With holiday favorites, add some flair on the side

  • Reshma Seetharam Herald writer
  • Wednesday, November 19, 2014 1:34pm
  • Life

These side dishes can fill a plate and compete with that holiday rib roast for seconds.

Rather than limit yourself to a family tradition, try something new and creative on the side. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Cooking up quick side dishes with a handful more vegetables can be good for your heart and your family’s overall health. Try new vegetables. Start small, from a few days a week to a few meals a day. Swap red meat for skinless poultry and seafood. Substitute heavy cream and cheese with yogurt. Replace those creamy, calorie-laden casseroles with vegetable sides.

Balancing out holiday meals with portions of everything in moderation is key to getting through December with a maintained waistline. Studies show that having a little meat along with healthier choices of vegetables, fruit and fiber-rich carbs makes for more satisfied diners.

These side recipes will please the crowd. One dish even has bacon. It’s a great way to make some bacon-tasting vegetable goodness. You can use the vegetables you have, and whip up a quick dinner with chapatis/flat bread or tortillas.

Below are a rainbow of sides for you to try and whip up with ease. Stir-fry or roast in the oven if you like.

Many of these recipes have a South Indian touch, with sun-dried chilies, lentils, peanuts and coconut. If you prefer food that is not spicy, add in a whole sun-dried chili instead to instill just enough flavor.

What you need: Serves 6

2 lb broccoli, washed and cut into bite-sized florets

1/2 lb bacon, chopped into half inch pieces

3 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled, and finely chopped

1 medium sized red onion, chopped

2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 Tbsp crushed red chili flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

A handful of mozzarella cheese, grated

Cook the bacon pieces in a large, heavy saute pan until crisp, about 4-5 minutes. Remove the bacon onto a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Spoon off the excess bacon grease, leaving about a tablespoon in the pan.

Add chopped garlic, onions and red pepper flakes into the pan. Saute for a a few seconds and add in the broccoli. Toss to combine. Sprinkle salt and pepper.

Roast the broccoli on high for about 6 to 8 minutes until broccoli is tender and the edges are slightly singed. Pour lemon juice and fried bacon on it. Toss together and serve. You may sprinkle some mozzarella on top of it and broil it on high for just a few minutes.

Serve hot. Enjoy!

This dish evolved from a mundane week night when I was planning to try something different with asparagus. I like how this dish comes together with crisp asparagus, crumbly toasted peanuts and fragrant coconut flakes. Asparagus in itself is sweet and tender; when it is stir fried with red onions, and garam masala, the flavor is truly amazing. It is now a family favorite.

What you need: Serves 4

20 sticks of asparagus

1 cup red/white onions thinly sliced

2 whole dry red chilies

1/2 tsp brown sugar

1 Tbsp oil

Salt to taste

A pinch of turmeric

A pinch of garam masala powder

To Powder:

2 Tbsp deskinned raw peanuts

2 Tbsp dry coconut flakes/powder

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

Dry roast all the powdering ingredients until they are nice and warm, Set aside on a plate to cool. Test to check the peanuts, when they give a good crunch, they are perfect to powder. In a coffee/dry grinder, give it one or two pulses, for a coarse texture.

Wash and wipe the asparagus dry. Cut them into 2 inch pieces. Heat oil in a large skillet. When it begins to shimmer, add in the chilies. As they begin to roast in the oil, add in the asparagus and roast them on medium heat.

After about 4-6 minutes, sprinkle some salt. Toss in the sliced onions and let it saute for a minute. Adding the onions second, keeps them crunchy. If you like your onions soft, add them before the asparagus and roast them for a minute.

Now add in peanut coconut powder and let the entire mixture cook on low for 3-5 minutes. Turn off the heat, serve.

What you need: Serves 4

2 cups fresh cauliflower, diced, soaked in hot water and a tsp salt for 15 minutes, drained.

1 cup carrots, chopped into rings

1 cup green pepper, chopped

1 cup peeled baby onions.

Powders:

1/2 tsp red chili powder

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

Lentils or Nuts:

1/2 tsp chana dhal

1/2 tsp urad dhal

or 1 tsp coarsely chopped almonds or cashews

Salt to taste

2 tsp olive oil

1/2 tsp cumin/jeera seeds

2 sticks of fresh cilantro, chopped.

Warm a large skillet on medium heat, add oil. When it starts to shimmer, add the dhals or nuts and cumin. Let it roast to a light brown. Toss in the carrots and cauliflower. Cook for 3 minutes, till they are a little soft, yet crunchy.

Add the whole baby onions and green pepper. Turn the heat to high for just 2 minutes, to let the onions brown a bit. Return the heat to medium now. Sprinkle the powders. and a few teaspoons of water. This prevents the dhals from charring.

Cook uncovered for 4 minutes. Don’t let the vegetables cook all the way through. Turn it off while they are crunchy. Garnish it with cilantro before it is served.

What you need: Serves 4

2 cups finely chopped fresh green beans, frozen beans not advised, they will wilt and get soggy

1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen

1/2 cup finely diced carrots

1/2 cup onions finely chopped

1/4 tsp chilli flakes or 2 whole dry red chillies

1/2 tsp split black gram/ urad dhal

1/4 tsp mustard seeds

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

A sprig of curry leaves

Juice of 1/2 lime

Salt to taste

1 tsp olive oil

2 sticks of fresh cilantro, chopped.

Heat a shallow skillet on medium high, add oil. When it starts to shimmer, add the mustard and cumin seeds. Toss in the curry leaves and let them splatter. Add in the red chillies and urad dhal. When it starts to turn a light brown, add in the chopped onions. Let it roast on medium heat, to a light brown. It should take about a minute.

Toss in the the chopped beans, carrots and peas. Cook for another 5 minutes on medium high heat, till they are a little soft, yet crunchy. Sprinkle a few drops of water into the skillet, just enough to moisten the roasted vegetables.

Add in the powders and salt. Toss them all together. Turn off the heat and pour in the lime juice, mix well to incorporate the juice. Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve warm.

What you need: Serves 4

3 cups fresh cauliflower, diced, soaked in warm water and a tsp salt for 15 minutes, drained.

2 cups corn fresh or frozen

1 cup red onion diced

1 cup tomato diced

1 tsp red chili powder

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

Optional:1/2 tsp each: chana dhal, urad dhal, cumin and mustard seeds or a tsp of sliced almonds instead.

Salt to taste

1tsp olive oil

2 sticks of fresh cilantro, chopped.

Heat a large skillet on medium-high, add oil. When it starts to shimmer, add the dhals, roast until they are slightly brown. Add the mustard seeds, and let them splatter. Toss in the onions and tomatoes, let the onions get transparent. Add the cauliflower and corn. Cook for 3 minutes on high.

Turn the heat to low now. Pour in all the powders. Sprinkle a little water. This prevents the dhals from charring. Cook uncovered for 3-4 minutes. Turn off the heat. Garnish it with cilantro before it is served.

What you need: Serves 4

4 cups beets, diced

2 cups green pepper, diced

1 onions, cup diced

1/2 tsp red chili powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

Optional:1/2 tsp each: chana dhal/split chickpeas, urad dhal/split black lentils, cumin and mustard seeds or a tsp of sliced almonds instead.

2 tsp olive oil

Salt to taste

In a large skillet on medium heat, add a tsp of oil. add the lentils, green pepper and onions together, and roast them on medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

Add in the diced beet. Constantly work the spoon to roast it until it gets soft. It will take about 5-7 minutes. Reduce the heat to low.

Add in all the powders. Sprinkle a few teaspoons of water. Cover and let cook on low for 4-6 minutes. Turn off the heat. Serve.

What you need: Serves 4

4 cups shredded or chopped cabbage

3 green hot chilies slit in halves

1 cup onions or scallions/green onions chopped

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1/4 tsp cumin powder

1/4 tsp mustard seeds

1/2 tsp lime juice

A few curry leaves

2 tsp olive oil

Salt to taste

Heat a large saucepan on medium-high. Add in the oil, mustard seeds, chilies and curry leaves, toss in the onions as they splutter.

Add the cabbage and stir fry for 3-5 minutes. Add in the cumin powder, turmeric and salt. Set aside. Turn off the heat while the cabbage is still crisp.

Add lime juice. Stir to combine. Serve.

What you need: Serves 4

3 cups whole ocra/bhindi washed and wiped

1 cup red onions thinly sliced

Optional:1/2 tsp each: chana dhal/split chickpeas, urad dhal/split black lentils, cumin and mustard seeds or a tsp of sliced almonds instead.

2 whole dry red chilies

A few curry leaves

1 tsp brown sugar

1 Tbsp oil

Salt to taste

To Powder:

2 Tbsp whole or deskinned peanuts

2 Tbsp dry coconut flakes/powder

1/2 tsp roasted cumin powder

A pinch of turmeric

A pinch of garam masala powder

Dry roast all the powdering ingredients until they are nice and warm, Set aside on a plate to cool. Test to check the peanuts, when they give a good crunch, they are perfect to powder. In a dry grinder, coarsely powder them.

Wash and wipe the okra dry. Cut off the head and tail. Heat oil in a shallow saucepan, when it begins to shimmer, add in the sesame seeds, chilies and curry leaves, then dhals. Once the dhals turn into a golden color, add in the okra and roast them on medium heat.

After about 10-12 minutes, sprinkle some salt. The okras will turn into a beautiful green with brown patches. Toss in the sliced onions and let it saute for a minute.

Now add in peanut chili powder and let the entire mixture cook on low for 3-5 minutes. Serve hot.

Reshma Seetharam blogs at myfoodarama.com and The Dish blog at www.heraldnet.com/thedish. Email her at rseetharam@herldnet.com or call her at 425-339-3104.

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