Summer Sides

It’s summer in Tennessee, and we are all about using the grill as much as possible. It’s just easier – no fancy casseroles, big pasta dishes, or hearty stews – no heavy creamy side dishes either. All of those can be saved for cold weather fare. That leads to the question, how do you dress up that grilled chicken, barbequed pork, glazed salmon, or perfect steak? Baked potatoes and a big salad will only get you so far.

You can get clever with rice and arugula, but in the end it’s fun to shake things up a little. This vegetable side dish has always been an easy favorite and so nice to make when those precious little tomatoes are in every market. It’s perfect with most anything you decide to throw on the grill and pretty (and tasty) enough to serve to your most difficult dinner guests. Another handy trick is that this recipe does not have to be piping hot out the oven, so if you are doing the grilling it’s easy to time out, and if your significant other or a friend is grilling you don’t have to yell at them because your dish is ready and the steaks are still ice cold. It’s also popular here because one sheet of aluminum foil equals no clean-up. That’s a recipe for a good dinner. You know – until now we’ve never had a name for this dish, it’s just called “That Asparagus Thing”. Somehow that doesn’t sound recipe worthy so how about Roasted Asparagus and Tomatoes with Garlic and Parmesan Cheese. There are walnuts in there too but including that kind of makes the name too long. Plus, you could probably leave them out, but who wants to do something that crazy? Here’s the plan, line a big sheet pan with foil and toss some cherry or grape (or both) tomatoes in a little salt and olive oil. Bake them in a very hot oven until they get soft and maybe a little brown. Throw in asparagus and some garlic and roll them around in the oil. Bake another eight minutes or so and add some walnuts. A couple more minutes and you have a perfect side for that perfect pork tenderloin – or whatever made it to the grill. Grate a little good parmesan cheese over the top, and maybe sprinkle with some fresh basil or tarragon if you have it.

People will say “What a beautiful dish!” which is, of course, quite nice, but in actuality what you want them to say is “This is absolutely delicious!” The good news here is that they will, because it is.  Pour yourself a tall glass of something you love, light the grill, pre-heat the oven and serve a dinner that is easy as can be. You’ll love this one! Enjoy!

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Roasted Asparagus and Tomatoes with Garlic and Parmesan Cheese (Printable Recipe)


2 to 3 cups cherry and/or grape tomatoes

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp each salt and pepper (or to taste)

1 bunch asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut into bite sized pieces

3 cloves garlic, sliced

½ cup walnut pieces (I admit to using more because I love them)

2 oz parmesan cheese, grated (big grate is pretty)

Optional: basil or tarragon leaves, chopped


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.Toss 2-3 cups cherry tomatoes in olive oil, salt, and pepper

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until soft and beginning to brown.

Add asparagus and garlic- toss with tomatoes and bake another 8 to 10 minutes, depending on size of asparagus.

Add walnut pieces and bake another 2 minutes.

Remove from oven and top with parmesan cheese and fresh herbs.

Serve immediately or keep at room temperature until ready to serve.

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