10 Last-Minute Sides

When dinner planning is still an aspiration rather than a reality, try one of these unexpected dishes starring none other than the familiar staples from your vegetable drawer and pantry.

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©Renee Comet

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Look on the Bright Side

A bowl of plain steamed broccoli may please your doctor, but maybe not so much the people at your table. Add a few slivers of olives, lemon zest and a sprinkle of crunchy toasted breadcrumbs and you've got yourself a more-than-respectable dish for your next meal. Here are 10 more ideas for transforming ho-hum weeknight basics into something special.

Ingredient: Frozen Peas

Side Dish: Parmesan Peas

Though practically perfect on their own, sweet green peas get a bright lift from grated lemon zest and Parmesan. 

Ingredient: Celery

Side Dish: Shaved Salad

When your fridge is practically empty, celery to the rescue! Play up the crisp, crunchy nature of this underrated vegetable by slicing it thin (on the bias is even nicer) and tossing it with olive oil, lemon juice (or vinegar) and thin shards of Parmesan. Don't forget the celery leaves.

Ingredient: Frozen Corn

Side Dish: Esquites

For an easy take on this Mexican street food snack, combine cooked corn with a couple of spoonfuls of Mexican crema or mayo, some chili powder, and crumbled feta or Cotija (even grated Parm works). Serve with lime wedges and something green like cilantro or parsley if you've got it.

Ingredient: Cauliflower

Side Dish: Sicilian Cauliflower

Toss roasted cauliflower florets with raisins warmed in olive oil, chopped parsley, and a dash of wine vinegar or some briny capers. A sprinkle of toasted pine nuts is also nice but not a deal-breaker.

Ingredient: Canned Chick Peas

Side Dish: Garlicky Chickpeas

Warm drained chickpeas, sliced garlic and red pepper flakes (or a dried chile) in olive oil until the garlic is golden. 

Ingredient: Soba Noodles

Side Dish: Sesame Noodles

This one works hot or cold: Toss cooked soba noodles with sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds and something oniony like sliced scallions, fried shallots or any store-bought french-fried onions you may have left over in your cupboard from Thanksgiving.

Ingredient: Arugula

Side Dish: Arugula Salad with Apricots and Pistachios

Pantry-friendly pistachios and dried apricots give substance to an otherwise light salad of peppery greens. Drizzle with your favorite vinaigrette.

Ingredient: Sweet Potatoes

Side Dish: Sweet Potato Home Fries with Hot Honey

Toss sweet potato wedges with olive oil and roast until tender. Drizzle with honey warmed in a saucepan with a sliced Fresno or jalapeno chile (or red pepper flakes). Serve extra honey on the side for dipping.

Ingredient: Cabbage

Side Dish: Cabbage and Apple Slaw

Dress thinly sliced green cabbage and apples with mayo that's been thinned with cider vinegar or yogurt. Toss with a handful of toasted walnuts and some chopped cilantro or parsley for color. 

Ingredient: Quinoa

Side Dish: Grain Pilaf

Toss cooked quinoa — or farro, barley, wheat berries or brown rice — with lots of sauteed chopped onions, toasted almonds and olive oil for a filling side that can double as a bed for roasted vegetables, avocado and yogurt in a grain bowl.

Ingredient: Green Beans

Side Dish: Green Beans with Grainy Mustard

Whole-grain mustard whisked with a little olive oil makes a not-too-pungent dressing for steamed green beans. Some crumbled bacon is nice but not essential. 

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