Basicwomen's Blog

{October 27, 2010}   4 Easy Side Dishes for Almost Anything

Sometimes I find that figuring out what to make on the side for dinner is a little more difficult than coming up with an idea for a main course. While frozen steamed veggies are a perfectly acceptable solution in a pinch, sometimes I want something with a little more flavor. Here are a few simple ideas that would easily go with many different types of dishes.

1.  Roasted Asparagus

Roasting is one of the best techniques for drawing flavor out of vegetables with minimal effort. It can be done with just about every vegetable, but I love using asparagus because it takes so little time. Here are two simple roasted asparagus recipes; one roasted with lemon and parmesan, and one topped with a balsamic brown butter.

With Lemon and Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and season 1 pound of asparagus (tough ends snapped off) simply with salt, pepper, and lemon zest. Toss with olive oil just to coat, and arrange in 1 layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, until crisp-tender and squeeze a little lemon juice on top and sprinkle with a small handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

With Balsamic Brown Butter and Soy

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and season 1 pound of asparagus (tough ends snapped off) with salt and pepper. Toss with olive oil just to coat, and arrange in 1 layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, until-crisp-tender. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small skillet, and cook until it is lightly browned and smells slightly nutty. Stir in 2 teaspoons of soy sauce (preferably low sodium) and 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar. Spoon over cooked asparagus.

2.  Orzo with Herbs, Olives, and Sun dried Tomatoes

Since orzo is such a quick cooking pasta, it makes a great side dish, and it’s very adaptable to different tastes. Here I use basil, parsley, and oregano for the mixed herbs in this dish, but use whatever you like. If you want to make it a little heartier or adapt it to be a vegetarian main dish, add in some cubed feta. Otherwise, this goes especially well with lamb, but would work fine with chicken, fish or pork as well.

Cook half a pound of orzo in salted, boiling water according to package directions. Meanwhile, chop ¼ cup parsley, 2 tablespoons basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano, 1/3 cup kalamata olives, and 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes packed in oil. When the pasta is done cooking, drain it well and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in herbs, tomatoes, and sundried tomatoes. Dress with 1-2 tablespoons, or to taste, of oil from the jar of sundried tomatoes and juice of ½ a lemon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3.  Sautéed Cabbage

In my opinion, cabbage is a very underrated vegetable. It is often associated with thoughts of a boring, limp, grey vegetable that your grandmother may try to force on you, usually boiled and bland. Here, the cabbage is thinly sliced and sautéed with butter, just long enough to become slightly tender and slightly caramelized. The result is sweet and delicious—you won’t believe how simple and good it is. Pair this with pork or chicken.

Thinly slice one small head Napa or white cabbage. In a large skillet, melt a couple of tablespoons of butter. Add in sliced cabbage and sauté for about 10 minutes, or until tender and starting to brown, but still with a little crunch to it. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4.  Mashed Cauliflower

This is something that my mother started making in place of mashed potatoes when she started to eat healthier, but I think it’s good enough to be more than just a substitute—it’s a great side dish in its own right. My mother uses skim milk in this dish for the sake making it low calorie, but use any type of milk you have, even cream or half and half. This would go best with chicken, or a rich pork dish.

These are her instructions for making it: “Boil it to death in chicken broth. Go against all you know and boil the crap out of the cauliflower!” Then, just mash it with a little butter, about a tablespoon, and enough milk to make it creamy and easy to mash; you won’t need much, or it’ll become too thin; probably anywhere from a couple tablespoons to ¼ cup, depending on if you use milk or cream, and on the size of your cauliflower. If desired, add things like parmesan or other grated cheese, herbs, etc.

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