Category Archives: Side Dish

Salad of the gods: Romaine, Orange, Feta, Almonds in a Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

In an effort to avoid the grocery store and use up my CSA from last week, I quickly threw together this salad for lunch. Upon the first bite I realized:

This salad is amazeballs!!!!

If you find that term annoying then substitute any non-cloying superlative in its place that means “rocktastic” rather than “sucktastic.”

It’s super stellar qualities were further elevated by the ease with which I threw it all together.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 head romaine lettuce
  • 1 orange
  • 1/4 Cup almonds
  • Feta Cheese
  • Honey
  • Balsamic vinegar

Directions:

  1. Wash and chop up the romaine. Stick it in a bowl.
  2. Roughly chop the almonds. Throw them on top of the lettuce.
  3. Peel the orange. Cut each section into bite size pieces (I cut it into three pieces each). Throw the orange bits on top of the almond bits.
  4. Squeeze a zig zag of honey across the top of the salad.
  5. Sprinkle some feta on top.
  6. Drizzle a little balsamic vinegar on the salad.
  7. Stick a fork in it and shovel into mouth. Feel the “OMG amazeballs” love.
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Quick Broccoli Mac and Cheese

This stove top broccoli macaroni and cheese is quick and easy.  It also makes minimal dishes, which is another big plus in my mind.  There are endless variations to this recipe that would turn it from a good thing into something even better (use different cheeses or a combination of cheeses, add other or different veggies, add bacon, add pesto, etc).  Since I was interested in something quick and easy to fill my belly, I went with the easiest, laziest way to make it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dry pasta
  • 1 head broccoli
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic powder

Directions:

  1. Boil a large pot of salted water.
  2. While water is boiling, chop the broccoli into bite-sized florets.
  3. Once water is at a rolling boil, add the pasta.  Two minutes before the pasta is done, add the broccoli florets.
  4. Strain once pasta is done.  Add pasta and broccoli back into the cooking pot on the hot burner.  Reduce heat to low.
  5. Add 2 tablespoons of butter,  1/2 cup milk, and 2 cups of cheese. Stir until all combined.
  6. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste.
  7. Remove from heat and serve.

You could also pop this into an oven proof dish and cook it under the broiler for a few minutes to brown the top, or even bake it for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees to intensify the flavor merger between the hot cheesy broccoli goodness and the pasta.  If you do any of this, however, then it is no longer a quick, easy, lazy mac and cheese dish.

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Egg Fried Rice Featuring Green Beans

This recipe took care of several problems for me all in one fell swoop: I had two fistfulls of green beans from my CSA and about 6 cups of plain cooked rice sitting in my fridge, a leftover accompaniment to a curry made earlier in the week.  Thus, a beautiful marriage was born.  The eggs add protein which justifies calling a bowl full of this dinner.  It would of course make a tasty side to almost anything.  Fried rice works best with pre-cooked rice that’s been sitting in the fridge for a while, hence this is a perfect type of dish to use up leftovers.

Introducing the green beans to the cooked onion and garlic

Scrambling the eggs

Ready to be served

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of cooked rice (any kind will work, I used basmati)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • onion
  • 2 large fistfulls of green beans
  • 2 eggs
  • oil
  • soy sauce
  • fresh ginger
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • pepper

Directions:

  1. Use the side of a knife to crush the peeled garlic cloves.
  2. Dice about a 1/2 cup of onion.
  3. Snap the ends off the green beans.  Break into 1″ to 1 1/2″ pieces.  (It’s a nice meditative experience to use your hands to snap the ends off and to snap the green beans rather than using a knife.  Fresh beans “pop” a bit like bubble wrap when you snap them.) Rinse the beans.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil on low in a large fry pan or wok.  Add the garlic and onions; cook for a couple of minutes.
  5. Add the green beans and stir to combine.  Sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes and black pepper.  Cook, covered, for 5 to 6 minutes; stirring every minute or two.
  6. Move the vegetables to the side of the pan.  Crack two eggs into the cleared portion and scramble until runny, but almost set.  Push the green beans back to coat the pan evenly.
  7. Add the 4 cups of rice and pour 2 tablespoons of soy sauce over the top.  Stir for a minute or two until everything is mixed together well.
  8. Grate approximately 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger over the fried rice.  (I keep fresh ginger lobes whole in the freezer.  Whenever I need fresh ginger, I pull out a chunk, peel a small area of it and grate only what I need.  It keeps in the freezer for months.)
  9. Stir the ginger into the rice.  Let it cook another minute or two while you stir.

The time it takes you to grate the ginger allows the rice on the bottom to brown a little bit, making it extra delicious.  Serve and enjoy!

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Ratatouille

The contents of my CSA share a few weeks ago were screaming to make Ratatouille, a dish that highlights the taste of fresh summer vegetables. I adapted Ginette Mathiot’s Ratatouille recipe from I Know How to Cook.  It was supposed to be slowly simmered for 2 hours, but I was starving so I cooked it at a high simmer for about an hour.  Then I scooped out the cooked vegetable rounds and cooked the remaining liquid on high until it reduced into a dense oily glaze to pour on top of the vegetables.  Since that endeavor I made a baked ratatouille and I prefer the taste of this version.  I was hesitant to post as I still wonder how the taste would be different if I had more dutifully followed Mathiot’s directions to simmer for two hours, but my results were also worth replicating.

My 5 quart pot filled to the brim with fresh veggies

The cooked veggies waiting to be topped with the reduced liquid glaze

Reducing the liquid

Ingredients:

The specific quantities needed depend upon the size of your pan and what you have on hand.  This is what I used to fill a 5qt pot to the brim.

  • 1 1/2 bell peppers
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 1/2 onions
  • 1 1/2 large tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • salt, pepper, basil

Directions:

  1. Slice all the vegetables into 1/4″-1/2″ rounds.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil to a low simmer in a large pot.  Add the crushed garlic cloves and cook a minute or two until fragrant.
  3. Begin adding the vegetable rounds in alternating layers.  I first added all of the cut pepper, then a layer of eggplant rounds, followed by onion, zucchini, and tomatoes.  Repeat layers if you have additional vegetables.  My ingredients and my pan size made one solid layer of each type of vegetable.
  4. Sprinkle the top with salt, pepper, and basil.  Drizzle the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil on top of the vegetables and add 3/4 cup of water to the pot.
  5. Mathiot says to cover and cook on low heat for 2 hours.  ***the additional steps detail my variation on her method***
  6. I have an electric turn dial stove, numbered Min-Max with 1-8 listed as the numbers between these two settings.  I began with the burner on “2”, a medium-low simmer.  After 40 minutes of cooking the vegetables covered, I peeked and it looked like there was still a lot of water in there.  I notched the burner to “3”, a medium-high simmer.
  7. At 1 hour and 10 minutes, everything was a nice mushy soft edible texture, but there was still lots of water.  I used a spatula to scoop out the cooked vegetables and place them in a bowl.
  8. I turned the burner to high heat, and boiled the remaining liquid to reduce it.  Twice I tilted the bowl of scooped out vegetables to drain their water back into the pot of liquid I was reducing.  Once the liquid had reduced to a oily glaze, I poured it on top of the cooked vegetables.

Whether a low simmer for 2 hours, or a rushed simmer, the moral of the story is that this recipe is the quintessential simple summer dish that is hard to mess up so long as you begin with nice in season flavorful vegetables: cut, assemble, and leave it to do its thing for an hour or two while you do your thing (read a book, watch tv, clean your house, solve world peace).

The taste of the vegetables is heavenly.  It can hold its own as the main fare if accompanied by pasta, rice or bread and serves as an excellent second fiddle to a meat entree.

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Baked Eggplant Parmesan

Due to house-wide shortages, I was forced to come up with an eggplant parm using much less sauce and cheese than I would otherwise (a quarter jar instead of upwards of a whole jar and half a block of mozzarella instead of a whole block).  The results, however, were great and are well worth replicating.  My first batch used both a tomato and eggplant of gargantuan proportions–with a 4 to 5″ diameter–if your supply is not so large, plan to use more tomato and eggplant.

This was so good that when I received more eggplant and more tomatoes in my next CSA pick up I decided to make this recipe again even though I had plenty of sauce and cheese on hand.  It was a great way to use up the two eggplants and a large portion of the five (!) pounds of tomatoes from my CSA bounty.

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 Large Tomatoes, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1-2 Eggplants
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 to 1/2 Jar Marinara Sauce
  • 8 Ounces Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 to 1/2 Cup Fresh Parmesan Cheese, shredded
  • Olive Oil
  • Breadcrumbs, seasoned
  • Salt, pepper, dried basil

Directions:

  1. Slice eggplant lengthwise into 1/4″ rounds.  Layer the slices, lightly salting each layer as you go, on a plate with paper towel below and above each layer.  Ideally let the slices “sweat” their moisture for an hour or more.
  2. Turn the oven to 350 degrees and coat a cookie sheet in oil.
  3. Fill one shallow bowl with breadcrumbs, season with salt, pepper, basil and anything else good.  Fill a second shallow bowl with an egg mixed with a drizzle of water.
  4. Wipe the eggplant dry, and dip first in the egg and then into the seasoned breadcrumbs. Lay the coated slices on the cookie sheet.
  5. Bake the coated eggplant slices for 15 minutes and then flip and cook for another 10 minutes.
  6. Coat the bottom of a baking dish with a tablespoon of sauce and a tablespoon of olive oil.
  7. Layer cooked eggplant followed by the slices of tomato, a shake of dried basil, sprinkling of mozzarella and parmesan cheese.  Repeat until your ingredients are used up.  On the top layer, drizzle the remaining sauce over the top and also drizzle another tablespoon of olive oil.  (My first rendition had a layer of eggplant, slices of tomato, two cheeses, then eggplant, sauce, drizzle of oil and cheeses while my second rendition had 3 layers of eggplant and 3 layers of tomato).
  8. Bake in a 350 degree oven about 30-45 minutes until the cheese is nice and melty.

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Potato Salad with Mustard Greens

Chopped mustard greens are really what make this potato salad so amazing.  They give the salad a nice pepper, mustard laced bite without being too pungent.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds potatoes (2 handfulls worth)
  • 1 Cup chopped mustard greens
  • 1 Small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 Cup pickle juice
  • 1/4 Cup olive oil
  • 1/8 Cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ Cup chopped carrots
  • ½ Cup chopped celery
  • Splash lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions:

  1. Cook the potatoes whole with skins on (cut really large potatoes in half).
  2. While potatoes are cooking, chop up the rest of the ingredients and set aside.  I put an approximate measurement of how much I likely chopped of each ingredient, but note I didn’t measure anything at the time.  I just grabbed and started chopping until it “looked about right.”
  3. When the potatoes are done cooking, place them in large bowl and use a fork to split them into large chunks (about twice the size of what you’d like each bite to be).
  4. Add in the oil, pickle juice, vinegar, and lemon juice to the warm potatoes, stirring until combined.
  5. Add in the the rest of the chopped ingredients and stir until combined.  All this stirring action should have resulted in some of the potatoes having a mashed consistency while the rest broke into beautiful bite size pieces.

Serve warm or cold, it’s good both ways.

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Cold Borscht

This dish garnered universal “yums” from all at the table.  Cold soup is fantastic for hot humid summer meals.  I made this after being introduced to the dish at a dinner hosted by a colleague.  They served a Lithuanian borscht and instructed that actually half a hard boiled egg should be put in the bowl first and then mashed and then the soup added on top of that.  As I was serving a legion of guests a multi-course meal, I tossed chopped eggs right into it.

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 beets
  • Yogurt
  • Sour cream
  • Lemon juice
  • 3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1 peeled cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • Dill
  • Salt

Directions:

  1. Boil beets until tender firm (like potatoes).  Cool to touch and peel the skin off.
  2. Grate beets and place in large bowl.
  3. Add the cucumber, eggs and onion.  Season with salt and dill by looks (I added both until I went “whoops, maybe that was too much”), I imagine perhaps a teaspoon plus of salt and 2-3 teaspoons of dill is sufficient.
  4. The yogurt, sour cream and lemon juice were also eyeballed measurements.  I added perhaps a cup of yogurt, half a cup of sour cream, and a dash or two of lemon juice.
  5. Add water until the soup is as thick or runny as you’d like.
  6. Chill in the fridge for at least one hour.

Serve and enjoy!

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Filed under Main Dish, Side Dish, Soups and Stews