Some meals are complete all by themselves, but others need a little something to fill out your plate. If your main course is made with vegetables, you may only need some rice or noodles for a full meal. If not, these side dish recipes for one are just the thing.
They are all one serving, so there’s no waste, and no leftovers. They can be prepared fairly quickly, for the most part (with one exception). Plus, you get something a bit more interesting than just a plain salad on the side.
I’ve divided them up by whether or not you have to cook them. The cole slaw requires no cooking, but it does taste better if you have the time to let the flavors blend for a few hours.
I know, broccoli is controversial (though not quite as much as brussels sprouts). Some love it, some hate it. If you’re not a broccoli fan, this recipe for oven roasted lemon garlic broccoli might change your mind. Roasting helps reduce the bitterness and gives the broccoli a nutty flavor (from the caramelization). It also makes the broccoli crispy outside, tender and sweet inside.
I have used frozen broccoli florets, because they cook more quickly (and I had a big bag of them). This is also more practical, since it’s tough for one person to eat an entire head of broccoli all at once! This way I can take out just what I need and the rest can stay frozen until I want it for something else.
Plus, frozen vegetables often have more vitamins and better nutrition than fresh vegetables do. That’s because the frozen version has been picked and then preserved (by freezing) immediately, while fresh produce may have traveled for days from some other state (or even country) before it gets to your supermarket.
If you have fresh broccoli (or a farmer’s market nearby), you can use that too. Don’t toss out the stems, they are just as good as the florets. They do cook faster (and better) if you remove the tough outer layer from the stems first. A vegetable peeler will work just fine for this.
You’ll also need to cook fresh broccoli a bit longer (since the frozen broccoli has been blanched first). Roast the fresh broccoli for about 25 minutes. If you like it super-crispy, roast it for half an hour (turning it once).
It’s suddenly fall-like here in NY, with cooler weather and even a few leaves starting to turn. So, time to start thinking about comfort food. And what better comfort food than skin on garlic mashed potatoes.
I’m posting this partly in honor of my sister-in-law, who loves mashed potatoes. She practically thinks they are a food group. When she married my brother, I included a larger version of this recipe in a mini-cookbook we made for her. Now, many years later, I make them slightly differently: not just mashed potatoes, but skin on garlic mashed potatoes. It’s less work, less cleanup and more nutrition. Win win win!
The original recipe calls for milk, but I was feeling decadent, so I went with half and half here. Use milk if you prefer. Or, even a bit of cream.
Make sure to use thin skinned potatoes that are suitable for boiling and mashing. I like to use either white potatoes, (sometimes called Eastern potatoes), or Yukon gold. The skins on the white potatoes are thinner than Russets, which makes them better for a recipe that calls for leaving the skin on the potato. Yukon gold are naturally more creamy and buttery tasting. Also, I’ve never particularly liked Russets, they seem floury to me. They’re higher in starch, and don’t reheat well. They also don’t hold their shape (not an issue for mashing, but a problem for potato salad or soup).
I first learned to make this eggplant dish when I was visiting a cousin in Boston. He was living in a rambling house with lots of roomies and a student budget. Creativity was important! This meltingly tender broiled eggplant infused with olive oil and flecked with fresh rosemary takes full advantage of seasonal produce. Just grab some of the fresh eggplants popping up in your local farmer’s market and make this super simple recipe.
Since this recipe is made nearly entirely with pantry staples, all you have to buy is the eggplant. Fresher eggplants are less bitter than their out-of-season cousins and the standard dark, nearly black supermarket offerings. And, the farmer’s market should have a much wider selection. I used Graffiti eggplant (streaky purple), but white eggplant, or fairy eggplant (the smaller streaky variety, which is particularly tender) works just as well.
Look for smaller eggplants with firm skin. A wrinkled eggplant is an old eggplant. The smaller ones are sweeter too. Check the stem to make sure it’s fresh; it should be free of mold or mushiness. An eggplant that’s heavy for its size is better. Lighter ones are likely to be hollow and less fleshy (so less to eat).
There’s some slightly inaccurate folk wisdom about “male” and “female” eggplants, with males having fewer seeds. The flowers are both male and female, but the fruit isn’t. However, if you want fewer seeds, check the bottom of the eggplant. There’s an indentation which is sometimes oval and sometimes round. Eggplants with an oval indentation seem to have fewer seeds than the round ones. So pick the oval eggplant (because you want fruit, not seeds).
A lemony cucumber salad is the perfect antidote to a brutally hot day. And, with July nearly here, the temperature (at least in NY) is forecast to soar well into the 90s! This salad is cool, refreshing, and you don’t have to cook anything. It’s also ready in about five minutes. So, it’s great when you have a bad case of the hungries and don’t want to wait a long time to eat (look further down the page for tips on making this a full meal).
I made my cucumber salad with romaine lettuce, English cucumber (the long seedless kind), fresh lemon juice, and dill. If you use the English cucumber, you don’t have to peel it; which is a welcome extra shortcut. I used dried dill, but fresh is even better, if you have some.
On the other hand, if you would rather have a meal that’s a bit heartier, toss in some sort of extra protein. You could add a sliced hardboiled egg, a bit of crumbled feta or goat cheese, or even shredded leftover chicken. With the protein, the recipe as written is enough for lunch. If you want to have it for dinner, double the quantities of everything.
Anyone else here a starch fiend (waits and looks for raised hands)? I just love potato salad, but I’m not that crazy about the usual heavy versions loaded with mayo. This Dijon mustard vinaigrette potato salad is different. It’s French, for one thing, which means there’s no mayo in it. Instead, it has olive oil, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard for a bit of bite.
It’s really easy to make, without a lot of fussing. You can eat it warm out of the pan, at room temperature, or chilled. Since there’s no mayonnaise, it also travels well if you’re going on a picnic or to a barbecue (make more!).
The best part? No peeling (oh, the scandal)! That makes the prep time faster. And, you get more vitamins too.
Oh, the humble potato. It’s not so humble after William Sonoma finishes with it. And their potato salads have artichokes, feta cheese, or red bell pepper. (There’s also recipes for fries, and roasted fingerling potatoes). One reviewer said she got it from the library – but her family wouldn’t let her return the book! So, rather than risk a giant fine, she bought a copy.
Potato salad with seafood, pesto, nicoise, and tarragon and lamb. Lots of delicious combinations you may have never thought of.
More Potato Salad Recipes Without Mayo
German potato salad – Bacon, vinegar, and onions give this potato salad a nice tang. Italian potato salad – Lots of garlic (don’t kiss anyone after you eat it), and a few simple ingredients. Best served at room temperature. Greek potato salad – Made with feta cheese, parsley, and onion (no mayonnaise in sight). Herb Potato Salad – Recipe from Ina Garten with tarragon and wine.
Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette Potato Salad Substitutions and Variations
add a hard boiled egg
mix up your potatoes (try it with some red potatoes)
In my head, this was Roman spinach. Then I looked and realized that was a completely different recipe (with pine nuts and raisins). I was wrong about the Roman part, but at least sauteed garlic parmesan spinach is really Italian.
The recipe that inspired this called for blanching and baking the spinach and then broiling everything. That was too much bother! I’ve adapted it to make it simpler and easier.
This way, it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to prepare. It will go nicely, I think, with a simple pan fried fish, or grilled fish. Or, serve it with a steak.
Unlike the Roman spinach (which would have required a trip to get pine nuts), this sauteed spinach is made from everyday ingredients you probably already have at home. No special shopping trip needed!
It’s been a while since I posted a side dish, so I thought I’d fix that. Honey mustard glazed carrots are an easy and savory side dish that’s ready in just a few minutes. The honey adds a hint of sweetness, while the mustard provides a bit of a kick. The carrots are really easy to prepare, but the dish feels fancy enough for company.
This side dish goes beautifully with a simply roasted piece of chicken. Season it with olive oil, lemon, and rosemary, put it in the oven and then start the carrots about 20 minutes before the chicken is done.
Or, try them with a grilled lamb chop, or a steak. This recipe would also be great with Thanksgiving turkey or a family holiday get-together (you’d obviously have to size up the quantities).
If you’re trying to eat more veggies, honey mustard carrots also go well with a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch.
I sliced the carrots in matchsticks, but you can make them whatever way suits you. If you’re in a hurry, use frozen carrots (which are pre-blanched and will cook faster than fresh ones will).
Another tip to speed up the process and make your life a bit easier: when you measure the honey, dip the spoon in water first. It creates a barrier that will keep the honey from sticking and make it easier to pour it into the saucepan.
Two carrots, sliced into matchsticks (about 2/3 of a cup)
1 1/2 tsp butter
1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
Boil water in a small saucepan (about one quart)
Once the water is boiling, add the carrots and the salt.
Cook for 5-7 minutes until the carrots are tender
Drain the carrots and set aside.
Add the butter, mustard, and honey to the empty saucepan. Once the butter melts, add the carrots back to the pan and stir to coat them with the mustard mixture. When the carrots are glazed, remove and serve.
Substitutions and Variations for Mustard Honey Glazed Carrots
If you don’t have honey, use brown sugar instead
Add some fresh rosemary to the carrots
Saute some shallots with the honey mustard mixture and then add the carrots back to the pan
Try roasting them in a 450 oven for 40 minutes with some parsnips
Fall has finally arrived, and the temperature is dropping. It’s time to start thinking about butternut squash, apple crisp, and soups. I found this recipe for roasted cinnamon nutmeg butternut squash tucked into a cookbook. I’ve no idea where I got it from, but the combination of cinnamon, apple cider, nutmeg, butter, and squash is classic.
Cinnamon and nutmeg add both a bit of spice and sweetness, and the apple cider is both tart and sweet. It’s also apple cider season, so all the ingredients are at their peak now.
Butternut squash are notoriously hard to peel, unless you have an Oxo peeler, which makes this chore much easier. Or, you can buy the pre-peeled squash.
The rest is just cutting up the squash (use a big, sharp knife), adding the spices, butter, and cider, and baking it in the toaster oven.
This peeler cuts through butternut squash skin with virtually no effort. It’s no harder than peeling a cucumber. I’ve had mine for years and it still works flawlessly. There’s even a little scoop at the end for de-eyeing potatoes or removing bruised spots. The handle is comfy and easy to hold. It works on apples, squash, cucumber, carrots, and hasn’t needed any extra care or sharpening. I did add a dab of red nail polish at the end to make it easier to find in my utensil holder.
Most baking dishes are far too large for one person or small batch cooking. This is perfect. I use it for the squash, to bake brownies or coffee cake, and reheat leftovers. It”s safe in the oven or microwave, looks great as a serving dish, and can go in the dishwasher if you have one.
I spotted this white bean salad with sun dried tomatoes when I was shopping. It sounded delicious: beans, sun dried tomatoes, olive oil, spinach. Healthy and tasty!
The price was a bit of a turn off though: $8.00 a pound?! For beans? Nope. I had dry beans at home, but it was too hot to start cooking them. So, I trotted over to the canned beans section. Instead of $8.00 a pound, I got a whole can of beans for 88 cents (on sale!). Score!
The rest was easy (and no cooking needed on a hot day).
Just soak the sun dried tomatoes, pour the beans into a bowl, roughly chop the spinach, chop some onion, and let it sit for a while to let the flavor develop.
Chopped Israeli salad isn’t quite what you might assume. It doesn’t have lettuce or carrots. It’s not even eaten when you’d expect. Israeli salad isn’t for lunch or dinner. Instead people eat it for breakfast with eggs, hummus, pita bread, fish, and olives. Not being much of a standard American breakfast person, I approve!
Of course, all of those things make a great lunch too, especially on a hot day whenyou don’t want to get anywhere near a stove or an oven. I adapted this recipe from a comment on Tori Avery’s web site.
She had a recipe for Israeli salad, and a commenter, Schelly Talalay Dardashti, pointed out that there’s a Persian version called “salad e-shirazi.”
She said it calls for red onion and parsley (neither of which I had). However, I did decide to follow her suggestion and use lime juice instead of lemon juice and add mint.
Make sure to use either Persian cucumbers or English cucumbers (rather than the standard kind). The Persian (or mini) cucumbers are shorter and thinner than standard cucumbers and usually sold in sealed packages. The English (or hothouse) cucumbers are the long, skinny ones individually wrapped in plastic wrap.
They’re easier to cut up and you don’t have to peel them! Also, the standard cukes tend to be more bitter.
I cut everything up, mixed it together, and left it out on the counter for a couple of hours (there’s nothing to spoil quickly) so that the flavors would blend.Also, if you put tomatoes in the fridge, they start to lose their flavor.
You can serve this salad with the pita and etc. I mentioned above for a light meal or as a side dish with a sandwich or some eggs. You can make plain scrambled eggs, a frittata, or keep the Persian theme going and serve it with Persian eggs. I added about 1/4 C of eggplant I had left over (recipe here and it’s even for one person).
There’s no picture of the eggs because I was hungry and started eating before I remembered to take one!
You can squeeze the lime with your hands, but it’s a bit messy. It’s much easier (and neater) to use a reamer instead. And since it’s made by Oxo, it’s comfortable to use. Tip: Leave the fruit out to get to room temperature (or zap it in the microwave for 5 seconds). It will juice more easily.
You can use a sharp knife to cut up your salad, but it’s even easier with a salad chopper. The double blades chop the salad, veggies, cheese, etc into tiny little pieces. And it takes a lot less effort. Just rock your hand back and forth.