Veggie side dishes are usually delicious as is, but they can also be transformed into new-and-unexpected culinary creations; for example, they can be garnished with fried quinoa or toasted nuts for more texture, or flavor-brightened-up with a squeeze of lemon. Boiling or steaming vegetables? Vinegar or dry white wine can be added to the water for another flavor boost. Seasoning is yet another good option (for best results, do this as the veggies are cooking). Most home cooks want simplicity in their vegetable sides. “The simplest thing to do with them is to roast them,” says Jeanne Ambrose, editor of Taste of Home. Roasting concentrates flavors and will caramelize the natural sugars; it’ll also mellow strong broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.
Adding herbs? Mix them in at the right time for maximum flavor. For best results, add the hearty herbs of rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano and marjoram as the veggies are roasting or cooking. The delicate herbs of chives, parsley, tarragon and cilantro should be put in at the end, or they’ll lose their fresh flavor and verdant color.
Here’s a few more tips from Jeanne Ambrose:
Green Beans-“They’ll remain bright-green if they’ll cooked in boiling water until they’re crisp-tender. Then immediately plunge them into ice water. Then you can do just about anything with them; I like to cook some onion, garlic and ginger in sesame oil, and then toss in the cooked green beans.” Here’s a green bean recipe that’s not the same old, same old (the standard one that uses the mushroom soup); this is a lighter, citrusy version: Green Beans with Fried Onions
- 2 and one-half pounds green beans, trimmed Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 and one-half teaspoons red pepper flakes
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup fried onions
- One-half cup pecans
Place the green beans into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 7 minutes, until they are bright green and crisp-tender. Drain the beans and shock them in a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain the beans again and pat dry. In a pan, heat the oil, then saute garlic and red pepper flakes until just fragrant. Turn off the heat, add beans and stir gently. Add lemon juice and pepper and stir gently again. Top with fried onions and pecans. Makes 6 servings
Beets are perfect for roasting. Ambrose suggests wrapping each one individually in foil, placing in a roasting pan and sticking in the oven. Once they’re cooked, manipulate the foil; the peel will come right off: “Don’t mix them with other veggies in a pan unless you want a ‘holiday red’ on all of them.”
Corn-Herbs like basil can be added, as well as lemon or lime juice, chili powder and even cheese. Here’s a classic recipe from Taste of Home, November 2002: Add 12 cups of frozen corn to boiling water. After the corn is tender, drain and stir in one-half cup of butter, 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon dill weed, one-half teaspoon garlic powder, one-half teaspoon Italian seasoning and one-fourth teaspoon dried thyme.(Source: “Holiday side dishes can be sophisticated, satisfying” by Arthi Subramaniam, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-The Vindicator, November 11, 2015)