Delicious Vegetable-Focused Recipes for Every Day
When Nikki Dinki talked about her “meat on the side” food focus on Food Network’s ninth season of Next Food Network Star, I was immediately in her corner. Portions being what they are, and my own attempts at dieting, have definitely revealed a proclivity towards way more of everything than is healthy. One portion size of meat is supposed to be 4 ounces – have you ever seen a 4 ounce steak on a restaurant menu? I haven’t. Meanwhile, diets all over tell you to amp up your veggie intake.
And so of course when Dinki’s cookbook hit shelves, I had to add it to my collection. Lo and behold, not only are the veggies the “star” but the book also fills a much needed gap in the cookbook world (in my opinion) – recipes that can easily be adapted for various diets. Dinki includes three extras throughout the cookbook: some recipes have a “Make it Meaty” tip, outlining Dinki’s favorite meat addition to the meal; some recipes have a “Family Friendly” tip, because Dinki herself admits to having been a picky eater as a child; and (my favorite) some recipes include a “50/50” tip, or how to make a meaty meal vegetarian and vice versa.
All that aside, Meat on the Side isn’t really a diet cookbook and definitely shouldn’t be viewed that way. Though Dinki does take the time to point out which recipes are under 500 calories, many of them are cheesy and creamy to the extreme (in other words TASTY.).
And the recipes are definitely that – tasty. My first attempt was the “Tomato Tart with Gruyère and Thyme, ” which was not only easy and quite excellent, it allowed me to use up some of the massive amount of tomatoes from my own garden. The same can be said of the “Eggplant Pasta Bake with Fresh Mozzarella and Thyme Bread Crumbs,” which also uses the “Eggplant Sauce.” The sauce was amazing, we used eggplant from our garden, and the pasta bake was hearty and honestly sinfully good. This was also one that included both a “Family Friendly” tip – pointing out the eggplant sauce looks and tastes much like a tomato sauce – and a “Make it Meaty” suggestion for adding Italian sausage to the dish.
And while all of these are things that make this a definite favorite in my cookbook collection, there’s one more detail that I absolutely love: throughout the book, Dinki has included extra table of contents entries by vegetable. So in addition to the regular table of contents: Breakfast and Brunch; Appetizers and Nibblers; Salads; Sandwiches, Tacos and the Like; Pizzas and Flatbreads; Pasta and “Pasta”; Light Meals; and Main Meals, there are extra TOC pages throughout for things like tomatoes, winter greens, mushrooms, cauliflower, etc.
If you can’t tell, I do love this book. My copy is already a mess of notes on recipes I’ve tried and flagged recipes still to try. Definitely a recommended cookbook for anyone looking to incorporate more vegetables into their meals or anyone simply looking for a great collection of new recipes to try.
10/16 Becky LeJeune
MEAT ON THE SIDE by Nikki Dinki. St. Martin’s Griffin (June 7, 2016). ISBN 978-1250067166. 288p.