This is it. The Super Bowl of summer gatherings is here. The sun is hot, the timing is loose, the fridge is likely full and the setting is outdoors. What we have here is a picnic situation, and I’ve got you covered with some no-fuss potluck faves.
I could also call these McFaves, because they both came into my life from my favorite foodie McFamily. You know who you are!
Each of these are a little miraculous in the way they transform a humble vegetable and a few basic ingredients into something addictive. Both recipes originated from the New York Times, which means they come with lots of commentary. I have distilled the extensive kvetching to the finer points.
These sides are easy to make, healthy, great at room temp and smashing as leftovers. They also travel like champs. There is no downside here people!
Make them. Share them, or not. They will bring you joy and serious roughage. Happy 4th to all!
French Grated Carrot Salad
By Martha Rose Shulman and the NY Times
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil (or a mix of the two), or use 2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt or buttermilk and 4 tablespoons oil
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or white-wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and grated
- ¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and mustard in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add the carrots and parsley and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate before serving (I recommend making this 30 minutes to 1 hour ahead, then tossing again).
Notes: Not a one. This is straight up perfection.
Picnic Perfect Broccoli
by Melissa Clark and the NY Times
- 1 ½ teaspoons red wine vinegar (I say 1 Tbsp)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste (kosher is key…science, man)
- 2 heads broccoli, 1 pound each, cut into bite-size florets
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 fat garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds (ground cumin works in a pinch)
- 2 teaspoons roasted (Asian) sesame oil
- Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes.
- In a large bowl, stir together the vinegar and salt. Add broccoli and toss to combine.
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil until hot, but not smoking. Add garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in sesame oil and pepper flakes. Pour mixture over broccoli and toss well. Let sit for at least 1 hour at room temperature, and up to 48 (chill it if you want to keep it for more than 2 hours). Adjust seasonings (it may need more salt) and serve.
2 lbs of broccoli— deconstructed into florets — is a LOT of broccoli. You can easily scale it down, but don’t skimp on the vinegar. I boost up the vinegar to 1 Tbsp for the full recipe because it seems like the right thing to do.
There is much hand-wringing about all the oil, but remember, it’s a lot of broccoli. I’ve used 2/3 cup oil and that worked just fine. Some say 1/3 cup is enough. That said, don’t fly too close to the sun like the guy who brought it down to 2 Tbsp, and definitely don’t EVER put him on dessert duty.
Finally, pay attention to the timing and make it far enough ahead so the broccoli has a chance to soften and take on the flavors.