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On the Side    by Jessica B. Harris order for
On the Side
by Jessica B. Harris
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Jessica Harris, author of Beyond Gumbo, believes that 'Sides make the meal. Most of the color, taste, and variety of a meal come from their presence.' Her explanation for the existence of this extremely useful cookbook, On the Side, is worth the read. Don't skip it. It will put you in the right mood for exploration into the pages of a book that I assure you will become well used.

Harris states that it's 'impossible to imagine the Thanksgiving turkey without the trimmings of candied sweet potatoes, creamed onions, cranberry sauce, and the individual additions that each family brings. A New England clambake without the corn and potatoes is simply clams and lobster. Even a humble hamburger ...' I needn't go on. You get the idea. 'Sides rule. They transform the mundane into the magnificent and round out the meal.'

Chapters of the cookbook run through Seasonal Sides, Salads and Slaws, Pickles and Salsas, Chutney and Relishes, and Savory Sauces and Other Enhancers. Should satisfy everyone. Sure does it for me. Examples to whet the appetite? Leeks with Lemon Butter leap from the page at me. There's Baked Turnips with Sweet Potatoes, and Apples and Dried Cranberries. Forget the meat. Just bring these on ... Grilled Asparagus with Shaved Parmesan. Roasted Garlic has always been ambrosia to me. Spread it on warm toasted bread. Wow!

I found the history of salads intriguing, and the recipes for various wonderful salads even more so: Orange and Radish Salad; Katchumber, an Indian Salad; Hearts of Palm Salad. Continue on through this book to find the particular dishes that will enhance the entrées you serve. You'll have to do a lot of cooking to use all the recipes that capture your interest. And Harris's reminiscences throughout are worth the price of admission. Her personal recollections of dishes make a good cookbook even more special.

If you don't covet it for yourself, how about gifting friends who love to cook? On The Side would make an exciting addition to any cookbook shelf.

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