He Cooks

Sides for a Springtime Holiday Meal

By Mat Herban 

          Whether you celebrate Easter or not, these sides are a good excuse to enjoy a holiday meal. Consider roast lamb or ham, slow-cooked pork loin, roasted chicken or broiled salmon. Any of these entrée items would be enhanced by the following sides—and the Greek-inspired dessert pie that follows.

Yam Casserole

This recipe is sophisticated and yet also a comfort food. Quick and easy to prepare, it can’t be beat. Of course, if you can’t resist, you could always top it with little marshmallows and let them brown in the oven for a few minutes.

3 pounds (six large) sweet potatoes ( or five cups drained canned potatoes)

3/4 tsp. salt

1/3 cup brown sugar (light or dark)

1/3 cup butter (5 1/3 Tbs.)

1/2 tsp. grated lemon rind

1 tsp. grated orange rind

1/2 cup orange juice

If using fresh potatoes, peel them, cut into one-inch pieces and boil until tender. If using canned potatoes, drain them thoroughly. Using a potato masher or a food processor, mix remaining ingredients into potatoes. Put mixture into a well-buttered 1 1/2 quart casserole and bake in a preheated 400-degree oven until top begins to brown—about one hour.  Serves eight.

Broccoli Casserole

Despite the fact that this recipe uses Velveeta, you will find your friends will want a copy. It’s foolproof, fast and yummy. Give it a try.

2 10-oz. packages frozen chopped broccoli

1 stick butter (8 ounces—divided in two)

1/2 lb. cubed Velveeta cheese (four slices)

1/4 lb. Ritz or Town House crackers (38 crackers) crushed to crumbs

Cook broccoli and drain well. Mix half the butter, cubed and the Velveeta into the hot broccoli. Mix well and soon you will have a cheese sauce on the broccoli. Put into a buttered casserole about three inches deep. Mix cracker crumbs with remaining butter that has been melted. Top the casserole with crumbs and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes until it is bubbling and the top begins to brown. Take out a few minutes before serving because the sauce will thicken a little as it cools down. Serves eight.

Baked Butternut Squash with Parsley and Garlic

2 Tbs. minced parsley

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 minced garlic cloves

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

3 1/2 lbs. butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1” cubes

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Combine parsley, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the cubed squash and toss well to cover with the seasonings. Put the squash into an ungreased baking dish large enough so the squash lies on the pan in a shallow layer. Bake uncovered in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes, until it is tender. Toss with optional cheese if desired.

Walnut Pie

This recipe is the perfect conclusion to a holiday meal when you want something rich and a little unusual that is not quite as cloying as pecan pie. Make the whipped cream before dinner so all you have to do to produce an elegant dessert is open the refrigerator and serve it up.

For Pie

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 cup butter (softened)

2 generous Tbs. honey

2 eggs

1/8 tsp. salt

1/4 cup light cream or whole milk

1/2 cup + 2 Tbs. chopped walnuts

Grated rind of 1/2 lemon

1 unbaked 8 or 9” pie shell

For Garnish

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

In the top of a double boiler, cream together brown sugar, cinnamon and softened butter. Place double boiler over hot water and stir in honey, eggs, salt and cream or milk. Continue to cook over hot water 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in walnuts and lemon rind. Pour into pie shell and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven 35 to 40 minutes until filling is set and slightly browned (it may fall slightly as it cools). Cool on a rack, then chill or wrap tightly and freeze. Before serving, whip heavy cream with sugar and cinnamon. Garnish the back of each piece of pie with a generous spoonful of whipped cream. This can be done an hour or two ahead of time—just whip it until quite thick and stir the cream before using it.

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