Help with side dish Ideas.

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by developingtaste, Aug 22, 2011.

  1. developingtaste

    developingtaste

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    I'm an at home cook who is hoping I could get some ideas from you guys.  I like cooking different things, but a formula I learned early on was this:

    meat

    vegetable

    pasta, rice, potato, or bean.

    Simple, but effective in balancing out a meal for my simple home cooking.  Is this basic formula improvable?  In what ways?  Just do me a favor....don't include tofu.  
     
  2. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    A better way to sum it up is:

    - protein

    - vegetable

    - starch

    It's basic and it works but it does tend to get boring.  Especially if you're splitting it up on your plate in 3 distinct parts.  Today you might each salmon-broccoli-rice, tomorrow it's steak-asparagus-potato, and next week it might be chicken-spinach-orzo.  Eventhough you mix up ingredients you're essentially eating the same thing every day.

    The easiest way to break up the monotonous pattern is by combining 2 of the 3.  Like instead of steak-asparagus-rice, I might serve steak with asparagus risotto.  Or I might serve stuffed peppers as a side dish, etc.  And include a colorful salad that will also help break up monotony.  Does that help?
     
     
  3. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    INO, anyone who doesn't like tofu can't be all bad! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/thumb.gif

    What you're describing is the classic dish-divided-in-three approach. Nothing wrong with it except, as KK notes, it can get boring.

    One way to make it exciting is to take her approach of combining two of the three. Another is to expand on that. F'rinstance, perhaps you're serving pan-fried chicken breast, zucchini, and pasta. Make a zucchini pasta instead, and add another veggie chosen as much for visual impact as anything else. Perhaps sweet & sour red cabbage.

    Another way of staving off boredom is to concentrate on presentation. Instead of arranging the chicken, zucchini, and pasta in three piles on the plate, try something like making the zucchini pasta. Place a mound of it on the plate, then lay the chicken so it's overlapping the pasta, partially standing on it's edge. Then arrange the cabbage in a graceful arc around the main course.

    You might consider, too, serving in courses. You'll wind up with the same actual dishes, but they'll be presented in a more exciting way. Using the above example, start with an appetizer. Perhaps, in this case, a small salad. Then serve the zucchini pasta as a second course (this is, in fact, the classic Italian method). For the main plate, lay down a bed of the cabbage and serve the chicken on top of it. End with dessert, if that's your way.

    One side benefit of this approach is that portion sizes tend to be smaller. When spaghetti, for instance, is served in the American way the protion size tends to be hummongous. But as a second course, it's considerably smaller. You'll find, too, that because the cabbage is an accent piece you use less of it. And, more times than not, you'll actually opt for a smaller piece of chicken as well.

    Still another way to go is the occasional main-dish salad, or, now that we'll be moving into cooler weather, a heaty soup.

    Note that none of this is based on changing your cooking skills or abilities. Rather, they depend on how you present the food you do prepare.
     
  4. pcieluck

    pcieluck

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    it's always been in my philosophy that you should be able to take a morsel of every single thing on that plate, somehow cram it all into one bite on a fork, and it should all taste good together.  And darn it, that's often how I eat it.  When I'm in a creative block, and can't think of a good side dish, i take a stew, pasta, stirfry, etc, and try to make that plate where each component somehow now shines on their own.  90% of my plate designs end up with no starch, unless you consider all root vegetables to be "starch"
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2011
  5. developingtaste

    developingtaste

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    Thanks guys;  great comments, great ideas.
     
    pcieluck,

    could you give me a couple examples of your 'starchless' dinners?  What kind of things do you substitute for the traditional starch items?
     
     
  6. pcieluck

    pcieluck

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    How about clams and scallops, for example. Often prepared with some kind of relish and served in the shell. No need for starch there.  How about fish with a whole vine's worth of little roasted tomatoes.  Stuffing. the ultimate "side dish." I make mine without bread crumbs often. Duxelle is my favorite stuffing.  Crepes and omelettes? Crepes have very little flour, and omelettes have none, and despite the weird trend that people only eat them for breakfast, they make a wonderful main coarse for dinner.  Terrines, way too rich already, get your starch away from me after serving me that!  I also make quite a few spaghetti squash "pastas" every day in the restaurant im working in.

    Someone already gave me crap on another thread for saying this, but there are lots of other root vegetables than the potato. Almost all of them more nutritious and make a wonderful puree or "mash."  Not to mention a variety of beans.  Anyone can make a buttery, salty mash potato, or a fried potato.  But the best should be able to give you a pureed celeraic (only 5% starch by weight), carrot, or bean and leave you still feel every ounce as indulged by it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2011
  7. rgm2

    rgm2

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    The other night I was planning to make cod pockets with glazed carrots and sugar snap peas glazed with lime butter and brown sugar but my mother-in-law took out chicken instead [don't ask about why she is here/img/vbsmilies/smilies/eek.gif] It kinda through me off for a minute but as I was breaking down the chicken I decided to cook up some quinoa in chicken stock I had in the freezer. After cooking the chicken in the veg and mixed it all up. Was pretty good for a last minute dinner. 

    Mix it up, use different grains and seeds. Try mixing up the veg, I often roast cabbage with carrots and mushrooms. Or add corn, peas, onion and julienne carrots to your rice.
     
  8. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    I'm not a nutrician but I'm more and more convinced that you don't need all foodgroups combined in every meal nor every day. Leaving out meat a few times per week isn't bad at all, on the contrary. Same with starches. Lack of body excercise combined with consuming too much starches and you will only grow fatter.

    I love combining different ingredients. It's always a challenge to see how well or bad they combine. But experimenting and a little experience helps.

    How about these recent no-starch dishes?

    - Vegetable purée; this may look like potato purée, but it's not. It's made with cauliflower and onions, here served with turkey and a tarragon sauce. Soften the veggies any way you prefer. I braise them first in a little butter and very few water on low fire for a longer time (until soft), then mix them with an electric handmixer adding a tiny dash of cream. You could also simply boil cauliflower in plenty water and purée, no problem. You can make a vegetable purée from a wide range of ingredients, especially root vegetables as pcieluck already suggested. So delicious!

    [​IMG]

     

    - Mixed veggies; simple vegetable stews that I like to call ratatouille. Sounds better. Cut a variation of veggies in the shapes you like, just make sure they all have around the same dimensions. It simply looks better. You can make it the easy way and don't mind how they are cooked or you can cook some or all elements seperately to perfection and assemble later. Big difference in taste. Always add a few drops of vinegar at the end to adjust the acidity. Just try, it looks and tastes fantastic. Here's a ratatouille of peppers (always peel them first, many don't digest it), onion, garlic, black olives and herbs. Served with cod. Fantastic to learn how to work with many different vegetables and to acquire cutting technique.

     [​IMG] 

     

    No-meat dishes; 

    I think leaving out meat is a bigger challenge. Here's an example I posted recently.

    http://www.cheftalk.com/t/66991/cannelloni-with-ricotta-and-fresh-herbs  

    One last thing; I also hate tofu!
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2011
  9. developingtaste

    developingtaste

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    You guy's are awesome.  Thanks!

    .........look's like I'm forming a tofu-haters club.  :)
     
  10. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    ....that you don't need all foodgroups

    Depends, Chris, on which foodgroups you mean.

    Here in the American south we only have four: Sugar, cholesterol, grits, and beer. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/tongue.gif
     
  11. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    I would be the worst Belgian not to agree with vitamine B (beer). For the rest, you're on your own KY!
     
  12. developingtaste

    developingtaste

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    You reminded me about cabbage.  Is it considered a starch?  Its not uncommon as a starch replacement.  Kale-same thing.
     
     
  13. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    You're right.  I often forget about beans and root veggies as starches.  I'm getting a bit tired of rice and potatoes.
     
     
  14. pcieluck

    pcieluck

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    Sometimes, I think it's best to FORCE creativity. Or better put, limit what creativity has to work with. Take a trip down to your local market.  Now look, you have only what is local and in season to work with.  We're talking way outside the box of just starchy sides now, aren't we?

    One of my favorite side dishes is a mixture of the smallest mushrooms you can find (hand selected cremini, or most grocery store sell those tiny little wild mushrooms) and the smallest little shallots you can pick out (pearl onions work too, but i like the shallots better). Left whole, and sauteed in butter and oil for a really nice deep color, then deglazed with a little red wine to add a little more color and sweetness to it. A picture will have to follow.  And I know what a few of you are thinking, that's just the veg for coq au vin, or bourguignon.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2011
  15. siduri

    siduri

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    Chris, i agree, you don't have to have all food groups in any one meal, but the one you probably should be minimizing is the meat one.  Protein comes from lots of combinations, and is as fully utilizable as meat - mix legumes and grains, grains and seeds, seeds and legumes, etc, and you have whole protein.  I love meat, don'tn get me wrong, but i'd feel deprived without something green.

    To me the so-called side dish and first course (pasta, soup) should be the most interesting dish of the meal - the one that calls out "eat me!"

    string beans with browned butter and browned almonds

    croquettes of cauliflower with various seasonings

    pasta with various vegetable type "sauces" - cauliflower or zucchine, tomato and eggplant, peas, beans, chick peas, etc

    red bell peppers, quartered, or zucchini or eggplant sliced, topped with bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, etc and baked till crispy

    and thousands of others from every food culture and tradition.  Most people in the world rarely ever got meat, and developed some pretty darn good dishes. 

    Eating without bread or starch may be satisfying from the flavor point of view but in half an hour I'd be pulling out the cheese and crackers to satisfy my hunger!  But to each his own. 
     
  16. martyfc

    martyfc

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    Well, my doc wants me to cut the potatoes, bread, etc.  Result, have been branching out in side dishes and no more boring meat and potatoes, but actually enjoying the meals more and not hungry after two hours.  I like the colors to be visually appealing also, so may add beets and sauteed beet leaves in garlic and a smidgin of bacon as a side to veal, or creamy polenta cooked with a little splash of squash soup with some sauteed green beans to compliment an Italian style chicken breast.  Or, like others have suggested, have your meat or fish entree with one vege side, plus a small cup of homemade soup or a green salad served as a starter and you won't miss the spuds.  Also may use just a couple tiny fingerling potatoes (cut in small pieces)  and mix them with mixed colorful bell peppers and spinach or other green vege, add a few sliced tomatoes and a slice of mozzarella on a piece of lettuce on the side with some high quality oil and vinegar and a sprinkle of dill and serve with any red meat.  Just a couple more ideas to add to some of the great ones already mentioned.
     
  17. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    Marty, looks like you're another gourmet caught by the carb police! I know the feeling. I'm trying recently to avoid carbs from the afternoon until morning. Just because friends do that too with nice results, loss of weight being the most important outcome. The simple philosophy behind it, is that you need some time and effort to work carbs off during the day.

    I'm doing that for a while now, but as Siduri mentioned, late in the evening there's many times a little hungry feeling, maybe aka appetite and certainly an urge to compensate; a corner of chocolate, maybe another beer to sleep well, a tiny bite of cheese...

    Anyway, thanks for a lot of good ideas! As you mentioned soup is a good hungerstopper. We had homemade soup when we were kids, every day before the meal.

    Siduri, I'm looking to expand my collection of enjoyable no-meat dishes to be prepared for our weekly no-meat day(s), without having to use the predicate "vegetarian". Maybe it's just me and that tofu thing, but "enjoyable" and vegetarian don't seem to work that well for me? Any good ideas of no-meat dishes are always wellcome.
     
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  18. pcieluck

    pcieluck

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    cutting carbs for me isn't always financially viable. potatoes are cheap, flour (thus bread) is cheap. rice is cheap, etc. Then I look at peppers, and all sorts of things and a lot of them are $2 each, vs $3 for the whole 10 lb bag of russets or 5lb bag of yukon... but I guess if one is poor enough that they MUST buy make potatoes, rice, bread, etc a staple in their diet, they shouldnt be getting fat.
     
  19. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    pcieluck, you've really got me confused.

     You say you can't afford peppers at two bucks a throw. But you keep referring to things like clams, scallops, mushrooms, and other high priced items. Kind of contradictory, ain't it? I mean when scallops are $12/lb, and mushrooms go on "sale" at three bucks for 12 ounces, it's hard to consider two dollars for a pepper as a break-the-bank item.

    When the original Atkins diet plan was published, trading carbs for money was a real issue. You were supposed to cut out all carbs and replace them with proteins---with steak, lobster, and similar dishes often being quoted as examples. Uh, huh! Now that was not being able to afford the trade-off. But to say you're financially inable to make the switch because you can't afford peppers when you're eating scallops doesn't make much sense to me.

    And if they're charging $2/pepper at the height of the season, I'm sure glad I don't live where you do.

    That aside, if you walk down the produce aisle of any market you find a world of vegetables that are low in both carbs and price. There is no need to feel deprived because you're lowering or eliminating carbohydrates. Nor am I talking about exotic veggies. Cabbage is what? 39 cents/lb. Greenbeans? They're practically giving them away. Summer squashes abound, at very low prices. Greens of all types. Etc. etc.

    Understand, please, that I'm not knocking your food choices as such. Much of what you describe sounds very tasty. But I am asking that you get real when it comes to the reasons for your choices. Being financially strapped is certainly not one of them.
     
  20. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Here are some comparative carbohydrate levels. In each case we're talking about 100 grams of the item, cooked, with no salt or other additives:

    Potatoes: 20.1 grams of carbohydrate. If this is our benchmark, all the other "starches" are actually higher. Rice: 28.17; quinoa: 21.30; cous-cous: 23.22; millet: 23.67.

    Grains, by and large, actually are higher than root vegetables other than spuds. For instance: Carrots: 0; turnips: 5.06; beets: 9.96; jicama: 8.82

    Sometimes the form of a food makes a big difference. Dry beans, for instance, run 30.88 grams, whereas fresh green beans are only 7.88.

    Some other random figures: Summer squash: 6.46 grams. Winter squash: 8.85. Spinach: 3.75 (with most green leafy veggies running a similar figure).

    Oh, yeah. Just to put a point on it: Sweet red peppers, raw, 100 grams: 6.03 grams. Green peppers are lower at 4.64
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2011
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