There is no reason why vegetables shouldn’t be the most delicious thing on your plate. In Italy, they often are. Why? Because Italians know how to use olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs in a way that accentuates the natural goodness of the vegetables themselves. Say goodbye forever to soggy, drab veggies that get pushed over to the side of your plate. Say goodbye to vegetables being synonymous with healthy but gross. Say hello to fabulously vibrant vegetables!
Everyone needs to have an arsenal of side dish recipes that go with main courses. Look no further than these five healthy, tasty side dishes.
1Tuscan Garden Grove Brussels Sprouts
1½ pounds Brussels sprouts (about 30 sprouts)
3 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into ½ inch pieces
2-3 large shallots cut into ½-inch pieces
1 teaspoon dried thyme
6 1-inch pieces of fresh rosemary
4 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Generous ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400 F. Cut off brown end tips of Brussels sprouts and pull off any yucky looking yellowish leaves. Put Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, shallots, garlic and rosemary in a casserole dish. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with thyme and salt. Grind fresh pepper. Use your fingers to mix and lick fingers to test seasoning. Adjust if needed. Make sure the rosemary and garlic pieces are evenly dispersed throughout casserole. Bake for 45 minutes.
2Little Italian Potato Sticks with Rosemary and Thyme
Russet potatoes, washed, peel one (figure 1 potato for 2 people)
1 teaspoon dried thyme (per potato)
½ teaspoon dried rosemary (per potato)
1 scant teaspoon salt (per potato)
15 grinds of the pepper mill (per potato)
Extra virgin olive oil (about 1 tablespoon per potato)
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice potatoes lengthwise into ¼-inch to ½-inch slices. Stack the slices on top of one another and slice in the other direction to make them ¼-inch or ½-inch wide. It’s OK if they aren’t perfect. The smaller ones will get crispier and the larger ones will be heartier. It’s a good mix. Place potatoes on baking sheet. Add olive oil, enough to liberally cover all the potatoes. Add herbs, salt and pepper. Use your fingers and mix it all together so the potatoes are well coated. Lick your fingers. The taste should be on the herb-y, salty, peppery side as flavor tends to burn off in the oven a bit. If the flavor has no kick on your finger, add more salt and the rest. Place potatoes on lined baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 15-25 minutes, checking after 12 minutes to see if they need to be flipped or shaken up and then check again five or so minutes later. Baking time will depend on size of potatoes and your oven. You want them browned!
3Roasted Mixed Vegetables
1 large baking sheet or two medium ones
1 butternut squash, cubed (precut is OK)
1 red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 fennel bulbs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small head of cauliflower
2 vine-ripened tomatoes, soft-ish
8 ounces cremini or white button mushrooms, left whole
Extra virgin olive oil (â…“ cup plus ¼ cup)
About 10 1-inch pieces of fresh rosemary, with branch
2 teaspoons salt
Pepper, 40 grinds of the mill
Feel free to substitute different vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini or beets, depending on the season or your personal preference. However, the onion and tomato create the juice, so don’t get rid of those.
Preheat oven to 400 F and place rack on the way bottom of oven. Cover your baking sheet(s) with parchment paper. Place vegetables on the sheet so they are in a single layer. Drizzle generously with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and add pepper. Place rosemary pieces so they are evenly dispersed on pan. Use your fingers to mix so all the vegetables have an olive oil/salt/pepper coating. Lick your fingers. Taste good? Adjust seasoning until it really pops in your mouth. Bake on the lowest rack of oven for about 80 minutes. (If you are using two smaller baking sheets, switch them about half way so each gets time on the bottom closest to the heat source.) At about both the 40-minute and 60-minute marks, stir vegetables and lay them back down until cooked.
4Roasted Broccoli With Parmigiano
2-3 heads of broccoli
¼-â…“ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
Generous freshly ground pepper
Parmigiano reggiano, grated with a microplane
Preheat oven to 425 F. Cut off the thick broccoli stem. Use your hands to break apart florets into smaller and bigger pieces. You will find that the lack of uniformity in size will lead to both juicy and well-browned pieces alike, both of which you will savor equally. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place broccoli on baking sheet and drizzle on the oil, sprinkle the salt, grind the pepper and add the grated parmigiano. Use your fingers to mix it all together evenly. Lick your fingers; if they taste quite salty and peppery you have done well. Seasoning will burn off in oven, so you want it to taste extra salty and peppery. Cook in oven for 11-15 minutes.
5Celery Root Purée
For 6-10 as a side dish (if you are serving for more, double or triple the quantity by boiling more celery root, onion and potato in the first place)
1 large celery root or two smaller ones, peeled with a knife and cut in thirds
1-2 unpeeled russet potatoes (depending on how many people you want to feed)
1 onion, peeled, don’t cut (save the skin)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 stick of butter or the equivalent of more olive oil
Salt to taste – a generous teaspoon I would say
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 F. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add celery root, potato, onion and onion skin (the skin adds flavor.) Cook until vegetables are soft, about 45 minutes and remove. If you have them, you can also boil some carrots, a bay leaf and a chicken bone with your vegetables to add extra flavor to them as they cook. Put all ingredients, in two batches if not enough room, in the food processor and pulse until very smooth. Spread out in 8×8-inch ceramic or glass baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for around 30 minutes or until very hot. You can re-bake the leftovers the next day in the same way.