I really love cooking the "main feature" of a meal... I love doing the meat - steak, chicken breasts, you name it, I love it.
But when it comes to making the rest of the meal, I always draw a blank. I end up resorting to the same old thing that I know everyone loves (steamed asparagus, seasoned potatoes).
I'm trying to figure out how to be more creative with the complementary pieces of the meal.
What are some good things to keep in mind when preparing a side dish, and what are some good resources that will help me in my creativity?
You could certainly get a cookbook of side dishes and learn some new favourites, but what might be more useful is a book that teaches you about flavour combinations and menu planning. I would suggest Culinary Artistry as one such book. It's not about specific recipes (you can find those elsewhere or make them up), but rather it addresses the kind of skill you're looking to learn.
One technique is to consider the origin of the main dish and choose side dishes from the same region. Seasonality or market-based shopping is another approach to expanding your repertoire.
There are tons of grains, which are great for sides. (Bulgur, Rice, Barley, Millet, etc.)
Your additions to these grains could be simple, or complicated, according to your taste and time. Of course, these aren't the only things you can use to start a good side-dish. You could use pastas such as couscous or orzo. You could use polenta, as well.
If you don't want to add a vegetable to the sides mentioned above, consider adding a vegetable somewhere in the meal. You could do this with a salad or a simple steamed vegetable with butter.
Make meat "not the main feature". Having it as the main feature is a piece of history when meat was the most expensive part of the meal, and it also seems to have become an unhealthy piece of history.
Meat is significantly cheaper nowadays, so you can spend more on other things and make them the main part of the meal, not just side dishes.
It is a mental paradigm shift.
Start looking for new and unusual ingredients from small or local farmers, not just the staples from the main grocery stores, there is an entire new world to discover.
Try growing or wild harvesting your own ingredients.
Then the fun begins, finding recipes or techniques to use these new supplies and make that masterpiece.
The meal becomes much more interesting when there is more of "you" in it.
I'm a big believer in contrasts in meal planning.
For example, one thing I like to consider is the basic flavor profile of the main dish and the side dishes. For example, if you've got a particularly rich tasting main course, you could complement it with a slightly bitter side dish such as Brussels sprouts or broccoli raab. A sweeter vegetable would be a nice contrast to a more sour main dish.
Textural differences are also valuable. A stew or soup (which is generally all mushy stuff) works great with a crunchy side dish such as a nice crusty bread.
Think also about how the plate will work. If you've got a main dish with a gravy, you don't want anything on that plate that will not work with the gravy. Thus if you also want salad, give a side plate or serve it as a separate course.
The visuals of the plate are also a consideration. If you've got chicken in a cream sauce, mashed potatoes, and cauliflower, they're all close enough in color to make for an unappetizing meal. Color differences make things more appetizing -- that's why bright green parsley and bright yellow lemons are often used as garnishes. That's also why some dishes are visually appealing right away. (Arroz con Pollo generally has yellow rice, red pimientos, and green peas. Stir frys often try to include something red or yellow to contrast with the green of many of the veggies.)
Having said all this, what I'd recommend is taking the side dishes you like and start sorting them into categories. For example, starches can be divided into mushy, chewy and full of texture, and crispy. (Potatoes can be mushy or crispy depending on the preparation.) Then as you're planning your main course, think about how to contrast it in a pleasant way.
Cooked rice, pastas, cous-cous, salads... a lot of variety to choose from. Even simple bread will do it.
I absolutely love pasta caprese. I have a great recipe for it that provides perfectly creamy mozarella and tasty tomatoes and uses up the leaves on my basil plant. It's a great dish. I also don't consider a meal without some form of protein that isn't cheese to be a meal, and vegetarian meals aren't considered kindly by those I cook for, so I really need at least some meat with every meal. So my quandry is how to serve my pasta caprese as part of a meal with meat. In the past I've done grilled chicken breast on the side, but is there a way to make it a one pot meal or serve with another
What is the Japanese term for when the sushi chef prepares a sushi meal for you based on what the sushi chef deems to be fresh and good, as well as what you would be interested in eating? I believe this is a term or style. There's generally no ordering off a set menu.
I've made paprika jelly before (combined with raspberry flavour), and I quite like the novel flavour. It kind of reminds me of chili chocolate, but more water based - in a sorbet over ice cream kind of way. I don't think I would eat it by itself though, as it didn't feel like it could hold up on its own. My question is if anyone has any ideas for how to combine it, or use it in a dish/complete meal? Some ideas I have are: An inbetween dish to clear the palate - I found that the spiciness of the paprika and the watery-ness of the jelly was good in clearing the palate of meaty tastes Some
with them and they were very good; but recently I tried to incorporate them into a simple rice and eggplant dish and they didn't flavor the dish very well at all. I'm wondering if pre-roasting them ahead of time might have made them a better ingredient or if perhaps some other technique could have made them more worth including. What sorts of preparation techniques or ingredient combinations would...One grower at the farmer's market in the alley near my work recently started selling a crop of chocolate peppers. I've had some moderate success using them as an ingredient, but am looking for tips
When I lived in Thailand many years ago, I used to love a fried noodle dish with fresh peanuts on top that was called something that sounded like “goytio hang”. I never saw it spelled in English (or Thai) so I have no idea how to search for a recipe. Can anyone help with the name?
turns sweet when you boil it - it was a long shot, but I was desperate. That didn't help. This is what I did - Fried some ginger garlic paste, and then put in one chopped tomato. After the tomatoes softened I added the onion paste, and then some cashew paste. Maybe I put in the cashew paste too early. Anyway, that is the base of the dish. After a while I added some water and seasoned it. When I tasted it, it tasted only of onions. Nothing really helped - added more water, cooked the hell outta it. Is there any way I can save the dish? Maybe heat up some oil in another wok and upturn the dish into it?
I love my rice cooker. I also like rice with stuff in, makes an easy quickish dinner. I sometimes cook up some stuff, say mushrooms, chilli and garlic fried in a bit of olive oil, or small chunks of pork, some browned onions and broccoli florets with paprika, and then add that to my rice + water (which I have measured before I add the extras) before I cook it. Then I stick the rice cooker on and let it do its magic, and 20 mins or so later, a tasty rice and stuff one bowl meal. My problem is that sometimes the rice ends up a little undercooked and I need to add a bit more water and cook
I've been making this simple chicken soup dish for years. I learned it from my dad, who got it from my mother, and who knows how far back it went beyond that. But, I really don't know what its called.... Dumplings some flour some milk Mix together in proportions that make it good and gloppy. You dont want dough, or soup. When the soup is nearly done, drop large spoonfuls into the boiling soup.... Put a few big spoonfuls of cucumber salad into it. Eat it and smile. So, what the heck have I been cooking?
I've heard that particular types of wine are good matches for particular types of food. I'm fairly new to wine being served with a meal I prepared, and I'd like to learn about how and why I should pick a wine that complements the rest of the meal. I made this community wiki because I didn't name a particular meal to match. I'd like to spend some time learning about this topic in general.