Want to eat healthier? Move sides to the center of the plate
Like millions of you, I am a home cook. I get dinner on the table for my family day after day. I plan the main dish, the vegetables (I always serve two so any pickier kiddos have a choice) and the sides.
And if you’re anything like me, your default is to spend your creative energy on the protein or main dish. The sides and veggies? Afterthoughts. A steamed this or roasted that. Whatever.
But what if we spent more of that energy on trying new and more interesting vegetable recipes, and let the protein be the simple (side) dish on the table? I’m a firm believer that one of the best ways to become a healthy eater is to make vegetables in a million different ways, thereby making them more interesting and appealing. What a great way to bump up your vegetable consumption.
One of my favorite ways to mix things up and make my vegetables more interesting is to parcook (partially cook) them, then saute them in a small amount of aromatic fat. Traditionally, this calls for blanching the vegetables — boiling them briefly, then plunging them into an ice bath — then sauteeing them.
However, my weeknight hack is even simpler. I just briefly steam the vegetables in a covered dish in the microwave, then uncover them, drain them and pop them into a skillet.
I showcase this technique in today’s recipe. I microwave green beans, then saute them in a little olive oil flavored with garlic, red pepper flakes and (your new favorite ingredient) anchovies. Anchovies are the surprise that add saltiness and savory umami to your veggies. For a vegetarian version, you could use miso paste or soy sauce. Either way, expanding your veggie repertoire and letting the meat take second seat will help you break out of your dinner rut in a healthy way.
GREEN BEANS WITH ANCHOVIES, PARMESAN AND PINE NUTS
Start to finish: 15 minutes
1 pound French green beans, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 anchovy fillets, minced and pressed almost into a paste (or 1 tablespoon anchovy paste)
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted in a dry skillet until golden
3 tablespoons grated or finely shredded Parmesan cheese
Chopped fresh parsley, to garnish
Ground black pepper
In a microwave-safe dish with a cover, combine the green beans with 1/4 cup water. Cover and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Let sit for 1 minute, covered, to steam, then uncover and drain the water.
Meanwhile, in a large saute pan over medium, heat the oil. Add the garlic, anchovies and red pepper flakes and cook until very fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the drained green beans and toss to coat well (be careful, as they may splatter a bit from the residual water on the beans). Cook for 3 minutes, then add the vinegar and pine nuts, then toss again. Transfer to a serving bowl. Top with Parmesan, parsley and pepper.
Nutrition information per serving: 90 calories; 60 calories from fat (67 percent of total calories); 6 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 5 mg cholesterol; 150 mg sodium; 7 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 4 g protein.
Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook, “Supermarket Healthy.” http://www.melissadarabian.net