Confession: I don't really do side dishes. After a day of staring at spreadsheets and unintelligible government forms, and an hour of rush hour traffic, pulling together a main course is about all I can handle.
Instead, I rely on a roster of embarrassingly simple ways to prepare vegetables. For much of the year, we are sustained by microwaved frozen peas, corn, or broccoli. There are also lots of salads, although "salad" is really too generous a term. I buy plastic boxes of organic pre-washed spring mix, and then dole it out into bowls. My portion gets a scattering of sunflower seeds, Mike's gets croutons and a pour of Kraft blue cheese dressing. During CSA season, raw vegetables enter the rotation-- sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, regular sized-tomatoes sliced and sprinkled with salt and pepper, zucchini spread with hummus or garlic scape pesto. If I'm feeling particularly ambitious, I'll saute chard in olive oil and garlic.
There are occasional exceptions to my side dish laziness. I went on a carrot roasting kick last summer, and while I love the flavor of roasted carrots, their preparation time is often too much for a weeknight. So I was intrigued by a Star Tribune recipe's method for pan searing carrots--you get the browned, caramelized flavor in a fraction of the time. I swapped out the original recipe's Indian-inspired seasonings for a Mexican flavor profile, and was treated to a slightly spicy, smoky bowl of carrots, tart with lime juice and glistening with fresh cilantro. The underlying sweetness of the carrots shines through, especially if you use the tender farmer's market carrots of midsummer. Or you can use a bag of baby carrots and save a few minutes. I won't judge.
I used maple syrup for this recipe since I love the extra depth of flavor it adds, but as the original recipe calls for honey you could certainly substitute that if desired.
Inspired by Beth Dooley's recipe in the Star Tribune
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 pound baby carrots, or 1 pound of carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 2-inch pieces
- juice of one lime (about 3 tablespoons)
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and tilt to coat evenly. Add carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots are starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
Add lime juice, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until carrots are just starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add maple syrup and stir until carrots are evenly coated. Add chili powder and stir to evenly coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve garnished with cilantro.