Originally published on “Blaise the Baker” December 10th, 2014
“The Big Book of Sides” By: Rick Rodgers
I honestly was not for sure (at first) if I would like this cookbook… I mean, a cookbook about ALL side dishes?! How many different side dishes could a person create!? (And – I am a dessert guy…)
BUT – I was seriously blown away by this book… I LOVE IT!
The book does not have photographs for every single recipe…but with this book, I have really found it does not matter. The descriptions (as well as the recipes) more than make up for lack of photos.
(And I an a picture person too – and I did not seem to miss them with this book…) Do not get me wrong though – there ARE photos…and the photos that are included are absolutely gorgeous!
The book is sectioned off into several different chapters…
Getting It to the Table: which gives tips and tricks on baking, cooking, deep frying, etc. This section also provides sample menus to give inspiration to your Holiday planning.
Eat Your Vegetables: (I like how Rick goes into detail here about each vegetable and when it is in season, what you look for in choosing one at the market, and even how to store it – genius!) One of my favorite recipes from this section is the recipe for “Warm Shaved Asparagus With Parmesan, Pine Nuts, and Basil” (page 25). I would have never thought about “shaving” the asparagus into ribbons – I love this idea! How perfect to add to salads, etc. I admit that I skipped the pine nut addition to this recipe – and it still turned out wonderfully!
I also enjoyed “Retro Green Bean Casserole” (page 37) just for the simple fact that he included it here. I love “retro” recipes that remind me of my childhood, of my Grandma and of simpler times.
Speaking of “retro” I also really enjoyed Rick’s “Broccoli and Cheddar Casserole” (page 49). I have been making a version of this for years and years – and enjoy it immensely every single time. It reminds me of my Mom’s broccoli and cheese casserole that she still makes to this day… Perhaps that is why the lack of pictures do not really bother me here with this cookbook – because I have my own “visual memories” when reading along to these recipes…
In this chapter you will also find recipes for Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, French chard, corn, eggplant, kale, wild mushrooms, tomatoes, bell peppers, spinach, butternut squash, and on and on and on… It is easily one of my favorite chapters in this book. And it is about vegetables – imagine that! Ha!
But I will tell you – I WILL “eat my vegetables” if they all taste as good as these recipes make them out to be. Yum!
From The Root Cellar: this section is about – you guessed it… root vegetables. Beets, carrots, celery, leeks, potatoes, etc. fill this chapter with delicious recipes. Some of my favorites!? “Buttermilk Onion Rings” (page 165) and my ALL TIME FAVORITE from this book (for right now – that might change the more recipes I try…) is Rick’s recipe for “Make-Ahead Mashed Potato Casserole” (page 179). What is not to love about mashed potatoes that you can make ahead and pop into the oven when guests arrive?! And they have cream cheese, butter and sour cream in them! Sounds like one of my recipes – and perfectly wonderful…
I also loved his “Classic Scalloped Potatoes” (page 185) and his simple recipe for “Classic French Fries” (page 205). I am a huge fan of potatoes (who’s not?) and these recipes make my mouth water.
A Hill of Beans: honestly – I am not that big of a fan of beans – but I have a feeling this chapter might just change my mind. Example – the “Beer and Maple Beans” (page 228) and “Root Beer Baked Beans” (page 230). I have both marked to try – and may try the “Root Beer Baked Beans” this Holiday season, to add to the table.
Righteous Rice and Great Grains: I love rice and this chapter is filled with amazing recipes such as “Spiced Basmati Rice” (page 252), “Classic Spanish Rice” (page 256) and “Wild Rice with Shallots and Thyme” (page 265). This chapter also contains recipes for polenta and grits – 2 of my favorite foods! I have 2 recipes I am going to try soon. The first is on page 269 “Cheese and Grits Souffle” (which I’m so excited about!) the other is on page 215, “Lemon Sweet Potatoes with Meringue Topping” – because I mean – how amazing does that sound!?
Anyways, the chapter continues with a recipe for “Crisp Quinoa Cakes” (page 279) that I would really like to try – and think sounds perfect serve along a pork dish of some kind.
The Side Salad Bowl: This chapter contains delicious sounding recipes for cold salads, coleslaw’s, original salads, warm salads and even bean salads! “Blue Ribbon Potato Salad” (page 282), “Loaded Potato Salad with Sour Cream, Bacon and Cheddar” (page 285 – and I will make WITHOUT the bacon…), “Coleslaw with Apples and Poppy Seeds” (page 289), “Bean Salad with Avocado, Grilled Corn, and Red Pepper” (page 299), and recipes for green beans salads, cucumber salads, pasta salads, apple salads and so much more…
The chapter also continues with recipes for salad dressings – which sound amazing. “The Best Ranch Dressing” (page 344) and “Thousand Island Dressing” (page 345) are both marked to try. I may also have to try the “Raspberry, Chipotle, and Poppy Seed Dressing” (page 342), just because I am wanting to know how the heat plays against the raspberry.
Pasta and Friends: The recipe found on page 349 “Stovetop Macaroni and Pimento Cheese” is worth the price of the book – there I said it! It is AMAZING! I have several other macaroni and cheese recipes in this chapter to try – and they all sound delicious! How about “French Macaroni and Cheese with Leeks” (page 350) or “Baked Ziti with Broccoli and Gorgonzola” (page 351)!? Amazing, right!?
The chapter continues with noodle recipes, orzo recipes and even covers couscous – which I LOVE!
The Bread Basket: I love bread, and this chapter contains amazing recipes for all types of bread! Cornbread, biscuits, yeasted dinner breads, quick breads, muffins and more! I particularly liked the recipes in this chapter for “Stuffings and Dressings” – perfect for Holiday time!
On page 401, it evens gives instructions for how to roast chestnuts – which I have always wondered!
Pickles, Relishes, and Sauces: I am not that big of a fan of pickles, but the chapter part that was focused on relishes and sauces are amazing. Pesto, salsa, ketchup, marmalade, mustard, mayonnaise, gravy, and pan sauces fill this chapter beautifully.
All in all – this book is beautiful and I highly recommend you pick it up – and not just for the Holidays! It WILL BE the perfect book for the Holidays – yes – but you will find yourself using it a LOT more that just around the Holidays. You will find yourself picking this book up a LOT for recipes and inspirational ideas.