published Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Side Orders: Chefs offer holiday side dishes

Need a little help planning your Memorial Day menu?

In case you're planning a picnic this holiday weekend, I reached out to a few Chattanooga chefs to find out some of their favorite side dishes. Here's what they had to say in hopes that it will help make your summer kick off in good taste.

• Michelle Huffman Wells, owner and chef at Events With Taste Catering. Wells loves Copper Pennies, and no wonder. They're the yin-yang of side dishes with a sweet-savory taste. Seasoned cooks will be familiar with this recipe, but for those of you new to cooking, it's time to bring it back. It will add so much color to your picnic spread as well as taste. Just be sure to make it a day ahead to allow the flavors to marry. Here's how: Slice 2 pounds of carrots and boil them till they're just tender, about 10 minutes, then set them aside. In a separate bowl, combine 1 stalk of celery, chopped; a chopped green pepper; and one chopped red onion. Now, bring a can of condensed tomato soup to a boil with 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1/2 cup white vinegar and 2/3 cup sugar. Then combine everything -- the carrots, all the vegetables and the tomato-soup mixture and marinate them in the refrigerator overnight. Serve chilled.

• Tony Parys, chef at Tony's Pasta in Bluff View Art District, says this pasta salad is great on its own as a side dish, but works as a cold main dish with the addition of grilled chicken or shrimp. Combine 1/8 cup mayonnaise with 2 tablespoons Italian dressing, 3/4 cup diced tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of homemade or store-bought pesto, 1/8 cup finely diced onion and some Kalamata olives, if you want. Season to taste with salt and pepper and toss the mixture with 8 cups of cooked and cooled fusilli (spiral) pasta and garnish it with some freshly grated Romano cheese.

• Broad Street Grille's Chef Drew Millsap says no picnic is complete without a plate of his smoked salmon deviled eggs. His recipe calls for mashing and mixing the yolks of six hardboiled eggs with 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon capers and salt and pepper to taste. When the mixture is smooth, add 2 tablespoons chopped smoked salmon, check the seasonings, then spoon the mixture into the egg halves. Refrigerate until ready to pack for your picnic. And don't forget to keep these in the cooler till you're ready to serve.

• Dianne Cosper, owner and chef at Blue Ribbon Cafe in Soddy-Daisy, says Georgia Cracker Salad is her favorite side dish. It's one of Paula Deen's recipes, she says, and it's perfect when tomatoes are in season. Just don't add the crackers till right before serving, but you can make the tomato mixture ahead of time. Here's how: Stir together 1 large chopped tomato with 1 cup of mayonnaise. Let this sit for a few minutes to allow the tomato to release most if its juice. Then stir in two chopped hardboiled eggs, 3 chopped green onions and a dash of Tabasco. Season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, crumble a sleeve of saltine crackers into a large bowl and fold in the tomato mixture, stirring to combine. Serve immediately.

And here's my idea for a sweet finish to any picnic you may have planned. It's a recipe I found at justapinch.com. Make them a day ahead, and they'll be ready to go. The icing makes them just a bit different from your average lemon bar.

Lemon Bars

Crust

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup butter, softened (no substitute)

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Filling

4 eggs, slightly beaten

2 cups sugar

4 tablespoons flour

6 tablespoons lemon juice

Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon milk

2 tablespoons cold water

Mix crust ingredients with metal blade in food processor as you would a pie crust. Then pat into a 9-by-13-inch pan that has been greased and floured. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Combine filling ingredients and pour over crust. Continue baking for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.

Make frosting by beating together butter, powdered sugar and milk for 6-8 minutes on high speed. Add water, one tablespoon at a time. Beat until smooth. Spread over cooled bars.

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