Thursday, 15 June 2017

Seasonal Ontario Food's Top Ten - The Heart of the Blog - Vegetable Side Dishes

Here are the recipes that to me define the purpose of this blog. There is any amount of information out there about cooking meat based dishes, vegetarian cookbooks abound, and the making of desserts is an art and a science and yet a good dessert is easily had. But damn, it can be so hard to find a nice, simple vegetable side dish that isn't swimming in butter, cream, cheese, bacon etc, and yet has that special touch that makes it stand out. I get all excited when I come up with one. (But you'll also note that I'm don't exactly turn down the butter, cream, etc when it seems like a good idea.)

Ten recipes won't cover my enthusiasm for these, but ten recipes for each vegetable seems excessive, so I'll go with breaking them down by season. That's admittedly a very crude division. Some things are available for months, with others if you miss the week they are available they are gone. Still, here goes...

Spring:

Sautéed Parsnips - These could be made in the fall or the winter; anytime the parsnips will have been touched with frost which sweetens the roots. I'm putting them here because it is so nice to have delicious vegetables at that difficult time in the early spring. This is also my most viewed vegetable side dish recipe. They are certainly very good, but I think I like Parsnip Fritters just that little bit more even though they are also more work.

Cabbage & Bean Sprouts with Shiitakes - Lets face it, when it comes to "green" vegetables in the winter and early spring, we are talking about cabbage. Also cabbage, cabbage, and cabbage. Fortunately, cabbage is good, bean sprouts are a crispy treat, and shiitake mushrooms are sublime.

Leeks & Spinach - Leeks and anything, really, but this was the first of that genre, and remains a favourite. To have leeks in the spring you must grow them yourself or find them (maybe) at a farmers market, but they are worth looking for.

Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Goat Cheese & Asparagus (or Spinach) - This is probably more of an appetizer or main dish than a side dish, but too bad. It's also fine as a side dish, as long as you can put up with it stealing the show.


Hodge-Podge - Is more of a seasonal Nova Scotia recipe than an Ontario one, but I have no qualms about stealing it. It's delicious, versatile, and a bit too on the rich side, what with the cream and butter.  Never mind, it also has lots of vegetables. The yummiest, most excellent vegetables of the year. 

Asparagus & Wild Leeks - There are probably about 2 days a year when this could be made, but sometimes I love these fleeting little pleasures just because they are so fleeting. And pleasures, of course - it's an excellent combination.

Endive & Mushrooms au gratin - More of late-winter/early spring dish than a later spring one, when you long for bright zingy vegetables but cheesy baked things still seem far too appropriate. Why not both?

Stir-Fried Radishes with Their Greens - Cooked radishes! Entirely possible and quite charming.

One Pot Creamed Spinach with Mushrooms -"Creamed". "Spinach". "Mushrooms". Need I say more? Oh, all right. "One Pot".

Swedish Colcannon - Not Swedish and not exactly Colcannon, but nevermind. It's awfully good.

Summer:

Green Beans & Cabbage "Scandia" - This one has been made in the family since the 1930s. It's a bit of job, for a side dish, but it's a real marker of summer for us. And also really, really, tasty.

Green Beans in Tomato Sauce - Just about every country around the Mediterranean has some version of this dish, on account of because it is just so easy, logical, and perfect. Yes, perfect.


Fried Cauliflower, Mexican Style - Just greasy enough to give it that air of decadence, while being perfectly wholesome, really. Or is it that soft, mild cauliflower obtains some substance and presence from the eggy coating? Eat some and decide.

Lambs Quarters as a Vegetable - Not a recipe, but a much read and commented upon post. What it says on the tin.

Puréed Peas - This is what it says on the tin too. How to make slightly past-it peas better and good peas sublime. Visualize whirled peas, said one joking commenter, but you don't have to visualize. There's a photo.

Buttered Beans - Here it is in the summer, because that's when beans are in season, but really I do this all winter with frozen beans. So simple, so tasty.

Fresh Corn Polenta - I tried to get a corn recipe in here - this is it - but admittedly I mostly boil it, butter it, and eat it. This is pretty good too though.

Green Beans a la Poutine - Yes we eat a lot of beans. I used to not like them that much, then we started growing them. What a difference. This is definitely gilding the lily, but sometimes that's good.

Bean & Zucchini Curry - More beans. With zucchini - another popular summer veg around here - in a sprightly curry sauce. This is substantial enough to be a main dish, but it could also play second fiddle. Lively and satisfying.

Ratatouille - No new culinary ground being broken here, but this is a staple for us. We've taken to freezing it in vats, then using it in the winter for soups - it does get a bit soupy once frozen - pasta sauces, and casseroles. It's also delightful fresh in season, of course.

Pizza Style Zucchini, or Possibly Eggplant - Another one that could be a side dish, or a main dish. It's fun, it's easy, it's flexible, and it uses up those overly large zucchini.

Fall:

Broccoli Stem, Cabbage & Carrot Stir Fry - I originally cooked this in the summer but it is really more of a fall dish. There's something about the combination of vegetables, and the fine grated texture that really appeals to me here. I make this one again and again; and I enjoy the same combination as Broccoli Stem Cole Slaw.


Pattypan Squash Stuffed with Corn & Cheese -A late summer or early fall dish, and again it could step  up and be the main course. It's not just tasty, it's also ridiculously cute.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon & Onion - Well just about anything green goes well with bacon and onion. But in this case, it's Brussels sprouts.

Roasted Squash, Brussels Sprouts & Shallots - A really well-balanced trio; each one the better for the presence of the other two.

Brussels Sprouts & Jerusalem Artichokes - I wish we called them Topinambour and I wish we ate them more. Jerusalem artichokes, that is; they are not from Jerusalem (they are one of the very few vegetables that are historically from Ontario) and they are not artichokes. They sure do go with Brussels sprouts though.

Ginger-Lime Mashed Sweet Potatoes - I love ginger and lime, and I love sweet potatoes, and they all love each other, and yes! It's just a great big orgy love-fest.

Kale and Parsnips a l'orange - Oh look! It's a way that I will eat kale and like it, and there isn't even any greasy meat involved. That's an accomplishment.

Cauliflower with Mushrooms & Garlic - And paprika. Sautéed. Excellent, in other words.

Rosemary-Garlic Rutabaga - Rosemary is an underused herb; at least underused by me. Along with garlic it raises rutabaga to new levels of subtlty and sophistication.

Beans & Kale with Tomatoes -Greens, beans, and tomatoes are one of the all-time great food combinations. You can swap out different greens, you can use all kinds of beans, and fresh, sauced, diced, tinned, or just about any form of tomato but ketchup can be used. (Hmm. That sounded like a challenge. Did that sound like a challenge to you? Fortunately I'm too old and canny to fall for that.)

Winter:

Clapshot; a Mash of Rutabaga, Carrots & Potatoes - Smooth or rustically mashed, these three are greater than the sum of their parts. A classic of Scottish cuisine - stop laughing - and a really delicious comfort-food dish.

Red Cabbage Braised with Beets - Like so many of these vegetable combos, better together than apart. Rich, flavourful, and an amazing colour.

5-Spice Parsnips - Two slightly nerdy flavours that are just soul-mates.

Rum & Raisin Sweet Potatoes - Sweet potatoes, with rum-soaked raisins, honey, and butter. How could it not be good?

Belgian Endives with Blood Oranges & Honey - Sweet, juicy, crunchy, and just a little bit bitter - a symphony on your plate.


Roasted Carrots on a Bed of Lentils - Visually lovely, complex in textures and flavours, this is inspired by Turkish cooking. Yet another one that could be the leading actor but will play a character part with grace and style.

Lemon Cabbage with Poppy & Sesame Seeds - It's winter, so it's cabbage. So much cabbage. This is an easy and delightful way of changing it up.

Maple-Balsamic Glazed Onions - Onions - always a bridesmaid, never the bride. Except they can take centre stage very well, as this dish shows.

Sweet Roasted Beets - I spent 30 years hating beets. Then I started doing things like this with them. Beets? They're terrific!

Braised Red Cabbage & Onion with Goat Cheese - I made this a year and a half ago, and when I saw the photo I started to drool. I remember it very well - I don't know why I haven't made again. It was simply amazing. Goat cheese is a little spendy, I suppose, but some things are worth it.

3 comments:

Chiara M said...

Your vegetable sides are definitely one of the best things about your blog! So happy for this roundup, I haven't seen a bunch of them before.

Anne said...

I love these lists, and this is a great one. Yay for vegetables!

Ferdzy said...

Thanks, guys.