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Once you determine your holiday main course, the next decision focuses on side dishes to accompany your meal. As we sift through family favorites and long forgotten recipe books, we mentally calculate how long each dish will take to prepare and do we have enough oven, stove and refrigerator space to cook and store everything. Delicious side dishes do not need to be complicated or expensive. In fact, with a little planning, most side dishes can be made with 5 or 6 common ingredients and prepared in a short amount of time.

Choose recipes that call for in season fruits and vegetables. These generally cost less than out of season produce. Winter favorites include: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, rapini, collard greens, spinach, fennel, cabbage, sweet potato, squash, yams, parsnips, kale, spinach, pomegranates, pears, clementine oranges, cranberries and apples. This way your side dishes will taste fresh.

Don’t select side dish recipes that require an oven, if you are also roasting meat at the same time. If oven space is limited, choose recipes that can be prepared on the stove top.

Create dishes that mix red, green, yellow and orange-colored fruits or vegetables to form a medley of vibrant colors. You don’t need lots of ingredients to create delicious side dishes. You need ingredients that combine well together and offer a variety of flavors such as sweet, salty, spicy and sour. Try adding fruit to bitter greens for an interesting taste sensation, or spicy chilies to sweet squash. Often, one or two different spices or herbs are all you need to bring out the flavors in your dish. If you plan to have several side dishes available, try to select dishes that are different from one another in flavor, texture and overall presentation. Create one sweet, one spicy, one sour. Your guests will love the variety.

All these side dishes will be good accompaniments for the main dishes from Monday’s post.

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Chunky Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1/2 of a small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

Heat a pan with a lid or cover on medium; add diced onion and garlic; simmer until onions have turned slightly transparent (about 5 minutes). Meanwhile chop sweet potatoes into approximately 1 x 1 x 1 inch/cm chunks; add to the pan when the onions are ready, as well as the salt and cover the pan.

Allow potatoes to cook covered, for 20-30 minutes on medium heat until the potatoes are soft. Uncover and mix every 5-10 minutes in between. Add rosemary, cumin and cinnamon to the pan 10 minutes after adding potatoes.

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Sautéed Broccoli Rabe with Tomatoes

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Broccoli Rabe
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 10 cloves garlic, lightly smashed, or to taste
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup fresh plum (Roma) tomatoes, peeled, seeded & cut into ½-inch dice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper (chili) flakes
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil or Italian parsley, chopped

Directions

Wash broccoli rabe and dry on paper towels. Remove the large tough leaves, leaving just the tender leaves and flower buds.  Cut off and discard the lower part of the stems, leaving the broccoli about 8-inches long and slice into 3 or 4-inch lengths.

Add olive oil and garlic cloves to a large heavy frying pan. Over low heat, slowly sauté garlic until golden on all sides. This can take about 10 minutes.

Add the broccoli rabe to the pan, tossing to coat with garlic and oil. Add tomatoes and toss for a minute or so to remove excess water from the tomatoes. Add chicken stock and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add lemon juice, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, fresh herbs, salt & pepper.Taste for seasoning; adjust if necessary.

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Italian Rice & Savoy Cabbage

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups (250 g) Vialone Nano or other short-grained rice, e.g. Arborio
  • 1 pound (450 g) Savoy cabbage
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup (40 g) freshly grated Parmigiano
  • Salt & white pepper to taste
  • 4 cups (1 liter) beef broth, stock, or water, simmering
  • ¾ cup crushed Italian tomatoes

Directions

Strip off and discard any blemished outer leaves the cabbage may have. Separate the rest, rinse them and shred them.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a pot and sauté the chopped onion and celery. Add the cabbage leaves and continue cooking, stirring them about with a spoon, until they have wilted. Add a cup of hot broth to the pot, cover and simmer over a low flame for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the rice, add the remaining hot broth and crushed tomatoes, add seasoning and simmer until the rice reaches the al dente stage and the broth is absorbed, about 30-40 minutes.

Stir the cheese into the rice and check the seasoning.

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Leeks & Spinach Saute

4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 medium leeks, white and lightest green parts
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a large pinch
  • 4 cups (packed) washed and stemmed fresh spinach leaves, torn into smaller pieces
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Directions

Trim the ends from the leeks. Slice the leeks across into thin rings (about 1/8-inch thick), discarding any woody stem in the center. Put the sliced leeks in a bowl and cover them with tepid water. Swish them around a bit and let them sit. Lift the leeks out of the bowl and transfer to a colander. Drain and rinse the sand from the bowl, return the leeks to the bowl and cover again with tepid water. Lift, drain and repeat one more time, leaving the leeks in the water with the last wash.

Heat the butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.  Lift the leeks out of the water and add them to the pan with whatever water is clinging to them. Season with the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are limp and all of the liquid has evaporated, 10 to 12 minutes.

Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks are very lightly golden brown, another 3 to 5 minutes. Add the spinach leaves and a pinch of salt and fold or gently stir them in with the leeks until they are wilted, about 1 minute. Add the fresh thyme and the cream and remove the pan from the heat.

Gently stir until the cream is mostly absorbed into the dish and the thyme is well-distributed. Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Taste for salt and serve.

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Creamy Fettuccine With Mushrooms

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces fettuccine
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound cremini or shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/2 cup half & half or light cream
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat, add salt and the spaghetti. Cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente.  Prior to draining the pasta reserve one cup of the cooking liquid and set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat and add the oil and butter. When the butter melts add the onion, mushrooms, garlic and salt and pepper to taste; sauté 20 minutes or until the mushrooms are browned and have released their liquid. Add wine and thyme and cook for a few minutes until the liquid evaporates.

Remove the pan the from heat.  Add the hot cooked pasta, half & half and cheese to the skillet, tossing to combine.  Add cooking pasta cooking liquid until needed for moistness and continue to toss. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

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