It’s usually the protein that plays the starring role on a plate. That doesn’t mean the bit-part components are any less important, though. In fact, if done right, a good side can be the highlight of a meal. Today, we’re examining six of the finest additions you can make to your plate, hailing from North America to locales across the pond.
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You have to check out these sides
Ever tucked into a shawarma plate? If so, you’ll know the joys of this simple side dish. Yellow rice is a popular element of both Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s made by seasoning white rice with either turmeric or saffron, thus lending the finished product its namesake vibrant color. Moreover, the whole affair is often cooked in chicken broth, imparting every grain with potent flavor. A handful of simple ingredients and a little bit of patience is all you need to whip up a mountain of this filling side.
Sunomono—literally “vinegared thing”—doesn’t refer to a single dish; rather, it encompasses a category of dishes, made by marinating raw vegetables or seafood in seasoned vinegar. A quick search might pull up recipes calling for broccoli, daikon radish, or shrimp. If you ask us, though, they all pale in comparison to a sweet and simple cucumber sunomono. The flavor of thinly-sliced cucumber dressed with soy sauce, sesame seeds, and sweetened vinegar is simply to die for.
Cornbread is a tasty side in its own right. Batter it up and fry it golden brown, though, and it becomes a whole different beast. Hushpuppies are a favorite in the American South, enjoyed alongside Creole cuisine and barbeque alike. In Lufkin, Texas, there’s even an annual competition centered around the crispy morsels. And their popularity isn’t limited to the United States; similar fried bread dumplings are enjoyed in the Caribbean, particularly around Jamaica and Puerto Rico. They might not share the name, but they pack the same punch.
Salads come in all different varieties. Not all of them proudly display the colors of their country of origin, though. Caprese is a quintessentially Italian dish, featuring three of Italy’s favorite ingredients: tomato, basil, and mozzarella cheese. Season all three with a little olive oil, and a pinch of salt, and you’ve got one seriously awesome salad. In Italy, caprese is often served as a starter, rather than a side. Don’t worry if you decide to break from tradition, though. We won’t tell.
A plate of Bavarian fare wouldn’t be complete without a heap of spätzle. Made from flour, eggs, and salt, they’re somewhere between egg noodles and dumplings in taste and texture. Traditionally, they were prepared on a board, then scraped directly into boiling water. Nowadays, there are several tools to facilitate the process, including ones resembling cheese graters and potato ricers. Spätzle taste great plain, but they truly shine when there’s some gravy on the plate for them to soak up.
There’s more than one way to prepare this classic side. The form they take will depend on the flavor profile you’re going for. If you’re hoping to lean heavily into the carrots’ sweetness, a glaze made with honey or brown sugar will do the trick. For a tangier taste, consider adding a splash of orange juice to the mix. And when you’re looking to really knock some socks off, don’t be shy about pouring some bourbon into the pan. Whatever route you take, your efforts will be rewarded with a bright, flavorful addition to the plate.