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5 quick sides to pair with whatever’s for dinner

By Carolyn Malcoun, September 13, 2010 - 11:31am

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If you regularly read the EatingWell blogs, you may have gotten the impression that we all make complicated recipes every single night for dinner. That’s soooo not the case.

While I do love to experiment with easy main-dish recipes during the week, most of the time I keep my weeknight dinners simple. I’ll saute fish fillets, bake chicken breasts, grill steaks—i.e., prepare the main event without a recipe. On nights like those, I usually give the side dish a little more attention. But not much more. Basically, I keep a few vegetables on hand that I know I can easily jazz up with some fresh herbs, zingy spices or a simple sauce.

Here are 5 quick side dishes and fuss-free main dishes to serve them with. Bonus: These vegetable sides are chock-full of nutrients, like beta carotene (which is converted to vitamin A—good for your eyes), vitamin C (boosts your immune system) and potassium (helps maintain a healthy blood pressure).

Related Link: Super-simple ways to cook 20 vegetables

Here’s a produce-section staple that keeps in your refrigerator for several days.
Make: Mediterranean Roasted Broccoli & Tomatoes—This dish of roasted broccoli and tomatoes is tossed with bright Mediterranean ingredients just before serving.
Serve with: Broiled fish or toss with cooked whole-wheat couscous and canned (rinsed) white beans.

Carrots are a great vegetable to have on hand because they’re cheap and keep for weeks.
Make: Chili-Roasted Carrots—Roasted with chili powder and cumin then tossed with cilantro and lime juice, these carrots are bursting with zesty flavor.
Serve with: Simple roast chicken or pork or even tacos.

Easy Carrot Side Dish Recipes

Zucchini/Summer Squash
If you have a garden or have a neighbor with a garden, chances are you have some zucchini on hand already. And if not, it’s nearly always available at the supermarket for a great price.
Make: Pesto-Topped Grilled Summer Squash—Toasty rustic pesto takes simple grilled squash from ordinary to exceptional with tangy lemon and fresh garlic.
Serve with: Grilled steak or chop the grilled squash, combine with the pesto and toss with pasta for a light entree.

Fresh Ideas for Zucchini & Summer Squash Recipes

Green Beans
Green beans are plentiful at the supermarket year-round and cook up fast, making them a go-to side-dish vegetable for many cooks.
Make: Lemon-Dill Green Beans—This lemon and dill vinaigrette is a natural complement to green beans. It’s also great tossed with steamed asparagus or drizzled over sliced fresh tomatoes.
Serve with: Broiled pork chops or sautéed fish.

Fresh Recipes for Green Beans

My husband and I love dark leafy greens and pick up a bag of spinach from our favorite vendor at the farmers’ market each week. We like to have spinach on hand because it’s great raw or cooked, so we can use it as the base for a salad or it can be cooked for a side dish.
Make: Parmesan Spinach Cakes—These simple but elegant-looking little spinach cakes taste like Greek spinach-cheese pie.
Serve with: A grilled steak.

Easy, Healthy Spinach Recipes

What’s your favorite easy go-to side dish? Tell us what you think below.

TAGS: Carolyn Malcoun, Food Blog, Budget meals, Dinner, Family meals, Quick meals, What's in season

Carolyn Malcoun
A graduate of New England Culinary Institute and University of Wisconsin with a degree in journalism, Carolyn pairs her long-standing love for food with writing as EatingWell's senior food editor. Carolyn’s culinary interest is rooted in her childhood; she grew up making thousands of Christmas cookies every year with her mom and picking leaves off bunches of parsley to make tabbouleh with her dad. Away from the kitchen, Carolyn enjoys seeking out rare craft beers and exploring the outdoors with her husband, young daughter and dog.

Carolyn asks: What’s your favorite easy go-to side dish?

Tell us what you think:

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