Stunning side dishes can steal the show

The leg of lamb or crown roast of pork usually takes centre stage at a special dinner, but what is a meal without equally impressive side dishes?

Vegetables and grains add colour, texture, flavour and variety to the table and provide dietary fibre and a multitude of vitamins and minerals.

Their benefits extend to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Vegetables are also an important part of a weight management program, while grains supply a variety of micronutrients and regulate the glycemic effects of our overall diet.

Prairie pilaf

I created this side dish to be served at the 2016 World’s Women’s Curling Championship banquet recently held in Swift Current, Sask. The banquet highlighted the many foods harvested in Saskatchewan.
Beluga lentils are small and black resembling caviar. They have a neutral flavour.
Einkorn is an ancient grain wheat. The smaller kernels cook quickly and add a nutty flavour to the pilaf.
Cooking the grains separately allows each one to keep its unique flavour.

  • 1/2 c. wild rice, cook 35-45 minutes, until grains open 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. beluga lentils, cook 15 minutes, until al dente 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. einkorn berries, cook 15 minutes, until al dente 125 mL
  • 2 c. basmati rice, cool until al dente 500 mL
  • 1 c. finely chopped yellow onion 250 mL
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped celery 60 mL
  • 1/2 c. grated carrot 125 mL
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin 5 mL
  • 1/2 c. cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped 125 mL
  • 1/3 oz. wild mushrooms, reconstituted and roughly chopped 9 g
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 c. fresh or frozen low bush cranberries 250 mL

Cook grains and seeds separately in salted water using kosher salt
Place a large saute pan over medium heat and add enough canola oil to cover the bottom of the pan.
Add the onion, celery and carrots. Cook until soft but do not brown. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Add cumin, cremini and wild mushrooms. Saute until the moisture from the mushrooms has evaporated.
Add the rice and grains to the sauteed vegetables. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary.
Just before serving, stir in low bush cranberries.

Miso, Carrot and Sesame Dressing

I use this rich dressing to make an Asian inspired salad with a variety of ingredients from greens to soba noodles. It also makes a tasty marinade for salmon or rainbow trout.

  • 2 tbsp. white miso 30 mL
  • 6 tbsp. vegetable oil 90 mL
  • 1/4 c. finely grated peeled carrot 60 mL
  • 2 tbsp. finely grated peeled ginger< 30 mL
  • 2 tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar 30 mL
  • 4 tsp. toasted sesame seeds 20 mL
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil 10 mL
  • 2 tsp. honey 10 mL

Whisk all ingredients plus 1/4 cup (60 mL) water. Can be made two days ahead. Cover and chill. Makes about 1 1/2 cups (375 mL). Adapted from Bon Appetit.

Panzanella Italian Salad

  • 2 c. day-old crusty peasant-style whole-grain bread, cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) cubes 500 mL
  • 1 large tomato, trimmed and cut into 8 wedges
  • 1/2 c. sliced unwaxed cucumber 125 mL
  • 1/4 c. sliced red onion 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil 60 mL
  • 1 tbsp. red-wine vinegar 15 mL
  • 5 fresh basil leaves, shredded

Toast the bread cubes in a 325 F (160 C) oven until crispy, about eight minutes. In a serving bowl whisk together oil, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Then add the bread, tomatoes, cucumber, onion and basil. Toss to coat all vegetables with dressing. Serves four.

Lazy Cook’s Hasselback Potatoes

Hasselback potatoes have be-come popular. The recipe was created at the Hasselbacken restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden, in the 1940s. Ideally they are soft in the centre and crispy on the edges. A whole potato sliced to create the fan can be too large for a serving.
This makes a better serving size.

  • 3-4 medium sized potatoes
  • 1/4 c. butter, melted 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. olive oil 60 mL
  • 2 cloves garlic, roasted and pureed
  • 1 tsp. coarse salt 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme 2 mL
  • fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C).
Mix melted butter, olive oil and seasonings in a medium sized bowl.
Wash and peel potatoes. New potatoes or ones with relatively fresh skins do not need to be peeled. Slice thinly, about two millimetres thick. A mandoline is the easiest way to accomplish this. Immediately place sliced potatoes in the bowl of herbed oil and toss to coat.
Coat a muffin pan with non-stick spray or use parchment paper muffin papers for easy cleaning and serving. Carefully make a pile of potato slices to fill each muffin spot. Sprinkle with more thyme and black pepper, if desired. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until edges of potatoes are crispy. Serve immediately.

Roasted Fennel with Garlic

Fennel is in the stores right now. It has a mild licorice flavour, and roasting brings out the sweetness.

  • non-stick vegetable oil spray
  • 4 small (3-inch-diameter) fennel bulbs, trimmed, each cut vertically into eight wedges with core attached to each wedge
  • 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil 60 mL
  • 6 large garlic cloves, coarsely crushed
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme 15 mL
  • 1/8 tsp. dried crushed red pepper .5 mL
  • coarse kosher salt

Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C). Spray large rimmed baking sheet with non-stick spray. Combine fennel, olive oil, garlic, thyme and crushed red pepper in large bowl. Toss to coat. Spread fennel out on baking sheet. Season with coarse kosher salt and pepper. Roast fennel 15 minutes. Using tongs, turn wedges over. Continue to roast until tender, turning one more time, about 20 minutes. Roast until fennel begins to brown at edges, about eight minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl and serve. Can be made two hours ahead. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes eight servings. – Adapted from Bon Appetit.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: team@producer.com.

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