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Simplify summer sides

Mashed Yukon Golds with Caramelized Walla Walla Sweets are a perfect summer side dish. Try incorporating some of your favorite summer vegetables for variety.

One of the few constants in my life — besides an almost-perfect husband and a kitchen floor that requires daily mopping — is my insatiable appetite for unusual side dishes. You know, offerings beyond herbed rice and fingerling potatoes.

Although unique and perfectly matched side dish/entree combos abound, too often cooks ignore the important role the supporting cast should play in the overall production. A scintillating sidekick makes the star shine even brighter.

Most of the time, sides should be called middles because of what they bring to a meal. In fact, one spring evening I served two sides and no official entree and my hustand said: “This is a really good supper.”

It wasn’t Escoffier, by any means, or even Bobby Flay for that matter. It was jasmine rice with chiles and tomatoes and sauteed onions in one bowl; a salad of crunchy romaine, Parmesan shavings, broccoli, and roasted hazelnuts, tossed with a vinaigrette of Dijon mustard, rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil in the other. All of the components hummed together, creating a symphony of flavor on the palate, while remaining light on the waistline.

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Throughout the summer, my cooking style is pretty simple and straightforward and can definitely benefit from interesting side offerings such as the ones I’m providing today. You’ll also notice that most of them can be made ahead and also travel well, so consider taking them along on your July, August, and September adventures to the beach and Cascades.

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Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist and author of “Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit,” and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at or find additional recipes and food tips on her blog at