Ask Foodieporn: Beyond the starch sidedishes

victoria —  September 26, 2004 — Leave a comment

Bluey asked foodieporn:

My problem is that I am running out of ideas for side dishes. It seems like I’m stuck in the rice, pasta, potato rut. While there may not be much more choices than these, certainly I believe I can jazz it up a lil. Any suggestions. I will appreciate it if you give me a few quick fixin’ recipes.

The bane of the Western style of eating is the idea of meat on a plate surrounded by a starch and one or two vegetables. There are some ways around this that get us out of the “meat and three” (as we call it in the South) rut.

One, of course, is the one bowl supper. Serious soups and stews need only a slice of bread or a crusty roll and a small salad. The starch is either in the soup or not needed. Casseroles and baked dishes like lasagne get around the side dish issue as well, but they aren’t exactly quick to make unless Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup is in the first three ingredients. Aside from those often fright-inducing creations, most of the time spent making the dish is in the prep and assembly. Though it may have to bake awhile, that is hands-off time when you can make a salad or give the baby a bath or whatever.

If you want to keep inline with the more traditional dinner pattern, I highly recommend vegetarian cookbooks as a source of non-starch sides and ideas for unusual starch sides. Vegetarian cooking precludes the idea of a meat and three, generally opening up the plate for a variety of combinations of salads (both tossed and composed), various grains and vegetables. I especially recommend the books published by the Moosewood Collective. The Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special has tons of ideas for side dish combinations and would probably be the best of the lot for ideas to combine with chicken and pork dishes. If you don’t want to shell out cash for an untried book, check it out from the library for a couple weeks and give the recipes a try.

Here are a couple new recipes to get you started:

Vic’s Mom’s Sweet Potato-Cashew Bake

1/2 Cup packed brown sugar
1/3 Cup toasted cashews
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (or 1/2″ slice of grated fresh ginger)
2 pounds sweet potatoes (5-6 medium), cooked, peeled and cut crosswise into thick pieces
1 8 ounce can peach slices, well drained
3 Tablespoons butter

In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, cashews, salt & ginger. In a 10x6x2″ baking dish layer half the sweet potatoes, half the peaches and half the brown sugar mixture. Repeat layers. Dot with the butter and bake covered in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake about 10 minutes longer. Serves 6 to 8.

Potato-Chickpea Curry

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced fine
3 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
1 Tablespoon minced ginger root
1 teaspoon red chile powder
2 teaspoons turmeric
4 medium red potatoes, cut into 1/4″ slices
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
Chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups chickpeas cooked (canned is fine if rinsed first)

Cook the onion and garlic in 1/2 cup of the stock until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the spices. Add potatoes and remaining stock, cook until soft, stirring occasionally about 25 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas to heat through. Garnish with cilantro or flat leaf parsley.



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