Pick a side! No, no, there’s no argument to choose a side over here … I meant pick a side from the “More than 450 Recipes for the Best Vegetables, Grains, Salads, Breads, Sauces and More” in Rick Rodgers’ new The Big Book of Sides. Last week, I attended an event at Melissa’s Produce celebrating the release of Rick’s new book and, in addition to meeting the acclaimed author and cooking teacher and taking home a signed copy of his wonderful book, my fellow foodies and I enjoyed a lunch comprised of several of the recipes, made by Melissa’s gracious chefs. And, just in time for Thanksgiving and the holiday season, I have a copy of the book to give away to one of you! I’ll tell you how to enter, below.
Given that it was the end of October, it made perfect sense that our lunch was themed for the holiday season, but the book is absolutely a resource that you will use throughout the year. Rick’s personal cooking style is “to produce the most amount of flavor with the least effort”, and his book offers fantastic recipes – including some of his family’s heirlooms – and so much more.
Rick offers his experienced advice on preparation methods and serving, suggested menus for several holidays, and recipe sections that cover everything – vegetables and root vegetables, beans, rice and grains, salads, pastas and breads, and pickles, relishes and sauces. Every recipe includes an introductory paragraph with history and cooking hints, followed by suggestions on what to serve the dish with, preparation and cooking time, make-ahead tips and categories of occasions and cooking styles that apply to the dish.
To give you an idea of how expansive this is as a resource, here are the recipes included just for sweet potatoes: Baked Sweet Potatoes with Ginger-Lime Butter; Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Honey Butter; Braised Sweet Potatoes with Red Curry Sauce; Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Jerk Seasoning; Lemon Sweet Potatoes with Merengue Toping; Sweet Potato and Pear Casserole with Bourbon, Bacon and Maple Syrup; and Steamed Boniato with Orange Mojo. So many delicious options, just for this one vegetable – now you have an idea of what an amazing resource this cookbook is!
Want a chance to win a copy? Of course you do! Just leave me a comment below, by 6 pm Pacific Time on November 15, and tell me about a Thanksgiving side dish you love to prepare and share – or even a dish someone else prepares that you love to eat. It can be a traditional family favorite, nouvelle cuisine, or something you may want to try for the first time at this year’s celebration.
Meanwhile, back at Melissa’s, we feasted on Roasted Beet and Orange Salad with Orange Glaze; Homemade Green Bean and Mushroom Casserole with Crispy Shallots (let me tell you, those fried shallots took that Thanksgiving standard to a whole new level!); Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Maple Syrup, Butternut Squash and Potato Gratin (rich and flavorful), Roasted Turkey Breast with Herb Butter and Rick’s amazing gravy; and for dessert, Mexican Christmas Eve Salad (loaded with apples, pineapple, pomegranate arils, orange, jalapeno and peanuts in a creamy lime dressing). Everything was so delicious.
After lunch, Rick gave us a quick course in “Gravy 101” and demonstrated his recipe. Yes, it’s gravy…but as he told us, what you’re really making is a sauce. Seems so obvious but somehow I hadn’t thought of it that way before, and when he made that point, it changed my whole way of thinking about cooking gravy.
Gravy is one of those things that can be intimidating…which herbs and spices to use?…flour or cornstarch?…and – horrors – what if it’s lumpy?!?! Rick gave us some great advice as he made a batch, really demystifying the process – which made me want to go straight home, cook a turkey and make gravy. (But alas, I had to go back to the office!)
Some tips about making gravy (these are all in the book):
- Measure, measure, measure!
- For every cup of gravy, use one cup of liquid – pan juices combined with stock – with a roux made of 1 1/2 Tbsp. each flour and fat from the pan.
- A gravy separator is an invaluable tool, as is a flat whisk, which allows you to get into the corner of the pan.
- Let the drippings evaporate during roasting so they take on a very brown color, which means more flavor in your gravy. Add broth or water to the pan when you need to stop them from browning/burning.
- Along with his basic gravy recipe, Rick includes additional instructions on how to make cream, giblet, roasted garlic, wine, spiked and herb gravies.
As soon as I posted pictures of some of the dishes at the event, I got requests to share the recipe for the salad. No shock there, since it was as beautiful as it was delicious! (Here’s my re-creation – so pretty!)
When I got home and started reading, I discovered that the Roasted Beet and Orange Salad with Balsamic Glaze was based on a recipe in the book for Roasted Beets with Balsamic-Orange Glaze. It’s great that this recipe and several others lend themselves to being easily adapted to suit one’s tastes and menu (just more options for your cooking pleasure!). I set out to recreate the dish, armed with the Melissa’s Produce we all got to take home (everything we needed to cook the side dishes we had tasted), the book, my picture of the salad, and my memory.
I used my packages of Melissa’s Steamed Baby Beets and Shallots, navel oranges (juice, zest and supremes), walnuts, butter, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and fresh greens. You can roast the beets yourself, but Melissa’s Steamed Baby Beets are ready to go, no stains on your hands or anywhere else. And they taste great; what’s not to love?
I diced the shallots, cut the beets into bite-sized pieces, zested the orange, cut the fruit into segments, squeezed the juice into a measuring cup, measured the brown sugar and butter, and had the vinegar, salt and pepper at the ready. And I gave the walnuts a rough chop. This is called mise en place; that’s French for “putting in place” – which basically means to get everything organized and ready to go. It’s a good habit to get into and makes cooking much easier, as you can pick up each ingredient as you need it without running around your kitchen grabbing things or trying to chop something right when it needs to go in the pan.
I followed the steps in the recipe to prepare the beets and shallots with the glaze, melting the butter and adding the shallots, sauteeing them until they were tender.
Then I added the beets, orange zest and juice, sugar and vinegar. I boiled the mixture until it was reduced to a glaze, then seasoned with the salt and pepper.
I let the mixture cool slightly, then added it to the orange segments, stirred in the walnuts, and cooled it completely.
To make the salad, I added fresh lettuce, tossed it all together well, put it onto a serving plate and topped it with Feta Cheese. And then it was time to enjoy ~ delicious!
Here’s the recipe; I hope you try it soon. Don’t forget to leave me a comment about Thanksgiving side dishes below for a chance to win a copy of The Big Book of Sides ~ deadline is 6:00 pm Pacific Time on November 15th. Happy early Thanksgiving to you!
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love—then make that day count!”
― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free
- 2 - 8 oz. packages Melissa's Produce Steamed Baby Beets
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 Tbsp. finely chopped shallots
- 3 navel oranges, cut between the membranes into segments (put the segments into a large bowl)
- Freshly grated zest of 1 large navel orange (reserve the orange for the segments)
- ⅓ cup fresh orange juice (squeeze the membrane of the oranges after cutting the segments out)
- ½ cup rough-chopped walnuts
- 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- ½ tsp. light brown sugar
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh lettuce of your choosing
- In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.
- Add the shallots and saute, stirring, until they become tender, about 2 minutes.
- Add the beets and stir well.
- Add the orange zest and juice, vinegar and brown sugar, and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring.
- Boil approximately 3 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid has reduced to a glaze.
- Season to taste with the salt and pepper and cool slightly, then add the mixture to the orange segments, stir in the walnuts and cool completely.
- To make the salad, gently toss in as much of the greens as you like, transfer to a serving plate and top with Feta Cheese.
Note that the cooking time of 25 minutes includes cooling time.
*Melissa’s Produce generously provided the cookbook and produce for this post. I was not compensated in any other way, and all the opinions expressed here are my own.