From Z to A: 3 Side Dish Recipes for Your Next Cookout

It’s officially grilling season! I absolutely love this time of year — the smell of the grill, a yard filled with friends, the food and, more importantly, the sides. Just like Thanksgiving, I often forget about the main star, the meat, and go lurking for the side dishes. I love the classics, but sometimes I add other versions to the table so we can explore a bit more. So here are a few twists on the classics for your cookouts this summer. Enjoy!

French Lentil Potato Salad

The classic potato salad will always reign supreme, but this easy French version is so incredibly tasty that you might be making room for both every summer.


  • 2 lbs. baby potatoes, washed and halved
  • 2-3 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 cups cooked black lentils
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1-2 sliced shallots


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3-4 tbsp. chives, chopped
  • 3-4 tbsp. dill
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. good mustard
  • drizzle of honey
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat the potatoes in oil, salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet until tender, but not dried out, about 45 minutes. Allow to cool.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together ingredients for the dressing and taste to adjust seasonings if needed.
  3. To assemble the salad, in a large bowl, add in the potatoes, lentils, shallots and parsley and coat with the dressing. Mix well and allow the flavors to incorporate for a few minutes, then serve.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

This salad is not only light, but packed full of flavors. I love the classic macaroni salad, but this one cuts out all the mayo and makes it the perfect side to something light like grilled fish.


  • 1 lbs. cooked rotini pasta
  • 1 package grape tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 English cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/4 cup pepperoncini peppers, chopped
  • 1/2 cup roasted red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olives, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta or mozzarella pearls
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup Greek dressing of your choice


  1. Add all the ingredients to a large salad bowl and top with your favorite Greek dressing. 

Chef tip: This salad is so easy and customizable, so feel free to add or take away ingredients to your liking.

The Ultimate Baked Beans

Compared to the other two, this dish is not light. In fact, it’s just the opposite. This is the ultimate baked beans recipe and could actually be a meal in and of itself.


  • 1 lb. bacon
  • 1 lb. ground beef, sausage or turkey
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp. garlic paste
  • 2-3 tbsp. jalapeños, diced (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder 
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. barbecue seasoning
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 large cans of baked beans (28 oz. each)
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar


  1. In a large pan, fry the bacon, drain and chop up. Set aside.
  2. In the same pan, drain some of the grease and add the onion, bell pepper and garlic and allow to saute together. Add in your ground meat of choice and break up in the pan.
  3. Add in all the seasonings and mix to combine.
  4. To assemble, in a large baking dish, add in the ground meat mixture, bacon, beans, mustard, barbecue sauce and brown sugar. (You can add in the jalapeños for a kick or leave them out.) Mix everything really well and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour.


From Z to A with Zara Abbasi

Zara Abbasi is the pastry chef and recipe developer behind Zara Made It. Follow her food adventures on Instagram at @zaramadeit and on Tiktok at @happiestfoodonearth.

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