Tricks and Tips: Side Dish Edition
Tuesday and Thursdays my goal is to give you a culinary "trick" or "tip" to make your life easier, whether it be an incredible sale on a gadget or tool, or a way to make your life easier in the kitchen. This week I wanted to tackle side dishes so in addition to giving you some easy weeknight sides I thought I would give you one of my best "tricks" for tackling the side dish problem!
Weeknights get hectic for all of us, between work, school, the gym, and kids there is always something going on in our lives that makes cooking a “substantial” meal just a little out of our mental reach. I hope that in this blog I am able to give you some tricks and tips to make weeknights a little less hectic for you. So here is my “trick” for Thursday, March 10, 2016: Make your grains ahead of time! Aside from rice, which we all know gets crunchy and gross within hours of being cooked, most grains stay wonderfully in the refrigerator for up to 4 days in an air tight container. Quinoa, bulger, and farro make excellent side dishes and can even be added to a salad during the week for lunch. Trader Joe's has quick varieties of all of these which can be made in less than 10 minutes, so even if it’s Monday morning you can throw a pot on the stove while you drink your coffee and know that for the rest of the week you will have a side dish that you can do literally THOUSANDS of things with! I like to make one or two grains and store them in air tight containers in the fridge so when I’m ready to make dinner all I need to do is measure out however many servings I am going to make, usually figure about ¼ to ½ cup cooked grains for each adult for dinner. Most grains, like quinoa reheat in the microwave simply and can be tossed with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper or can be used as a vessel for flavor, which clearly, is my jam.
I like to keep various “mix ins” on hand to jazz up my grains, a jar of roasted red peppers, prepared pesto, various tapenades, Spanish olives, store bought cooked beets (they sell them cold in the produce section), all kinds of cheese, cut up vegetables etc, the possibilities are endless! This is a fun way to pair your side dishes with your main dish, I personally LOVE plain old store bought pesto mixed into warm quinoa, maybe a pinch of parmesan cheese on top or if you’re feeling fancy some toasted pine nuts! Having tacos? Chop up some Spanish olives and toss them into your quinoa with some black beans! You can easily make farro “fried rice” with a little sesame oil, scallions and a scrambled egg!
Remember when you were a kid and everyone told you not to play with your food? You’re an adult now! Play with your food!