The sides have it

Curry-roasted cauliflower (Photo by Keri White)

I have played around with vegetables of late. And as spring finds its stride and we turn to lighter fare and simply grilled proteins, jazzed-up veggies can take center stage.

I also find that a couple of these can be presented as a full meal without the protein, especially as a grain bowl concept: Offer a plate of your favorite grain — farro, barley, brown rice, couscous, etc. — and use these veggies to top them for a delicious, flavorful and healthy meal.

Curry-roasted cauliflower

Serves 4

My friend served these at a recent dinner to rave reviews; there was not a morsel left in the bowl when the meal ended. She swears by Patak’s brand curry paste for authentic Indian cooking. It is available in many area grocery stores in the Asian food section.

1 large head cauliflower, cut in uniform florets
¼ cup plain yogurt
1 heaping teaspoon tikka masala curry paste
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon olive oil
Red pepper flakes to taste

Heat your oven to 350 F. In a large zipseal bag, place all the ingredients except the cauliflower, and squish it around to blend. Add the cauliflower and shake the bag to thoroughly coat it. Leave it to marinade for a few minutes or a few hours. The result will be good no matter how long.

Dump the florets onto a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet, and roast them in the upper rack of the oven for an hour. Remove them from the oven and serve hot or at room temperature.

Slaw with green olives and capers (Photo by Keri White)

Slaw with Green Olives and Capers

Serves 6

This recipe was inspired by a dish I had on a visit to Charleston, S.C. We had the good fortune to dine at a restaurant called Melfi’s, and the grilled bronzino was accompanied by a fennel-green olive slaw. I am normally not a huge fan of fennel, but the green olives delivered sufficient counter-flavor and I really enjoyed the salad.

Upon returning home, I was greeted by some green and red cabbage that I had left in the fridge, and thought, “Hmmm, this could work!” It did.

A few notes: The different colored cabbage made for an attractive dish, but if you don’t have both, one is fine. When I first served this, I did not add the mayo (or sour cream/yogurt substitute option), and it was pretty good, so if you are cutting fats or dairy, you can omit these.

But the next night, when I pulled this out of the fridge for an additional side, it seemed to want a little more body so I added mayo. It rounded out the flavor and balanced the acidity well, but it was also fine without. Cook’s choice.

1 medium-sized head of cabbage (or ½ half green and ½ red cabbage), shredded
1 small onion minced finely
1 carrot, grated
¾ cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped, with about 2 tablespoons juice
¼ cup capers, coarsely chopped, with about 2 teaspoons juice
2-3 tablespoons white vinegar
¼ cup mayonnaise, sour cream or plain yogurt
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss well. Allow it to rest for a few minutes or a few days. The flavors will deepen and the cabbage will soften the longer you give the dish to sit.

Paprika-Roasted Butternut Squash

Serves 4

The smoky flavor of pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika) adds a wonderful depth and complexity to vegetables. It is often associated with meats, but I heartily recommend giving it a whirl with squash or, really, any roasted vegetable. This is wonderful leftover and tossed in a salad the next day.

1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces.
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons pimento

Place all the ingredients in a large bowl or zipseal bag and toss to coat thoroughly. Allow it to sit for a few minutes or a few hours.

One hour before serving, heat your oven to 350 F and dump the squash onto a parchment-lined baking tray. Bake for one hour, until the squash is softened and cooked through and lightly brown at the edges. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Keri White is a food writer in Philadelphia.

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