Not Just Sides: Popular Sides as Main Dishes
The focus of most people is entrees, and rarely the sides. Although we enjoy getting appetizers as a treat when we go out to eat, how often do we make them at home?
And why don’t they?
There isn’t really a good reason – if an appetizer or a side is so satisfying out on the town, it can be just as satisfying when made at home. We’re here to bring you a few easy recipes for at-home, Mexican-inspired sides that can enhance any dish or be eaten alone as a snack.
Pico de Gallo
Pico de gallo, also called salsa fresca, is traditionally comprised of diced tomatoes, lime, cilantro, and onion. Less watery than other types of salsa, pico makes a great addition to dishes that need fillings to maintain their integrity.
Here’s our quick and easy recipe for pico de gallo, based on the traditional dish:
- 4-5 tomatoes hint: if possible, use plum tomatoes. They contain less water than other tomatoes.
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 1 lime
- Salt to taste
- A handful of cilantro, chopped
- Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds. Dice the remaining meat of the tomato and place in a bowl.
- Dice the onion
- Finely chop the cilantro
- Mix the last two ingredients with the tomato, and then squeeze half of a lime on top.
For a bit of spice, add a green chili pepper.
Although you might be tempted to serve pico chilled, the flavors bloom beautifully when the mixture is room-temperature. Use as a topping with tacos or by itself, with chips.
Guacamole has taken the food industry by storm, winning over the hearts of consumers and making its way onto the menus.
Guac can be found on almost any fast food menu – check out the price tracking site Pricelisto to find out how much extra you’ll be charged for this delicious and creamy side – but for the price you pay, it’s surprisingly easy to make at home with as little as four ingredients.
- 3 almost-ripe avocados hint: find an avocado half-way between stone hard and soft. There should be a bit of give, but with some firmness.
- 1 lime
- Salt to taste
- ½ diced white onion
Add garlic – two cloves, diced – if you like a kick of flavor!
- Cut each avocado in half, carefully remove the pit, and scoop the insides out into a bowl. Using a fork or a potato masher, mash the avocado until chunky.
- Dice the onion and cut the lime in half
- Add onion, lime, and salt to the bowl of avocado. Mix again until it reaches the desired texture. Hint: some like chunky guac, others want it perfectly smooth.
Tips: Guac is great as a breakfast option, topping toast. Add some chili pepper flakes for a little bit of spice, or cilantro for extra flavor.
Rice and usually gets put before beans, and while rice is commonly made at home, many people shy away from preparing the beans themselves.
Traditional Mexican recipes use pinto beans. You might be tempted to buy them in the can – but trust us. Get a bag of dried beans. They’ll need to soak overnight, but it’ll be worth it in the end, and being able to whip up this side dish will impress everyone you serve it to!
- 16 oz pinto beans, dried
- ½ white onion, diced
- ½ cup diced tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1tbs adobo sauce or 1 chopped chipotle pepper
- Salt to taste
- Olive oil
- 1tsp cumin, 1tsp chili powder
- Soak the beans overnight in water.
- Drain the beans
- In a large pot, heat the oil and add onions and garlic. Cook until softened and fragrant.
- Add the beans and ¼ cup of water hint: soaking the beans overnight softened them, but as they cook they’ll expand even more. They need moisture to do so.
- Add the tomatoes and the adobo sauce/chipotle pepper. Bring the mixture to a slow boil, stirring occasionally.
- Cook on low for 45 minutes to an hour, until the beans are tender. In the last five minutes, add the seasonings; salt, cumin, and chili powder. Hint: add brown sugar for a bit of flavor and sweetness
Tips: Beans are such a great side that we know you’ll want to make them in larger batches and add them to every dish possible. Lucky for you, they keep great in the freezer – let them cool, store them in an air-tight zip-lock bag, and they’ll have a month-long shelf life.
And don’t hold yourself to just baked beans as a side – almost every culture has some kind of dish involving baked beans, including British beans and toast, Polish Breton Beans, or the classic “franks and beans,” a basic recipe of chopped hot dogs and baked beans!