Summer vegetables from the garden or the farmer’s market are plentiful this time of year, but cooking and canning can be a chore. As summer temperatures rise, it’s still possible to prepare nutritious meals with local vegetables without heating up the kitchen. Here are three simple, delicious side dishes that add vitamins and fiber to everyday meals, use local produce, and cut meal preparation time.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad

The tomato and cucumber salad is both simple and versatile. Cucumbers provide a cool, refreshing taste, and adding cilantro and a small amount of sliced red onions makes it delicious. Add a touch of favorite salad dressing, such as ranch, vinaigrette, or plain Greek yogurt to create an easy side dish to complement just about any meal. For a simple dinner, serve with rotisserie chicken, grilled salmon, or steak.


1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced

1 tomato, sliced

Leaves from 2 fresh cilantro stems, torn or sliced

⅛ sliced red onion

1-2 teaspoons salad dressing, to taste

Mediterranean version: Add ¼ cup of crumbled feta cheese and 1/3 cup pitted black olives.

Summer Squash and Zucchini Bites

Summer squash and zucchini are two vegetables with flavors that compliment each other perfectly. Wash the vegetables, cut off the stems, and slice them into rounds or matchstick shapes.

Serve with sandwiches or burgers or arrange the slices around a bowl of salad dressing or dip for a quick, healthy appetizer, snack, or party tray.

Grilled or Roasted Veggies

Grilling or roasting vegetables in a toaster oven are two other easy ways to add simple deliciousness to almost any meal while keeping temperatures down inside the home.

For hearty servings of summer squash or zucchini, cut off the stems and slice in half lengthwise. Spray with olive oil then place on a pan and roast in a toaster oven at 400 degrees for five to seven minutes on each side.

Grilling adds more flavor, so when you can, add these to the grill when cooking main dishes to keep temperatures cool inside. Cook face down for five to seven minutes then turn and cook for the same amount of time, until tender.

Veggie Kabobs

For a colorful side dish, wash and slice large, round chunks of summer squash, zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, or red onion -- whatever is on hand. Add the veggie chunks to a thin kabob stick, coat lightly with olive oil, and cook for five to seven minutes on each side, until tender. Sprinkle with tarragon and sea salt for a delicate accent.

Delicious served with simple proteins, such as chicken, beef, pork, or seafood. Add a baked potato or rice for a simple, satisfying meal.

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