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Fourth of July sides

Virginia Willis

Four sides for the Fourth of July

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Four crisp, cool and vibrant summer sides perfect for the Fourth of July

Summer means hot weather, glorious sunshine and swimming at the beach. Summer is warm evenings languishing on the screened-in porch, fishing down at the pond in the early morning and lying in the grass under the shade of a magnificent tree. Summer brings eating outside on the deck and picnics at the lake or in the park.

What is it that makes food just taste better when served outdoors on a beautiful evening? Dining al fresco is one of the true joys of the season.

Early July is when summer really hits its stride — and it’s time for grilling standbys like barbecue chicken, burgers, and brats — or something a little different like my grilled gumbo. Dessert is pretty easy: melons are sweet and ripe, and fresh sun-kissed peaches are ready to be transformed into buttery cobbler and creamy ice cream.

What about the sides? Leave the tubs of watery, bland coleslaw and dull potato salad in the cold case at the supermarket. In this installment of Cooking with Virginia, I’m sharing some easy recipes that I know are going to light up your summer like the Fourth of July.

I’ve got a modern twist on a Southern classic with my recipe for creamy cucumber salad with sugar snap peas, celery and Meyer lemon. I’ve also brought some of my friends in to help, with an old-fashioned coleslaw recipe by Jennifer Booker, a tart and tangy recipe for an apple kale slaw dressed with a zippy vinaigrette by Cynthia Graubart, and a rich and decadent potato salad from Sandra Gutteriez.

Happy Independence Day! Everybody stay smart, be safe and eat well!

Bon appétit, y’all!
– Virginia Willis
Cucumber salad
Virginia Willis’ Creamy Cucumber Salad
Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Serves: 8

Ingredients
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/4 full-fat buttermilk
Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus the zest of 1 lemon, preferably Meyer
1 clove garlic, minced
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 English cucumbers, sliced
1 sweet onion, very thinly sliced
1 cup sugar snap peas, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced

Instructions
In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, buttermilk, lemon juice and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

In a large bowl, combine the cucumber, onion, sugar snaps and celery. Stir in the reserved dressing and half of the lemon zest. Transfer to a serving bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with the remaining lemon zest. Serve immediately.
Apple kale slawCynthia Graubart’s Apple Kale Coleslaw
Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Serves: 8

Ingredients
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large Honeycrisp, Gala or Pink Lady apple
2 (10-ounce) packages shredded coleslaw mix
4 scallions, sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 large handfuls baby kale

Instructions
In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, honey, salt and pepper. While whisking constantly, gradually add the oil in a slow, steady stream until blended. Slice the apple and immediately add to the dressing — this will help prevent them from turning brown.

In a second large bowl, combine the coleslaw mix, onions, celery and baby kale; add the apple-vinegar mixture, tossing to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Sunday Suppers by Cynthia Graubart. Copyright © 2017 Oxmoor House. Reprinted with permission from Time Inc. Books, a division of Meredith Corporation. New York, NY. All rights reserved. For more information please visit www.cynthiagraubart.com.
Russian potato saladSandra Gutierrez’ Russian Potato Salad (Ensalada Rusa)
Hands-on time: 45 minutes
Total time: 1 1/2 hours
Serves: 8 to 10

Ingredients
6 cups cooked, peeled and cubed Yukon gold potatoes
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1 1/4 cups cooked and cubed carrots
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste, if desired
3 tablespoons minced sweet onion
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions
In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, peas and carrots. In medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, parsley, lemon juice, onion and Dijon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the potato mixture and mix well; chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 6 hours before serving.

Adapted from The New Southern-Latino Table by Sandra A. Gutierrez. Copyright © 2011 The University of North Carolina Press. Used with permission of the author. All rights reserved. For more information please visit www.sandraskitchenstudio.com.
Carrot coleslawGram’s Coleslaw by Jennifer Hill Booker
Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Total time: 1 hour and 20 minutes
Serves: 8

Ingredients
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar, plus more to taste
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head green cabbage, chopped
2 carrots, peeled into thin ribbons (about 1 cup)
1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)

Instructions
In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, milk, sugar and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, carrots and onion. Add the dressing and stir well to coat all of the vegetables with the dressing. Chill at least 1 hour and serve cold.

Adapted from Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent by Jennifer Hill Booker. Copyright © 2014 Jennifer Hill Booker. Used by permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved. For more information please visit www.chefjenniferhillbooker.com.


Author image

Georgia-born, French-trained chef and food writer Virginia Willis has made cookies with Dwanye “The Rock” Johnson, catered a bowling party for Jane Fonda, foraged for herbs in the Alps, and harvested capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Her legion of fans loves her knack for giving classic French cooking a down-home feel and re-imagining Southern recipes en Français. Virginia's newest cookbook, "Secrets of the Southern Table," is currently available for here. Her previous book, "Lighten Up, Y’all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome," received a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence. Learn more about Virginia and follow her culinary exploits at VirginiaWillis.com.

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10 recipes for building the ultimate Southern bowl
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