Monday, October 29, 2012

Simple Sides - Sauteed Green Beans & Oven-Roasted Potatoes

I have some odd food pet peeves. Not your basic ones like smacking or talking with a mouthful of food, or grown adults holding forks like they're toddlers just learning how to use utensils. My pet peeves include things like, believing all foods should be covered/smothered in some kind of sauce or topping, absurd portion sizes, the market saturation of "foodie trends" like bacon, cupcakes and food trucks, people who use the term "umami" incorrectly when talking about foods that leave their mouths greasy (note: that feeling you get in your mouth after you eat a Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cake? NOT umami), and side dishes that don't compliment an entree. 

When side dishes and the main entree have to compete with one another, it drives me BONKERS. I can't stand a plate where all of the courses are the same color (usually beige), or where everything is drenched in some kind of sauce. Unfortunately, at a lot of restaurants nowadays, the sides are typically nothing but starches, especially here in the South. I've seen mashed potatoes with rice, bread with pasta, and fries with onion rings, with not a vegetable in sight. Even places that offer a choice usually leave me with few options, like steamed broccoli (BORING), or sad little salads. 

To me, when it comes to sides, simple is almost always better. If I have a starch like a pasta/rice/potatoes, I ALWAYS include some kind of vegetable as a compliment. Sometimes it's as simple as a caesar salad and baked potato with a good steak, or some collard greens to compliment cooked beans or fried okra on a Southern plate. My absolute favorite combination of sides, though, is a simple combination of green beans and roasted potatoes. 
Both of these sides are vegetarian/vegan-friendly, AND are incredibly cheap to prepare. You can get green beans and potatoes year-round, and these dishes can be prepared easily, quickly, and MOSTLY hands-off. The flavors are mild without being bland, and won't overpower your main course entree. Best of all, nothing comes from a can, so you KNOW you're eating real food! 

Sauteed Green Beans

3/4 lb fresh green beans
1 Tbsp olive oil

Wash the beans, then remove the ends and strings. You can leave them whole or cut them into 1 1/2" pieces. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Blanch the beans - add the beans and 1 Tbsp salt to the boiling water; cook for 3-4 minutes or until the beans are tender but still crisp. Drain the beans and immediately transfer them to a bowl of ice water.

Let the beans sit in the ice water for about 3-4 minutes or until cooled. Drain & set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beans and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until heated through. Season with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper, then remove from heat and serve.

Oven-Roasted Potatoes

2 lbs small red potatoes or Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed & cut into 1" chunks
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Toss the potatoes with the oil, then season with 1 Tbsp of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Spread in a single layer onto a baking sheet.

Roast the potatoes in a 400° oven for about 20-30 minutes or until tender when pricked with a fork. Loosen the potatoes from the baking sheet with a spatula and serve plain or tossed with a dressing.


  1. My family does something similar with small variations. For the green beans, I sautee with Italian dressing for a little zing. Also pretty awesome using on chicken breasts.

    For potatoes (we favor petite reds), I like olive oil with finely chopped Rosemary. Or, if I want a little kick, then I use Old Bay, a little sea salt and pepper on them. The Old Bay also works great with sweet potato wedges for a nicely balanced flavor.

    So glad to know there's someone else who feels like a meal should have meat, veggie and starch portions.

    No lie, taking my kids to daycare, I always feel a little bad when their breakfast is something simple like cheerios mixed with dried cranberries and milk/juice. Then I see the kids sitting down to things like chocolate milk, Andy Cap zesty fries and a Hostess cake. I don't feel like a better mom because of it, but I certainly can't say I'm completely jacking my munchkins up at least. :)

    1. Beth,

      Italian dressing IS great on chicken breasts, isn't it? Your red potato recipe sounds great as well!

      I don't see anything bad about cheerious w/ craisins and milk/juice, ESPECIALLY compared to what a lot of kids eat for breakfast! I've seen kids as young as 2 and 3 out at restaurants with a FULL SIZE soda, and it completely blows my mind! Kudos to you for enjoying balanced meals and teaching your kids from an early age what it's like to eat properly! :)