When we set aside two Sundays in May and June to honor parents, probably no one imagined that in doing so,we’d end up using bookended stereotypes about mothers and fathers to decide how we’d honor them, especially when it comes to feeding them.

It’s probably useless to fight those stereotypes. They’re so fixed that on Father’s Day, every other backyard in America is going to be blue with smoke, because whether they like it or not, most dads are going to be offered a hunk of grilled red meat.

And, honestly, most of us will like it, because almost anything that’s grilled over hardwood is deeply satisfying to eat, especially red meat.

But going with the stereotype for the main dish doesn’t mean we’re rule-bound to surround it with a predictable company of “manly” (whatever that is) side dishes. There are so many things other than regular potato salad, grill-baked potatoes, and corn on the cob that pair well with grilled meat.

If, on the outside chance, you’ve paid so little attention to the old man that you have no idea what he really likes, then for goodness’ sake, ask him. You might get a surprise.

And if he’s one of those infuriatingly indecisive types whose answer is always, "Oh, anything’s fine with me,” here are a few ideas for sides that really will be fine with him. They’ll not only go with that grilled meat, they’ll also make it memorable.

The bonus is that most of them can be made ahead and the ones that can’t come together quickly, so you can spend your time with the father in your life instead of the kitchen.

 

Four Bean Bake

Traditionally made with canned pork and beans (yes, you can make from scratch with navy beans if you must), blending in a variety of beans gives this old summer cookout favorite a nice lift. Serves 6-8.

 

Ingredients:

• 1 28-ounce can pork and beans, drained

• 1 15- to 16-ounce can pinto beans, drained

• 1 15- to 16-ounce can red beans or red kidney beans, drained

• 1 15- to 16-ounce can black beans, drained

• 4 extra-thick-cut slices applewood smoked bacon (or 6-8 slices regular bacon), diced

• 1 medium yellow onion, diced

• 2 large or 3 medium cloves garlic, minced

• ½ cup ketchup

• ½ cup light brown sugar

• Large pinch dry mustard

• Worcestershire sauce

• Salt and whole black pepper in a mill

 

Directions:

1. Position a rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 F. Put all beans in a 9-inch square or 2 ½ quart casserole. Gently mix.

2. Sauté bacon in a 9-inch skillet over medium heat until it is browned and fat is rendered. Spoon off all but 1 tablespoon fat, add onion, and sauté until softened and golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant. Turn off heat and transfer to casserole.

3. Add ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, and season with Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Gently but thoroughly mix, level top with back of spoon, taste and adjust seasoning. Bake until bubbly to center and lightly crusted over on top, about 1 hour.

 

Old-Fashioned Five-Bean Salad

Bean salads, whether they incorporate three, five or more beans, are commonplace on commercial salad bars and may seem hackneyed and dull. But if you go to the trouble of using fresh green beans and don’t drown them in the sauce, this old-fashioned staple is hard to beat. Serves 8-10.

 

Ingredients:

• 8 ounces (½ pound) haricots verts, washed and trimmed

• 8 ounces (½ pound) yellow wax beans, washed and trimmed

• Salt

• 1 ½ cups cooked small green butterbeans or baby lima beans (1 15- to 16-ounce can)

• 1 ½ cups cooked dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (1 15- to 16-ounce can)

• 1 ½ cups cooked black beans, drained and rinsed (1 15- to 16-ounce can)

• 1 cup diced red onion (about ½ large)

• 1 large rib celery, scrubbed, strung and diced

• 1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled

• ½ cup cider vinegar (or red wine or sherry vinegar)

• 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

• 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme, marjoram, or oregano, or combination

• 2-3 tablespoons sugar, to taste

• Whole black pepper in a mill

• ½ cup olive or vegetable oil

• ¼ cup thinly sliced green onions

• 1 tablespoon minced parsley

 

Directions:

1. Cut haricots verts in half on diagonal. Cut wax beans, if using, on diagonal into 1-inch lengths. Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil; add small handful salt and haricots verts. Boil rapidly 2 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Lift out with mesh skimmer or slotted spoon and immediately rinse under cold running water. Cool completely, cover, and refrigerate.

2. Add wax beans to pot and cook until crisp-tender, about 4-6 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water.

3. Combine wax, butter, kidney, and black beans, red onion, and celery in large glass bowl.

4. Roughly chop garlic, sprinkle with pinch of salt, and rub to puree with side of knife. Put garlic in glass pint jar with tight fitting lid with vinegar, mustard and herbs. Add sugar and pepper to taste. Add oil, screw lid on tightly, and shake well. Taste and adjust salt, sugar and pepper. Pour over beans, toss well, cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours.

5. Just before serving, add haricots verts, toss, taste, and adjust seasonings and toss one last time. Sprinkle with green onions and parsley and serve immediately.

 

Creamy Greek Potato Salad

It’s not documented, but I have a sneaking suspicion the sour cream potato salad that is so popular in the South derives from this one. Serves 6.

 

Ingredients:

• 1 ½ pounds waxy red-skinned potatoes

• ½ large “English” (hothouse) cucumber, or 2 small salad cucumbers

• 2 large ripe tomatoes, or 1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes

• ½ large red onion, diced small

• ¼ cup mayonnaise

• ½ cup Greek yogurt

• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, or 2 teaspoons dried dill

• 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

• Freshly squeezed lemon juice, or red wine vinegar, to taste

• Salt and whole black pepper in a mill

 

Directions:

1. Scrub potatoes under cold running water. Put in 3-quart heavy bottomed pot and cover completely with water. Lift out potatoes, cover pan, and bring to boil over high heat. Add a large pinch salt and slip in potatoes. Bring back to boil, adjust heat to steady simmer, and cook until easily pierced to center with paring knife, about half an hour (depending on size and maturity of potatoes). Drain and let cool enough to handle.

2. Lightly peel and trim ends of cucumber. Split in half lengthwise. If seeds are large, scrape out with bowl of spoon. Slice about ¼-inch-thick. Wash, core, and cut tomatoes into large dice. If using grape tomatoes, halve lengthwise.

3. When potatoes are cooled enough to handle, peel and cut into chunks. Put in bowl with onion, tomato, cucumber, and dill. Gently mix.

4. In separate bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, yogurt, and Dijon-style mustard until smooth. Season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper, and whisk to blend. Pour over vegetables and gently toss until well mixed. Let cool completely and if not serving right away, cover and refrigerate. Let sit at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.

 

Warm Greek Potato Salad

Potato salads dressed with oil and vinegar can be found all around the Mediterranean Basin. This one from Greece is usually served warm. This is also good made ahead and served at room temperature. If you’re doing that, however, don’t add the cucumber and tomato until you’re ready to serve. Serves 6.

 

Ingredients:

• 1 ¼ pounds waxy boiling potatoes (such as red skinned or Yukon Gold)

• Salt

• 1 large “English” (hothouse) cucumber, or 2 medium salad cucumbers

• 2 large ripe tomatoes, or 1 heaped cup grape tomatoes

• ½ large red onion, diced small

• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves

• Extra virgin olive oil

• Freshly squeezed lemon juice or red wine vinegar

• Salt and whole black pepper in a mill

• 3 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and quartered

• 6-8 Greek or Kalamata olives, pitted and halved

 

Directions:

1. Scrub potatoes under cold running water. Put in 3-quart heavy bottomed pot and cover completely with water. Lift out potatoes, cover pan, and bring to boil over high heat. Add a large pinch salt and slip in potatoes. Bring back to boil, adjust heat to steady simmer, and cook until easily pierced to center with paring knife, about half an hour (depending on size and maturity of potatoes). Drain and let cool enough to handle.

2. Lightly peel and trim ends of cucumber. Split in half lengthwise. If seeds are large, scrape out with bowl of spoon. Slice about ¼-inch-thick. Wash, core, and cut tomatoes into large dice. If using grape tomatoes, halve lengthwise.

3. When potatoes are cooled enough to handle but still very warm, peel and cut into chunks. Put in bowl and add onion, tomato, cucumber, and oregano. Gently toss to mix.

4. Lightly drizzle with oil, toss, and sprinkle with lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste. Gently toss, taste and adjust oil, juice, salt and pepper. Arrange eggs and olives around edges of salad and serve while still warm.

 

BLT and O Salad

Basically, a BLT is a salad between two slices of toast, so it translates handsomely to a salad plate, especially with a bit of Vidalia sweet onion thrown in. Adapted from my book “Beans, Greens, & Sweet Georgia Peaches, 2nd Edition” (Globe Pequot Press). Serves 4.

 

Ingredients:

• 4 medium ripe tomatoes

• 2 medium Vidalia, or other sweet onions

• 8-12 romaine lettuce leaves, washed and well drained

• ½ cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade)

• Salt and whole black pepper in a mill

• 8 slices thick-cut bacon, preferably applewood smoked, fried crisp

• 1 cup Buttered Croutons (recipe follows)

• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives, or parsley, or combination

 

Directions:

1. Peel tomatoes with serrated vegetable peeler, core, and cut into ½-inch dice and put in a salad bowl. Split onions lengthwise. Trim off root and stem ends, peel, split each half lengthwise, and thinly slice. Tear 4 lettuce leaves into bite-sized pieces. Add lettuce and onions to tomatoes.

2. Add mayonnaise and season with salt and pepper. Toss until vegetables are evenly coated. Taste and correct seasoning, but don’t overdo salt, since bacon adds a salty element.

3. Line 4 salad plates with remaining lettuce leaves. Add croutons, give one last toss, and divide among prepared plates. Crumble bacon evenly over top, sprinkle with herbs, and serve at once.

 

Buttered Croutons

They are simple to make, much better than the store-bought variety, and are economical, since they are best when made from stale bread. To cut croutons, use a serrated bread knife and cut the bread first into ½-inch slices and then cut the slices into cubes. Makes 2 cups.

 

Ingredients:

• 2 ounces (4 tablespoons or ½ stick) unsalted butter

• 2 cups crusty bread, cut into ½ to 1 inch cubes (depending on how you plan to use them)

 

Directions:

1. Position rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 300 F. Put butter in rimmed baking sheet or sheet cake pan that will hold all bread in a single layer. Put in oven until butter is melted.

2. Add bread and toss until thoroughly coated. Return pan to the upper third of oven and bake, tossing from time to time, until delicately browned and crisp, about ½ hour.

Note: Though it requires more attention, croutons can be made on top of the stove. Put butter in large sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. When melted, add cubed bread and toss until evenly coated with fat. Cook, tossing often, until browned and crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes.

 

Zia Rita’s Potatoes Schiscionera

(Stewed Potatoes with Garlic and Parsley)

While cold potato salad is a cookout standard, sometimes a warm dish is welcome. This simple Sicilian dish is from incomparable Italian cooking authority Julia della Croce (“Italian Home Cooking,” Kyle Books), whose Aunt Rita often made it. It goes with just about anything, is very quick to put together, and is actually quite good at room temperature if you prefer. Serves 6.

 

Ingredients:

• 5 medium waxy boiling potatoes (about 1 ½ pounds)

• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

• 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated

• Salt and whole black pepper in a mill

• 2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley

 

Directions:

1. Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes. Put oil and garlic in saucepan large enough to hold potatoes. Turn on heat to low and sauté until garlic is softened, about 2 minutes. Add potatoes and toss to coat.

2. Add 1 cup water, salt and pepper to taste, and parsley. Cover and simmer over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Serve hot.