8 Awesome Vegetable Side Dishes ...

Vegetable side dishes can be nothing more than basic, boring veggies. Or they can be fantastic dishes, bursting with flavour and interesting in their own right. You'd expect to be served some tasty vegetable sides **in a restaurant, wouldn't you? So why not serve them up at home? Here are some awesome **veggie side dishes that will make you wish they were the main course โ€ฆ

1. Easy Maple Glazed Baby Carrots

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If you're like me, you grew up being fed boring boiled carrots, then here's a recipe to show what an amazing vegetable side dish the humble carrot can provide. It's a very simple recipe, involving nothing more than steaming the baby carrots and coating in a maple glaze.

Ingredients:
1 16 ounce bag baby carrots
water for steaming carrots
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tso maple syrup
sea salt and black pepper to taste
dash nutmeg and cinnamon

Directions:
Steam the carrots until soft, about eight minutes.
In a large skillet, whisk together the vegetable oil and maple syrup over low heat. Add steamed carrots, and sautee for just a minute or two, until heated through, stirring well to coat the carrots with the maple glaze.

Season generously with sea salt (it really will taste better than regular table salt, I promise!) and a dash of black pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon to taste.

2. Caramelized Fennel and Onion

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If you've never tried fennel, it has a slightly aniseed taste. I love caramelised onions, so I would follow the suggestion in the recipe to use sugar for a stronger effect. I also like the idea of using the fennel and onion mixture to fill a tart base.

Ingredients:
2 large onions, halved then sliced lengthwise (root to tip) in 1/4-inch thick slices
2 large fennel bulbs, sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
Salt
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Directions:
Heat olive oil and butter in a large, uncovered, wide pan on medium high heat. Add the sliced fennel and onions and stir to coat. Stir occasionally. After about 10 minutes, sprinkle the onions and fennel with salt. Lower the temperature to medium. You want to strike a balance between allowing the pan to get hot enough so that some caramelization (when the natural sugars in the onion and fennel start to brown) and keeping the pot from getting so hot that the onions and fennel dry out. If it becomes an issue, you can add a couple tablespoons of water to the pan to help the onions and fennel to keep from drying out too much.

Stir occasionally, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Note that the browned bits are the tastiest parts. Cook for another 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how much of a hurry you're in, and how caramelized you want your mixture to be. The longer you cook, the more caramelized and browned. Taste test along the way to see if the cooking has been sufficient for your taste. By the way, the onions and fennel will have plenty of flavor without having to be completely cooked down and browned all over.

When ready to serve, remove from heat and toss in the freshly grated Parmesan cheese, the chopped parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice. Taste and add more lemon juice if necessary.

3. Peperonata

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When you're looking for a brightly coloured vegetable side dish, peppers are ideal. Red, yellow and orange peppers will give you all the colour you need. These juicy vegetables would make an excellent accompaniment for a drier dish, such as pastry.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 red bell peppers, seeded, sliced into 2 1/2 to 3-inch long strips
2 yellow bell peppers, seeded, sliced into 2 1/2 to 3-inch long strips
2 orange or green bell peppers, seeded, sliced into 2 1/2 to 3-inch long strips
1 large onion, sliced into half-moons
4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon sugar
4-5 Roma or other plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh basil, leaves torn roughly
Lemon juice

Directions:
Heat olive oil in a large sautรฉ pan on medium high heat. When the oil is almost smoking, add the onions. Sprinkle with a little salt and sautรฉ for 2-3 minutes, until the onions just begin to color.

Add the peppers and stir well to combine with the onions. Sautรฉ for 4-5 minutes, stirring often. The peppers should be al denteโ€”cooked, but with a little crunch left in them.

Add the garlic, and sautรฉ another 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle a little more salt over everything and add the sugar and dried oregano. Cook 1 minute. Add the diced tomatoes, and cook just one minute further.

Turn off the heat and mix in the torn basil. Grind some black pepper over everything. Right before serving squeeze a little lemon juice over the dish.

4. Baked Sweet Potato Fries

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Who doesn't love fries? Here's a healthier alternative to the traditional deep-fried fries, made from gorgeous sweet potatoes. It's accompanied by a spicy apricot sauce to dip the fries into โ€“ you can, of course, leave that out if you prefer and use the sauce of your choice.

Ingredients:

3 sweet potatoes (12 to 14 ounces each), peeled, cut into narrow wedges
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1โ€‘1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Spicy Apricot Dipping Sauce:
1 cup apricot jam
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

Directions:
Heat oven to 450ยฐF. Gently toss potatoes, oil, salt and pepper in large bowl until potatoes are evenly coated. Divide potatoes between two large cookie sheets or jelly-roll pans. Bake 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve hot with sauce.

Dipping Sauce:
Melt jam in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in orange juice, mustard and red pepper. Purรฉe sauce in food processor or with immersible mixer.

5. Rosemary Potatoes

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Rosemary and potatoes are one of those magnificent combinations. It's worth growing some fresh rosemary in your garden or on a windowsill, so that you always have a sprig handy to add to potatoes. This is such a simple yet tasty vegetable side dish โ€“ potatoes are a food staple, yet so versatile.

Ingredients:
2 pounds small red potatoes, some times labeled 'new' potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped small
Additional kosher salt

Directions:
Set oven to 400F. Wash the potatoes well, remove any blemishes and anything sprouting from the potato eyes.

Cut into quarters. (If you're in a rush, the smaller the pieces, the quicker the potatoes will cook.)

In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with the remaining ingredients -- use your hands, it'll go quicker and you'll get tactile confirmation of how well the oil is distributed.

Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and roast for about an hour, tossing every 15 minutes.

During the last 15 minutes, be sure that a cut-side of each potato piece is touching the pan.

If needed, roast further until at least some of the pieces are quite dark and caramelized.
If needed, season with additional salt. Serve and savor!

6. South of the Border Baked Beans

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A vegetable side dish does not have to consist solely of vegetables; adding some beans is filling, tasty and interesting. Recipes like these baked beans can also be turned into a main dish โ€“ simply serve larger portions with bread, rice or potatoes, and for vegetarians omit the bacon.

Ingredients:
1 (28-ounce) can BUSH'Sยฎ Boston Recipe Baked Beans
1 (14.5-ounce) can tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano, diced and drained
1 (15.5-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
8 slices bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350ยฐF (175ยฐC).
Combine all ingredients in 2 quart casserole dish. Cover casserole and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking 15 minutes longer or until surface is bubbly.

7. Stir Fry Baby Bak Choy

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When you fancy a Chinese-style side dish, a stir-fry is quick and delicious. This recipe uses fresh shitake mushrooms and takes just a few minutes to prepare and cook. Perfect if you're looking for a quick side dish so that you can concentrate on the main course.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3 cups baby bok choy, ends trimmed, washed and cut into 1โ€ณ pieces
6 fresh shitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced into 1/2โ€ณ pieces
1 red bell pepper, diced
salt to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable stock or water

Directions:
Heat sesame oil on medium heat in a large skillet. Add ginger and stir for about 15 seconds, or until fragrant.

Add bok choy, shitake mushrooms and red bell pepper. Season to taste with salt. Add vegetable stock and cover; cook for 3-4 minutes, until just tender.

8. Spice Eggplant Indian Style

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To end with, here's another international recipe. Naturally it would be perfect as part of an Indian meal, but why stop there? Serve this eggplant dish to accompany a meat roast or barbecue dish for a change from the usual vegetable side dishes.

Ingredients:
2 1/2 pounds eggplant
2/3 cup clarified butter
1 cup chopped onions
4 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
4 teaspoons crushed coriander seed

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
Half eggplant(s) and bake for 20 minutes, or until tender. Using a potato masher or pastry blender, crush eggplant.

Heat clarified butter in a medium skillet over medium heat; saute onions until translucent. Stir in tomatoes and eggplant; cook, stirring, until liquid evaporated. Remove from heat and sprinkle with coriander.

Vegetable side dishes are far from boring if you try some of the many wonderful recipes. Donยดt restrict yourself to boiling or steaming veggies โ€“ with a few simple additions you can conjure up vegetable side dishes that will delight your taste buds. Which vegetable side dish is your favourite?

Sources: vegetarian.about.com, simplyrecipes.com, simplyrecipes.com, recipes.howstuffworks.com, kitchen-parade-veggieventure.blogspot.com, cooksrecipes.com, jeanetteshealthyliving.com, allrecipes.com

Top Photo Credit: pinterest.com

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