It’s almost Easter and that means it’s time to plan your Easter feast. Whether you have a large crowd or just a few close family and friends, you want your dinner to be special. After deciding what your main courses will be, you’ll want to spend some time planning your side dishes. Even though these dishes aren’t the main attraction, they are the ones that everyone loves best. Think about it – with side dishes, you get to eat a variety of delicious food unlike the one or two entrees. You may be tempted to make the same old mashed potatoes and vegetables but before you do, stop and think about doing something different. Spring offers us a bounty of fresh and colorful produce that comes into season. Take advantage of that and set a table filled with these beautiful side dishes that will make your Easter dinner complete.
1. Roasted Asparagus
Next to sautéing, I love roasting vegetables especially asparagus. Asparagus comes into season in spring so it’s a perfect side dish for Easter dinners. To make Roasted Asparagus: trim 1-lb. asparagus by picking up a spear and bending it gently. Where it breaks naturally is where you want to cut all the spears to get rid of the woody tip. Arrange the spears in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 450 degrees until lightly browned and tender, about 10 minutes, turning the pan halfway through. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice on right before serving. For other side dishes featuring asparagus, try this Super-Simple Sesame Drenched Asparagus, Asparagus and Carrot Indian Stir-Fry, Skillet Asparagus and Tomato Medley, and Asparagus and Saffron Biryani.
2. Sauteed Garlicky Green Beans
Sautéing green beans gives them a crunchy, almost blackened taste and nothing is more delicious than crispy garlic bits. This is my favorite way to eat green beans. To make Sauteed Garlicky Green Beans: trim the tips of 1-lb. of green beans. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the green beans to the pan and let cook for about 5 minutes, tossing every so often. Add 4 minced garlic cloves and toss the vegetables so they brown on all sides. Continue cooking until the vegetables are tender but still have crunch. They should look somewhat blackened. The garlic should be browned and crispy but not burned. Add salt and pepper to taste. Other side dishes with green beans include these Super Flax Green Bean Fries and this beautiful Potato Noodle and Green Bean Salad With Chive-Dijon Vinaigrette.
3. Maple Roasted Carrots and Parsnips
No vegetable makes you think of spring (and the Easter Bunny) more than carrots. Sweet and delicious, carrots pair well with their spicy cousin, parsnips to make a sweet and savory side dish. To make Maple Roasted Carrots and Parsnips: cut 2 ½ lbs. of carrots and parsnips in half lengthwise and then cut them on the bias into 1-inch thick slices. Toss them with olive oil, salt, black pepper and 1/3 cup pure maple syrup. Arrange them on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast the parsnips and carrots in a 425 degree oven for 30 – 40 minutes or until just tender and golden brown. Use these root vegetables to make other colorful side dishes like this Rainbow Veggie Lentil Fried Rice, Curried Carrots with Pistachios, and Rosemary Roasted Carrots with Creamy Thyme and Rosemary Sauce.
4. Sauteed Broccoli Rabe
My absolutely favorite way to eat broccoli, broccolini and broccoli rabe is to saute it. In fact, sautéing is my favorite way to cook almost any vegetable. It’s fast, easy and you end up with a dish that is filled with flavor. When I saute broccoli I don’t bother to blanch it first, but broccoli rabe needs to be since it can be very bitter. To make Sauteed Garlicky Broccoli Rabe: heat 1 Tbs. olive oil and 1 Tbs. vegan butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute 6 minced garlic cloves until they just start to brown. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes and one bunch of blanched and drained broccoli rabe. Saute the broccoli rabe for 3 minutes until it is bright and verdant. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with vegan grated parmesan, if desired. Use this same method to cook broccoli or broccolini. For more recipes that use this trio of green veggies, try this Sauteed Broccoli Rabe with Red Chile Flakes, Garlic Broccoli with Coco-Peanut Sauce, Broccoli Salad with Quinoa, Scallions and Roasted Cashews and Spicy Lemon Sauteed Broccolini. Change it up and get different dishes with 10 Simple and Awesome Homemade Saute Sauces.
5. Beautiful Beets
Beets are earthy, delicious and beautiful to look at. Something this colorful and yummy deserves a place on the Easter dinner table. Add beets to this Easy Roasted Root Vegetables, make this Stir-Fried Beetroot with Lime, Ginger and Toasted Spices, Grilled Beet Salad with Almonds and Dried Cranberries, Freekeh Salad with Beets, Cilantro and Lime or these Sesame Roasted Beets and Greens. Don’t forget the beet greens. They are edible and awesome. Use them to make these Sauteed Beet Red Greens or these Beet Greens with Garlic and Toasted Almonds.
6. Dijon Grilled Potato Salad with Arugula
This potato salad is not your usual drowned-in-mayo, cold, blah potato salad. This is warm, zippy and full of flavor. Everyone who makes it loves it. It’s light, fresh and the springtime arugula makes it perfect for the Easter table. To make my Dijon Grilled Potato Salad with Arugula: in a medium-sized saucepan, parboil 1 ½ lbs. halved or quartered Yukon gold or red potatoes until they are just fork-tender. Allow them to cool to the touch. Meanwhile, prepare the dressing. In a large bowl, combine 2 Tbs. each Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, agave nectar, extra-virgin olive oil, 1 Tbs. capers, 1 tsp. dried dill and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and lightly coat with oil. Place the potato halves on the grill pan, cut side down. Cook about 4 minutes until they are browned, then turn over with tongs to cook the other side. You should have nice grill marks on them. Add the potatoes into the dressing and toss until the potatoes are coated. Add thinly sliced red onion and chopped celery to the bowl and mix well. Serve on a bed of arugula or alternately, you can mix the arugula into the potato salad. Serve warm or cold.
Other potato dishes that are different and will be a hit include Fried Smashed Potatoes with Lemon Vinaigrette, Dill Pickle French Fries, Spicy Sweet Potato Salad, Baked to Perfection Fingerling Potato Rounds, Vegan Potato Salad with Cilantro, Dill, Tomatoes and Raw Mayo, and Roasted Red Potatoes with Turmeric and Thyme.
7. Gorgeous Gratins
No one will pass up a side dish when it’s as great as a gratin. What’s not to love about vegetables baked with cheese until they are gooey and decadent? Most people make potato gratins but you can make it with whatever veggies you like best. Try this Cheesy Cauliflower Gratin, Cheesy Leek and Potato Gratin, Potato and Mushroom Gratin, Kale and Mushroom Gratin, and Greek Scalloped Potato Gratin.
8. Rosemary Sweet Potato Wedges
A sweet way to make roasted sweet potatoes is to cut them into wedges and season them with herbs. To make Rosemary Sweet Potato Wedges: cut 4 medium sweet potatoes lengthwise into wedges. Toss them with olive oil, 1 tsp. crushed dried rosemary and kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Arrange the wedges on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes. Flip the potatoes, rotate the pan and bake for another 20 minutes or until they are browned and tender. A similar recipe is this one for Baked Cinnamon-Spiced Sweet Potato Fries with Apple Date Butter Dipping Sauce. Other amazing side dishes with sweet potatoes include Maple and Tarragon Sweet Potatoes, Moroccan Sweet Potatoes and Chickpeas, Spicy Indian Sweet Potatoes, Yam Banana Mash and Cakes, Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Latin Spice Mix, Rosemary and Garlic Sweet Potato Medallions and Sweet Potato Latkes with Chutney Sour Cream and Curried Onion Apple White Bean Topping.
9. Overstuffed Artichokes
Artichokes come into season in spring and serving overstuffed artichokes makes it look like each guest at the table has a big, blooming green flower in front of them. To make Overstuffed Artichokes: trim 2 large artichokes. First cut the stem so that the artichoke can sit upright. Then, starting at the base, bend the tough outer leaves back until they break off. With kitchen scissors, trim the tops of the remaining leaves. Fill a pot half-way with salted water and bring to a boil. Add the artichokes and some lemon peel. Cover and simmer until the bottoms of the artichokes are fork-tender, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the water and let cool. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbs. olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add 4 crushed garlic cloves and cook until the garlic is golden brown and crispy. Do not let it burn. Remove the garlic from the oil. Add 1 cup bread crumbs and toast until browned and crispy, about 4 minutes. Turn off the heat. Stir in 3 Tbs. grated parmesan or nutritional yeast, salt, pepper and ½ cup fresh chopped parsley. Let cool. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. With a small spoon, fill the leaves with the bread crumb mixture. Be generous and let it overflow. When you have filled all the leaves, place the stuffed artichokes in a small baking dish. Drizzle them with a bit more oil. Bake for about 15 minutes until they are browned and crispy. Serve while hot. Other artichoke side dishes to serve include Seasonal Quinoa Pilaf with Ramps, Artichokes and Peas, Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes with Braised Garlicky Kale, Pistachio Artichoke Pesto Quinoa, Spinach Artichoke Dip and Walnut Crusted Artichoke Hearts.
10. Cheesy Polenta
Instead of the usual mashed potatoes, try something different like polenta. Polenta is cornmeal and when you cook it up in a saucepan, it’s rich, creamy and delicious. Add vegan cheese to it and it’s absolutely amazing. It cooks up super-quick and everyone will love it. Here’s how to make my Cheesy Polenta: in a large saucepan, bring 6 cups of water to a boil over high heat. Add ½ tsp. kosher salt to the boiling water. Add 2 cups polenta gradually while whisking. Lower the heat and cook the polenta until it is thickened and smooth. Continue to mix for 15 minutes. When the polenta is at a consistency to your liking, turn off the heat. Melt in 3 Tbs. vegan butter and 1 ½ cups vegan cheese of your choice. Mix until the cheese is melted and combined. Taste for seasoning adjustments. Other recipes using polenta include this Lemon Seitan over Creamy Polenta, Asian Broccolette Polenta, and these Zucchini Polenta Fries.
When it comes to Easter side dishes, think about using produce that comes into season in springtime. Keep the dishes light, fresh and colorful and everyone will be hopping with joy to eat them.
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