Cookbook Review: Meat on the Side by Nikki Dinki

Let’s start with a quiz. I’ll give you a word and you add a word to create a culinary dish. It’s really simple.

Ready? Here you are:


Okay. Did you say Buffalo Wings? Of course you did. It’s comfort food. It’s generic. It’s meat. Yes, meat. For many of us meat is central to our meals. So, you would never complete that “Buffalo” concept with, say, Buffalo Cauliflower. That just doesn’t make sense at all, does it?

Actually, it does. And, actually, in Meat on the Side you’ll find a very interesting recipe for that Buffalo Cauliflower. Author Nikki Dinki was nine when she acted out and surreptitiously scraped her plate into a heating vent. After a day or so, her parents smelled something, found the food, and had a conversation. From that day on, Nikki could eat whatever she wanted. No punishment at all. Well, there was this one little catch: she had to cook her own food.

That odyssey over a couple of decades has led to this book, plus her blog and her many TV appearances including Junk Food Flip on the Cooking Channel. In her life, and in this book, Nikki inverts your meals. Her world is vegetable-centric, not meat-centric. She does not abandon meat and meat does appear in many of the recipes here, at least as an option, but the focal point is the veggies.

How successful is this concept? You can judge immediately in this book. The very first recipe is for Turnip Tortilla Pie. It looks like this and it surely looks inviting:



In a hundred recipes delivered in eight chapters, Nikki offers you eye-opening dishes from Breakfast to Dinner and all the stops in between. These are clever recipes, some quite new and some just vegetable amendments to classics. Turn the pages and you find ideas that, at the least, make you pause. And, more likely, the ideas will make you start searching your refrigerator, praying that somewhere you really do have a turnip or some cabbage.

Here are a dozen ideas for you from the book. All of these have caught my attention and I’m just juggling when my wife and I will be able cook away:

Potato and Parsnip Hash Browns with Siracha Ketchup

Pumpkin Pancakes with Easy Salted Caramel Sauce

Crab-Stuffed Endive

Kale Caesar Salad with Eggplant Croutons

Burned Carrot Sandwich with Cannellini Bean Spread

Grilled Shitake and Blueberry Flatbread

Pumpkin-Poblano Pasta with Baby Bok Choy ad Shrimp

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Noodles with Octopus

Sticky Eggplant Rice Bowls

Roasted Grape, Arugula and Goat Cheese Baked Potatoes

Sweet Potato Pie Topped with Pears, Blue Cheese and Skirt Steak

Kale Crepes with Sweet Potato-Cream Cheese

It’s not that any of the individual ingredients here are new, but it is the combinations that become enticing if not extravagant. Take that baked potato. Yes, it’s a regular baked potato that is split open and topped with baked grapes, and garlic and herb goat cheese, and then just dotted with honey. Typical of the recipes in this book, it’s fun, it’s easy, it’s visually appealing, and it will strike all the right notes from the first bite.

Nikki is simply passionate about vegetables. That shows in every recipe, in every photo, on every page. This book is beautifully fashioned so that her enthusiasm is going to grab you. Somewhere along the way, there’s a turnip-this or a cabbage-that which is just going to be irresistible. It will also prove to be quite delicious.

This is a lovely book by a skilled writer and chef. You can still have meat with these dishes. It’s just going to be Meat on the Side.

For many more cookbook reviews and hundreds of excellent recipes, please visit Suzi’s Blog at While you are there, you can learn how we use the kitchen for culinary teambuilding.

Follow Brian O'Rourke on Twitter:

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.