Too often the vegetables are regarded as a necessity, a detail to be picked over or eaten for the nutritional value rather than the taste. In vegetarian and vegan cuisine we tend to pay more attention but it’s still easy to put all our effort into the main event and let side dishes slip. Here are three of my favourite quick and simple sides. They’re great for parties or to add something extra to a main dish.
Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
All you have to do here is get a punnet of cherry tomatoes, wash, and put them in a ceramic baking dish with a little olive oil. Grind a very light sprinkling of coarse salt over the top and mix to make sure all the tomatoes are coated. Cover the dish with cooking foil and put it in the oven on medium heat for about 20 minutes. The tomatoes should still be firm but the skins just starting to burst.
These can be served hot or added to cold salads for some extra interest. The intense flavour of the cherry tomatoes is retained by light roasting in this way, but the acid aftertaste is lost. They’re great for people who insist on adding tomato ketchup to anything they eat- give them a handful of these instead.
Sweet Potato Bake
Cut two medium-sized sweet potatoes (yams) into rounds about one third of an inch thick. Simmer in a saucepan for a few minutes, until the flesh is just getting soft- sweet potato cooks much faster than normal potato- then drain off the water and let the excess evaporate away. When the rounds are cool, arrange them on a flat baking tray so that each one overlaps its neighbor. Think dominoes that have fallen over. Then cover the whole lot with medium-sliced cheese or and bake in the oven for half an hour on high heat.
The cheese should be bubbling and going crispy when this dish is ready, and it does need to be served straight away. It tastes great but beware. The tray will be hard to clean unless you put it on to soak right after serving.
Salted Edamame Beans
I first had these as a starter in a Japanese restaurant and was instantly addicted. They are the ultimate savoury dish- low fat and delicious. Edamame are baby soy beans. You can buy them fresh on the stem from oriental grocers and it’s well worth hunting down a good source. If all healthy food tasted as good as this simple, traditional dish, hamburgers and pizza would never have gotten a chance.
Take one pound of edamame and cut off the stems, leaving the beans in their pods. Add those to a large pan of boiling water along with two tablespoons of salt. It’ll only take 3 to 5 minutes for the beans to soften and at this point you can take them out of the water and drain on a towel. Serve warm and still in the pods- although the shells shouldn’t be eaten, squeezing the beans out is half the fun.
Jess Spate loves to cook and has an interest in growing fresh produce. She lives in Wales, UK, and works as a sustainable business consultant for companies like Appalachian Outdoors and Fountain Spirit.
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