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Purple Onion

Fresh veggies and dressings for grilling and dipping are all available at the Purple Onion.

Cook out! Remember when that wasn’t such a radical suggestion? Looks like the good old family-and-friends gatherings can start again.

And, while we may be moderating how many folks will be there and where we’re going to gather, we can be happy to see smiling faces again — and really see the smiles!

No matter what you’ve got on the grill, there are sure to be some favorite sides that just say “picnic” in your family. Maybe it’s grandma’s potato and cucumber salad or your sister’s three bean salad. Here are some ideas for outdoor dining newcomers that will add a little zing to your meal.

Adults and kids alike will enjoy snacking on Veggie Shots. These make-ahead snacks are a great way to serve fresh vegetables in handy individual cups. There’s no need to blanch vegetables and you can prepare all the veggies ahead of time by slicing, skewering and storing them in airtight containers in the refrigerator.

Assemble the cups a couple hours before serving and chill. To keep them chilled at the picnic, set cups upright in cupcake tins and set over ice.

You can use store-bought dressing like the Stonewall Kitchens dressings and dip or St. Elmo’s fire dressing we offer at the Purple Onion, or opt for semi-homemade by stopping at WV Marketplace for Ordinary Evelyn’s dip mixes which include Dill, Ranch, Southwestern and Red Hot Pepper.

Impress your family and friends by making easy fresh dips of your own. We offer a couple of kid-friendly ideas with the Creamy Fiesta and Buttermilk Ranch dips.

Kick the flavors up a notch with the Creamy Feta and Cashew Lemon dips. The Buttermilk Ranch and Creamy Feta dips can double as salad dressing for garden salads or fresh mixed tomato and red onion platters.

Our Grill ‘em or Not Skewers are another simple appetizer or side that add nice, fresh flavors to the picnic meal. If you are not grilling the skewers, you can make them ahead of time and, like the veggie shots, store them in airtight containers in the refrigerator.

If you decided to grill them, you’ll need to let the skewers sit in water so they don’t catch flames on the grill. When grilled, the cheese gets gooey and the tomatoes burst with sweet flavors.

Still on the no-cooking side, try this tangy and a little bit different Zucchini, Lemon and Nut Salad. It’s one of those recipes that sounds a little odd, but the flavors come together and make a good warm-weather side dish that pairs well with any protein you’ll be grilling.

Creative cooks might check their pantries and substitute dried cranberries or cherries for the currants and cashews, pine nuts or walnuts for the pistachios. For a fancier presentation, serve the salad on a bed of arugula or fresh mixed greens. There will be plenty of dressing for the greens.

Heading to foods that are served warm, we’ve got one recipe that’s made on the grill and one that you’ll make ahead.

Former West Virginia First Lady Joanne Tomblin shared her Grilled Onion recipe with a culinary class a few years ago. It was a hit with everyone. The onions get sweet and soft as they cook on the grill. The bouillon cube and butter mix and add great flavor to the vegetables. This is an excellent side for grilled meats.

At most picnics, you’ll find a pot of baked beans. The recipe that we offer takes a bit of time but results in a delicious, really down-home flavor. Your friends and family will be saying “What the WHAT?” when you tell them the main ingredient in this dish is dried lima beans.

Enjoy your picnic!

Allan Hathaway is the owner of The Purple Onion and WV Marketplace at Charleston’s Capitol Market. For more information, visit the web pages at capitolmarket.net/merchants/purple-onion and capitolmarket.net/merchants/wv-marketplace; or call The Purple Onion at 304-342-4414 and WV Marketplace at 304-720-2244. Email Allan at purpleonionco@aol.com.

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