So far this year the holidays have been sneaking up on me. Perhaps I just don’t look at a calendar frequently enough, but I am so ready for summer that I started looking ahead for Memorial Weekend back in mid-April.

I am a wuss when it comes to grilling in cold weather, and in fact, with all of the crazy wind storms we had over the winter, we moved our grill to a safer spot for times of non-use, and as of the day I was writing this, we had not yet moved it back into an accessible grilling location. But come Memorial Day Weekend, I will be ready!


For this week I wanted to look up some new and easy cookout sides. The beauty of cookout sides is that you really can make them to go with any meal, whether you’re having a party or grilling or not.

First up, I liked the sound of this cucumber lemon orzo salad. I’m not the biggest fan of orzo — that little rice-shaped pasta—because it doesn’t have much substance to it and so it can easily get overcooked and get a little slimy once sitting in a dressing. So don’t make this one (or dress it) ahead of time— serve it fresh and enjoy the cool taste of cucumber, chopped parsley, lots of lemon and mint.

Second, I appreciated this play on potato salad with potato salad “bites” made from gently scooping the cooked potatoes insides from the red potatoes, mixing it up with hardboiled eggs and the traditional potato salad ingredients, and then putting the potato salad back in the potato skin cups. Guests can choose whether to eat them with a fork or held in the hand like a deviled egg, but I think these make potato salad fun and take some of the guilt out of scooping a heaping portion of potato salad onto your plate.

Next, I liked this take on a Mexican corn salad because it included an addition of zucchini, plus you char the corn, zucchini and peppers on the grill to give them some smoky flavor. This recipe is quick, colorful and so fresh tasting—it’s got a great payoff for both the chef and the eaters.

And finally, because I know I get tired of a creamy coleslaw, I chose this rainbow slaw (made up of a red pepper, orange carrots, a yellow pepper, green sugar snap peas and red (actually purple) cabbage), with a honey sesame dressing. Make sure you make this one at least 20 minutes ahead of time so the dressing can work its magic on the cabbage, giving it a stir every now and then, even after you put it out for people to eat.

I know these four recipes make me hungry, and next week I’ll have some cookout meats to accompany them. Enjoy!

Cucumber lemon orzo salad

For the salad:

8 ounces orzo pasta

1 cup thinly chopped cucumber

1/2 cup chopped green onion

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup corn

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup lemon juice


3 tablespoons olive oil

For the dressing:

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons water

2 cloves garlic, mashed

A pinch of salt

3 tablespoons minced fresh mint

Cook the orzo according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Let it completely cool.

In a large bowl, combine the orzo with the rest of the ingredients.

In a small bowl, whisk together Greek yogurt, water, garlic, salt and minced fresh mint. Drizzle over the salad and serve immediately.

Potato salad bites

8 medium red potatoes halved

7 hardboiled eggs cooled, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon parsley

1/4 teaspoon paprika, plus some for sprinkling on top

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon white vinegar

Green onion, for garnish

Boil potato halves until cooked through, about 10-20 minutes depending on the size and thickness of your potatoes. Cool.

Of the 8 potatoes, scoop out the insides of 4 potatoes, leaving a thin shell. Try not to mash the potato too much (unless you like your potato salad with mashed potatoes). Chop potato removed from the center. Chop the remaining 4 potatoes into pieces for the potato salad as well.

Combine chopped potatoes, eggs, and remaining ingredients through vinegar. Stir well. Adjust seasonings as desired.

Spoon into hollowed potato halves. Garnish with paprika and chopped green onions.

Charred zucchini and sweet corn Mexican salad

For the salad:

3 medium zucchini, ends cut off and halved lengthwise

1 sweet pepper cored and cut in half

5 ears sweet corn husks removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small jalapeno pepper

1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

For the dressing:

1/4 cup lime juice

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon agave syrup

2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Rub zucchini, sweet pepper, and corn with olive oil.

Heat a grill to medium-high heat, then grill veggies directly on grates until zucchini and pepper are tender and corn is slightly charred. Remove from heat.

Dice zucchini and sweet pepper. Cut corn off of cob and toss zucchini, sweet pepper, corn, jalapeno pepper, and cilantro in a large bowl. Set aside.

Make the dressing: in a small bowl, whisk all dressing ingredients until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour dressing over salad and toss to evenly coat. Chill salad until ready to serve.

Rainbow slaw with sesame honey lime dressing

2 cups sugar snap peas, sliced in half, lengthwise

1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips

1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into thin strips

1/2 head of red cabbage, sliced thin

2 carrots, shredded

Juice of 1 lime

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Toasted sesame seeds, for serving

Combine all of the vegetables in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, and garlic. Stir until combined. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, until combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Toss the vegetables with the dressing, making sure everything is evenly coated. Allow the salad to rest for about 20 minutes, tossing every once in a while to redistribute the dressing.

Season with salt and pepper and serve, topped with toasted sesame seeds.