Wednesday, August 28, 2013

REVIEW: Choosing Sides by Tara Mataraza Desmond


Choosing Sides includes 130 fabulous recipes for side dishes to complement any entree and complete meals for every occasion. Choosing Sides is a cookbook devoted entirely to side dishes that honors the standards but offers fresh ideas for new favorites. It maximizes on the trend of emphasizing elements that have traditionally played a supporting role at the table and capitalizes on our obsession as cooks with our ability to accessorize a meal using quality ingredients in inspired, varied and memorable recipes.

Choosing Sides elevates accompaniments with more interesting options than plain potatoes or buttered noodles. It offers entrée suggestions for each recipe with flavor and textural pairings in mind, and helps cooks design entire meals, not just the main dish, instead of tagging on bland afterthoughts at the last minute. Today the food that flanks the entrée is as important as the focal point itself. It offers a range of recipes for broad appeal, crossing cuisines, techniques and complexity such as:

  • Chorizo Chard
  • Coconut Cilantro Toasted Israeli Couscous
  • Smoked Gouda Grits
  • Sugar Snap Peas with Grana Padano Crust
  • Browned Brussels with Maple Butter Drizzle
  • Vintage Potato Salad
  • Orange and Black Bean Quinoa
  • Pumpkin Cozy Rolls
  • Honey Balsamic Peaches and Burrata
Hardcover, 208 pages
Expected publication: September 10th 2013 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
ISBN 1449427111 (ISBN13: 9781449427115)

My Thoughts

So, the idea behind this book is to offer up some side options a little more interesting than the standard old rice and potato choices. Utilizing interesting ingredients like couscous, chard, gouda and kumquats, this is not your usual fare for weeknight dinner!

The book discusses how to choose your sides, touching on things like texture, balance, and seasonality, and even provides a chart of pairings for your choice of protein or entree, where you will find suggestions like Arugula with Sugar Cranberries and Pancetta or Baby Spinach with Oranges and Manchego for Chicken, and Butter Lettuce with Ribbons and Chives or Panfried Chapatis for Fish and Seafood. 

The chapters are then divided into sections like Brunches and Luncheons, Weeknight Dinners, and Warm-Weather Cookouts.

I made a couple of the recipes the other night for a birthday dinner. I decided to go with the Strawberry Feta Salad, and the Charred Asparagus with Shaved Parmesan, as well as some Sweet and Savory Onions and Mushrooms.

The salad was fresh and sweet, a simple mix of spring greens and arugula, some sliced strawberries and scallions, feta cheese and almonds. I served it drizzled with a store-bought Raspberry Vinaigrette. The asparagus turned out very tender, roasted in the oven, drizzled with fresh lemon juice and topped with Parmesan. And I loved the mushrooms and onions, which were simply sauteed up until they began to brown, with a splash of vinegar and brown sugar and salt and pepper tossed in. This gave them a sweet and tangy flavor that made a nice addition to our burgers (well, my veggie burger).

My final word: This cookbook sets out to offer you more interesting and creative options for dinner, and it succeeds. It includes beautiful pictures and easy-to-follow recipes, and suggestions for entree accompaniments.The cookbook feels a little...stilted, I guess, or as if something is being held back. A little choppy. But overall I found it to be a success in what it is trying to accomplish. Well done!

My Rating:


I received a complimentary e-book copy of this book for review through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof.

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