by Nancy Caivano
My six part series on the courses of the meal continues with sides—complementary dishes to accompany our main entrée.
Many people look at pasta and risotto as main course dishes, or foods that are served on their own. This is a misrepresentation of these versatile ingredients. Pasta is wonderful served alongside many different kinds of foods, whether baked in a casserole or simply tossed with tomatoes and basil. Risotto is simply rice. Creamy, luscious rice, but rice just the same. Many will serve long grain rice with meals, but not risotto. Risotto is more time consuming than long grain rice, but the results are terrific, and risotto can be made to complement just about any entrée.
One thing you have to take into consideration when using a favorite pasta and risotto recipe is the number of servings that the recipe makes. For example, if your risotto recipe serves 6 as an entrée, then it would serve 12 as a side dish. You don't want the side dish to overwhelm the entrée, just to enhance it, round out the flavors, or, depending on the dish, serve as a base, such as a stew or a braise.
Picking your side is just as important as selecting your entrée. If you have agonized and finally decided on a standing beef rib roast, you don't want just any old side dish to accompany it. You want something that will meld with the flavor of the beef, making it taste even more special.
Of course, besides the starch side dish, you want a vegetable side. This again, needs to be thought out. If you are having a highly flavorful main dish, such as Peppercorn Encrusted Lamb Chops, and decide to serve it with an intense Mushroom Risotto, you might not want a strong flavored vegetable, like Broccoli Rabe. A lighter flavored vegetable, like carrots or green beans might be the better choice.
Our recipes this month are two risotti and one pasta, and they can be used with just about any entrée. First, our pasta, Orzo with Olives and Mozzarella is a delicious make-ahead dish. Orzo is partly cooked and combined with black olives, mozzarella, Pecorino Romano and a lovely sauce made with chicken stock, and white wine. You can prepare this dish up to a day ahead, making your dinner that much easier to prepare since part of the entrée will be done.
Our risotti recipes are equally as versatile. Risotto with Butternut Squash and Pancetta is savory and terrific. Butternut squash is sautéed and combined with flavorful pancetta, Pecorino Romano cheese, parsley and rosemary. This dish goes particularly well with poultry and pork. The other risotto, Risotto with Roasted Vegetables is as beautiful as it is delicious. A great combination of vegetables that includes bell peppers, eggplant, zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, and mushrooms are oven roasted then combined into the risotto with Balsamic vinegar and spicy red pepper flakes for a combination of flavors that will compliment just about any entrée.
I hope that you have a wonderful time picking and choosing through these side dishes. Sharing food with family and friends is one of life's greatest pleasures, and hopefully these ideas will make your dinner parties a little easier to plan. Enjoy them, and I will see you in next month, when we talk salads.
Copyright © 2001, Nancy Caivano. All rights reserved.
This page created April 2001
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