Salads & Side Dishes: More than just rabbit food


When the outdoor temperatures reach the other side of the +30C mark hardly anyone is in the mood to stand in the kitchen over a hot stove, let alone to eat hot meals. Eating warm or heavy meals during a heat-wave actually contributes to a rise in the body temperature and can make one feel significantly more tired than usual. It is no wonder then that as the mercury climbs our brains steer us towards lighter and cooler meals. Ice cream anyone?! While ice-cream of course is a great summer treat and a nice way to cool down, it really can’t take the place of a meal, well… for most people. Thankfully the Central European cookbook is full of tasty offerings for those lazy summer days when one needs to eat but really dreads the kitchen time and lacks the energy required to prepare those meals. 

Summers in Central Europe are HOT! They are not only hot, but also quite humid, a combination not suitable for hours spent over steaming pots and frying pans. Most European households don’t have central air conditioners, which are so common in North America, therefore the European diet shifts heavily towards fresh foods and quick meals during the entire summer season. Unless you have access to a bbq or a summer kitchen – an outdoor cooking area set up outside, which is quite popular in the countryside all over Europe – we suggest you stick to cooking meals that won’t require too much heating or boiling time in your home kitchen. Salads and various side dishes can offer the best choices when your appetite is slightly off and you just want a nutritious and light meal without too much of an effort. We’ve prepared a few ideas for you to try below. Be brave and adapt the recipes to your own taste and liking. They are simply meant to inspire you to eat well even during the hottest days of summer! So have fun with this and let us know some of your own culinary tricks and recipes getting you through these heat-waves!


Open Faced Sandwiches

If you have ever visited Central Europe, chances are you’ve had open faced sandwiches for lunch somewhere along the way. We’re pretty sure that if North American sub sandwiches and pizza were to have a baby it would be the fancy open faced sandwich you can find almost anywhere in the region. Vienna, of course, has the famous Trzesniewski Sandwich Bar, where you can sample some of the most glorious and delicious selections of open faced sandwiches to be found under one roof! You can even purchase the spreads to take home and prepare your own sandwiches on your favourite bread. They are super easy to make and can accommodate any taste and diet imaginable. Try one with shaved pršut – a delicious Croatian off the bone ham similar to prosciutto. It is divine! Perhaps you like pickled herring – it is perfect on rye bread with some cheese and lettuce. The best part about open faced sandwiches is that aside from boiling a few eggs, there really is no cooking involved here at all. We do recommend a good bread to start with, as this really is a key ingredient in this meal. If you’re looking for something authentic right here in Edmonton, perhaps consider trying the Artistic Bake Shop, the Vienna Bakery or the Boulangerie Bonjour. You can be as creative and playful as you like and really have fun with your sandwich creations! Have a look at some of companion recipes for ideas and suggestions to get you started! 

Steak Tartar

Now that you’ve purchased some tasty European breads you might want to try another cold summer dish which pairs splendidly well with it – the magnificent steak tartar! In fact, we’re pretty sure it is the heat exhaustion remedy Sigmund Freud himself would prescribe, given that he was a huge fan of it. As this dish does involve raw meat and egg, we suggest you take special care to refrigerate it right after preparation, though you will probably eat it as soon as you make it – it is that good! Should you have some leftovers after all, try quick frying them as tiny meat balls to have a bit of extra protein to add to your next salad dish.  



Salads, of course are the winner food category of summer! Light and fresh they can be made with simple ingredients often found in your own vegetable garden. Central Europe is full of creative ideas for salads and they are a staple dish in every restaurant in the region. A trio of salads, also known as the salad selection, is a common side dish offered in Polish restaurants to accompany almost any meal you order. This selection typically consists of a fresh salad choice such as cucumber and dill, carrot/apple or fresh cabbage, followed by a pickled salad usually made with sauerkraut or red cabbage, and rounded off with a beet-root or leek salad, for example. Of course the combinations and flavours to play with are endless and the end product is always a visually appealing dish which can also be eaten as a meal on its own. Why have just one salad if you can have three… or four?! Seems logical, no?! How about a potato salad made Central European style? It is not just potatoes of course. Made from a selection of delicious boiled and pickled vegetables, this salad can easily be kept in the fridge for three to four days and used to accompany other dishes during the week. Perhaps casino eggs or an additional base for devilled eggs? The traditional recipe is vegetarian but can easily be adapted as a vegan salad as well. Just skip the eggs and use vegan mayo instead of the regular kind. Vegetable potato salad is so versatile and so tasty you will be happy to have this quick and delicious salad recipe in your summer cooking back-pocket! 



Surely we couldn’t finish our list of recommendations for your summer cooking without including some quick recipes with cheese! It is the essential ingredient in all cooking on earth, isn’t it? The dish we’re about to recommend must be the one dish we think you might consider turning the stove on for just a few minutes! We’re talking Smažený sýr (Czech Fried Cheese), of course! An absolutely genius idea for a super quick meal, fried cheese can be found in most parts of Central Europe, but it did originate in Czechia. A crispy, breaded exterior fried golden brown, the gooey warm goodness simply melts in your mouth like a pillowy dream. It is the ultimate vegetarian steak and we promise you once you try it, you will keep coming back for more! The only thing that can possibly make it better is a cold glass of Czech beer – but now we’re getting ahead of ourselves and into next week. Let’s stick with cheese for one more minute. Should you prefer to try a different type of cheese altogether, we highly recommend the traditional Hungarian Túrós csusza, which can be made with a Canadian cottage cheese as well. This is a real comfort food for those long summer days where you might just want to make one slightly more filling meal for the day. We guarantee you it beats Mac and Cheese!


Stay cool everyone and happy cooking! Until next week!