Sides take center stage

The food: Side dish dinners

Side dishes for dinner at home

The story:

When I read holiday dinner menus – in magazines, newspaper articles or in cookbooks – the photos and recipes that usually start me salivating are for the side dishes.

I love me some roast turkey with gravy – when I was a teenager, I requested my family’s traditional four starch (bread stuffing, potato stuffing, baked sweet potatoes AND steamed rice) roast turkey feast as my birthday meal, in August! – but I’m also happy, especially on non-holiday occasions, to fill my plate with a variety of side dishes and call it a meal. The mix of vegetable preparations feels and tastes rich and flavorful, even when there’s no meat or poultry on the plate.

Pictured above is a side dish dinner E and I cooked up recently. At the time, I was reading for review A Year in Lucy’s Kitchen, by Lucy Waverman, and decided to test out two recipes from it, one for asparagus with watercress dressing (see the recipe on Lucy Waverman’s website here) and the other for roasted Maple Syrup Sweet Potatoes.

To round out the meal, E made a dish of leeks and chestnuts from a recipe in New York magazine (recipe here) to which he added bacon, just because.

The foods in combination on the plate made a pleasingly colourful and tasty still life that felt healthy, the bacon notwithstanding. The standout was the watercress dressing – a mixture of olive oil, orange and lemon juice, mayo, mustard and watercress that, as I wrote in my review of the book was liquid gold. I look forward to making it again – for Christmas dinner, perhaps, with deconstructed Beef Wellington.

The side dishes for dinner concept appears to be a running theme with me – I already blogged about this kind of eating in London here and while at an Italian restaurant in South Beach recently, I found myself drawn to a selection of vegetali for lunch (pictured below) that included brussel sprouts, fennel, beets, more asparagus and a delicate caponatina made with eggplant, peppers and onions.

Which reminds me: post-holidays, I’ll have to make some caponata of my own.

Vegetali at Sardinia Enoteca in South Beach

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