When it comes to summer entertaining, there are times to trot out the trendiest quinoa and kale pilaf or basil-vinaigrette drenched gnocchi and fennel salad. And then there are times to showcase your favorite eggy potato salad or the baked beans recipe that has been in the family for generations.
Fourth of July gatherings call for the latter.
Last month I asked readers to submit their favorite summer side dishes. I learned that as cooks throughout the suburbs celebrate our country's heritage they want recipes steeped in tradition to share with family and friends.
After culling though the dozens of recipes we received, we picked our four favorites. Maybe one or two of these will help start a new culinary tradition in your family.
Linda Lenhardt, Tower Lakes
Cucumber Vegetable Salad with Cilantro: "This is a very fresh-tasting summer salad that I make frequently in summer. It is quick and easy to prepare, and I frequently make it 24 hours before it will be served. People always ask for the recipe when I bring it to potluck events. ... It's colorful, it's pretty and it tastes good."
Judy Monaco, Glendale Heights
Antipasto Salad: "This is the recipe for my family and friends' favorite side dish that they request for every summer and fall get-together. It is an Italian Antipasto Salad that I learned to make over 20 years ago when we moved into our current neighborhood. The neighbor who made it shared it with me emphasizing that it must be made with extra-virgin olive oil or it won't taste the same. I made a few refinements to the ingredients over the years, using our favorite cheeses and more black olives than green. If it is made a day ahead the flavors have a chance to blend. After the first time I served this to my family this is the only side dish they always ask for."
Molly Sutton, Arlington Heights
Sweet Sour Baked Beans: "This is a recipe from my mother, Virginia Cutting, that she shared with the Nineteenth Century Woman's Club in Oak Park for its 100th Birthday Cookbook. It has been enjoyed at many celebrations and barbecues. I even served it at her 'house cooling' party for neighbors and friends when she sold her house.
"It's not difficult to make at all, and it's different."
Jill Von Boeckman, Arlington Heights
Mom's Vegetable Salad: "My vegetable salad recipe has been in my family for three generations. My mom served it all summer when we grilled outside, and it was always my favorite side dish. Mom is 90 years old, lives with us and still enjoys this dish. It's more on the sweet side, and that's why we all like it -- my family has a sweet-tooth! We'd always bring mom's vegetable salad to potluck events, and there always seem to be a lot left. We believe no one ate too much because it just looks like another boring bean salad. But we were happy to bring the leftovers home and have the salad for ourselves."