Light sides perfect for steamy days


When summer heat and humidity diminish appetites, consider making a meal of light, refreshing "sides." The following duo of side dishes -- a Gruyere-topped zucchini and tomato gratin, a cooling tabbouleh with extra vegetables can be served soon after they're prepared or chilled and served the next day or so, when their flavors have melded. A boon for picnics and cookouts, these side dishes all travel well.

Serve this classic summer medley warm or cold as a side dish for grilled foods, or with an assortment of other side dishes.

Zucchini-Tomato Gratin

Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus oil for baking dish

1 small red onion

3 medium zucchini or summer squash

3 plum tomatoes

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced, or 1 teaspoon dried

3 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil an 8-inch round baking dish or one of a different shape but equivalent size. Slice onion into rounds. Slice zucchini and tomatoes about 1/2-inch thick.

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the 2 tablespoons oil, and saute onion and garlic until translucent (5 to 8 minutes).

Place zucchini slices on edge around the sides of the baking dish (cut edge against the side of the dish). Place the tomato slices against the zucchini, then add some of the sauteed onion-garlic mixture against the tomato slices so that the vegetables stand up around perimeter of baking dish. Repeat with zucchini, tomato and onion-garlic mixture to form alternating rows. Place remaining vegetables in center. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme and cheese.

Bake for 25 minutes. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.

Summer Tabbouleh

Serves 6

2 cups bulgur

3 cups boiling chicken or vegetable stock or water

2 cups shredded purple or green cabbage

1/2 large carrot, grated

1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced

1 stalk celery, chopped

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

2 ripe tomatoes, chopped

3/4 cup chopped green onions, with tops

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped parsley

1 small lemon, sliced, for garnish

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, for garnish

In large bowl, place bulgur and boiling stock; cover with plate. Let sit until liquid is absorbed (about 20 minutes).

Mix bulgur with remaining ingredients except for lemon slices and mint; toss.

Chill 1 hour. Serve cold, garnished with lemon slices and fresh mint.

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