives them a summer update. You quickly cook the beans in a small amount of water, and then finish them in olive oil, so they're crisp-tender with a slight char. Fried shallots stand in for canned, fried onions and crumbled Pecorino cheese takes the place of a heavy mushroom sauce.

    Get the recipe: String Beans with Fried Shallots, Pecorino and Basil
  • The Classic Italian Snack You Didn't Know You Could Make At Home
    Ann Stratton
    You can buy jarred roasted peppers, but making your own is simple, and the results taste worlds better than any store-bought version. This recipe has you grill the peppers (they're practically impossible to overcook, since you want them charred on all sides), place them in a bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Once the vegetables have cooled, the blackened skin will peel right off. Toss them with oil, salt, pepper and bay leaves and let everything sit for an hour, and you'll wind up with sweet, smoky peppers that are a great accompaniment to grilled meats and nearly any Italian dish.

    Get the recipe: Grilled Peppers with Bay Leaves
  • Grilled Corn You Can Take In Any Direction
    Andrew Purcell
    Corn on the cob may not be the most substantial side, but it's a breeze turning it into one. This basic recipe has many variations; we particularly love the Mexican spin, which entails a cumin mayonnaise, crumbled Cotija cheese and chopped cilantro; and, the Italian option, with grated Parmesan, minced garlic and chopped parsley. They both highlight the beloved summer vegetable in a brand new way.

    Get the recipe: Grilled Corn with Toppings

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  • How To Make Supporting Acts That Steal The Show
    Ben Pieper Photography
    Like many of us, cookbook writer Tara Mataraza Desmond -- who's also the dinner planner for a family of five -- comes up with an idea for a main course and then thinks, "Okay, great -- now, what am I going to serve with it?" So, she wrote Choosing Sides, a book devoted entirely to salads, vegetables, grains, breads and more. The truth is, though, many of the recipes are so strong, they could steal the spotlight right from the main course. These Brussels sprouts are a perfect example: We often see the mini cabbages with bacon or pancetta, but Desmond turns to a new ingredient -- maple syrup -- to give them a toasty, caramel-like flavor. They'd be just as appropriate with a simple roast chicken as they would be on a holiday table.
    Get the recipe: Browned Brussels with Maple Butter
  • The Tropical Couscous
    Ben Pieper Photography
    We love Israeli couscous for its pastalike chewiness; the grains are bigger than semolina couscous, more like pearls, and when you cook them they take on a risotto-like texture (without all that standing at the stove, pouring and stirring). Desmond simmers the grains in coconut milk and water spiked with a dash of cayenne, so it's creamy and lightly spiced -- and terrific with any main that features Asian, Latin or tropical ingredients.
    Get the recipe: Coconut-Cilantro Toasted Israeli Couscous
  • Greens With Some Spice (And It's Not Red Pepper)
    When you feel like you have to put a green on the table, but you're kind of saladed out, turn to this ridiculously easy recipe, where you can make magic out of five ingredients (and one of them is water). Simply saute bits of dry chorizo, which has a smoky taste, in olive oil, pour in some water to help release any bits from the bottom of the pan and add inch-wide ribbons of chard (any variety works) and oregano. The greens shrink and wilt, turning silky and tender in just 10 minutes.
    Get the recipe: Chorizo Chard
  • Carrots That Taste Like Dessert
    Ben Pieper Photography
    Desmond glorifies humble carrots in this back-pocket recipe you can throw together at a moment's notice. She sautés them in butter, garlic and ginger, and then douses them in a honey-rice vinegar glaze. They're sweet and zippy, and would be ideal with anything from fried rice to chicken curry to pot roast.
    Get the recipe: Ginger-Honey Carrots
  • A Reason To Start Buying Persimmons
    Ben Pieper Photography
    We admit to walking right by the persimmons in the supermarket, wondering what on earth one actually does with one of the tomato-like yellow fruits. Turns out they're worth putting in your cart; because, when ripe, they're a great way to add color and sweet flavor to a winter salad that also includes pomegranate seeds, thinly sliced fennel and mixed greens. A handful of roasted and salted pistachios adds a nice crunchy element.
    Get the recipe: Persimmon, Pomegranate and Pistachio Salad
  • Biscuits That'll Make You Feel Like An Old Pro (Even If You're Not)
    Ben Pieper Photography
    Desmond isn't Southern, yet she learned to make buttery, multilayered, soft and tall biscuits from a friend, and has perfected a recipe that anyone can make. The secret's in the folding technique: you fold, press and cut once, which turns out biscuits with crunchy tops and bottoms and tender middles. You can serve them with classics like fried chicken or baked ham, or go rogue and put them alongside a lunchtime frittata or even chili.
    Get the recipe: Herbed Biscuits