The Quintessential Seafood Side
During the summer months, alfresco dining is a must. Firing up the grill this time of year is always a great idea. But summer in the south also calls for another (and my favorite) backyard extravaganza – the seafood boil! Warm weather has no better partner than fresh seafood on the table, and the beauty of this fare is its ease of preparation. I love everything about this meal – it’s perfect for a crowd, setting the table couldn’t be easier, and who doesn’t love the ceremonial presentation when it’s time to eat?
The classic seafood boil includes shrimp, sausage, corn, and potatoes steamed in a large pot and seasoned to perfection (check out the article on page 24 to learn more). All you need to complete your experience is a few tasty sides. There are so many summer sides that complement seafood … what a great opportunity to showcase some of the season’s best veggies.
My favorite accompaniment to any barbecue or seafood feast is, without a doubt, slaw. I love slaw! I am not talking about the mayo-drenched, finely minced slaw that you find in many a restaurant, but rather freshly made, lightly dressed, cool and crunchy homemade slaw. Easier than you think to make and worth a little effort, it’s time to go beyond just cabbage and carrots.
Simple ingredients can be tailored to accompany a wide range of backyard fare. When pairing with seafood, you can offer up a few different choices that are sure to please everyone. A seafood boil invites an abundance of rich flavors to the table, and slaw’s cool, crunchy, and tangy contribution provides great balance. I like to offer up two or three options to guarantee all palates are satisfied. A more traditional slaw is always a good idea, but a seafood boil deserves a nod to its southern heritage – so why not concoct one with collard greens? Collards are an amazing addition to many salads, but I particularly love them in slaw. Their vivid dark green color is a beautiful complement to the other ingredients. If you are a maynonnaise lover and have a favorite mayo-based dressing, add a splash of apple cider vinegar to it – the added vibrant, tangy note and the extra acidity will provide the perfect balance.
My other seafood slaw of choice is cabbage-based and features a sweet and sour vinegar-based dressing – perfect for those hot summer days when you crave a cool and refreshing salad. I am a huge fan of using a variety of cabbages in my slaw, as I love the variation of color and texture. Green and red cabbages are a must, but I also love incorporating Napa cabbage as well. When preparing your cabbage, thinly slice and roughly chop it from there. The rest of the ingredients are up to you. Think shredded carrots, bell peppers, scallions, and even radishes or sugar snap peas. Ingredients such as these add crunch, texture, and color to your slaw, and can be topped with your favorite style of dressing to suit your taste.
Cabbage is the perfect canvas because it pairs well with so many different flavors. If you want to integrate some of summer’s bounty, then reach for some fresh fruit. Crisp apples are a great addition, adding even more crunch to your slaw. Add some sweetness (and color) by combining your cabbage with blueberries and diced pineapple or nectarines. Round out the flavors by tossing in a light ginger lime vinaigrette and a sprinkle of candied almonds or sunflower seeds. You will love all the great texture and summery sweetness.
Whether needed for a big backyard boil or just a nice Friday night family cookout on the patio, an added bonus is you can make your slaws and dressings ahead of time. Simply refrigerate separately a few days in advance, then toss with their dressings an hour or so before serving so they stay nice and crisp. This summertime staple is the perfect addition to any outdoor festivities – no matter enjoyed with friends or family, seafood or steak – so have fun creating your new favorite sides!
Photo courtesy of Natasha Gentile-Leshchiner, owner of Femme Fromage (@Femmefromagenc).
Owner of The Lemon Tree Cafe, located at 113 S. White St. in Downtown Wake Forest, offering freshly prepared salads, pastas, soups, and take-away fare.