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figbash's avatar

Great ideas for a side salad for a Memorial Day barbecue?

Asked by figbash (7483points) May 23rd, 2009

I’m attending a Memorial Day BBQ thrown by friends who happen to be caterers. Their professional food writer friends and restaurant owners will be in attendance. I have to bring a side salad of some sort, and even though I can normally be inventive, I feel WAY out of my league. Do you have any great side salad or pasta salad recipes that verge on the border of gourmet and are always a hit?

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33 Answers

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Both fruit salad and pasta salad are memorial day favorites.

Jeruba's avatar

That’s an intimidating audience! You are brave to prepare anything. But I’m sure good fresh ingredients are the main thing and will be appreciated.

My two favorites are a shrimp Caesar (romaine, red grapes, fresh shredded parmesan, and shrimp, with a nice Caesar dressing lightly applied) and spinach, mushroom, and crumbled bacon (I toss them well with a teriyaki-type Asian dressing at the last minute because it kind of cooks the spinach).

I would think a green salad would be best, but if you go for fruit, make sure to have at least five colors. I like to include fresh pineapple, orange slices, red grapes, cantaloupe, a scattering of blueberries, and some kiwi and raspberries added last because they are so fragile. Not much stirring after that. If peaches are in season, I use them and skip the cantaloupe.

This fruit salad also doubles nicely as a dessert (have some sliced pound cake and freshly whipped cream and let people construct their own). I’ll bet it would be good with a drizzle of apricot brandy over it.

JTube's avatar

Memorial day isn’t something we celebrate here in the Netherlands, but you could try a pasta salad mixed up with some kinds of fruit like pineapple, apple, pear, peach and such. Add in some pine nuts, walnuts or other things to bring a little bite to the party. I think it might be a good idea to surprise them without going to far. Don’t do strange stuff like putting sausage and melon together, but try to put together something you think looks and tastes great, so they’ll be impressed.

SeventhSense's avatar

Three bean cold salad with black beans, red beans, corn, red peppers, jalapenos(or not). Easy, healthy, tasty and it’ll keep ya regular.

figbash's avatar

Yeah, I’m definitely bringing a veggie salad, or pasta salad of some sort – and I’ve looked through a million recipes, I just wanted to know what specific recipes or salads people have brought that they know are big hits. I’d do a basic caprese, but tomatoes aren’t in season right now and this is not the kind of crowd I wanna take too many food risks with ; )

These are all good suggestions! Thanks!

whatthefluther's avatar

Sweet Vidalia Onions are currently available so you might try a cucumber salad (cukes, onions, fresh parsley, vinegar, etc). I can find you a recipe if you like. Have fun…wtf

basp's avatar

Easy to make, healthy and yummy.

aprilsimnel's avatar

This recipe could work. And I like the suggestion in the method to only pour on the dressing right before serving. That’ll show ‘em!

SeventhSense's avatar

Well if you want to impress. Bring this and you’re
In like Flynne. You’ll be like Wolfgang Puck on steroids.:)
in fact i may go buy some watermelon just to try it, and apparently the greeks have enjoyed it for ages

whatthefluther's avatar

@SeventhSense…Great idea: good stuff, very different…should be a hit for this group. Mmmm…wtf

YARNLADY's avatar

@aprilsimnel WOW great recipe, beautiful presentation, GA

figbash's avatar

@aprilsimnel: that blog is GREAT! Thanks!
@seventhsense: That’s pretty damn awesome and a strong contender!

gailcalled's avatar

Watercress, cooked and diced beets (of different colors, if possible) and pieces of walnuts with a home-made vinaigrette.

I would loathe watermelon and feta cheese mixed together. It seems a stretch.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

I’ve made this Asparagus-Peas-Cherry Tomato-Penne Pasta Salad at least 4 times in the last month, and it always gets raves.

aprilsimnel's avatar

@YARNLADY and @figbash – Innit, though? Food is obviously that blogger’s passion.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Colored spiral pasta (cooked in chicken broth if no vegetarians)
Marinated artichoke hearts
Pitted green and black olives
Cherry, mini pear or mini heirloom tomatoes
Sliced fennel root
1 tablespoon of capers
Crabmeat chunks (if no vegetarians)
mayonaise just enough to moisten all together
serve on top of a bowl of spring greens

MissAusten's avatar

I don’t think this is the kind of side dish you are looking for, but this afternoon we had dinner with some relatives, and someone made a “salad” of apples, chopped Snickers candy bars, and walnuts. There was a waldorf-type creamy dressing. More like dessert, but I had to have a spoonful just to see what it was like. It was sinfully fantastic!

PandoraBoxx's avatar

@MissAusten YUM! according to, 6 granny smith apples diced, 6 snicker bars, chopped, 12 oz. container cool whip. One of the recipes included pretzel pieces, which could also be tasty.

Kayak8's avatar

My mom is an excellent cook and she got this recipe for “Figgy Salad” out of a Diane Mott Davidson murder mystery. It was wonderful! So good, in fact, the next time I had to cook for people who really DO cook, I made it and got terrific feedback. It is also VERY easy.

Here’s a link:

SeventhSense's avatar

It’s all about pushing the envelope and there are some outrageous dishes with contrasting flavors-sharp cheddar with an apple.
The contrast of sweet and salty is great. Also grilled with goat’s cheese is another cutting edge dish.

Jeruba's avatar

Cheddar with apple or apple pie is classic.

SeventhSense's avatar

@whatthefluther & @Jeruba
Kudos for the adventurous palates.:)

Jeruba's avatar

@SeventhSense, I meant literally. My father wouldn’t eat apple pie (his favorite) without cheddar on the side, and this was more than fifty years ago. I think it’s an old standby, nothing novel about it. It used to be served that way in restaurants just as commonly as a la mode. A piece of pita bread, cheddar, and an apple used to be my regular lunch back in the seventies. Fruit and cheese together are also a classic dessert. Perhaps this naturally great combination has lately been rediscovered.

SeventhSense's avatar

Ok so you’re not adventurous. ~_~

whatthefluther's avatar

@SeventhSense…I actually had such as salad (and lots of other dishes that seemed strange) when I visited Greece. One of the best parts of traveling is tasting the local cuisine (however, it was amazing how many Americans flocked to the overseas McDonalds) See ya…wtf

SeventhSense's avatar

No doubt what the fluther’s up with that?

whatthefluther's avatar

Hopefully it was just a onetime visit to taste something familiar and reset their tastebuds, rather than a dietary demand. Yuk…wtf

ubersiren's avatar

Make an anti-pasta. Marinated mushrooms, artichoke hearts, olives, meat and cheese roll ups, or cheese cubes, tomatoes, etc. My fave mmmm…

whatthefluther's avatar

@figbash….Greetings. So, may I ask: what did you prepare, how was it received, how was the party? Thanks…wtf

figbash's avatar

Thanks to everyone for their suggestions!! I made the watermelon feta salad with mint. It was insanely easy but had a great complex flavor.

It was really well-received and went quickly and the party was a low-key, mellow affair with amazing food. Next time I think I’m going to try and beet, pear and walnut salad too.

Thanks for asking, wtf!

SeventhSense's avatar

Sounds like it was a hit. I’m glad you tried it. I’m going to give it a shot too. The contrast seems intriguing.

figbash's avatar

@SeventhSense: Definitely – the salty feta with the super-watery watermelon and the lime juice? Awesome!!

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