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Side dishes are the stars in Rick Rodgers’ latest cookbook

Roasted beets kissed with a balsamic-orange glaze team nicely with baked ham, roast duck or a pork roast. | From “Big Book of Sides” by Rick Rodgers

One day a couple years back a cookbook by “Real Housewives’” Teresa Giudice landed on my desk.

Generally I don’t expect much from these celebrity cookbooks, but this one had really top-notch recipes in it. What a pleasant surprise.

And then I saw why: the recipe developer was Rick Rodgers. Now it all made sense.

Rick Rodgers has been writing cookbooks for decades; really good ones. He wrote the book on Thanksgiving, literally (“Thanksgiving 101”). I remember assigning a writer to do a big Thanksgiving cover around him when I was the Food editor at the Sun-Times. We kept that helpful guide as one of our Thanksgiving reference books.

I’d be typing all morning if I gave you a list of all the cookbooks Rodgers himself has written and the ones he’s either co-authored, served as consultant on or acted as recipe developer. A cooking teacher, Rodgers is the real deal when it comes to writing excellent cookbooks.

His latest is “The Big Book of Sides” (Ballantine Books, $30) and hefty it is. There are some 450 recipes in this book, with 100 alone focusing on vegetables.

He includes recipes for salads, beans, grains, relishes, sauces and so much more. With all of them he gives you an idea on what main course offerings pair well with them. In the beginning of the book he includes menus for different holidays and events and tells you which of the book’s recipes are good choices.

What I’ve always liked about Rodgers’ recipes is they are straightforward and easy to follow. Even longer ones can be mastered by the newest of home cooks. In this book, with each he provides the prep and cooking times for each recipe. He tells you if the recipe (or part of it) can be made ahead. He also gives very hand one-word descriptions (Family Favorite, Buffet Dish, Vegetarian, for example).

I’ve included Rodgers’ recipe for Roasted Beets with Balsamic-Orange Glaze because it works well now. Rodgers explains how he uses the same dish but at different temps in different seasons and I like that little lesson as well.



Serve with pork roast, pork chops, baked ham, roast duck, or salmon.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: about 2¼ hours

Make Ahead: The beets can be cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Family Favorite, Holiday Feasts, Company Fare, Buffet Dish, Vegetarian

In the summer, I’ll serve these beets, dressed with orange zest and juice with balsamic vinegar, at room temperature; when it’s cold outside, they’re great warm with roasts or baked salmon. Be sure to allow time for roasting the beets, or use the precooked beets available in the produce section of some su­permarkets. Once that’s done, the final glaze only takes a few minutes.

6 beets (1½ pounds), green tops removed, beets scrubbed

2 tablespoons (¼ stick) unsalted butter

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

Freshly grated zest of 1 large navel orange

⅓ cup fresh orange juice (from 1 large navel orange)

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon light brown sugar

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the beets are tender when pierced with a meat fork, 1½ to 2 hours, depending on the size and age of the beets. Let them cool in the foil for about 15 minutes. Slip the skins from the warm beets. Cut the beets into bite­-sized pieces.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, until they’re tender, about 2 minutes. Add the beets and stir well. Add the orange zest and juice, vinegar and brown sugar. Bring them to a boil over high heat, stirring gently to dissolve the brown sugar. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced to a glaze, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm, or cool to room temperature.

From “Big Book of Sides” by Rick Rodgers (Ballantine Books)