Why are Side Dishes the Orphans of Menu Planning? I Offer a Solution and a Spice That Brings It All Together.

Desserts / January 3, 2022

Want to stop side-lining your side dishes and find a way to make them center-stage? Read on as I take the humble carrot and make it worthy of adulation in this exotic take on a roasted root vegetable. Using the dried grassiness of saffron, the heat and heady pop of cinnamon, and complexity of Madagascar Black Peppercorn Oil, this side becomes mystical and fiendishly fabulous.

I submit that side dishes have received a truly bum rap when it comes to their vital place in completing a delicious meal. Y’all should be working harder to imagine something better. Because a BLING meal deserves MORE than mushy mashed ‘taters or overcooked beans. As proof let’s review any common restaurant menu. Entrees receive carefully curated language elevating the main course to enchantment-status. The list of sides? Well, it’s like an afterthought! “Oh, yeah. SLAW . . . $4.95.” Even a place like Ruth’s Chris steakhouse makes you order a side to get one. Otherwise, it’s just the cow on the plate. Yeah, we can do better when nourishing those we love!

I don’t take any side for granted. They receive the same love and care from me as the protein or even the wine pairing. But the trick to elevating side dishes isn’t just preparation or technique. It is using the BEST ingredients and the most interesting FLAVORS. Even salt and pepper are pivotal! Salt is meant to remind you of what you’re eating. But pepper? It pushes against the ingredient. Challenging it and intensifying it! That’s why this month’s BLING meal uses Olive This! MADAGASCAR BLACK PEPPERCORN OIL as the secret to greatness. Do not stop reading. This stuff is extraordinary!

So why does pepper make such a fabulous difference?

Wikipedia can be counted on for a direct yet lackluster definition of anything. Take pepper for instance: “Black pepper is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, known as a peppercorn, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. The fruit is drupe, which is about 5 mm in diameter, dark red, and contains a stone which encloses a single pepper seed…”
Yawn . . . wait. What the heck is drupe? See, research can be fascinating. And peppercorns in particular are more than just that blackish grain in the container next to your salt. Ground finely or coarse, they are deep in purpose, romantic in the results they offer, and clearly push the mundane to nobility!

As you get reach for your carrot peeler and launch your new commitment to side-dish greatness, do not take the combination of these flavors lightly. They are world-class. Cinnamon and pepper and saffron are routinely used together in many parts of the world. The un-boring parts I proffer. And here’s the other fun fact. This recipe is ridiculously easy. I mean peel, cut, toss, roast. And the jalapeño yogurt? Crack in a bowl. I served it with a red pepper meat loaf placed atop red quinoa I tossed with radicchio and spring mix and a little lemon vinaigrette.

Recipe for the carrots and meat loaf below.

Red Pepper Meatloaf

Serves 4 – 6


1 ¼ lb 90% lean ground beef
¼ C finely chopped shallot
¼ C finely chopped red pepper
1 large egg
¼ C Progresso Italian Breadcrumbs
1 heaping t Penzey’s Roast Beef Seasoning
1 T cream
¼ C chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
½ t kosher salt + ¼ t black pepper


Preheat oven to 375-degree F. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Form into a log and place atop a foil lined baking sheet. Bake for 28 minutes.

Madagascar Peppercorn, Saffron, and Cinnamon Roasted Carrots over Jalepeno Honey Yogurt

Serves 4


5 large, long, uniform in girth carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
¼ t fine grade cinnamon (like Vietnamese)
2 T Olive This! Madagascar Peppercorn Oil + a little more to rub on the jalapeños
½ t kosher salt1/8 T pepper
Pinch of saffron
2 T finely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
3 ounces Greek yogurt
1 large jalepeno halved, roasted, seeded, and finely chopped
1 t honey


Preheat oven to 450-degree F. Halve the jalapeño lengthwise. Place on a small baking pan lined with foil and rubbed with a bit of the Olive This! oil. Roast for about 20 minutes or until charred and soft. Remove seeds, stalk, and pith, chop into small pieces, add to the yogurt and add the honey. Mix well and set aside.

Reheat oven to 375-degree F. Peel and prep the carrots making sure all the long stalks are cut to relatively the same width and size. Place in a bowl large enough to toss them and add the Olive This! Madagascar Peppercorn Oil, cinnamon, saffron, salt, and pepper. Toss well until everything is covered evenly. Place in a baking dish lined with parchment paper. Drizzle the rest of any remaining oil and spice mixture over the carrots. Roast in oven for 25-28 minutes or until tender. Add the parsley and toss while hot. Serve over the jalapeño honey yogurt sauce.

(Serve with red pepper meatloaf and red quinoa and warm spring greens warm salad.)

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Let's think about food preparation as art, and flavors as adventurous stories. Say ‘goodbye’ to safe sequences, or copycat flavors, and use your senses to curate the perfect meal. My recipes help your kitchen come to life as I share anecdotes about food chemistry, and fun shortcuts that conquer menu-mediocrity. my cooking style is one that combines everyday ingredients into sensuous layers that wake up the bored palate as I reveal easy-to-understand tips, tricks, and hacks so everyone can prepare and serve Bling Cuisine with confidence and joy!


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