Chef Molly Evans likes to top off many of her holiday meals with roasted vegetables.
They’re quick, healthy, easy to make, delicious and “a crowd pleaser,” says Evans, owner of Savory and Sweet Specialties, based in St. Charles.
“To me, that’s always a go-to side dish,” she says. “It’s mostly hands-off. You mix it all together, throw it in the oven and you can forget about it and get the rest of the meal ready.”
Through her personal chef business, Evans makes home-cooked meals for families and private parties and hosts group cooking lessons.
As part of her services, she plans, grocery shops, prepares the food, packages it, labels it and leaves it for families to heat up throughout the week.
She originally went to business school, but her passion always was cooking and entertaining. Informal cooking classes expanded into her attending and graduating from Kendall College’s School of Culinary Arts in 2001. She also has become a member of the American Personal and Private Chef Association.
“I enjoy the entertaining part ... and helping other families get meals on the table,” she says. “When I was a child, that’s something my mom was always able to do, put a meal on the table. I come from a family where that’s very important.”
Following are a couple of Evans’ recipes:
Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Dip with Pita Chips
Serves: 6 to 8
Adapted slightly from a recipe in the “Barefoot Contessa Family Style” cookbook. Evans came up with her roasted pepper and eggplant dip recipe when preparing to host a party.
She wanted an appetizer she could make ahead of time, and something healthy.
“That one has all the vegetables and really no fat expect for the olive oil,” she says. “Everyone can enjoy it without the guilt.”
It’s is a quick make-ahead dip that can be served at holiday parties. It’s also easy to bring to potlucks.
— Adapted from “Barefoot Contessa Family Style” cookbook
1 eggplant, peeled and diced
2 red peppers, diced
1 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, whole
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Store-bought pita chips
Heat oven to 425. Toss eggplant, peppers, onion and garlic with 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast on sheet pan for 40 to 50 minutes or until vegetables are softened and brown.
Place cooked vegetables in food processor, add tomato paste, balsamic, remaining olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Pulse to blend. Serve with pita chips.
Maple Thyme Roasted Root Vegetables
Tweak the roasted vegetables a bit with some thyme and maple syrup, and you’ve got yourself a fresh, popular dish, Evans says of her maple thyme roasted root vegetables.
Clients order it repeatedly, she says.
“At Thanksgiving, it’s easy for me to have a batch of roasted vegetables on the ready,” she says, noting that now is the perfect time for this dish.
“Root vegetables are in season this time of year, and this is an easy way to have a healthy side dish at the holiday table,” she says. “Feel free to use any other types of squash or root vegetables.”
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces
1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces
1 red onion, peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
Heat oven to 425. Toss vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast on sheet pan for 40 to 45 minutes or until softened and brown. Toss in maple syrup and thyme. Roast an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
Realizing that it was a necessity at Thanksgiving, Evans wanted to create a sauce with fresh cranberries.
She also wanted something simple, as the holiday always creates enough business in the kitchen.
Her cranberry sauce fit the bill and has become a family favorite, she says.
“This basic cranberry sauce is so good and so easy that you’ll never use a can again!” she says.
16 ounces fresh cranberries
1 orange, juice and zest
1/2 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
Combine cranberries, juice and zest of orange, sugar and cinnamon stick in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until the cranberries burst and sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick and serve cold or at room temperature. kc