Learning to Cook · Miss Mary · Recipes

Learning to Cook, Side Dishes are Taking the Lead

Food Network 90+ sides for Thanksgiving
Food Network 90+ sides for Thanksgiving

The main dish is no longer the star these days.  Side dishes are becoming an important component to your dining experience.  Much of this has to do with the ability to source foods locally, using fresh and organic flavorful choices that home cooks experience in restaurants creating a desire to reproduce the dish in their own kitchen.

According to Kelly Weikel, Director of Consumer Insights at Technomic.com, a researcher for the food and restaurant industry, “53% of consumers order sides. The fastest growing sides include non-breaded vegetables, deli salads, fruit and beans at limited-service restaurants and pasta/noodles, other potato (au gratin, hash browns, home fries, tater tots, etc.), fruit and rice at full-service restaurants.”  Consumers have a “proliferating demand for new, unique tastes”.

Personally, I could do sides ALL-DAY-LONG.  I believe as consumers request locally sourced produce prepared in unique ways, the home cook will also seek ways to mimic what is being done in boutique restaurants.  For example, Seasons 52.  Their food is exceptional with a healthy concentration on side offerings. Such as these from their current menu (note caloric content):

  • Oak Grilled Potato Salad w/warm bacon vinaigrette (190 cal)
  • Charcoal Roasted Vegetables w/sherry vinaigrette (90 cal)
  • Shaved Kale Salad w/ roasted peanut vinaigrette (310 cal)
  • Quinoa grain and citrus salad w/ jicama, sun-dried cranberries, fresh mint (270 cal)
  • House Made Pickles (30 cal)
Just think of Thanksgiving and all the food websites offering dozens of recipes for side dishes.  William Sonoma has written several books on the holidays with pages of side dish recipes.  They also have a whole section on their website DEVOTED to side dishes, as does Cooking Light, as does FoodNetwork.

Side dishes consist of the following opportunities: potatoes, vegetables, beans, rice or grains, pastas, salads, or traditional holiday specials such as stuffing.

I was brought up to serve a meat, potato/starch, vegetable and a loaf of bread on the plate for dinner.  The healthy me has had to learn to serve protein, and complex carbohydrate options. That is much different than what mom taught me.  Kinda wish I had learned that much sooner than in my 50s.  Recent health websites have promoted rethinking  how we view food and learn to think of food to be fuel for the body.  When you google “food as fuel for the body” you get 161 Million pages.  But, I digress.  If you’re interested, LiveStrong.com has a list of complex carbohydrates.

There isn’t a lack of information on websites or books devoted to side dishes.  I would suggest rethinking the type of side dish with your protein.  That certainly is a personal preference.

So let’s get to a recipe.  The “Big Game” was yesterday and friends were having a “Big Game” party.  I called to see what I could bring and it sounded like she needed side dishes.  I have a favorite that combines lots of veggies and beans.  I first found the recipe in the Daily Herald and they had taken it from “Sylvia’s Family Soul Food Cookbook” by Sylvia Woods.   Over the years I’ve just added more and more vegetables and combinations of beans.  This is my variation from the original.  BTW, this is double the recipe because I’m making it for a crowd.  It’s delicious.

Printable version: 2016 Black-Eyed Pea Salad

Black-Eyed Pea Salad

  • 1 – 14 oz canned black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 – 14 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced


  • 1/2 cup  Vegetable Oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 1 t hot sauce OPTIONAL

2016 LTC Sides 32016 LTC Sides 42016 LTC Sides 6In a large bowl, combine the black-eyed peas, black beans, celery, red onion, green and red peppers, and carrots.

Because this is learning to cook, make sure you use a 1/2 cup dry measure for the sugar with sweeping the top to be flat.  Sugar, similar to salt, can have an adverse enhanced flavor to a dish when you use too much.  Be sure to use the liquid measure with the oil and the vinegar.  The fresh garlic in this recipe boosts the taste.  A friend thought it tasted similar to the cowboy caviar.  I’ll have to look that up.

In a medium sized bowl, using a whisk, combine the vegetable oil, sugar, vinegar, garlic, salt, and black pepper till emulsified.  It takes sugar a while longer to dissolve.   You’ll know when it’s dissolved when you don’t feel the grains of sugar at the bottom of the mixing bowl.  Pour the dressing over the beans.  Toss.

Refrigerate overnight in a large storage container with a lid for the flavors to blend.  Toss it every so often as the dressing settles to the bottom.  I used a slotted spoon to transfer the salad to a serving bowl so it wasn’t swimming in dressing.  I also moved the salad to 2 of my 32 oz sized plastic containers from Cassandra’s Kitchen to transport.  I never worry about leading with these containers.

Serves 10.


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