Lately consumers have taken a beating with the price of vegetables an dsome fruits. There has been a significant increase. Perhaps the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and the devaluation of the Jamaican dollar are to be blamed. However, no Christmas table is complete without some vegetables on the side. In fact, more than the main protein and predictable rice and peas, it's the sides which get me excited, especially those featuring greens. Whether steamed, in salads, stir-fried or jazzed up with other accoutrements, vegetables provide some nutritional balance to the meat fest in which most of us indulge. Having a variety of vegetable dishes on hand will also make your vegetarian family members or guests not feel left out. Some people view vegetables as mere garnishes or boring, which they are not if you get adventurous.
In my recipes today, I'll show you how to use typical vegetables that you find in local markets around the island and spice them up slightly with a few small touches. There's nothing wrong with having them plain, but the whole point of Christmas feasting is to 'push the envelope' a little. As always, do treat my recipes as a guide. A fellow chef and I recently had a discussion that we could both follow the same recipe and it won't taste exactly the same. Many readers have asked me if theirs would taste the same as mine. I hope so, but I am not in your kitchen so I cannot answer that, as you may use more salt than I do or like a lot of hot pepper and want to toss a few pieces in. These sides should provide you with some inspiration at least. Remember, always substitute with what you have available or can afford.
The Christmas dining series continues next week with some starter ideas.
JuicyChef's Italian-inspired Broccoli with Pine Nuts and Currants
Broccoli is one of those vegetables that inspires love or hate. However, it is one of the best vegetables to include in your diet with its amazing healthy properties, most notably its anti-cancer functions. I love broccoli raw or simply steamed, but it's also one of those vegetables that can transform into something even more delicious when seasoned right. This elegant side is great for your Christmas table. Currants are similar to raisins, but tinier and sweeter. They are available in most supermarkets now for baking, so if you have any left overs, you can use them for this recipe. Pine nuts are a tree nut, which really come into their own with a little toasting. They have a unique flavour. Outside of being good for you, this dish is fragrant with garlic, a little sweet from currants and the pine nuts add great crunch.
1 large head of broccoli, broken into florets and washed
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tbsp pine nuts
1 tbsp currants
Salt and pepper
2 tbsps olive oil
In a pot of salted boiling water, add broccoli florets and cook for 2 minutes. Drain immediately and set aside.
In a large frying pan over medium heat, dry toast the pine nuts until golden, and remove. Keep a careful watch as they can burn easily and turn bitter.
In the same frying pan, add olive oil and when heated through, add garlic slices and cook for 2 minutes or until just golden.
Add broccoli and toss around until well coated with oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Return the pine nuts to the pan and add currants, cook for one minute more.
JuicyChef's String Bean and Cauliflower Salad with Red Onion Dressing
The cauliflower, like broccoli, is often maligned, but a typical Jamaican market vegetable. One of my most talked about articles was one I did a couple years ago on this humble vegetable. Some people had no idea it could be so tasty. In this dish I pair it with another Jamaican staple, string beans, which are lovely on their own but tasty in this combination with a dressing made from sweet red onions (great for salads).
1 large cauliflower, broken into florets and washed
450g/1lb string beans, trimmed
Parsley, chopped for garnish
Red Onion Dressing:
2 tbsps red onion, finely chopped
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsps white wine vinegar
4 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare a large bowl with ice cubes and water, set aside.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, add cauliflower and string beans and let cook for 3 minutes and drain.
Plunge vegetables into ice bath to stop the cooking process, retain colour and bite. Drain when they are cooled and put in a separate bowl.
Prepare the red onion dressing by whisking all of the ingredients together and pouring over vegetables.
Allow to marinate for at least an hour before serving.
When ready to serve, garnish with parsley.
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