Archive for the ‘Sides’ Category

Favorites: Squash and Rice Casserole

July 10, 2018

I don’t make many new things during the summer.  There are barely enough weeks to get in all my favorites!  This is a favorites week.  And this is a dish I’ll eat three meals a day until it’s gone.  I “even it up” in the dish the way some people do with cake.  Ok, I do it with cake too.

If you’ve ever been to a summer potluck in the South you’ve had your pick of squash casseroles.  And if you haven’t, get yourself to one ASAP.  There’s not much better in my book than a table full of six kinds of macaroni salad and nine squash casseroles.  Throw in some deviled eggs and fried chicken and I might never leave.  But I digress.  I love squash casserole.  All kinds of squash casserole.  But this is the only one I ever make at home.  That should tell you something about how good it is.

I found the original recipe for this many, many years ago in a Cooking Light magazine. You’ll see that I’ve made some modifications such that it’s not so light anymore.  Mostly that’s because I don’t believe in low-fat or fat-free cheese.  I have used brown rice instead of white, but I don’t like the texture much.  I have used plain yogurt instead of sour cream, which works fine.  I increased the squash to rice ratio as well.

So, here’s what you need: (ignore that cottage cheese in the back, you don’t need that)

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  • 6-7 C sliced summer squash and/or zucchini (I like both)
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 C cooked rice
  • 1/2 C sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 6 oz sharp cheddar, grated
  • 1/2-1 C bread crumbs, stuffing mix, and/or panko

Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat the oven to 350.
  • Bring 1-2 C water to a boil in a medium sized pot
  • Add the garlic, onion, squash and some salt
  • Simmer until the squash is cooked, but not mushy

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  • Drain the squash in a colander, pressing out excess liquid with the back of a spoon
  • In a large bowl add the rice and sour cream.  Stir until mixed.
  • Fold in the squash

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  • Stir in the beaten egg
    • TIP:  The mixture in your bowl is probably really hot.  You don’t want to scramble the egg.  So, either set your egg out early so it’s closer to room temp when you add it, or add 1-2 pieces of the hot squash to the egg to raise the temperature slowly without causing a curdle.
  • Fold in most of the cheese (leave a little for the top)

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  • Stir in the bread crumbs (I used half panko and half stuffing mix)
  • Dump everything into an 8×8 glass baking dish
  • Bake 30-40 minutes until the cheese is slightly brown and the edges are bubbly

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This is SO good.  It doesn’t cut into squares, so spoon it out.  Then even it up as much as you want!

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Fresh Corn Salsa

July 7, 2018

My two favorite summer foods – tomatoes and fresh corn.  Throw in some onions, jalapeno, lime juice and spices and you’ve got salsa!  This is my favorite salsa.  You can do anything with it.  Eat it with Scoops as is.  Add black beans and serve it as a side dish.  Add chicken or shrimp, maybe some rice, and eat it as a main dish.  Super fresh, super easy/IMG_2671

The corn is the hardest part.  Shuck and silk it first.  No cooking needed.  My tip is that you keep your hands as dry as possible for the silking.  Water makes the silks sticky and hard to remove.  Then get a wide, shallow bowl and a sharp knife.  Put one end of the cob into the bowl and cut the kernels off.  The bowl will catch the kernels.  Then dice the onion about the same size as the corn kernels.  It makes the salsa easier to eat and it looks nicer.

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Seed the jalapeno and dice it finely.  Add the juice of one lime.  Add cumin, chili powder and salt to taste.  You can add chopped fresh cilantro if you like.

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Here’s another tip.  Don’t add the tomatoes until you’re ready to serve it.  You can refrigerate the corn mixture.  Tomatoes get mealy and lose flavor in the fridge so add them at the last minute.  You can make extra of the corn mixture.  It will keep for 2-3 days.  Just take out what you need and add tomatoes to it.

Enjoy!

 

Hot Day, Cold Plate: Herbed Mustard Potato Salad

July 1, 2018

Hellfire hot, that’s what today has been.  Over 80 by 9am and climbing steadily.  Even with the A/C the thought of cooking much or eating hot food is a little much.  So, we’ve got meat and three, the refrigerator version.  Plenty of leftover Londob Broil, deviled eggs and cucumber pickles from yesterday.  The eggs and pickles are more garnishes than proper sides, so back to my farmers’ market haul for the beans and potatoes.

You might expect that my green beans would have ham or bacon in them.  Sometimes they do, but I went the vegetarian route today.  Just salt, olive oil and garlic.  Super good.  One simmering pot isn’t so bad as cooking goes.  Just cover the beans in water, add salt, olive oil and 2 garlic cloves,  halved.  Simmer for about 30 minutes.

The real work today was the potatoes.  I’m always looking for side dishes that I can take to outdoor events without having to worry about the mayonnaise or yogurt going bad.  Potatoes do nicely with mustard and herbs.  I have two herb pots and too often forget to use them.  So tonight I clipped some dill and parsley and chopped them up.  Add the herbs to 1 part dijon mustard and 2 parts olive oil.  Squeeze in some lemon juice and add salt to taste.

Here’s the trick to a mustardy potato salad.  Once the potatoes are cooked to fork tender, cut them in half or fourths depending on the size.  While they’re still warm, toss them with 1-2 T of cider vinegar. I used white wine vinegar tonight because it’s what I had.  Just as good.  Cool the potatoes until you’re ready to use them.

I’ll admit that this plate is a little heavy on the vinegar/mustard side of the palate.  I use dijon mustard in my deviled eggs too.  Still, because the beef is plain and the beans are neutral, it works out.  I love pickles and mustard and sour things so this plate totally works for me.  Another plate of fantastic farmers’ market food!

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Farmers’ Market Fun

June 30, 2018

Nothing is better than food from the farmers’ market unless you pick it out of your own garden.  My garden is doing a whole lot of nothing this year.  Looks like I’m going to get summer squash, green beans, and radishes and not much else.  My tomatoes are mostly drowned and the peppers never really took off.  No problem.  I have many wonderful markets to choose from!

Now that it’s almost July in Central Virginia, the market is so full of wonderful things that it’s hard to resist buying too much.  I’ve been waiting for tomatoes and butter beans and corn to come in – and they have!  I also got some eggplant, potatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro, jalapenos, cucumbers, bacon, and a pork shoulder.  I was too late to get eggs today, but I had a few left for deviling so all is not lost!

Here’s the thing about food that was picked on Friday and you eat on Saturday or Sunday – it’s the very best it can be already.  Very little dressing up needed.  Butter beans cooked in salted water, drained, and with a little butter added.  Squash and onions cooked with garlic, salt and pepper until it chars just enough.  Cucumbers sliced and put in a water, vinegar and dill bath.  A London Broil cooked on the grill.  Dinner done.  Divine.

I had my first tomato sandwiches of the year today.  That’s really the sign that summer has started.  Soft bread, tomato with salt and pepper, and Duke’s mayonnaise.  Slider buns and large dinner rolls work great. The world’s most perfect food.  Add some cucumber or bacon for crunch if you like.

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The London Broil has nothing but salt, pepper and olive oil on it.  When I cook a fairly large piece of meat on the weekend I like to make it as plain as possible so it’s super versatile for the rest of the week.  The key is to take the beef out of the fridge about an hour before you start cooking.  Salt it when you set it out so the salt has some time to work it’s way into the meat.  It will flavor and tenderize.  This one is cooked 16 minutes total – 4 minutes, 90 degree turn, 4 more minutes, flip, repeat.  I like it on the pink side.  Let it rest while you cook the sides.

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Later in the week your veggies might need a little more than salt or butter to help them be their best.  This week you’re likely to see steak tacos with corn salsa.  Grilled eggplant with cucumber and feta relish.  Grilled vegetable salad with buttermilk dressing.  We’ll see how things go.  I’ve got cucumber pickles and deviled eggs to make everything feel a little like summer.  Can’t wait!

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Everything a “meat and 3” should be!

Too tired Friday

June 15, 2018

It’s been a long week, y’all.  And it’s not quite over.  Still, a girl needs her comfort food.  Lucky for me I had some leftovers and a few odds and ends to make a dinner that felt about nice enough to get me through.

Summer Friday night is often a little piece-y.  I’m always down to the last few items from last Saturday’s farmers’ market trip.  Tonight that meant a few fancy lettuce leaves; a baby squash; a sweet onion; and a mostly green tomato.  Here’s a tip. If you buy a green tomato to use as a green tomato you need to use it in 5-6 days.  As it sits around it’ll start to pink.

Combine the lettuce with the leftover peas and rice from earlier in the week.  Main course done.  My first squash and onions of the summer.  First side done.  And some barely pink fried green tomatoes.  Not a ton of effort, but tastes a lot like loving care to this girl.

What’s the first sign that a yummy dinner is on the way?  All three of my cast iron skillets on the stove at the same time.

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I’ll direct you to a previous post to get details on making fried green tomatoes.  For tonight I can tell you that going the lazy route doesn’t pay off.  A breading station has 3 parts:  flour, egg, cornmeal in this case.  I cheated.  Cornmeal, egg, cornmeal.  It’s not the same.  The flour on the bottom makes the coating fluffy underneath.  The egg in the middle makes everything stick.  The cornmeal on the outside makes a crispy coating.  Your other option is cornmeal on the bottom.  Egg in the middle. Panko or breadcrumbs on the outside.

Two layers of crispy isn’t the same.  Don’t misunderstand, they were darn good.  And I burned the tar out of my tongue eating the first one when it was still too hot, as always.  But there is a better way.  And this is it.

The second sign that a yummy dinner is on the way is that it takes more than one dish to get it to the table!  It’s not the prettiest meal I’ve ever made, but it did taste like summer.  And it did feel like a little comfort, so it did its job plus a little.  Some days that’s the best you can expect.

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Leftover Greens Twice Baked Potatoes

June 3, 2018

It’s the end of my vacation week and I’m off on a business trip in the morning.  The last dinner before travel is often a very strange assortment of odds and ends from the week.  I didn’t have a lot leftover this week except some greens.  I decided to make myself a nice meal to close out my vacation, and still use up the fridge odds and ends.  I have to say this is a darn good use of greens that were leaning toward the wilty side.

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Here’s what I had left:  6-7 leaves of lacinato kale; 1/3 of a large container of baby spinach; 1 spring onion; and part of a bunch of parsley.  I also had the last of a buttermilk parmesan dressing that I served with charred vegetables earlier in the week and a little cheddar.

You can use whatever you have.  Leek tops, chard, beet greens, turnip greens.  You’ll need a little liquid – milk or cream or stock.  And a little cheese or plain yogurt never hurt a stuffed potato!

Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat the oven to 400
  • Bake the potato, unwrapped, on the oven rack
  • Chop all the greens
  • Boil a small pot of water, add salt
  • Add the heaviest greens first, then the more fragile ones
  • Drain the greens into a colander and squeeze out any excess water
  • When a fork goes through easily the potato is done – an hour plus, so plan ahead
  • Slice the potato longways
  • Use a spoon to scoop the potato into a bowl
  • Mash the potato and add the greens
  • Add 3-4 T of liquid
  • Stir the mixture to incorporate ingredients evenly, adding more liquid as needed   (I ended up using about 1/4 C)
  • Stir in the cheese
  • Spoon the potato mixture back into the potato skins
  • Bake another 10-15 minutes

Here’s how it turned out:

Hard to go wrong with a twice baked potato! This is a nice upgrade from the sour cream, bacon and cheese version.  This is a way to get some greens in for folks who aren’t big fans.  If you want to hide them a little further, put the greens and a little liquid into a food processor and chop until smooth before adding them back to the potatoes.  You’ll end up with fun, green potatoes!

This would make a entree easily.  I had mine alongside a little steak and some of the spinach sauteed with garlic.

Farewell vacation!  It has been wonderful to sew and cook and bake and run and hang out with the pups.  Next, we’re back to easy weeknight recipes with leftovers!

Chicken Green Masala – Wow!

May 21, 2018

It’s been a while!  I haven’t made anything very interesting lately, but this is a major comeback dish!  If you’ve been reading then you know I love Indian food.  And I’m overjoyed to find that I can make a darn good version of many dishes at home.  I’m incapable of cooking for one so I love dishes that make good leftovers. Check!  And I love versatile dishes.  Check!

This is a variation of a dish from my Rasika cookbook.  Rasika is my favorite Indian restaurant.  It’s in DC so I get to go there a few times a year.  Just can’t say enough good things about it.  If you have a chance, make a trip there.  If you don’t, get the cookbook.  This dish is really popular in the restaurant.  It’s described as really spicy so I’ve been afraid to try it there.  Maybe a good call.  My version made my nose run and my forehead sweat!

Let’s start with the masala.  You can make this ahead.  I love blender sauces because the chopping is minimal.  Note that you use the cilantro stems here.  Love that too, less waste.  Now let’s talk about the chiles.  The recipe calls for 10 Thai chiles.  I’ll admit that my chile knowledge is pretty minimal, but that sound super hot to me.  Medical emergency inducing hot.  My grocery store didn’t have any Thai chiles yesterday so I got a serrano and a jalapeno.  Honestly I didn’t notice that the recipe said 10 chiles until I started.  Just as well.  Plenty hot.  Plenty.  I did include the veins and seeds of both peppers because I was afraid of missing the mark by a lot.  That was a good call if you like spicy.

Here’s what you need for the herb puree: (serves 4)

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  • 1 smallish bunch cilantro, amounting to 2 cups roughly chopped
  • 1/2 C packed fresh mint leaves (spearmint)
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 large jalapeno, roughly chopped
  • 1 small serrano, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 t turmeric
  • 1/4 C fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 C water

Here’s what you do:

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  • Put everything in a blender and puree 2-3 minutes until very smooth

Make the puree a day before if you like.  The chicken doesn’t take very long making this an easy weeknight meal.  I cheated some on the chicken.  The recipe calls for whole cardamom pods; a cinnamon stick; and whole cloves.  I have all of those thing.  What I don’t have is a spice grinder.  So, moving to ground. I had cardamom and cinnamon, but no ground cloves.  Grr.  What I did have was garam masala.  It includes all of the required spices plus a few other things.  Close enough!

Here’s what you need for the chicken:

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  • 1 T canola oil
  • 1 C finely chopped onion
  • 1-1 1/2 lbs chicken, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/4 t turmeric
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 T garam masala
  • 2/3 C unsweetened coconut milk

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oil in a heavy pot (with a lid) until the oil shimmers (no smoke)
  • Add the onions and saute until soft, but not brown
  • Add chicken, turmeric and salt
  • Cook with the lid on for 4-5 minutes, stirring a few times
  • Add the herb mixture, coconut milk, and garam masala
  • Bring to a boil
  • Cook 5 minutes, until the chicken is done

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Serve with rice, naan, and yogurt or cucumber raita.

One note.  When you cook the chicken with the lid on it traps the moisture inside, adding a little liquid to your pot.  It keeps the chicken from sticking and burning.

So, what’s versatile about this dish?  You can control the heat.  Leave the chiles out completely if you like.  It’s super easy to make as a vegetarian dish.  Make it with tofu or seitan instead of chicken.  You can control the schedule.  Do the puree ahead or do the whole thing ahead. This dish is designed to eat the next day.  This puree would be good on roasted cauliflower or with shrimp.

I only made 1/2 the recipe, and those are the amounts I’ve provided.  It’s still easily 3-4 servings even without a side dish.  I will say that I made a full cup or cucumber raita and used nearly half of it tonight.  I’m ok with that.  I really enjoyed the heat and was really grateful for the relief as well!

Here’s how it turned out: (cookbook photo on the left, mine on the right)

HOT!  But so yummy.  I’ll make it again for sure.  I’m guessing I’ll make this cilantro puree a lot.  Without the chiles it would be fantastic as a dip for bread or roasted vegetables.  Nice as a sauce for rice as a side dish.  And a great way to use up cilantro stems!

Runner’s World Chickpea Salad

May 3, 2018

I’m a runner.  Not a fast runner.  Not a good runner.  But a runner.  So, of course I have the Runner’s World Cookbook.  I haven’t made much from it, but this seemed like a good option for a long week that’s turned hot!  And for those of you who, like me, are always on the lookout for something new to take to cookouts and potlucks, this is a fantastic choice.  No mayonnaise so it can sit out.  Vegetarian and gluten-free, so workable for almost everyone.  And for the runners out there, it’s listed as “recovery” food.  It also takes about 15 minutes and one bowl to make so hard to beat all around.

If I had to describe this dish in one word it would be, “Zing!”  There are a lot of sharp flavors in here:  red onion, raw garlic, raw ginger, and jalapeno.  Those will wake you right up!  Fortunately there’s a lot of sweet to balance them out:  dried cranberries, mandarin oranges, and parsley.  And then the salt:  feta, smoked almonds, and salt.  In the background, really as the delivery vehicle, are the chickpeas.  Creamy and neutral.  This is good stuff.

And it’s beyond easy.  Drain, grate, dice, chop, dump.  Then for the dressing, measure and shake.  That’s it.

Image result for tip  Do read the directions carefully.  And this applies to every recipe.  There’s a difference between “1C chopped parsley” and “1C parsely, chopped.”  In the first one the measuring happens after the chopping (which means you need more than a cup to start with).  In the second one, you measure first and then chop what you have.

Here’s what you need:

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  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 T grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 C smoked almonds, chopped
  • 2/3 C chopped dried cranberries
  • 1 jalapeno, veins and seeds removed, chopped fine
  • 1 C chopped parsley
  • 4 oz feta crumbles
  • 2 T cider vinegar
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper

Here’s what you do:

  • Dump everything chickpeas through feta crumbles in a large bowl and mix together gently
  • In a small jar, add oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
  • Put the lid on the jar and shake until well combined.
  • Pour over salad and mix gently.

Here’s how it turned out:

This is a wonderfully balanced salad.  And good for you!  Eat it as a main dish or as a side.  It would pair very nicely with steak or with grilled shrimp.  I bet it will be even better the second day!

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Lamb and Bulghur Meatballs

May 1, 2018

It’s finally a warm Spring day in Central Virginia!  So, time for dinner that’s a little salad-y and still a little hearty.  I adapted these from a recipe in Nigella Fresh.  I’m not a huge fan of hers on TV, but the cookbook has some winners.

Meatballs take some time, but they’re super easy; super versatile; make ahead and/or freeze and user later.  They make sandwiches.  They top rice and pasta.  They add protein to a mezze plate.  That’s my choice for tonight.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1/2-2/3 C cooked bulghur wheat
  • 2 T chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 T chopped fresh mint
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper

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Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Dump everything in a bowl
  • Mix with your hands until well combined
  • Form into balls, about 1 1/2 T each
  • Press to slightly flatten
  • Bake 12-15 minutes

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Here’s how it turned out:

I got 25 meatballs out of this.  That’s 5-6 servings.  The bulghur wheat helps stretch the lamb a little further.  It also lightens the slightly gamy flavor that some people object to in lamb.  Meatballs are prettier if you brown them on both sides before you put them in the oven.  They’re also a lot more trouble that way.  If you can live with the slightly gray/brown color you’ll save yourself some time.  You could also stuff these with a little feta cheese.  That will also add time to the whole process, but totally worth it.

These are really good.  Mine could have used a little more salt, but I’ll eat every single one!

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Resurrecting Squash

April 2, 2018

This is more of a tip than a recipe.  I knew I was having catfish tonight.  I bought some on Saturday and yesterday being Easter, I hadn’t cooked it yet.  My choices today were to freeze it or cook it.  We’ll get to that in the next post.  What I needed then was a vegetable.  A dig through the freezer uncovered some squash and onions. Perfect.  But there’s a catch.  Check that date out.  8/13.  Nope, not August 13th.  August of 2013!

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I grew these squash and zucchini in my garden that year.  I bought a Food Saver that year too. I’ve had really good luck with things I sealed with my Food Saver and stuck in the freezer.  This might be the biggest test.  Nothing to lose by giving it a try!

First thing is to thaw the block of squash ice.  Put it in a pan over low heat and stir it gently.  You don’t want to tear up squash that’s already pretty fragile from being frozen for 5 years.   Then dump it in a colander to get the water out.  Getting the water out is key.  It looks pretty good, right?  Totally recognizable as squash, zucchini and onions.

Now time to put a little summer life back in.  This requires a cast iron skillet; some olive oil; and a little butter.  Heat the olive oil then thrown in a pat of butter.  Let the butter melt and begin to brown.  Swirl it around to evenly coat the pan.  Spread the squash and onions out in an even layer.  I like my squash a little charred, even when it’s the first day out of the garden.  If you want a little char, let it sit still in the pan for a couple of minutes before you stir.  If you like really even browning stir often.

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I have to say, this turned out better than I had any reason to hope it would.  The edges of the squash actually still had a little bite to them.  A little salt and it was the perfect side dish!  So, an endorsement for the Food Saver for sure.  And maybe a little resurrection luck because it’s Easter Monday! Smiley