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Help me with one of my New Year Resolutions - Expand my side dish/starch horizons beyond potatoes and rice and boring green veggies

I need inspiration to tackle this one. I LOVE mashed potatoes and I LOVE good jasmine rice. I don't always cook that as my sides, but I do find that when I'm doing unplanned meals, those are my go-to starch sides. I want to try to start cooking some different things. So how about some ideas so that I can incorporate them in my menu planning, and that way, if they're on the menu, I'll be more likely to cook them.

Ditto for veggies - my vegetable dishes, if not planned in advance, tend to be more of an afterthought, instead of really good. So throw some of those out there for me too, if you don't mind.

Thanks chowhounds!

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  1. I like to make a mixed grain salad (barley, quinoa, wheat berries, brown rice--all, one or two, or just one of these) with chopped cukes, scallions, black olives and a good vinaigrette. Takes a little longer than rice, but I make a big batch to serve warm once, then have leftovers to reheat or serve cold.

    Vegies...I like to mix up the green ones with an occasional serving of cooked carrots (I always forget how much I like them--toss in some fresh dill or a little caraway), a nice dish of roasted tomato (cooked with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper), roasted cauliflower, eggplant patties or eggplant layered with tomatoes, onion and baked...does that help?

    1. I agree with Elizzie, roasted cauliflower is wonderful.

      Also, instead of mashed potatoes, you can mash cauliflower. Cauliflower gratin is wonderful, as is zucchini gratin.

      Sauteed mushrooms with some fresh thyme is a great side for meats.

      How about lentils as a side dish? Or a garbanzo bean salad. I also like a baked polenta, or a creamy polenta.

      Couscous is a nice side, and can be combined with a number of different things (herbs, goat cheese, lemon zest). It's also very easy and quick.

      I like orzo too. I use it two different ways: as a hot side dish with peas and mint, and as a cold side dish with feta, tomato and fresh basil.

      If you like Middle Eastern food, try tabbouleh. Bulgur wheat with mint, parsley, lemon, tomato and olive oil.

      Corn fritters.

      Sometimes as a side, I'll toss bowtie pasta with a little olive oil and parmesan cheese.

      How's that for a start?

      1. Have you ever tried kasha? It's used like a grain but is botanically a grass. In Eastern European cooking it is often mixed with fried onions and bow tie noodles. Whole wheat noodles are another good side dish. You should also give the winter squashes a try. Butternut and acorn squash roasted and dusted with brown sugar, or mashed like sweet potatoes are wonderful. A nice thing you can do on the spur of the moment with your green vegetables is to add a handful of your favorite toasted nut to the dish. We also like to steam our broccoli with a little candied ginger in the pan.A little garlic and oil makes spinach, broccoli rabe and escarole sing with Italin accents.

        1. How about oats or barley? Mom's Scottish, and we used to eat steel-cut oats with dinner, also known as skirlie. The recipe is something like this (Mom's recipe is more like "add chicken broth until it looks right"), but I wouldn't use anything like that much oil:

          4 oz fat or 4 tablespoons of oil
          (traditionally a good flavoured dripping or beef suet would have been used)
          2 onions, finely chopped
          1/4 cup chicken stock or water
          1 3/4 cups steel-cut oats which may be lightly toasted (NOT rolled oats!)
          Salt and pepper to season

          Melt the fat or heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and cook until soft and golden. Add the oatmeal and mix in well. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the stock and allow it to be absorbed by the oatmeal.

          1. These are exactly what I had in mind! I'm taking notes! Keep 'em coming! And thank you!