Acclaimed chef and James Beard Foundation Award winner Virginia Willis has covered a lot of ground in her culinary career, from charming celebrities like Morgan Freeman and James Fonda with her cooking to working at Michelin-starred restaurants and publishing eight books of kitchen. She has traveled the world in search of food knowledge and has appeared on the Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown With Bobby Flay. But what keeps fans of hers coming back for another serving is the foolproof nature of her recipes. Being a “French-trained southern chef,” Virginia knows how to bring out the most incredible flavor from relatively simple ingredients; she truly understands the adage, “less is more,” and exemplifies it in her kitchen. There’s no one better to turn to when it comes to making the most of the limited time and resources you have available in the kitchen. She explores the easy side dish recipes below and see for yourself.
As an added bonus, beyond being simple and delicious, Virginia keeps these simple side dishes feeling fresh, nutritious, and light. Because of her own journey with healthy eating and weight loss, Virginia is an enthusiastic cheerleader for others looking to make lifestyle changes to feel healthier and happier.
Featuring fresh parsley, lemon, and garlic, gremolata is a vibrant Italian seasoning commonly used to invigorate poultry, fish, and meats with a spicy kick of bright flavor. It really couldn’t be easier to mix up, but she certainly puts these simple salt and pepper cauliflower steaks in a league of their own. This summery take on tabbouleh — an herbaceous grain salad that originated in the mountains of Lebanon and Syria — features grilled corn instead of the traditionally used bulgur wheat. Although you can serve the dish as soon as it’s ready, letting it chill in the fridge will only enhance the flavors of your tabbouleh, so feel free to make it ahead of time!
Bold and bright is the name of the game in this exceptionally easy salad. Virginia brings together the best of summer’s fruit offerings to create the perfect side dish for any and all grilled protein. The ever-reliable skillet does it again, this time paying homage to the classic French Provencal dish of stewed summer vegetables. A mix of garden-fresh flavors shine in this easy, light and delicious ratatouille recipe.
When working with high season products, simple is usually superior. Do you want proof? Look no further than this colorful and fancy side of grilled zucchini. Finished with a fresh tomato and mint topping, it’s as impressive to serve as it is easy to prepare. Given her southern roots, Virginia knows a thing or two about creamed corn. This fresh take harnesses tart tomatoes and cream cheese for a pop of flavor, balancing out the inherent sweetness of the corn. Naturally, fresh herbs (use any mild herbs you like or have on hand) are the perfect finishing touch to such a sunny garnish.
Easy but impressive? This no-cook zoodle salad smothered in a creamy buttermilk dressing ticks all the boxes. If you don’t have a spiralizer, or just want to further minimize your prep time, you can buy pre-spiralized zucchini noodles in the produce section of most major supermarkets.
Clever shortcuts, like using matchstick-cut carrots and canned pineapple bites, make this colorful slaw quick and accessible, while the right balance of sweet, spicy, and savory ingredients makes it utterly irresistible. However, what more could you ask for? Cumin, coriander, and fresh sage leaves elevate sweet, delicate pumpkin with a dynamic combination of earthy flavor notes in this easy oven-roasted recipe. Leaving the pumpkin seeds intact creates a beautifully rustic serving aesthetic, as well as a built-in toasty crunch.