We spend so much time (or, OK, on a weeknight, maybe not so much time) coming up with main dishes. All our meal planning tends to get focused on entrees, and the side dishes just end up being a salad or a frozen vegetables tossed in simmering water.
We need 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. If we fall into the trap of the same old simmered side dishes, we're cutting ourselves short on getting some of the best nutrients we get all day. But who has time to put together a complicated side-dish recipe for a weeknight meal?
There's where the side dish staples come in. Stuff you can keep on hand and throw together without thinking about it.
You know where they do great side dishes like that? Italy. All those antipastos are really just small side dishes that you eat before you get to the main course. Looking through Mario Batali's new book, "Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking," I kept noticing all the small but great ideas for vegetable dishes.
For this week's cookbook giveaway, I have a copy of "Molto Gusto." To get in the drawing, post your name here and include a short description of your favorite fall-back side dish, something fast and simple to put together on a weeknight. Deadline: Friday. Check back to see who won, and see what great ideas for side dishes we get.
To get you in the mood, here's a recipe from Batali's book. I bet it would work even better with frozen peas, rinsed under a colander to thaw them.
Spring Peas With Mint
From "Molto Gusto," by Mario Batali.
2 cups fresh (or frozen, thawed) peas
1 medium red onion, cut into dice about the size of the peas
About 1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, torn into 2 or 3 pieces each
1/4 cup red wine vinaigrette (your own, or a good bottled one)
Maldon or other flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Combine the peas, onion and mint in a medium bowl and toss with vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper and serve, or let stand up to 1 hour to bring out the flavors. Can be refrigerated for up to a day; bring to room temperature before serving.