Bring your best dish to the picnic

Side dishes that are sure to be crowd pleasers this holiday weekend

Stephanie Zollshan — The Berkshire Eagle

PITTSFIELD — Here comes summer! And not a moment too soon ...

Memorial Day weekend is the official launch of the picnic and barbecue season in the region. Because it's the first cookout of the summer, hamburgs and hot dogs will be high on the menu, as will be potato and macaroni salads. But by mid-July, we'll have had our fill of burgers and hots dogs, and the usual side dishes, and will be hoping for something different on the menu to change things up.

A shout-out to the Berkshire Eagle staff to share the recipes for their go-to, often-requested, dishes for potluck summer gatherings yielded salads and desserts guaranteed to raise the bar.

Easy rhubarb dessert

(My mom has made this rhubarb "dump cake" every Memorial Day (for at least 35 years) using one of her first spring rhubarb harvests from their garden. She serves it at a barbecue lunch at their home in Lenox after the Lenox Memorial Day parade that we all attend.Becky Drees)

No mixing required to make this dessert that tastes like a cobbler.


1 pound rhubarb, washed and cut into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces (about 4-5 cups)

1 cup white sugar

1 3-ounce package strawberry Jello

1 package yellow or white cake mix

1 cup water

1/3 cup butter, melted


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish. Spread the rhubarb evenly in the bottom of the baking dish. Sprinkle sugar over the rhubarb, followed by the powdered jello mix, and finally the dry cake mix. Pour water and melted butter evenly over the top. DO NOT STIR! Bake for 45 minutes or until light golden brown. (Also good with 1 cup of strawberries replaced with one of the cups of rhubarb). Great served with vanilla ice cream.

EZ PZ 3 bean salad

(A bonus of this recipe is it won't spoil if left outside on a picnic table for a few hours. — Kristin Palpini)


1 can green beans

1 can chickpeas

1 can red kidney beans

1/2 cup uncooked couscous — (Throw it in a microwave with a cup of water and a pat of butter for about a minute or until the couscous is cooked; fluff with a fork.)

Once the couscous has cooled throw everything into a bowl and mix it up.

Now add to the mix:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon dry basil

Pepper to taste

Stir and let sit in the fridge for an hour or so to let the flavors marinate.

Note: Make the recipe vegan by using oil instead of butter with the couscous.

BLT salad

(This is super easy and tastes just like a BLT in a bowl ... yum! — Melodie Sinopoli)


12 ounces sliced cooked bacon, crumbled (or more — you can never have enough bacon)

1 to 2 cups croutons

1 pound (3 cups) tomatoes (I use red and orange cherry tomatoes)

1 large head of lettuce, chopped

BLT salad dressing:

3 tablespoons mayo

4 tablespoons sour cream

1 large garlic clove, pressed

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

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1/4 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

1 to 2 tablespoons milk, or add to desired consistency


In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, pressed garlic clove, chives, black pepper and salt. Stir together with a fork, then add 1 to 2 tablespoons milk, or add milk to desired consistency. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

In a large mixing bowl, combine lettuce, tomatoes, bacon and croutons.

German potato salad

(This is a family favorite. This can be served warm or cold and it's delicious either way. — Melodie Sinopoli)


2 pounds red or Yukon gold potatoes

1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 red onion, diced

2 tablespoons of flour

2 stalks of celery finely chopped

1/4 cup cider vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley


Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook potatoes with skins on until tender. Drain and remove skins, and slice and place in large mixing bowl.

In a large skillet, fry bacon until crisp; remove and set aside. Drain all but 2 to 3 tablespoons of drippings; cook onion and celery until tender. Stir in the flour, salt and pepper until blended. Add water and vinegar; cook and stir for 1 minute or until slightly thickened.

Stir in sugar until dissolved. Pour sauce over cooked potatoes. Toss with bacon and parsley. Serve hot, or chill to serve cold.

Black Forest dump cake

(A favorite of the Boy Scout Troop 8 of Pittsfield — Bill Macfarlane)


12-inch Dutch oven



2 cans cherry pie filling

1 box chocolate cake mix

1 20-ounce bottle of Dr. Pepper

1 stick butter

1 package of semi-sweet chocolate chips


First get your charcoal lit and wait till the charcoal is ready.

Dump the 2 cans of cherry pie filling into the bottom of the Dutch oven.

Sprinkle the dry cake mix over the cherry pie filling

Pour the bottle of Dr. Pepper over the cake filling

Slice the butter into slices and place on top of the mixture

DO NOT MIX the ingredients

Place 12 to 14 hot coals under the Dutch oven.

Put the top on the Dutch oven and place 16 to 18 hot coals on top

In about 30 to 40 minutes, the cake should be hot and bubbling, (CAUTION: The top of the Dutch oven will be hot.)

Sprinkle the semi-sweet chocolate chips on top of the cake and put the lid back on top of the Dutch oven until the chocolate chips have melted.

Serve into bowls with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.


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