Kick off summer with these 5 breezy make-ahead salads The Denver Post

It may be spring, but summer — and all its abundance — is on the horizon, ready to encourage breezy communal dining under the glow of the sun and the grill. No gathering of the season is complete without bounteous produce, which can be quickly and easily turned into crowd-pleasing sides.

These summer dishes, all ready in less than an hour, pair wonderfully with beloved classic cookout foods, whether burgers or hot dogs, grilled chicken or seafood. Best of all, they get better as they sit and their flavors seep into one another and meld together — so you can take them to the potluck (or party or picnic) and they’ll only taste better as the hours pass.

Do all of the chopping and cooking earlier in the day, or even the night before, then toss again or assemble right before serving. So start tucking these recipes away: Summer awaits.

Recipe: Chive Pesto Potato Salad

By Kay Chun

This vibrant homemade pesto is made with fresh chives and parsley in place of basil. It’s a bright sauce with savory, onion notes, making it a great dressing for mild, creamy potatoes. Green beans or asparagus are added to the potatoes during the last few minutes of cooking, for an easy one-pot approach. Once drained, the potatoes and veggies are returned to the hot pot to dry out in the residual heat, which means your potato salad won’t end up watery. Toss the potatoes with the pesto while warm so they readily absorb all of the flavors. Make this highly adaptable recipe with any vegetable on hand; peas, corn and broccoli florets are all great alternatives.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Total time: 45 minutes


2 pounds baby potatoes, halved

Kosher salt and black pepper

8 ounces green beans or asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/4 cup pine nuts

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1 cup packed parsley leaves

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1/2 cup chopped chives

2 tablespoons lemon juice


1. In a large pot, combine potatoes with enough salted water to cover by 2 inches; bring to a boil over high. Reduce heat to a brisk simmer and cook until potatoes are completely tender in the center, 8 to 12 minutes, adding the green beans or asparagus during the last 1 to 2 minutes of cooking. Drain, then return the mixture to the hot pot and let rest until very dry, about 2 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse pine nuts and garlic until finely chopped. Add the parsley and pulse, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl, until well combined. With the machine running, drizzle in oil and purée until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and add the cheese, chives and lemon juice; mix well.

3. Add warm potato mixture to the pesto and season with salt and pepper. Mix well. The salad can be made 3 hours ahead and kept refrigerated. Bring to room temperature and toss well before serving.Recipe: Sesame Tomato Salad

By Kay Chun

This simple yet stunning salad celebrates the beauty of summer tomatoes and highlights their sweetness with a rich, tangy sesame vinaigrette. A mild, buttery California-style olive oil will meld well with soy sauce and sesame oil, so avoid using a spicier olive oil that may be bitter. The dressing and tomatoes can both be prepared separately a few hours ahead and kept refrigerated. The tomatoes will release juices as they sit, which can dilute the dressing, so serve the salad with extra dressing on the side for a fresh hit of umami. Leftover dressing can be refrigerated for up to one week and is delicious drizzled over rice, roasted chicken and green salads.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Total time: 20 minutes


1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

6 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon granulated sugar, plus more to taste

3 pounds mixed tomatoes, large tomatoes chopped or sliced and small tomatoes halved

Kosher salt and black pepper

1/4 cup chopped basil


1. In a medium bowl, combine olive oil, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic and sugar; whisk to combine.

2. Arrange the tomatoes on a serving platter and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with half of the dressing and top with basil. Serve the remaining dressing on the side.

Recipe: Roasted Zucchini Pasta Salad

By Kay Chun

This pasta salad is loaded with 2 pounds of zucchini, roasted until golden and caramelized, then tossed in a tangy garlic-tahini dressing. Roasted sunflower seeds bring crunch and nuttiness. (Pepitas, slivered almonds or chopped walnuts are other great options.) Golden raisins add unexpected pops of sweetness that round out the tart lemon. The zucchini can be roasted a few hours ahead or even the night before. Make the pasta salad a few hours ahead and keep refrigerated; bring to room temperature and give it a final toss before serving.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Total time: 50 minutes


2 pounds zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4-inch-thick (8 cups)

1 cup chopped scallions

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and black pepper

1 pound short pasta, such as medium shells or fusilli

3 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons tahini

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 cup roasted sunflower seeds

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1/2 cup chopped parsley


1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. On a rimmed sheet pan, combine zucchini, scallions and 3 tablespoons of the oil; season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat then spread in an even layer. (It’s OK for the slices to overlap.) Roast until tender, stirring halfway, 20 to 25 minutes.

2. When zucchini is almost done, cook pasta according to package directions until al dente; drain.

3. In a large bowl, combine lemon juice, tahini, garlic, the remaining 6 tablespoons of oil and 3 tablespoons of water; season with salt and pepper and whisk until well blended.

4. Add the warm pasta, zucchini mixture, sunflower seeds and raisins to the dressing. Season with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Stir in the cheese and parsley.

5. The pasta salad can be made a few hours ahead and kept refrigerated. Bring to room temperature and toss well before serving.

Recipe: Sweet Corn Salad With Buttermilk Vinaigrette

By Kay Chun

Fresh corn on the cob is given a quick blanch for this salad, an easy yet valuable technique that takes away the starchy flavor and brings out the natural sweetness in the kernels. A cool, light buttermilk dressing is spiked with sour cream, garlic and black pepper for creamed corn vibes without the heaviness. Crisp cucumbers add crunch and pair beautifully with the herbaceous dill; feel free to use any soft herb, like chives, parsley, tarragon or basil. Make the salad a few hours ahead to allow all of the flavors to meld.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Total time: 30 minutes


Kosher salt and black pepper

8 ears fresh corn, shucked

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons chopped dill

1 tablespoon minced shallot

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 small cucumbers (such as Kirby or Persian), quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced (2 cups)


1. Set up a large bowl of ice water. In a pot of salted boiling water, blanch the corn until the raw flavor is gone and corn is bright yellow, 2 minutes. Drain and transfer corn to the ice water and let cool. Drain well, then cut kernels off the cobs. (You should have about 8 cups of kernels.) Discard cobs.

2. In a large bowl, combine buttermilk, oil, sour cream, dill, shallot and garlic. Season with salt and pepper; whisk until smooth.

3. Add corn and cucumbers to the dressing. Season with salt and pepper; toss to evenly coat. The salad can be made a few hours ahead and kept refrigerated. Bring to room temperature and toss well before serving.Recipe: Savory Fruit Salad

By Kay Chun

This colorful, sweet-tart fruit salad has a savory twist, making it a vibrant side dish, a refreshing dessert or both. Fresh fennel gives the salad an unexpected, subtle anise fragrance, and adds crisp texture to counter the soft, juicy fruit. A few berries mashed with golden honey and fresh orange juice provide moisture, and a deeper layer of natural sweetness. A final addition of fresh mint, lime juice and salt perks up the fruit and brightens the salad.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Total time: 25 minutes, plus 1 to 3 hours’ macerating


10 cups chopped ripe fruit (such as a mixture of berries, plums, peaches and melon)

2 tablespoons mild honey (such as clover or acacia)

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, quartered lengthwise and very thinly sliced

1/4 cup chopped mint

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


1. In a large bowl, combine 1/2 cup of the berries (preferably strawberries or raspberries, or both) and crush them with the tines of a fork until mashed and saucy. Stir in honey and orange juice. Add the remaining fruit and toss to evenly coat. Cover and macerate in the refrigerator, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour or up to 3 hours.

2. When ready to serve, add fennel, mint, lime juice and salt to the fruit bowl and gently fold to combine. Serve immediately.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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