Side Dish: Main course is only half of the meal _lowres

 

Looking for new, impressive side dishes to serve with your holiday meals or maybe a quick side dish for a weeknight supper? Award-winning cookbook author and cooking teacher Rick Rodgers’ latest cookbook might have just what you want.

“The Big Book of Sides: More than 450 Recipes for the Best Vegetables, Grains, Salads, Breads, Sauces, and More” provides plenty of helpful tips on how to stock the pantry, cooking techniques and menu planning. It even includes a list of recipes that can be used for vegetarian main courses, plus charts for estimated roasting times for vegetables and for cooking dried beans.

In the introduction, Rodgers notes that deciding on a main course is only half of meal planning. After all, what would a holiday meal be without the sides: sweet potatoes, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, yeast rolls, green beans? But, sometimes it’s difficult to decide on the sides when you’re not working with an iconic match like barbecue and coleslaw. That’s where “The Big Book of Sides” comes in. It provides plenty of choices, vegetables, of course, but also pasta dishes, beans, grains, home-baked breads, salads, sauces and pickles.

Each recipe includes information on what to serve it with, preparation and cooking times, whether the dish can be made ahead and its category — for weeknight suppers; family favorites; holiday feasts; company fare; buffet dish (if it’s to serve and eat without a knife or can be easily transported to a potluck); retro recipe, which Rodgers says are nostalgic recipes that are “part of the American culinary experience, even if they include a can of condensed soup”; cooking classic; and vegetarian.

Recipes range from Boiled Artichokes With Rosemary-Lemon Butter to Classic Pan Sauce. In between are such choices as Cajun-Style Stuffed Chayote (mirliton), Steamed Collard Greens With Spicy Tofu, Slow-Roasted Tomatoes With Rosemary and Garlic, Baby Carrots and Apple Sauté With Rosemary, Perfect Whipped Potatoes, Texas Pot of Pintos, Classic Spanish Rice, Blue Ribbon Potato Salad, several versions of macaroni and cheese, Fluffy Potato Rolls and Pickled Okra.

The book’s only drawback is that its 32 full-color photographs aren’t paired with their recipes, but instead are grouped together in two batches in the middle of the book.

Still, this is a terrific book for those who need help deciding what to serve with what — surely, a question every cook has asked many times.

Cookbook signing

Nancy Rust and Carol Stubbs, authors of “A Louisiana Christmas: Heritage Recipes and Hometown Celebrations” will be signing copies of their book at LuBelle’s Antiques and Gifts, 42153 Weber City Road, Gonzales, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s food editor. Her email address is csonnier@theadvocate.com. Baby Spinach Salad With Grilled Asian Pears and Goat Cheese

Makes 6 servings. Recipe is from “The Big Book of Sides: More Than 450 Recipes for the Best Vegetables, Grains, Salads, Breads, Sauces, and More” by Rick Rodgers (Ballantine Books, 2014). Rodgers suggests serving with roasts and chicken for holiday feasts, company fare or as a buffet dish. “Asian pears are now available at just about every supermarket, but most of us don’t have enough recipes for this juicy and aromatic fruit. Its firm texture is perfect for a quick grilling before serving, but you can broil them or even skip this step,” he writes.

32 tbls. red wine vinegar

1 tbl. minced shallot

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 firm-ripe Asian pears, cored with a fruit corer from top to bottom, and cut into 1/4-inch rings

Vegetable oil, for brushing

8 ozs. baby spinach

3/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (3 ozs.)

1/2 cup toasted and coarsely chopped walnuts (see note)

21. Prepare an outdoor grill for direct cooking over medium heat (350 F to 450 F). For a charcoal grill, let the coals burn until they are covered with white ash and you can hold your hand about 1 inch above the cooing grate for abut 3 seconds. For a gas grill, preheat on high and adjust the thermostat to medium (440 F).

2. Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette: Pulse the vinegar, shallot, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a blender to combine. With the machine running, gradually pour in the olive oil through the hole in the lid to make a smooth vinaigrette.

3. Lightly brush the pear rings on both sides with vegetable oil. Place the pears on the grill. Cook, with the lid closed, until the undersides are seared with grill marks, about 2 minutes. Turn and grill the other side about 2 minutes more. Remove the pears from the grill.

4. In a large bowl, toss the spinach and vinaigrette together. Add the pears with the goat cheese and walnuts and toss again. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Note: To toast the walnuts, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, being sure to mix the nuts around the edges into the center, until the nuts are lightly browned and smell toasted, about 10 minutes. Immediately transfer the nuts to a plate to cool completely.