March 23, 2021
Thinking of cooking up a feast this Easter? Whether you’re roasting meat or going vegetarian with a meatless main dish, you’ll want to elevate your meal with some tasty sides. This year, set aside the classic peas or potatoes and get creative with some non-traditional Easter side dishes.
New and Unique Easter Sides
There’s no question that the best Easter meal is one that makes the most of the lush Spring produce bursting into life this time of year and so to simplify the decision of what to cook, we’ve been looking at some springtime vegetables for inspiration.
Give fruit a seat at the table by incorporating apricots—which are in their juicy, succulent prime— into your Easter meal. Try a Morroccan-style salad of grilled fresh halved or chopped dried apricots with watercress, prosciutto and burrata cheese or, if you’re having lamb, try a couscous salad with chopped apricots, mint, goat cheese and walnuts. While fresh apricots are great, dried varieties are a but easier to find, and bring an intensity of sweetness and a candy-like texture that’s unmatched.
Cooking artichokes can be daunting but it’s not actually as scary as it seems! Soften their hard outer shells and release the delicious flavour by giving them a steam. Serve simply with a herb-infused mayonnaise or lemon butter and tear off the leaves then pull the tender flesh from the leaves with your teeth. Kids love eating artichokes because it’s the ultimate finger food!
The slightly sweet, aniseed flavour of fennel will add a new level to your traditional Easter meal. Try roasting fennel with balsamic vinegar and honey so they soften up and the edges caramelize, or use a mandolin to slice them thin and serve them raw with a lemon and herb yogurt dressing (a lighter version of ranch) for an updated take on coleslaw. For a really sumptuous side dish, swap out potatoes and swap some fennel into a gratin for a mix of textures.
Leeks are the perfect vegetable base for richer side dishes and go well with chicken or beef. Try a show-stopping leek tatin—an upside-down caramelized leek tart—or bake them in a quiche with a generous helping of feta. For a lighter side dish, sauté chopped leeks with peas, bacon and shallots and sprinkle with fresh parsley and grated lemon before serving. Delicious!
Carrots... in a new way
If you insist on a traditional vegetable, how about preparing it in a new way? Try glazing your carrots by slicing them on the diagonal into coins, and simmering them in a fry pan with enough water to cover them, and a teaspoon of sugar or honey. As the water evaporates, the carrots tenderize and create a delicate, light glaze.
This recipe for Steamed Carrots with Feta and Red Wine Vinagrette is a super-fresh take on glazed carrots, with tang thanks to the vinegar and a salty creaminess from the Feta.
Another option? Buy carrots with the tops still on and trim them so there’s a bit of a tuft at the end. Thoroughly wash, then rub them with olive oil. Leave them whole and place on a baking sheet and roast in a 400 degree oven until they’re tender and brown. Turn them about every 10-15 minutes for an even colour.
Spring brings not only flowers and the promise of sunny days but also a veritable bounty of fresh vegetables just waiting to be turned into something tasty at your table—stop into your local Calgary Co-op to see what’s fresh and new. We hope our ideas for some Easter side dishes that are a little different have inspired you to get creative!
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Written & Developed by Chef Liana