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Archive for the ‘Sides’ Category

Zucchini can be bad, just bad.  I’ve had bad before and I’ve made bad before.  One thing I’ve learned is to always salt my zucchini and let it sit for ten minutes releasing water before blotting it with a paper towel.  Less water = tastier zucchini and better texture.  Another thing I’ve learned is that I don’t think this vegetable needs much cooking time at all.  I steer away from any recipes that have you roast for long periods, opting for barely cooked options that highlight the grill or a quick saute.  Oh and lastly I’ve learned that zucchini and lemon are like husband and wife.  Never should they be separated (in my kitchen).

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So now that I’ve told you my zucchini recipe criteria you can pretty much guess that I liked this zucchini salad.  Short cooking time?  Check.  Lemon?  Check.  Added salting and blotting step?  Check.  Extra almond crunch?  Mmmh.  And this recipe is so durn quick that I’ve only thrown it together oh about 4 times in the last month.  And anything that appears even once a month in my kitchen can be considered a staple.

Zucchini Salad with Lemon, Almonds and Parmesan
Taken from Love and Olive Oil
Makes 4 side servings

1 medium lemon
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp salt
2 lbs small zucchini, cut into lengthwise slices
1/2 cup sliced (or chopped) almonds, toasted
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Zest the lemon and set aside the zest. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into a small bowl. Add oil, pepper, and salt, and whisk to combine. Set aside.

Preheat grill or grill pan to medium-high heat until hot. Oil the grilling surface and grill zucchini slices, turning once, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

Arrange the zucchini on a platter and drizzle with the reserved lemon dressing. Serve sprinkled with almonds, cheese, and lemon zest.

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Roasted Potato Medley with Sage

Here is the kind of thing I throw together all the time.  Say you are making that Pan-Roasted Chicken with Olives and Lemon.  The oven is already set at 425 and you’ve got a whole rack open.  You’ve also got some great fresh herbs on hand from your main dish.  In this case, that would be thyme and sage.  You’ve got just the opportunity to make a side dish full of comfort and complementary flavors.

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The only thing you really need to keep on hand is potatoes and some kind of onion to make this work.  And in my house, there are at least a few of potatoes and an onion lurking in my cupboard.  I got lucky for this demonstration with a more gourmet variety on hand, but I’m never above using a basic yellow potato alone with this methodology.

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Mmh.  I can just see my favorite part sitting there waiting to be eaten.  See some of those black, caramelized onion pieces?  I just love those crunchy bites.  Some might call them burnt but I call them perfect.  In fact, it’s the only way you’ll ever get me to say “Mmh good” to an onion.

Roasted Potato Medley with Sage

Potatoes of any variety.  In this case I used a combination of russet, purple, and sweet potatoes
Onion of any variety.  I prefer a white onion or shallots
Fresh herbs.  Thyme and sage today
Olive oil
Salt
Chile powder
Cayenne pepper
Pepper

Scrub the potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes.  You don’t need to peel them as many of the vitamins are found in that outer layer and the skin will be nicely tender by the time these are ready.  Cut onion into several large sections.   Place into a bowl.  Add whole sage leaves and a several sprigs of thyme.  (In terms of proportion, you can’t really go wrong.  You know what you like to eat and you go with it.)

Add olive oil and toss to coat.  Next add your spices and salt.  (In this case proportion is important as you don’t want it overly salty or spicy.  But still, just eyeball it and use moderation).  Toss to coat again.  Spread into a single layer on a baking sheet and shove it into the oven with your chicken.  (If you are making this with another recipe, don’t worry about the oven temp.  I like higher temps because you get those wonderful onion bits I was telling you about and a nice crisp edge on the potato, but most any temp 350 or above will work.  It will just alter the amount of cooking time needed.)  In this case, I would guess my potatoes will take about 25 minutes to cook, give or take.  In this case I would put them in before the chicken goes in.  Either way, take the potatoes out halfway and flip for more crispy edges.  And they’ll be done when they are fork tender.

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Country-Style Tomatoes

Quick!  Before Fall nudges it’s way in, the Farmer’s Markets close for the season, and we’re left with limp and lifeless berries, peaches, and tomatoes, make sure you get all those bonafide summer recipes accomplished.  I missed this recipe last summer but I wasn’t about to make it go another round when I just so happened to have some leftover cream cheese and fresh basil on hand.

The funny thing is, I don’t really like fresh tomatoes.  Never have.  But sometimes you look at a recipe and just know it would be delicious … for other people.  And Nate absolutely loves tomatoes.  Tomatoes and corn, he could live on them.  Scratch that.  Tomatoes, corn, and bacon and sausage, he could live on.  Moving on …

If you’re looking to squeeze the final dregs out of summer cooking, if you’re looking for a way to make vegetables sinfully unhealthy but delightedly tasty then try these tomatoes.  I did.  And I don’t even like tomatoes.  But I do like cream cheese and I do like “fried.”  Two out of three ain’t bad.

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Country-Style Tomatoes
Originally from Taste of Home June/July 2009
Serves 8

4 large tomatoes
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil

Cut each tomato into four thick slices; place on paper towels to drain. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, parsley, basil, garlic and salt until blended. Spread cream cheese mixture over eight tomato slices; top with remaining tomato slices.
Place flour and bread crumbs in separate shallow bowls. In another bowl, whisk egg and milk. Coat the top and bottom of each sandwich with flour, dip into egg mixture, then coat with crumbs.
In a large skillet, heat butter and oil over medium-hot heat. Fry tomato sandwiches in batches for 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.

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I found this salad to be a refreshing step away from the greens+fruit+nut or the greens+tomatoes+other vegetables combinations. Those ingredients are generally in my fridge so they are the easiest to come up with at 6pm. Lima beans, on the other hand, don’t show up at my house too often.

Refreshing, chock full of green and good vitamins, this salad is a wanted addition to a summer brunch.

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Baby Greens with Asparagus and Pistachios
Taken from The Oprah Magazine Cookbook
Serves 6

Lemon oil:

Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup canola oil
4 sprig fresh lemon thyme or thyme
1 piece (2 inches) fresh lemongrass , crushed

Lemon vinaigrette:

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon oil
3/4 teaspoon honey
3/4 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Salad:

1 bunch asparagus , trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup fresh fava beans or frozen lima beans , thawed
8 ounces mixed baby greens
1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts , coarsely chopped

To make lemon oil: In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients; heat over medium-low heat until oil is hot and small bubbles begin to appear. Transfer to a bowl; cool to room temperature. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Strain before using.

To make vinaigrette: In a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients until blended.

To prepare salad: Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add asparagus; cook until just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain in colander, rinse with cold water until cool, and then drain again. Repeat with beans, cooking about 1 minute before draining.

In a large bowl, combine greens, pistachios, asparagus and beans. Add vinaigrette and toss. Serve immediately.

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Pear, bacon, and goat cheese.  All great ingredients, but how would they marry together?  Well, there was no time but this week to find out when I happened to have those three ingredients all on hand at the same time.  Never mind that this strikes me as an excellent first course for a dinner party and I was going to be serving this to two tired-out, frazzled parents, one of whom would probably be eating one-handed … as this certain baby has a real knack for waking right when plates of food are placed on the table.  I’m told this is when a swing comes in handy but sadly, we don’t have one handy!

But just because we are tired-out, frazzled parents doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate good food and good this was.  Pear, bacon, and goat cheese make a remarkably delectable combination that I’ll be glad to pair again and again.  The skimpy drizzling of honey and hint of thyme in the goat cheese just top this one off beautifully.

Roasted Baby Pears with Herbed Goat Cheese
Recipe by Tyler Florence, taken from Food Network

1/2 pound goat cheese
1/4 cup chopped mixed herbs such as parsley, thyme, and chives
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 baby pears
12 slices bacon, about 1/2 pound, cut in 1/2
2 tablespoons honey
Arugula or dandelion greens, for garnish

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a small bowl, mix the goat cheese, herbs, and 2 tablespoons olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Halve the pears and scoop out the seeds and cores. Stuff each pear half with about a tablespoon of the cheese. Wrap each stuffed pear with a slice of bacon and place it on a baking sheet. Drizzle some olive oil over the pears and season them with salt and pepper. Bake them until the pears are tender and the bacon is crisp, about 25 to 30 minutes.* Place the pears onto a platter, drizzle with the honey, and garnish with the arugula.

*I’m not a big fan of overly cooked or pears that have lost their crispness.  So I ignored the direction to cook these for 25 min.  Instead, I started the bacon in a frying pan and removed it when it was still pliable, but just starting to crisp.  Then I cooked the stuffed pears with the bacon for just about 4-5 minutes, only enough time to make the goat cheese soft and hot.

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Not a typical side to appear in our house.  But I was looking for something less starchy, but equally filling to accompany our pork chops.  This recipe that had been languishing in the back of my “to try” section seemed to fit the bill.

While not a health food, I’d give these credit as a healthy alternative to the potato version.  I think they are a great way to get non-zucchini fans to give it a chance as the cheese and flour really mellow the zucchini flavor.  Without the sour cream they might have come across as a bit bland.  Another suggestion was to serve with a tomato sauce for dipping.  A great side for dinner, these could almost be served as a main part of a brunch or lunch.

Zucchini Patties with Sour Cream
Originally from allrecipes.com
Serves 4

2 cups grated zucchini
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
salt to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a medium bowl, combine the zucchini, eggs, onion, flour, Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, and salt. Stir well enough to distribute ingredients evenly.

Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Drop zucchini mixture by heaping tablespoonfuls, and cook for a few minutes on each side until golden.

Serve with a bowl of sour cream.  I added a bit of Hidden Valley ranch dressing mix to my sour cream for an added touch of flavor.

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This here salad is something truly simple to throw together.  Because, you see, you’ve already made the Radicchio & Orange salad so you’re dressing is already set and waiting in the fridge for it’s next incarnation.  That’s the whole reason this salad came together for me: leftover dressing, leftover produce.  But just because this salad had the word “leftover” in it doesn’t mean Nate wasn’t picking up the bowl to scrape at it and slurp the rest of the juices out.  Oh and making me promise to include this 5-minutes of labor on a future cafe menu someday.

Asparagus, Avocado, and Orange Salad with Honey & Poppy seed Dressing

1/2 bunch of asparagus
1 large avocado
1 orange or blood orange
kosher salt
pepper

Honey and Poppy seed Dressing

Cut off the tough ends of the asparagus.  Place on a microwave safe plate with a Tbs. of water and microwave just 30 seconds to 1 minute or til barely tender and still crisp.  Place in cool water to stop the cooking.

Cut the avocado into a dice.  Cut the orange into segments and then cut each segment in half.  Cut the asparagus stalks into inch long pieces.  Place all three together into a serving bowl and sprinkle with some kosher salt and pepper.  Drizzle with some of the honey & poppy seed dressing.  Toss and serve.

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