Often, entrees and main courses overshadow their equally delicious counterparts, the sides that accompany them.
The rice, couscous, salads and breads all complete and balance our meals; turning a simple dish into a spread worthy of a king.
This post highlights 5 finger-licking Indian inspirations for sides and accompaniments, which may easily have been missed earlier due to the heavyweight entrée standing next to them.
It’s time to shine the spotlight on a delicately fragrant rice preparation Saffron Pulao, followed by the ever-popular Indian yogurt salad Raita, moving on to freshly Roasted Cumin and Mint Potatoes and my tangy cilantro-flavored creation Couscous Chaat, finally ending on a year-round favorite Nutty Green Beans .
Each of these versatile sides, inspired by Indian spices and flavors, are sure to complement just about any meal.
Warm fragrant basmati rice with the classic Indian saffron flavor, makes a simple and delightful side, perfect to add a sunny yellow touch to your dinner table.
2 cups basmati rice, sorted and washed
¼ teaspoon saffron
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon salt (to taste)
1 tablespoon canola oil
In a microwave safe dish, measure 2 cups of basmati rice and 4 cups of water. Add the saffron, cumin seeds, salt and canola oil to the rice and water.
Microwave uncovered on high for 12 minutes, then cover the rice and microwave for 7 more minutes. Microwaves vary so keep an eye on the rice. Alternately, the rice can be cooked on a stovetop.
Let the rice stand covered for 10 minutes, then fluff the saffron flavored rice grains with a fork; this will give the saffron pulao its classic pale yellow color.
Leave the saffron pulao covered till ready to serve along with you favorite vegetable, lentil or meat like Almond and Cardamom ‘Boti’ Kebabs.
Indian Raita, a yogurt based salad, has become as popular as chicken tikka or lassi. Just make a bowl of this cool and refreshing salad for your next barbecue and watch the raita bowl get wiped clean.
2 mini English cucumbers
½ cup red onions
1 Serrano pepper (optional)
2 cups plain yogurt
3 tablespoon water (to thin down the yogurt)
2 teaspoon yellow mustard (the French’s yellow one works best)
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves
In a bowl, whisk together the yogurt and water till it has a smooth consistency. Add the rest of the ingredients for the dressing and leave it aside to blend while you prep the vegetables.
Finely chop the onions, cucumber and Serrano pepper (if using); adding it to the dressing as you work. Stir together, cover and keep in the refrigerator till ready to serve. Plan to make a raita an hour before you serve it, so that the flavors can blend.
Serve chilled topped with a pinch of cumin powder.
Home-fries style potatoes roasted in a mint and cumin infused olive oil, turns a simple side into a gourmet creation, best served hot out of the oven with a sprinkle of grainy sea salt.
2 lbs potatoes, cut into 1 inch strips
½ teaspoon each, salt & black pepper (to taste)
¼ cup Olive Oil
2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
In a small bowl, mix the olive oil along with chopped mint and cumin seeds. Cover and leave aside at room temperature for the herb and spice flavors to infuse the olive oil for 4-6 hours.
Preheat an oven to 425F.
Lay the potatoes on a sheet pan and sprinkle salt/pepper over them. Drizzle mint and cumin flavored oil to coat the potatoes, mixing with your hands if required.
Roast the potatoes for 35 minutes. They should have a nice golden crust on them.
Sprinkle sea salt over the hot potatoes and serve with your favorite meat or vegetable entree like these Potato and Pea Tikki Kebabs.
A dressing inspired by the ingredients of cilantro and mint chutney, makes a unique and flavorful side of wholesome couscous for your next party.
1 cup couscous (yields about 3 cups cooked)
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1 Serrano pepper/2-3 Thai green chilies, finely chopped
Tortilla chips as a crunchy topping or served along with chaat
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons chopped mint leaves
1/2 teaspoon garlic paste (1 garlic clove, grated)
1/2 teaspoon ground red chili or cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon amchur or Chaat masala* (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
*Amchur (dried mango powder) or Chaat masala adds an authentic Chaat taste to the dish. Leave it out if you don’t have either on hand.
Cook the couscous as per package directions. Cover and leave aside for the grain to absorb the liquid and re-hydrate.
Whisk all the ingredients for the chutney-inspired dressing together in a bowl. Keep the dressing aside for the flavors to blend for 5-10 minutes while you prep the vegetables.
In a large bowl, mix together the cooked couscous, onion, tomato and Serrano pepper. Add the chutney-inspired dressing to the couscous and vegetables.
Serve this unique Couscous chaat with a spicy kick, topped with hand crushed tortilla chips, as a side to any meat or fish.
This delicately spiced side of green beans and pine nuts, topped with crisp bacon and juicy red tomatoes is a year-round hit.
½ lb green beans, stems removed & cut into 1” pieces
¼ cup of pine nuts (walnuts or sliced almonds work well too)
1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 slices bacon or pancetta
2 tablespoons diced fresh tomatoes
In a pan, cook the bacon till crisp. Drain the bacon slices on a paper towel and leave aside till required.
Blanch green beans in boiling hot water for 2 minutes only (1 minute if using the thinner haricot vert.) Drain and rinse the beans in cold water to stop them from cooking in their own steam.
In a large pan (I prefer not to use the bacon fat), warm olive oil with cumin seeds. Add the blanched beans to the oil and sprinkle nutmeg, ground cumin, salt and black pepper over them.
Toss the beans on the stove-top for a minute. Off the heat, add lemon juice to the green beans.
Place Nutty Green Beans on a serving platter and top with bits of the crisp bacon and diced fresh tomatoes. Serve them warm or at room temperature as a perfect accompaniment to any meat or vegetable entree.