Review: The Big Book of Sides

I needed this book and I needed it bad. I am bad about sides. I spend most of my time thinking about the main course, giving little thought to the side dishes. The Big Book of Sides was written by Rick Rodgers for people just like me. And the title is not an overstatement. This book is big and it is crammed with OVER 450 recipes. No kidding. No lie. Over 450. And they aren’t lame, boring recipes either. No “open a can of corn, heat and serve’ recipes, here, that’s for sure. It’s all great stuff.

The Big Book of Sides is divided into the following main sections: Eat Your Vegetables, From the Root Cellar, A Hill of Beans, Righteous Rice and Great Greens, The Side Salad Bowl, Pasta and Friends, The Bread Basket, and Pickles, Relishes and Sauces. Before that the book concentrates on basic cooking techniques and menu planning.

Recipes are grouped by main ingredient (think artichokes, beets, bok choy, you name it), along with a great description of that ingredients and a story or history of it’s origin. The peak season times for each main ingredient is also noted, along with how to choose the best ingredients at the store, how to store them, and how to prepare them. Very helpful information that you don’t normally find in a cookbook.

The recipes are very well written and are very concise. There’s no guessing required. You know upfront what the dish goes well with, how long it takes to prep, how long it takes to cook, how long ahead of time you can make the dish (very helpful!), and the recipe category. I found the recipe category to be interesting and different and more useful than I expected. Examples of the categories used are: holiday feasts, weeknight suppers, and family favorite. No need to spend time trying to decide what is the best occasion for serving a side, Mr. Rodgers has already thought about it for you.

You quickly realize that The Big Book of Sides wasn’t thrown together willy-nilly. You know how sometimes you notice little things (typos, missed steps, whatever) in a cookbook? Not with this one. This book sets the bar high and then goes right over it. Oh, and many of the recipes also have variations included, so you can use the same basic idea several days in a row but change it up with little effort. Nice.

Now, if you follow this blog you know that I have on occasion zinged a cookbook for not having what I thought was enough pictures. The Big Book of Sides does not have a picture for each recipe. To keep consistent in my reviews I did knock off a point on my ‘Mater Rater scale but I felt guilty doing it because if there was a picture for each of the 450+ recipes this book wouldn’t fit onto my Kindle. I mean it’s huge (in a good way) as it is and I definitely would not let the lack of a few pics stop me from recommending it again and again.
'Mater Rater

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