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Appetizer and side dish to travel faaaaaar?

My mother's birthday is Wednesday, and I'll be driving up that day from DC to CT. I hope to have the afternoon to help my father prepare, but can't rely on having too much time in case of traffic. We'll be doing dinner for 8, and my dad is in charge of meat to grill. They're quite unadventurous eaters and there is already another side dish coming, though I don't know what it is.

I have a cooler, but it's so huge, I would rather not bring it.

So, what brilliant appetizer and side dish ideas could possibly make the trip? I can assemble there, but don't want to lug raw shrimp, for example.

I fully recognize this may be impossible, but it's always worth seeing what chowhounds come up with.

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  1. Kate, For a side dish, slice 1 cucumber paper thin for every two guests. Then slice 1/4 white onion for every two guests. Place in a non-reactive bowl and sprinkle heavily with white wine vinegar, salt, sugar and then pour a liberal amount of heavy cream. Toss and taste for flavor; it should be a nice balance of sweet and sour with an edge of cream. (There is no one exact amount for each ingredient, it depends upon the onion, vinegar, etc.) This is an easy and very refreshing dish that does with almost anything.

    1. Corn ~~ Shuck, Silk, and cook after you get there....Delicious with grilled meats...

      1. so many options for various types of salads! just pack the components and dressing separately and assemble when you arrive...

        white bean, basil & tomato salad
        corn, black bean & avocado salad
        corn, tomato & green bean salad
        roasted beet salad
        carrot salad
        couscous or quinoa salad

        1. A favorite app of mine is Italian tuna packed in olive oil (Costco's carrying one now). Mix in chopped red onion, cilantro, capers, s&p, maybe a splash of vinegar (I like sherry vinegar) and some more oo. Great on crackers or bread.

          19 Replies
          1. re: c oliver

            you could also add some white beans, and/or chopped sun-dried tomato, and/or diced artichoke hearts...

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              And then it could be a side dish. Really like that idea, ghg.

              1. re: c oliver

                served over a nice bed of greens it makes a terrific main for lunch too.

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  I bought a whole goat leg this morning that I'll grill at some point. I'm thinking of this to go with it.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    Now that's stretching surf and turf a bit.....tuna salad and goat?...:)
                    Sounds good, though.

                    1. re: Veggo

                      That's so funny. I got so caught up in all the non-tuna ingredients I forgot about it :)

                      1. re: c oliver

                        So far all of these will be lovely for future meals, but with bans on raw onions, olives, legumes, peppers of all sorts, etc., it's turning into a challenge.

                        I was considering playing around with tomatoes, but I haven't seen any good tomatoes yet at the market. Maybe this sunday.

                        This morning I was thinking maybe an orzo with corn, blanced green beans, and blanced carrots with lots of basil and a nice lemony vinaigrette. They are safe ingredients. It's really quite challenging! Most of my usual arsenal is banned (I have this problem when they come to visit, too).

                        1. re: katecm

                          I also don't have good tomatoes availabe yet. But a couple of times I've rough chopped some and tossed with oo, s&p, basil, etc. It definitely makes them way, way better. I love anything with orzo.

                          1. re: c oliver

                            So, you're almost macerating them to bring out their flavor? That's a pretty good idea. And corn would go nicely with it, too - nothing too unusual for the family.

                            You should see what I go through to find a restaurant for them....

                            1. re: katecm

                              I did them too far in advance recently and they were so watery that I had to strain before addng to the salad. Actually it may have been the salt that caused that so maybe leave that out. Black beans would be nice also.

                              Re restaurants, that's actually when I think the chains work really well. They can always find something and you can just "offer it up for the poor souls in purgatory" :)

                            2. re: c oliver

                              When all I can get are lackluster tomatoes, I roast them and then use them as I would raw in salads, etc. Makes them a ton sweeter and there is no worry about excess liquid.

                              1. re: biondanonima

                                Good idea. I just bought a bunch of grape tomatoes and will roast some tonight to go with our dinner.

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  fresh thyme and a splash of our beloved sherry vinegar will elevate those roasted tomatoes to an entirely new level...

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      Ardent fan, especially spreading these on ciabatta with fresh ricotta...... mmmmm...

                                    2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                      I have to say I am addicted to sherry vinegar.

                                      1. re: juli5122

                                        it's easily one of my favorite ingredients..and i've gotten several people hooked on it :)

                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                          Bless your heart! Sometimes I'll just tip the bottle up to my fingertip and have a little drop. Mmm.

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            hee :) it's a good thing i didn't turn you onto something that would require an intervention or 12-step program - i'd never forgive myself!

              2. Olive oil, diced (fresh) tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic (as much as guests can handle), salt and pepper. The longer this works together the better.
                When you arrive:
                -- cook and drain orzo to package instructions
                -- slice red onion into quarters and rub with olive oil, s+p and grill to char nicely
                -- shred some fresh, good quality mozzarella
                Toss it with the tomato/basil mixture and you've got a killer side for anything that comes off the grill.

                1 Reply
                1. How about an antipasti platter? Roasted red pepper, salami, marinated bocconcini, olives, fried zucchini/eggplant, cherry tomatoes--with a balsamic olive oil dressing. Everything is fine at air conditioned car temp. As a side, I have fallen for steamed or roasted potatoes tossed with a pesto made with mint and/or basil and/or parsley.

                  1. I would go with a french potato salad. Yukon Golds cooked peel on, cut up and tossed with white wine, olive oil, white wine vinegar and fresh herbs. It's travel stable and not too crazy. For an appetizer, tomato bruchetta. Make the toasts and zip lock it and tupperware the tomatoes, garlic and basil. Plate it on site. Maybe add some boccocino drizzled with olive oil and cracked pepper. Similar to escondido123 :) Have fun.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: juli5122

                      I would think twice about toasting the bread ahead unless you are going to make it really crunchy---there's a danger of it turning soggy/tough in the lightly toasted area.

                      1. re: escondido123

                        Very true, I do like mine pretty crunchy.

                    2. Crudite platter w Farmer market vegs, (prepped & stored separately in paper towels, ziplocs) and a green goddess or roquefort dressing. Bonus: any leftover vegs can be thrown on the grill.

                      Leek (or other spring veg) and Gruyere (or other cheese) tart in puff pastry (good at room temp)
                      Pears, (lemon for juice) proscuitto and blue cheese - slice & core when you arrive, sprinkle w lemon juice, grill and top with proscuitto and blue cheese crumbles

                      1. Honestly, with all the extra restrictions on what you can make, I'd choose something that your mom really enjoys, call around the local delis, and order something to pick up when you arrive.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Kajikit

                          +1 on Kajikit's suggestion.

                          Order crudites, salads, and antipasto somewhere good in CT (Stew Leonard's?) Pay for it over the phone if who's paying is an issue, and have your father pick it up if you can't get there in time. Done.

                        2. Potatoes (your choice). Wash potatoes before leaving home. Slice after you arrive, and toss with oo and s&p, then either grill or roast them while the meat is cooking. Sweet potatoes are usually my choice, but small fingerling potatoes work well, also.

                          1. Sesame noodles!

                            This may fall into the adventurous category, but a dynamite side dish that travels reallllly well = sesame noodles. I use bow ties and I add steamed broccoli for crunch, color, and nutrients (that's not on the restriction list, right?) and some sauteed red peppers (so you could skip those). Dressing of tahini, sesame oil, tamari, ginger, a little sugar. This flies off the table whenever I bring it to any event. Let me know if you would like the recipe for the dressing.

                            1 Reply
                            1. Have you thought about buying one of those insulated cooler bags? I used to dread lugging a cooler around, so my dad got me one of those. It looks like a big tote bag and is made of heavy cloth on the outside and a metallic material on the inside. Put a bag of ice in the bottom, then whatever you want to take on top of that, and it should be fine for the trip no matter how long it takes. It's easy to carry, folds flat to store, and is so much easier to deal with than a regular cooler. Just make sure you let it air out to dry once you get there.

                              That might be a better option than risking something that isn't chilled. You don't want to give your mom food poisoning for her birthday! Plus, the bag would provide a little extra padding for the trip.

                              3 Replies
                                1. re: Phurstluv

                                  Really good idea, and spares me from buying an entire new cooler. Thanks!

                                2. re: writergeek313

                                  I found one, adorable and affordable, at Marshalls.