One of the many reasons I love summer: the laid-back, no-frills approach to summer entertaining. BBQs are the quintessential summer party, and for good reason: Guests bring whatever side or dessert they can throw together (or pick up from the store on the way over). You can grill just about anything. And summer BBQs give ample opportunities for a gal like me to practice making a signature healthy side dish like this lemony grain salad.
First off, I bring some version of this lemony grain salad to just about every BBQ and potluck we go to in the summer. (Sorry, guys, I hope you haven’t gotten tired of it yet!) I do it because it’s delicious and friends usually end up asking me how to make it—and because this easy, healthy, vegetarian BBQ side dish is so forgiving.
You don’t have cucumbers? No worries, throw in some radishes—or whatever you have in the vegetable drawer! You like your dressing on the sweeter side? Go you! Add some honey. You’re gluten-free? No prob, use quinoa for the grain base!
Because this recipe is so flexible, I don’t usually follow a recipe—but the last time I made it, I actually measured ingredients instead of eyeballing it. So I am super excited to share my bona fide recipe for lemony grain salad.
The taste of summer
This vegetarian lemony grain salad tastes crazy-refreshing on a hot day. The tartness of the lemon, the crisp fresh veggies and the varying textures of the grains come together in a side dish that fits perfectly for any BBQ. It pairs great with burgers and grilled veggies, and it’s hearty enough to be a base for the rosé this weather just begs for.
But really, this healthy side dish tastes like summer because of what it isn’t. It isn’t difficult. It doesn’t require you to dirty a million dishes. And it won’t heat up your kitchen. (All it takes is a mere 10 minutes of cooking!)
‘Cause no one wants a hot kitchen full of a million dirty dishes when you want to be outside blowing bubbles, running through the sprinklers or just sitting on your porch with a cocktail.
A no-fail BBQ side dish
Like I said, this side dish is perfect for BBQ season. Why?
- It’s best served chilled or at room temperature, so you don’t have to worry about keeping it hot when you’re outside playing freeze tag or croquet.
- It’s healthy. I love chips and potato salad as much as the next guy, but eating a ton of greasy or unhealthy food right in the middle of swimsuit season doesn’t sound like a great idea.
- And it’s even better if you make it earlier in the day and let it hang out in the fridge, encouraging all those yummy flavors to rumba and cha-cha together. (Pro tip: If you won’t be eating the lemony grain salad until later in the day, wait to add the cucumbers until just before serving. They won’t get soggy that way!)
So if you’re looking for a healthy, easy, fresh, vegetarian BBQ side dish, try out this lemony grain salad. And let me know what variations you try!
Lemony grain salad
- 1 1/4 cup Harvest Grains Blend from Trader Joes,* which is a mix of Israeli couscous, orzo, baby garbanzo beans and quinoa
*You can substitute any grain, such as bulgur, Israeli couscous or quinoa; I just love the mix!
- 1/2 tablespoon vegetable Better than Bouillon
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian herb mix
- pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon stone-ground mustard
- 2 Persian cucumbers, peeled, quartered lengthwise and chopped
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced crosswise
- 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
- 1 cup snap peas, trimmed and chopped
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 bell pepper, cut into small pieces
- 1/4 cup pepperoncini peppers
- 1/2 cup feta cheese
- Bring 1 3/4 cups filtered water to boil. Add Harvest Grains Blend and Better than Bouillon. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.
- Meanwhile, mix together ingredients lemon juice through mustard to make the dressing. (Pro tip: Put them all into a Ball jar, screw on the lid and shake—your dressing will emulsify within moments.)
- Pour the dressing over the grain blend while the grains are still warm. This will prevent the grains from becoming a sticky, solid mass.
- While the grains are cooling, prepare all the vegetables.
- Once the grains are room temperature, transfer to a large bowl and stir together with the vegetables and feta cheese. Enjoy!
What do you most love about summer entertaining? Do you have a go-to BBQ side dish?