For holiday dinners a plain veggie is almost always ignored especially if the meat and other side dishes are also fairly simple. After all, it’s a holiday meal. And inherent with holiday dinners is the absolute need for something rich on your plate that you might not otherwise eat. And if that lovely mouth feel that comes from a dish containing butter and half and half happens to also include a vegetable, it’s a win-win situation! For example, this recipe would be perfect if you were planning to serve Maple Syrup Glazed Spiral Ham and Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes. Neither recipe has so high a fat content that creamy green beans would be too rich served as an accompaniment. However, if you were planning to serve Stuffed Leg of Lamb (recipe to be posted in a day or two) and Baked Red Potatoes with Roasted Garlic Sauce, a simple dish of steamed green beans would be a much better choice. Taste buds are picky and they are easily overwhelmed. They seem to be particularly happy when they have a variety of plain and rich flavors to visit and revisit at leisure. So when planning a dinner party, think about variety in both taste and texture, plain preparations versus rich, and color presentation. Color is all too often neglected when choosing what dishes to serve together. And I’m not saying that you have to obey the rules of the color wheel. But who doesn’t prefer to see a pop of bright green, red, or yellow on their otherwise mono-chromatic plate of food? Remember, parsley wasn’t invented to provide a last minute burst of fresh flavor to almost any savory dish, or because of its high vitamin content. It was invented for the sole purpose of bringing a splash of color to an otherwise dreary plate! A little story:  I will never forget one of the dinners we were served when my former husband and I took our 3 youngest children to Europe for 5 weeks in 1978. One of the places we stayed in England actually served us poached white fish, boiled peeled potatoes and way over cooked plain cauliflower. And on a white plate, of course! Now, in the world of home decoration white on white is terribly sophisticated. On a plate placed before three children ages 10, 11, and 12, who were used to a very eclectic assortment of food at home, this all white presentation was not well received. In retrospect it was really quite funny to watch all three little faces turn to me at the same time with expressions that clearly read “mom, do I have to eat this”? And truly, who could expect them, or anyone for that matter to eat something so unappealing. If I remember correctly, none of us ate that dinner. Instead I think we found the nearest Indian restaurant. (We ate quite a bit of Indian food for the two weeks we travelled around England, Scotland, and Wales and were never disappointed!) So, moral of the story; have fun planning your Easter dinner. Just remember – too much of a good thing is not appealing, crunch is your friend, and white on white is stunning in the home of a “dazzling urbanite” (to quote Jim (Gene Wilder) in Blazing Saddles), but on a plate, not so much!

  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 8-oz. cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 c. half and half
  • ½ c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 T. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 lb. fresh green beans, cut in bite size pieces and steamed until crisp tender

Melt butter in a medium sized fry pan over medium low heat. Add the onions and sauté until tender, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. Sauté for about a minute or until garlic releases its aroma. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they start to turn a light golden brown, about 10-15 minutes. (This dish can be prepared up to this point ahead of time and set aside. Just before ready to serve, place back over heat and follow instruction as written.) Add the half and half and Parmesan cheese. Simmer until the sauce thickens, stirring frequently. Adjust seasoning. Gently stir in the green beans and parsley. Serve immediately. This green bean dish is based on a recipe from the blog entitled Closet Cooking; a great source of fun recipes, by the way.