Surprise guests this summer with these easy sides

With Memorial Day behind us, we’re guessing the cooks among us have already dusted off their grills in anticipation of all the cookouts they’re hosting for family and friends this summer.

Mains are easy enough to plan — everyone loves chicken, and is there anything easier than throwing a hamburger or hot dog on the grill? It might not be exciting, but there’s just something about the smoky aroma of meat sizzling over flames that’s so incredibly pleasurable.

It’s the sides that can make the creative cook feel anxious.

While tried-and-true side dishes such as coleslaw, corn on the cob or baked beans can’t miss, it’s fun to add some zing every now and again with something unexpected that takes the meal to the next level.

These unconventional salads from the PG archives couldn’t be easier to prepare using seasonal ingredients you’ll soon be able to find at local farmers markets, and might even have growing in your own garden. All can be made a few hours in advance and kept in the refrigerator until serving.

Potato Salad with Pickled Pepper

PG tested

6 Yukon Gold potatoes (about 2 pounds)

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 cup pickled peppers, sliced into thin rings

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Put potatoes in pot and cover with water by several inches. Bring to boil. Cook until potatoes pierce easily with a paring knife, 15-20 minutes. Drain and let cool. Peel and mash coarsely with a fork. Transfer to bowl.

Warm 2 tablespoons of oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring for about 3 minutes. Pour oil and garlic over potatoes. Add remaining olive oil, cilantro, pickled pepper and salt and mix to combine.

Serve at room temperature the day it’s made.

Serves 4-6.

— “Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking” by Michael Solomonov

Elote Salad (Mexican street corn)

PG tested

4 ears fresh corn, husked and cut off the cob (about 4 cups)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 garlic clove, very finely minced

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

4 scallions, chopped

1/3 cup crumbled feta or Cotija cheese

Handful fresh cilantro, chopped (about 1/4 cup)

1 jalapeño, seeded and finely diced

1 teaspoon smoked paprika, plus more for dusting

Salt and pepper

In large nonstick skillet, warm oil until it is shimmering. Add corn kernels and stir fry until corn is crispy throughout, about 5-6 minutes. Set aside while you prepare the dressing.

In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, garlic and lime juice. Stir in scallions, feta and cilantro and mix well, then add warm corn. Stir to coat, then add jalapeño and smoked paprika.

Stir to combine, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve right away for a warm dish, garnished with a dusting of paprika, or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serves 4.

— Gretchen McKay, Post-Gazette

Thai Noodle Ginger Salad

PG tested

For dressing

1/2 cup tahini

5 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

4 teaspoons grated ginger

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons hot sauce, or more to taste

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

For salad

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

12 ounces broccoli florets, cut into 1/2 -inch pieces

2 ears corn, off the cob

1 pound zucchini noodles, from 2 zucchini squash

1/2 red and 1/2 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into strips

1 carrot, peeled and shredded

4 scallions, sliced thin on bias

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

Prepare dressing: Process all ingredients in a blender until smooth, about 30 seconds. If it seems too thick, add a little more vinegar or soy sauce, or more hot sauce if you like it extra spicy.

Transfer to a large serving bowl. (Dressing can be made and refrigerated up to 24 hours in advance; whisk to recombine before using.)

Prepare salad: Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmery. Add corn and broccoli to pan and cook until softened and spotty brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to plate and let cool thoroughly.

Add zucchini, bell pepper, carrot, scallions and corn and broccoli to bowl with dressing and toss to combine. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve.

Serves 4-6.

— adapted from “The Complete Salad Cookbook” by America’s Test Kitchen