Sides So Tasty You Won't Even Care About The Entrée

Apr 17, 2014 | Updated Mar 12, 2015

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These 6 easy recipes from the new cookbook Choosing Sides single-handedly make any meal.

By Lynn Andriani

  • How To Make Supporting Acts That Steal The Show
    Ben Pieper Photography
  • Like many of us, cookbook writer Tara Mataraza Desmond -- who's also the dinner planner for a family of five -- comes up with an idea for a main course and then thinks, "Okay, great -- now, what am I going to serve with it?" So, she wrote Choosing Sides, a book devoted entirely to salads, vegetables, grains, breads and more. The truth is, though, many of the recipes are so strong, they could steal the spotlight right from the main course. These Brussels sprouts are a perfect example: We often see the mini cabbages with bacon or pancetta, but Desmond turns to a new ingredient -- maple syrup -- to give them a toasty, caramel-like flavor. They'd be just as appropriate with a simple roast chicken as they would be on a holiday table.

    Get the recipe: Browned Brussels with Maple Butter
  • The Tropical Couscous
    Ben Pieper Photography
  • We love Israeli couscous for its pastalike chewiness; the grains are bigger than semolina couscous, more like pearls, and when you cook them they take on a risotto-like texture (without all that standing at the stove, pouring and stirring). Desmond simmers the grains in coconut milk and water spiked with a dash of cayenne, so it's creamy and lightly spiced -- and terrific with any main that features Asian, Latin or tropical ingredients.

    Get the recipe: Coconut-Cilantro Toasted Israeli Couscous
  • Greens With Some Spice (And It's Not Red Pepper)
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  • When you feel like you have to put a green on the table, but you're kind of saladed out, turn to this ridiculously easy recipe, where you can make magic out of five ingredients (and one of them is water). Simply saute bits of dry chorizo, which has a smoky taste, in olive oil, pour in some water to help release any bits from the bottom of the pan and add inch-wide ribbons of chard (any variety works) and oregano. The greens shrink and wilt, turning silky and tender in just 10 minutes.

    Get the recipe: Chorizo Chard
  • Carrots That Taste Like Dessert
    Ben Pieper Photography
  • Desmond glorifies humble carrots in this back-pocket recipe you can throw together at a moment's notice. She sautés them in butter, garlic and ginger, and then douses them in a honey-rice vinegar glaze. They're sweet and zippy, and would be ideal with anything from fried rice to chicken curry to pot roast.

    Get the recipe: Ginger-Honey Carrots
  • A Reason To Start Buying Persimmons
    Ben Pieper Photography
  • We admit to walking right by the persimmons in the supermarket, wondering what on earth one actually does with one of the tomato-like yellow fruits. Turns out they're worth putting in your cart; because, when ripe, they're a great way to add color and sweet flavor to a winter salad that also includes pomegranate seeds, thinly sliced fennel and mixed greens. A handful of roasted and salted pistachios adds a nice crunchy element.

    Get the recipe: Persimmon, Pomegranate and Pistachio Salad
  • Biscuits That'll Make You Feel Like An Old Pro (Even If You're Not)
    Ben Pieper Photography
  • Desmond isn't Southern, yet she learned to make buttery, multilayered, soft and tall biscuits from a friend, and has perfected a recipe that anyone can make. The secret's in the folding technique: you fold, press and cut once, which turns out biscuits with crunchy tops and bottoms and tender middles. You can serve them with classics like fried chicken or baked ham, or go rogue and put them alongside a lunchtime frittata or even chili.

    Get the recipe: Herbed Biscuits

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  • Remember That Crispy Equals Good
    Hannah Whitaker
  • Fried anything tastes better than anything not fried, but if you don't want to completely cancel out a vegetable's nutritional benefits, try oven-frying. These zucchini sticks (shown fourth from left) crisp up nicely and taste delicious on their own or dipped in marinara sauce.

    Get the recipe: Parmesan Zucchini Fries
  • Make A Wednesday Night Feel Like A Holiday
    Tina Rupp
  • Although this dish makes a lovely Thanksgiving side, it's also easy enough to throw together on a weeknight alongside pork tenderloin or roast chicken. A few tablespoons of maple syrup and a 400-degree oven bring out the squash's earthy sweetness, making it more candy than veggie.

    Get the recipe: Maple-Roasted Butternut Squash
  • Give Them Potatoes Already
    Rob Howard
  • If your picky eater will only touch one vegetable, chances are that it's potato. This recipe for mashed spuds incorporates garlic and parsley and has you leave the skin on, which makes it easier to prepare. (Bonus: fiber!)

    Get the recipe: Garlic-Parsley Mashed Potatoes
  • When All Else Fails, Rice
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  • A bowl of fluffy white grains is sometimes the only thing someone with a sensitive stomach or a picky palate will touch. That doesn't have to mean boring, though. Sautéing the grains first in some fat with garlic, onion and other seasonings, such as scallions and bay leaves, lends flavor and depth.

    Get the recipe: Brazilian-Style Simple Pilaf
  • Don't Forget The Bacon
    OWN
  • Remember what we said about some picky eaters only eating one vegetable (hello, potatoes)? If said eater extends his or her vegetable purview to include one more, we're betting it's corn. A smidgen of sugar and crisped bacon bits seal the deal.

    Get the recipe: Sautéed Sweet Corn
  • Cook Peas, Add Cheese
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  • We love that the ingredient list for this oozy veggie dish calls for "4 big handfuls fresh or frozen peas," a "knob of butter," a "big handful" of grated cheese, a lemon and ground white pepper. "If your kids won't eat their peas this way," celebrity chef Jamie Oliver says, "then they probably never will."

    Get the recipe: Cheesy Peas
  • Dress Up A Persnickety Diner's Go-To
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  • Cooking baby-cut carrots with orange juice and zest plus a little bit of butter and honey turns them crisp-tender and sweet-tart. If you prefer your vegetables softer, place them in lightly salted boiling water for three minutes, and drain before adding them to the skillet.

    Get the recipe: Baby Carrots with Orange Glaze
  • Combine Sweet Potatoes With... Coconut?
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  • Tricia Williams, founder of the food and nutritional counseling service Food Matters NYC, makes these perfectly crisp sweet potato wedges with coconut oil, coconut sugar (which has a faint caramel flavor, similar to light brown sugar), sea salt and chipotle powder. The result is a little sweet and a little spicy.

    Get the recipe: Sweet and Spicy Sweet Potato Wedges
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