If you're looking for some different "sides" this year, this asparagus rice salad is a nice option that can be made well in advance and served chilled. You could serve it warm, though, if you toss it all together right after cooking the rice and keep it warm in a casserole dish in the oven.

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Asparagus/Rice Salad with Orange Vinaigrette (prep. time 20 minutes/ 10 minutes if rice is already cooked.  Serves 10)

Vinaigrette:

juice from 1 large orange (I used navel)

½ C. each olive oil and red wine vinegar

salt & pepper

Rice Salad:

4 C. cooked rice

1 bunch asparagus

1 C. chick peas

1 C. pitted kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half

1/3 C. diced spring onions (white part)

¾ C. Mediterranean-spiced feta cheese crumbles*

2 Tb. torn fresh mint leaves.

Snap the tough ends off the asparagus stalks and toss them in olive oil to coat.  Place in a hot grill pan and salt  them.  Cook until tender.  Once they cool, cut the spears into bite-size pieces.  In a large bowl toss together the rice and remaining salad ingredients.  Put the orange juice, olive oil and red wine in a jar, seal and shake to combine. Taste to adjust the vinegar to the desired tartness.  Pour the vinaigrette over the rice salad and toss. Serve chilled. (As noted above, you could serve it warm.  I would wait to toss in the feta just before serving since the cheese would melt into the hot rice)

*If you can’t find Mediterranean-spiced feta (I bought it by accident), use regular fetta, sprinkled with a little dried basil and oregano.