My (just married) sister recently texted me and requested this post. Brian immediately told me that I’m unqualified to write this post, as I’m pretty bad at remembering to prepare side dishes as well. I tried to keep my suggestions in this post simple, but I’m sure I left something out. Feel free to add your favorite ideas below!
BUYING & STORING: Fresh local vegetables are awesome because they last longer, have great texture and support the local economy. Buying seasonally will keep the prices down too. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with frozen vegetables-they’re just as healthy and delicious as the fresh ones. Keep an eye out for supermarket sales and coupons; buy big bags for multiple meals.
Now, what to do with the vegetables after you’ve bought them?
STEAMED: Steaming fresh vegetables is currently one of my favorite things. Steam baskets are relatively inexpensive and steaming keeps the crispness of the produce. I just put an inch or so of water in the bottom of a pan, add the steam basket, bring the water to a simmer, add the vegetables and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until tender (I like mine on the crunchy side). This works especially well with things like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and green beans. I also just read something about adding citrus rind to the water so that the vegetables take on a lemon or orange flavor, which I’m planning to try with steamed beets soon.
ROASTED: I roast a lot of vegetables in the winter. At the most basic level, I combine chopped or sliced vegetables (squash, carrots, onions, leeks, parsnips) with a little bit of olive oil and spread them out on a baking sheet. Cooked at 350 to 400 degrees, 20-40 minutes later (depending on the vegetable), they’re soft and ready to eat. Roasting vegetables is perfect for when you’re preparing something else on the stove top at the same time. Easily elevated with seasonings such as herbs, soy sauce or chili powder. Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings” is an excellent recipe if you’re looking to get a little more complicated, as is Roasted Carrots with Scallion-Ginger Glaze. (This is also the method I use to roast potatoes on a regular basis)
SALAD: Salad can be anything you want it to be, using lettuce, kale or spinach. I like to make mine more interesting with non-vegetable ingredients like cheese, hard-boiled eggs, beans or nuts. Great dressing, either homemade or store bought, can make a world of difference as well.
SAUTEED/STIR FRIED: When I’m in a rush or at a loss for anything else to do, quickly sautéing vegetables never fails. Whether it’s spinach, broccoli, summer squash, green beans, asparagus or almost anything else you can think of, adding them to a pan with some olive oil or butter, salt and garlic makes a great side. If I’m feeling a little more motivated, I’ll make a bigger batch with sauce and serve it over a grain, like rice, with some sort of protein (chicken, tofu, beans).
TOPPED: As I alluded to in a couple places above, sometimes all vegetables need are a good sauce. Grated cheese is always a good choice, but once in a while I’m in the mood for something with more interesting flavors. Some of my favorites:
Mmmm sauce (Peas and Thank You)
Jessica’s Vegan Peanut Sauce
Thai Sesame Peanut Sauce (The Wannabe Chef)
Simple Curry Sauce (Savvy Eats)