Easter Sunday dinner usually calls for entrees like baked ham or roasted leg of lamb, and we’re content to leave those alone this year. But classic holiday side dishes like asparagus, artichokes, sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes? We’re definitely thinking outside the Easter egg basket about these.
For suggestions on elevating traditional sides with new flavor twists, we went to David Cook and Cortney Smith, co-owners of Gather Food Studio. And they delivered, with handy tips for spicing things up and creating dishes that take those sides from ho-hum to zing-pow!
“When I think about Easter, I think about fresh and vibrant,” Cook said. “Easter means spring, and with that a departure from heavy, baked casserole-style dishes. It’s time to lighten things up.”
For instance, instead of serving baked sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping, he gives the spuds an exotic flavor.
“One of my all-time favorite flavor pairings is sweet potatoes and Thai coconut curry,” he said. “Not only is this an explosion for your taste buds, but it also makes a great sauce for accompanying entrees like baked ham.”
To bring brightness to recipes, he is a big fan of using wine and citrus together.
“My favorite recipe to really exemplify both of these characteristics is called an artichoke barigoule, a Provencal dish of stewed artichokes in olive oil, wine and lemon,” he said. “I like adding carrots for color, and they also add a natural sweetness to the dish. It really pairs nicely with lamb.”
Using all sorts of fresh veggies this time of year is a favorite on spring menus.
“That led to the creation of one of my favorite dishes, Indian-spiced ratatouille,” he said. “It has all of the classic French ratatouille ingredients, with some added spices that really lend themselves well to the acidic brightness of the tomato sauce that the vegetables are stewed in.”
Smith had some other unique ways to jazz up side dishes.
“When I teach the risotto class, we do it three ways: classic, pressure cooker and baked,” she said. “While the baked isn’t a traditional risotto, it is a delicious, creamy rice side — and a time-saver since you more than likely don’t want to be stirring risotto forever while you’re making Easter dinner.”
She shared the recipe, which uses fresh asparagus as a topping on the risotto that screams “spring has sprung!”
She also suggested replacing sweet potatoes with butternut squash.
“It’s sweet, it’s pretty much always in season, and a lighter, brighter color,” she said of squash. “I love my recipe (which follows). It’s a little long, but worth it. This way, you get fresh spring flavor at your Easter table rather than something more reminiscent of fall holiday side dishes.”
She notes one exception to leaving fall foods behind: Brussels sprouts, which are a favorite of hers year-round.
“My candied fennel with Brussels sprouts and farro makes a great salad side,” said Smith, who likes having “recipes that can be served warm, room temp or cold so that you can prep them ahead. Making ahead and serving chilled works best for saving oven space.”
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