Browned Brussels with Maple Butter

Photo: Ben Pieper Photography

How to Make Supporting Acts That Steal the Show
Like many of us, cookbook writer Tara Mataraza Desmond—who's also the dinner planner for a family of five—comes up with an idea for a main course and then thinks, "Okay, great—now, what am I going to serve with it?" So, she wrote Choosing Sides, a book devoted entirely to salads, vegetables, grains, breads and more. The truth is, though, many of the recipes are so strong, they could steal the spotlight right from the main course. These Brussels sprouts are a perfect example: We often see the mini cabbages with bacon or pancetta, but Desmond turns to a new ingredient—maple syrup—to give them a toasty, caramel-like flavor. They'd be just as appropriate with a simple roast chicken as they would be on a holiday table.

Get the recipe: Browned Brussels with Maple Butter

Photo: Ben Pieper Photography

The Tropical Couscous
We love Israeli couscous for its pastalike chewiness; the grains are bigger than semolina couscous, more like pearls, and when you cook them they take on a risotto-like texture (without all that standing at the stove, pouring and stirring). Desmond simmers the grains in coconut milk and water spiked with a dash of cayenne, so it's creamy and lightly spiced—and terrific with any main that features Asian, Latin or tropical ingredients.

Get the recipe: Coconut-Cilantro Toasted Israeli Couscous

Photo: Thinkstock

Greens with Some Spice (and It's Not Red Pepper)
When you feel like you have to put a green on the table, but you're kind of saladed out, turn to this ridiculously easy recipe, where you can make magic out of five ingredients (and one of them is water). Simply sauté bits of dry chorizo, which has a smoky taste, in olive oil, pour in some water to help release any bits from the bottom of the pan and add inch-wide ribbons of chard (any variety works) and oregano. The greens shrink and wilt, turning silky and tender in just 10 minutes.

Get the recipe: Chorizo Chard

Photo: Ben Pieper Photography

Carrots That Taste Like Dessert
Desmond glorifies humble carrots in this back-pocket recipe you can throw together at a moment's notice. She sautés them in butter, garlic and ginger, and then douses them in a honey-rice vinegar glaze. They're sweet and zippy, and would be ideal with anything from fried rice to chicken curry to pot roast.

Get the recipe: Ginger-Honey Carrots
Persimmon, Pomegranate and Pistachio Salad

Photo: Ben Pieper Photography

A Reason to Start Buying Persimmons
We admit to walking right by the persimmons in the supermarket, wondering what on earth one actually does with one of the tomato-like yellow fruits. Turns out they're worth putting in your cart; because, when ripe, they're a great way to add color and sweet flavor to a winter salad that also includes pomegranate seeds, thinly sliced fennel and mixed greens. A handful of roasted and salted pistachios adds a nice crunchy element.

Get the recipe: Persimmon, Pomegranate and Pistachio Salad

Photo: Ben Pieper Photography

Biscuits That'll Make You Feel Like an Old Pro (Even If You're Not)
Desmond isn't Southern, yet she learned to make buttery, multilayered, soft and tall biscuits from a friend, and has perfected a recipe that anyone can make. The secret's in the folding technique: you fold, press and cut once, which turns out biscuits with crunchy tops and bottoms and tender middles. You can serve them with classics like fried chicken or baked ham, or go rogue and put them alongside a lunchtime frittata or even chili.

Get the recipe: Herbed Biscuits

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