Show Stealing Sides

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Gone are the days when dinner meant a slab of meat accompanied by some boiled vegetables. Vegetables are taking center stage, and oftentimes the sides are more interesting than the protein.

This time of year, the fresh vegetable selection can be a bit bleak. Sure, we have access to out-of-season produce due to cold storage and shipping, but the quality is not always great, and the prices can be high. It’s much better to eat vegetables that are in season — which now means things like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, carrots and cauliflower.

In an effort to jazz up my side dishes and reduce our red meat intake, I’ve developed some vegetable recipes that showcase winter’s bounty and are, though simple, quite delicious.


Cauliflower “Steaks” With Crispy Breadcrumbs

Even people who claim to hate cauliflower may give this an “A.” The crunch of the breadcrumbs, coupled with the slight sweetness of the cauliflower as it begins to caramelize through the roasting process, make it unique and toothsome.

1 large head cauliflower

Olive oil to coat pan and brush over cauliflower (approximately ⅓ cup)

Salt and pepper

¾ cup homemade toasted breadcrumbs

IMG_1637Heat your oven to 375 degrees. Slice the cauliflower vertically into saucer-sized slabs or “steaks.”

Place the steaks in a large baking dish that is lightly brushed with oil, and brush oil over the tops of the steaks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. (You may need two baking dishes.)

Roast the cauliflower for about 40 minutes until softened and beginning to brown. Remove it from the oven, sprinkle it with the toasted breadcrumbs and return it to the oven for about five minutes.

Serves 4 generously

Brown Butter Balsamic Cabbage and Brussels Sprouts

In addition to being quite tasty, this dish is beautifully colorful. If you are being particularly virtuous, you can omit the brown balsamic butter and enjoy the sauteed veggie combo.

1 head red cabbage

2 pints Brussels sprouts

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

½ stick butter

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

IMG_1605Slice the cabbage, remove the stems from the Brussels sprouts and cut them in half.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium, then add the salt and pepper and vegetables. Stir frequently, turning over, and saute until done, about 12 minutes.

While the vegetables cook, place the butter in a small skillet and cook over medium heat until it browns. The butter will foam and eventually begin to brown. You know it is done when it emits a nutty aroma, turns a light brown color and there are small, granular bits in the bottom of the pan. When done, add the balsamic vinegar and stir.

Toss the brown balsamic butter over the cooked cabbage and sprouts and serve.

Serves 8

Carrots in Their Own Syrup

I overheard a fellow guest at a holiday party describing this technique for cooking carrots. Intrigued, I gave it a shot, and it is now in the rotation. It is a much healthier version of honeyed carrots because it doesn’t involve any added sweetener.

1 bunch carrots

1-inch piece of lemon zest

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

Fresh parsley to garnish, if desired

Cut the carrots into thick coins.

Bowl of sliced carrots on tablePlace the carrots in a saucepan with the lemon zest, salt and pepper, and add just enough water to cover.

Bring the water to a boil, cover and simmer for eight minutes until the carrots are tender but not mushy.

Drain the carrots. Reserve the liquid and return it to the pan.

Turn up the heat, and boil the liquid to reduce it; it should cook down to about ⅓ cup. This will take about 15 minutes.

Pour the reduction syrup over the carrots, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve hot, at room temperature or chilled as a salad.

Serves 4

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