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Unusual side dishes can be magical

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Even the best roast chicken, broiled fish or grilled steak can become a bit boring after a while. But add an unusual vegetable side dish and the transformation can be magical. Your pot roast can become company fare when accompanied by a casserole of butternut squash. A plain grilled fish fillet can become a special meal with a side dish of crunchy green beans, topped with a mixture of lemon, parsley and Parmesan cheese. Zucchini and yellow squash with crisp apples, mint and lime will dress up a steak.

Zucchini with apples

Apples, mint and freshly squeezed lime juice give raw zucchini an unusual flavour. Great with grilled chicken or fish.

o 4 medium zucchini

o 2 crisp apples

o juice of 2 limes, or to taste

o salt and pepper to taste

o 8 fresh mint leaves

o avocado slices for garnish

o sliced scallions for garnish

Scrub the zucchini, them trim off stem and blossom ends. Cut into very long, thin, matchstick strips, stopping when the core and seeds are reached. Peel and core the apples, then cut into julienne strips. Add to the squash, then pour in the lime juice and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Stack the mint leaves and slice into very fine strips. Add to the squash mixture and toss to combine. Serve garnished with avocado and sliced scallions. Serves 6-8.

Still crunchy green beans, cooled to room temperature, are bursting with flavour, thanks to an easy topping of lemon zest, parsley and Parmesan cheese.

o 1 lb. green beans

o 2 tbsp. minced garlic

o 2 tbsp. olive oil

o zest of 3 lemons (yellow part only; no white pith or it will be bitter)

o 1 bunch fresh parsley, leaves only, chopped

o 4 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

o 1 tsp. salt

o 1/2 tsp. pepper

Blanch the green beans in boiling salted water for one minute; drain and plunge into ice water. Drain well and transfer to a serving bowl. Sauté the garlic in olive oil just until the garlic turns white. Do not let it brown. Pour over the beans and toss to combine. Add the lemon zest, parsley, cheese, salt and pepper and toss again. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 4.

Butternut squash gratin

o 6 medium butternut squash

o 1/2 cup honey

o 3 tbsp. flour

o 1 tsp. salt

o 1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg

o 1/4 tsp. cinnamon

o 3 eggs, separated

o 1/4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9-in. pie pan and set aside. Pour 1/2 cup water into one or two baking pans large enough to accommodate the squash. Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds. Place halves cut-side down on the baking pan and bake about a half-hour, until soft. Alternatively, prick all over with a fork or knife and cook in microwave until tender (about 15 minutes). Let squash cool. Spoon out soft flesh and puree in a food processor. You should have about 3 cups of pureed squash.

Combine squash puree, honey, flour, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and egg yolks in a bowl and blend well. Beat the egg whites until they reach stiff peaks. Carefully fold into squash mixture until no streaks of white remain. Pour soufflé mixture into buttered baking dish. Sprinkle nuts over the top. Bake approximately 45 minutes or until golden. Serves 6.

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