The Livin’ is Easy When You Prepare These Summer Sides!

The smoke and fragrance of meat on the grill is a sure and welcome sign of summer. Those steaks, burgers and chops might be the stars of the show, but that doesn't mean they should have exclusive use of your grill. That searing heat and whiff of smoke can be harnessed to make imaginative side dishes, as well.

1. Your Daily Bread
A crusty whole-grain baguette or ciabatta are the perfect accompaniment to summer grilling, especially when you grill the bread itself. Cut it crosswise into bread sticks, or horizontally into long halves, and brush the cut surfaces with good olive oil or spread them with herbed butter. Grill the bread until it's golden and just slightly charred, then serve it while it's hot. Rub it with herbs, a garlic clove or a ripe tomato for extra flavor, if you wish.

Don't overlook flatbreads. Shape your own fresh bread dough into rounds or oblongs, oil it lightly, and grill it for that fresh-bread flavor. Alternatively, use the grill to freshen up store-bought naan. Either way, it's a dynamite side.

2. Go Green
Soft, lush, ripe avocados are the unlikeliest of candidates for grilling, which is part of the reason they're so much fun to prepare. Split each ripe avocado in half horizontally, then remove the pit. Squeeze a wedge of fresh lemon or lime over each one, and then brush it with olive oil or even avocado oil. Place each half-shell over the hot side of your grill, with the cut side facing down. Grill them for 2 to 3 minutes until they're well-marked by the grill and slightly smoky, then serve them hot.

Feel free to fill their hollows with tomato basil salsa, smoky lentils, a poached egg or anything else that would compliment your meal.

3. Heat Your Veggies
It's not always obvious, but most vegetables conceal plenty of natural sugars that will caramelize on your grill and bring out unexpectedly deep, rich flavors. Make room over the coals for thick, center-cut "steaks" of cauliflower; skewers of halved, lightly oiled Brussels sprouts; or oblongs of marinated summer squash. Asparagus spears are especially delightful when they're charred over the coals until their delicate tips are crisp and golden. Join 3 or 4 spears with skewers to keep them from falling between the grate's bars, or use a grilling basket if you have one.

4. Pick Some Fruit
Caramelization, and that whiff of smoke from the grill, does equally glorious things for fresh, ripe fruit. Sear rings or spears of golden-sweet pineapple, and serve them alongside your barbecued pork. Halves or wedges of sweet, ripe peaches or apricots are startlingly delicious with steaks or lamb chops (or filled with vanilla ice cream and a dash of cinnamon later, for dessert). Green grapes develop a milky, jade-like beauty when cooked, and make a remarkable complement for grilled chicken. Just thread them onto a skewer, and heat them until they're plump and pretty.

5. Grilled "Salad." Seriously.
If you have a grilling basket at your disposal, you can put together the ultimate grilled side dish. Pull together a mixture of durable greens – think kale, escarole, radicchio or endive – with green onions, sweet bell peppers and sliced summer squash. Tear the greens and chop the other vegetables into bite-sized pieces, and toss them with a splash of olive oil. Start with the onions and firm vegetables. Toss them frequently until they're charred and starting to soften, then add the greens. Once they're wilted, add a pint or two of cherry tomatoes and toss the whole mixture until the tomatoes are softened and lightly blistered.

Put the grilled vegetables into a serving bowl, and toss them with a little more oil and some wine vinegar or sherry vinegar. Season the hot "salad" to taste with salt and pepper, and serve. Think of it as a stir-fry that had big dreams.