Sometimes, the main dish is a done deal but deciding on the side dish(es) feels like a lot of work. When that happens, I turn to a no-recipe dish. I look at the vegetables I have in the refrigerator and the pantry and combine the ones that I think will go well together and with the main dish. Last night’s combination was mushrooms, green beans from last summer’s garden (so frozen is fine), and spinach. I pulled them together with butter and olive oil and lightly browned garlic chips, with a scattering of green onions toward the end of cooking. My husband and I could have eaten the combination over a bowl of brown rice and been happy (and we will in the future).
The mushrooms–cooked until golden on all sides–were meaty and earthy-sweet. The green beans added a vegetal note and tender-but-with-bite texture. The spinach gave a minerally taste, and the garlic and scallions added that allium kick from which so many vegetables benefit. The salt, butter and oil combined for a richness that united all of the flavors.
If you purchase already sliced mushrooms, frozen green beans, and pre-washed spinach, the only things you really need to do are slice the garlic and green onions. Speedy and delicious.
Other great combinations: (I use salt, pepper, and olive oil with all of these, but add herbs, spices, and oils of your choice)
-roasted broccoli and/or cauliflower with Brussels sprouts and a shower of lemon juice
-bias-cut carrots and quartered Brussels sprouts with a maple syrup glaze (pan or oven roast)
-bias-cut celery, canned diced tomatoes, sliced onion, and garlic, simmered until the celery is almost melting (add water or broth if the pan dries out too quickly)
-roasted butternut squash and Brussels sprouts
-green beans and julienned (or just thinly sliced) carrots
-butternut squash and red bell peppers
One way to tie all of your vegetable choices together is by softening onion and/or garlic in oil or butter before adding the rest of the vegetables, or by leaving them in larger pieces and adding them to the roasting pan. Or you can make garlic “chips” like I do in this recipe.
Most vegetables go well with each other, especially if they are harvested in the same season. And if you play with a combination that you wind up not liking, it isn’t the end of the world. Make a mental note and try something different next time!
Green Bean, Mushroom, and Spinach Sauté with Golden Garlic
(serves 4 as a side or 2 as a main dish over a hearty whole grain)
1 lb frozen green beans, dropped in boiling water and cooked just so the beans separate
1 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
6-8 oz mushrooms, quartered (sliced is also fine; they’ll just cook faster)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
5 oz spinach (I used mature, because I prefer the taste and texture, but baby spinach is fine)
4-6 thinly sliced green onions, divided
1. Heat a 1/2 tbsp oil and a 1/2 tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the mushrooms and cook, undisturbed, for about two minutes or until the first side is golden brown. Flip to another side and repeat. Flip a final time (unless they’re sliced versus quartered–those will only need one flip) and cook 2-3 minutes. The mushrooms should be golden on all sides, including the rounded one. Lower the heat to medium.
2. Add the rest of the oil to the skillet. When it is hot (which will be almost immediately), tilt the pan so the oil flows to the side and add the garlic slices into the “pool.” Cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic starts to turn golden around the edges. Work quickly for the next step.
3. Give the green beans a light squeeze to remove some of the excess moisture. Add the rest of the butter to the pan and stir in the green beans. Add a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes or until the green beans are warm.
4. Add 1/2 of the sliced scallions, all of the spinach, and another pinch of salt and cook, tossing the vegetables around until the spinach wilts. Add the rest of the scallions and some black pepper. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve hot.