Make-Ahead Salads That Stay Fresh and Flavorful

Spring has been bashful this year in the Northeast, beaming with sunshine one minute, only to cover up with sheets of clouds and dampening rain the next. But, as Kay Chun reminds us, summer is just around the corner, “ready to encourage breezy communal dining under the glow of the sun and the grill,” she writes in her lovely article in The New York Times.

Her piece features excellent new recipes that not only take full advantage of summer’s best produce, but are also tailored to go with all your favorite cookout foods — burgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken and the lot. And all these recipes taste even better when made ahead. Her chive pesto potato salad (above), layered with crisp green vegetables and parsley, can be assembled up to three hours ahead, which gives the flavors a chance to soak into the vegetables.

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You can cook the zucchini the night before for Kay’s herby roasted zucchini pasta salad, then toss it with shells or fusilli and a lemony tahini dressing several hours before serving. Give it good mix right before serving to make sure all the chewy, sweet golden raisins and crunchy sunflower seeds are well distributed.

Kay’s jewel-toned tomato salad, seasoned with a complex dressing of toasted sesame oil, garlic and basil, makes even the earliest tomatoes taste late-July luscious. I’ll serve it either as a side dish for grilled sausages or on its own, maybe topped liberally with bocconcini or soft goat cheese crumbles.

When I get my hands on those first ears of corn, I’ll make her sweet corn salad with buttermilk vinaigrette. She blanches corn on the cob quickly to remove its starchiness, then mixes the kernels and some crunchy cucumber with a tangy buttermilk dressing spiked with garlic and black pepper. It’s got creamed corn vibes but with a brighter, lighter feel.

For a make-ahead dessert, Samantha Seneviratne’s Mississippi mud pie is a towering, fudgy beauty that amply feeds 16 of your besties.

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Kay mentions this in her potato salad recipe, but it’s a tip you can use for any dense root vegetables, like carrots, beets or parsnips: Season them while they are still hot or warm. This allows the flavors of your dressing or sauce to sink in more easily and thoroughly. Then taste and add more salt, chile flakes, lemon, vinegar or oil when serving, especially if serving cold. Cold salads often need a flavor boost right before showtime.

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