Three Recipes for Picnic Perfect Sides - The Bend Magazine

Three Recipes for Picnic Perfect Sides

Summer is a time for picnics and parties, and there's always a side needed - here are three recipe ideas for when you're cookout bound.

Photography by Rachel Benavides

Have you or a loved one suffered from Backyard Barbecue Angst (BBA)? BBA, which affects three out of every four people invited to a potluck, can be described as that moment of panic when you realize you have no idea what to bring to the neighborhood cookout. Some may experience brain fog when searching their cerebral rolodex for a dependable recipe for weekend festivities; others report side effects of confusion, anxiety and occasional sweating when scouring their cabinets for a perfect side dish. 

Disclaimer: There is no documented medical condition known as “Backyard Barbecue Angst” — I made it up. But I’m betting there’s a few folks out there who may have experienced something like it. These simple and satisfying summer recipes are the cure for any cookout qualms (and they come together in less than 30 minutes).

Caprese salad is a crowd-pleaser. Vine-ripened tomatoes, creamy mozzarella and citrusy basil marry seamlessly with only a drizzle of good-quality olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Our version includes salami, which adds an umami element to round out the dish. Customize your caprese with cucumbers, olives, prosciutto or oregano.  

Okra is a seasonal favorite in late summer when little else can survive the heat. Stewed okra is a natural conduit for North Indian flavors, as in this Bhindi Masala. The grassy notes of fresh okra are complemented by bloomed coriander and cumin. Desiccating the okra prior to cooking helps quell any unwanted mucilage.

Everyone has a favorite potato salad recipe, and this is ours. The fresh dill and grated cucumber in homemade tzatziki add a creamy base to waxy potatoes. This take on potato salad is lighter than its mayonnaise- and mustard-based cousins. Be prepared to spend half the potluck sharing the recipe.

This summer season, skip the cooking anxiety, and focus on having fun with friends and family. Let these no-brainer recipes do the hard work so you can spend your time sipping iced tea and breathing in the best parts of summer. 

Tzatziki Potato Salad

Serves 6-8

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10-15 minutes


  • 2 lbs potatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber, grated
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 bunch (1/4 oz) dill, chopped
  • 5-7 chives, thinly sliced


Bring salted water to boil in a large pot over high heat. As water boils, strain grated cucumber in cheesecloth or paper towels to remove moisture. Once boiling, transfer chopped potatoes to water. Cook for 8-12 minutes, until tender. Strain potatoes and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 10 minutes. 

While potatoes chill, combine cucumber, garlic, olive oil, yogurt, salt and dill in a medium-sized bowl. Stir cucumber mixture into chilled potatoes and top with chives. Store potato salad in the refrigerator and serve cold.

Ultimate Caprese Salad

Serves 8

Prep Time: 10 minutes


  • 3 oz salami
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella
  • 2 pints sweet tomatoes
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup (1.33 oz) fresh basil


Combine torn pieces of salami, mozzarella and tomatoes in a serving bowl. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Top with fresh basil.

Bhindi Masala (Curried Okra)

Serves 8

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes


  • 2 lbs fresh okra
  • 1 tsp salt, plus more for drying okra
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 serrano pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder


Wash okra in cool water and dry with a clean tea towel. Lay okra on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Let okra dry for 10 minutes, then pat with the paper towel to remove excess moisture. Remove okra stems and chop into 1/2” slices. 

Add oil to a large cast iron pot over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add onion, cumin and coriander seeds. Sauté onion mixture for three minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic, tomatoes and remaining spices and cook an additional 1-2 minutes. 

Add okra to onion mixture, cover with a lid and reduce to medium-low heat. Simmer okra for about 10 minutes, until tender. Stir frequently to prevent from sticking. Serve immediately.