Archive for the ‘Side Dish’ Category

Recipes from the Farmers’ Market: Roasted Beet Salad

I made beets this weekend – turns out I like them!  I kind of remembered liking them when I was little, but hadn’t eaten them in years, so I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d *still* like them.  Tastes change and all that (I still can’t figure out how I used to eat raw onions like apples – true story).  But beets are still QUITE tasty.  Unfortunately, they also make your hands look like Lady MacBeth.  So wear rubber gloves!  Or do like I did, and use some sandwich baggies over your hands when you realize you’re starting to look like an axe murderer.  Just be careful when you’re chopping the beets, because the baggies reduce your dexterity SIGNIFICANTLY.  But better to chop slooooowwwwwly than to chop off a finger, right?  RIGHT.  (Especially because you’d have a hard time distinguishing your blood from beet juice.  I’m just saying.)

This recipe was actually just OK on the first pass.  After my guests left though, I started messing with it, and ended up liking it a LOT better.  That’s the version below.

6-8 beets
Olive oil, for tossing
Juice from 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, FINELY minced (or 1/4 tsp garlic powder, which is what I ended up using)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Tbs mustard (Yellow works fine, but Dijon is EVEN BETTER.)

The Recipe
Wash the beets.  Trim off all the greens, leaving about 1 inch of stems on the beets.  Cut off the long root at the bottom.  (Optional: hang on to the greens for Friday’s recipe – they are AMAZING.)

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Coat a large sheet pan (a rectangular cake pan), with non-stick spray (or use a non-stick pan).  Wrap each of the beets in a square of aluminum foil, leaving the top part open.  Set them upright in the pan, and roast in the oven about 45 minutes, or until you can pierce them easily with a fork.  Set aside and allow to cool.

Using your hands, rub the skin off of the beets.  DON’T FORGET THE GLOVES.  (I also recommend an apron here.  You do NOT want to mess around with this juice – it stains EVERYTHING – and they WILL be juicy.)  It’ll be really easy – it feels kind of weird, though.  I was expecting something like potato skins, and even considered not removing the skins, but I’m glad I did.  They’re NOT like potato skins at ALL – they’re more leathery and . . . well, they seem like they’d be tough to eat.  They also made me think of little lizards – not exactly appetizing.  (Sorry for that image.  Go scrub your brain with bleach now.  I’ll wait.)

Chop the beets into bite-size pieces (whatever that means to you).  Put them in a bowl, and add the rest of the ingredients.  Use the oil sparingly, and add more as you toss to combine.  (Toss GENTLY – that whole juice thing . . . )  You might also want more mustard – I found that I liked it better with extra mustard, because the sharpness of the mustard offset the sweetness of the beets.  I thought about adding sliced red onion, which would have been good, but frankly didn’t want to mess around anymore. 

How Did it Go?
Surprisingly well, all things considered.  Initially I just had olive oil, salt, pepper and a little lemon juice in there, and it wasn’t really enough oomph.  But the mustard and garlic powder took it from “ok” to “good.”  I think red onion would push it right into “great,” but like I said – I was tired of messing around (plus I had some errands still to run that day).  😉  But I’ll definitely make them again – even though I have to be careful of that freakin’ juice. 

(A word to the wise, though.  This is probably WAY too much information, but you should know, just in case you don’t already: after you’ve eaten beets, they’re pretty much the same color going OUT as they were going IN.  If you know what I mean.  So don’t worry; you’re not dying.  You’re just eating beets!!  Fun, fun, fun . . .  After that information, I hope you kept the brain-bleach handy.)


Recipes from the Farmers’ Market: Chickpea Dip with Ciabatta Toasts and Veggies

Ok.  Due to some personal upheaval, I missed my “Shopping at” post on Monday. I didn’t even have a chance to pre-write and schedule it, which bummed me out because I had news!  I went to the Market on Saturday – and IT HAILED.  HARD.  For a while, actually.  I was almost ready to throw in the towel and leave, when the skies cleared – well, not CLEARED, exactly, but switched back to light rain instead of death-hail. And later that day, a few miles from my house, it SNOWED!!!!  That never happens here.  It was AWESOME!  😀

But!  What you really want to know is what I bought, right?  Well, not much.  I had some stuff going bad in my fridge, and I’m trying REALLY hard not to throw things away, so I needed to eat that (more on that later this week).  But I did buy:
1/2 chicken @ $4.50/lb = $10.50 (ouch)
Celery @ $1.50/bunch (for a potluck on Sunday)
Bread – normally $4 each, but I got a deal because of the hail and bought 3 for $10: Sourdough, Ciabatta and Irish Soda Bread
Apples – various kinds and prices/lb = $4 (They were small apples, about 1/4 the size of chain-store apples, and I only bought 5.)

And  what did I make?  (You read the post title, right?  Ok, then.)

First things first: the chickpea dip recipe is adapted from a Rachael Ray recipe (I know, I know, but some of her stuff really is good).  I used more oil (shocking, I know), more garlic (also shocking) and supplemented the fresh thyme with dried.  But it was SUPER easy:

2 cans chickpeas
3-4 cloves garlic, minced (depending on how much you like garlic)
zest and juice from 2 juicy lemons, or 4 not-so-juicy ones.
10 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves stripped
1 Tbs dried thyme (about a palmful), crushed between your fingers
1/2 – 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (the original recipe called for 1/2 cup, but that left the dip too dry and grainy for my taste.  I used about 3/4 cup)
Salt and pepper to taste

The Recipe
Ready?  Are you sure?  This is complicated . . .

Put everything but the oil, salt and pepper in the food processor and blitz it.  Add the oil in a stream through the top funnel.  (Note: do NOT add it in and try to blitz everything at once.  Instead of a dip, you will end up with a really nasty, oily, chunky mess.  Take my word for it – and let us never speak of how I know this.)  Take the lid off, stir, add salt and pepper.  Stir again.  Taste.  Add more salt and pepper if you need to, stirring (or blitzing) until you get a taste you like. 

That’s it!  Ready for the Ciabatta toasts?

8 ciabatta squares (or so) – don’t use domed round loaves, or you’ll be sorry when you have to start cutting them into smaller bits.  For real.  It will be an ENORMOUS pain.  Get the flattest ones you can find.
Olive oil, for drizzling
Salt, pepper, and if you’re like me, garlic powder, to sprinkle

The Recipe:
Preheat the oven to 350F.  Cut the ciabatta (should that be capitalized?  I never know . . . ) into bite-size/appetizer-size bits.  (This is easier and speedier than it sounds, since Ciabatta (I’ll split the difference on the capitalization) is mostly air.  😉  Tip: cut them so that the bread insides are facing up.  I cut my squares in half, as though I were creating 2 pieces of sandwich bread, and then cut each half down the middle (so now I have 4 pieces), and then cut each piece into thirds ( = 12 pieces per square).

Spray two (foil-lined, if you’re so inclined) baking sheets with nonstick spray and arrange the pieces on the sheets.  You can pack these in tightly – they’ll be fine as long as they’re in a single layer.  Drizzle olive oil over them (just a little bit or you’ll have greasy, stodgy little hockey pucks at the end), and LIGHTLY sprinkle some garlic powder over them.  Sprinkle salt and pepper over them, to taste.

Bake for 10 minutes, switch the pans (bottom to top and vice versa) and bake for 10 more minutes.  Let cool and toss in a plastic bag to store.  They’ll keep for several days – if they last that long. 

Serve the dip with the Ciabatta Toasts (or just pita chips if you don’t want to mess around) and veggie sticks of your preference.

How Did it Go?
Well, honestly, I had my doubts.  Especially when 1/2 cup of olive oil left me with a dry, chunky mess.  But! Another 1/4 cup left me with something smooth, though not quite creamy, and enough dip to take to a party of 12 and STILL bring leftovers home.  And no, NOT because they hated it.  People snapped that stuff up and LOVED it, so THERE.  😉 

This was great with the toasts and the celery (the only veggie I provided, because I. am. lazy. like that), and would be amazing – AMAZING, for real – as a spread on a roasted chicken sandwich (especially if you added some roasted red peppers and maybe some arugula).  I’m inclined to toss it with some pasta, just to see what would happen (will it thin out? will it stay chunky? THE SUSPENSE, IT KILLS ME), and it would be good as an egg-salad binder too, though much more substantial than mayonnaise (it would work on chicken salad too, for that matter).   I actually spread some on sourdough toast this morning and ate it for breakfast, and even THAT was good: the bright lemon flavor really went well with the sourness of the sourdough.

So, there you go!  A shopping trip and a recipe, all in one go!  The only thing left to say is: try this.  You won’t be sorry.

Recipes from the Farmers’ Market: Roasted Brussels Sprouts

So!   I have to admit here that I have not purchased Brussels sprouts from the Farmers’ Market yet, although I love them.  (I also wonder if they really came from Brussels, or if there’s another reason for the weird name.)  (Yes, I AM too lazy even to Wikipedia that noise.  Deal with it.  ;))  Why, you ask, have I not bought them at the Market? 

YOU GUYS.  They grow on STALKS.  Really.  And they’re a pain to put in the fridge, which is where most of my stuff ends up for a couple of days before I get around to actually, you know, COOKING.  Then I have to cut all the teeny cabbage-y things off the stalk, and it’s just . . . oh, I just don’t wanna, ok?  GEEZ.  (I’ll get around to it eventually, though.  Maybe next year.)

But they are, in fact, AMAZING roasted, and Hot Nerd Girl asked me how the heck to do that, and!  It’s true!  It’s TOTALLY easy!!!  (“Easy” is my favorite descriptor of a recipe.)  (Most of the time.  Sometimes I need to putter around, ok?)  This is one of those recipes that DEFINITELY qualifies as measurement-free cooking (also one of my favorite things)!  So here you go!

About a pound of Brussels sprouts.  Or a little more.  Or a little less.
Any combination of the following (but not all at once – just pick a row!):
olive oil, salt and pepper (to coat)
olive oil, minced garlic, lemon juice
sesame oil, garlic (optional) and red pepper flakes
melted butter and assorted mushrooms (no, not THAT kind of mushrooms!)
olive oil, brown mustard and finely chopped onion

The Recipe (if you can call it that):
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray (or rub some butter or oil on it.)   (If, like me, you HATEHATEHATE cleaning baking sheets, cover it in foil, and spray the foil.)  Toss the sprouts with your choice of ingredients (you can do that right on the baking sheet), and spread them out in a single layer on the baking sheet. When the oven has heated, roast the sprouts for 30-40 minutes, or until they’re tender and brown.  I like them a little black on the VERY edges, but not everyone does, so there you go. 

How did it (or WILL it) go?
It will be AMAZING.  For real.  The key with this is not to use an ingredient that gets gross at high heat.  Lemon juice is out (although it can be good if you squeeze it over the cooked sprouts), as is any dairy product.  It’s also good to remember that Brussels sprouts are members of the cabbage family, so if you wouldn’t eat it with cabbage (or broccoli, also a member of that family), don’t eat it with sprouts.  But overall, you’ll find that roasted Brussels sprouts take on a nutty, sweet-but-not-sugary flavor.  They have a really nice depth to them, and they go well with just about any kind of meat (though red meat seems to bring them out best).  They’re really good plain too, though, and if they’ve been roasted, I even like them at room temperature later on.  I will say that I have yet to find a tasty way to eat cooked sprouts cold, though.  I like them cold and raw, but cold and cooked . . . um.  Not so much, ok?  Word to the wise, there.  😉

Recipes from the Farmers’ Market: Broccoli Salad

I bought some broccoli at the Market a week or so ago.  I thought about it before I bought it, simply because I’m a little broccoli-ed out.  Broccoli was always my go-to frozen veggie, and I’ve been known (on lazy nights) to zap an entire bag of frozen broccoli, douse it with lemon juice, garlic powder, Parmesan cheese and a little olive oil, and call it dinner.  I have consumed more than my fair share of broccoli over the years, ok? But I figured, what the heck, this is fresh (and abundant at the moment), and I already know I like it.  Nothing to lose, right?  Right.  Unfortunately, I was still too lazy to feel like actually, you know, COOKING it.  So, salad!!

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs each: lemon juice, white wine vinegar (you can use 2 Tbs of just one of those, but it’s better with both)
1/2 tsp each: dried oregano, dried basil
1/4 tsp pepper (Yes, it’s a lot, but not as much as you think it will be.)
2 Tbs half-and-half
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 broccoli crowns, chopped
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, cubed
4 oz salami, sliced (optional)

The Recipe
In a large bowl, combine the garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, oregano, basil, pepper and half-and-half.  Whisk in the mayonnaise until everything is smooth.

Add the broccoli, cheddar and salami and toss until everything is evenly coated.  (It’s not a lot of dressing; just enough to flavor it.  If you like a lot of dressing, add another 1/4 cup of mayo and another Tbs of half-and-half.)

How did it go?
YUM.  That’s how it went.  (And well-deserved after that beef-and-pasta stuff.)  It makes a great main dish with the cheese and salami, and because the broccoli was fresh, it stayed crunchy (even coated in dressing) for a couple of days.  I also noticed that it was better after a few hours in the fridge: the garlic sort of mellowed in the lemon juice and vinegar.  (If you’re serving it right away, you might want cut the garlic by half.)  I ate this for lunch most of the week and was sad when it was gone.

Recipes from the Farmers’ Market: Roasted Mushrooms

Ok, I have to be honest here.  I almost didn’t publish this, because it seems so . . . SIMPLE.  But frankly, I hadn’t ever roasted mushrooms before myself, and they’re pretty amazing.  (I’m not sure why I have a section down below labeled “How did it go?” since I tend to give that away EVERY TIME right up front.  *sigh*)  And initially I’d intended to eat these as a side dish, but I’ve ended up tossing them in all kinds of good stuff (below – I’ve got to use up that space!).


1 pound mushrooms, chopped into similar sizes (I used the small mushrooms as a base and quartered or halved the rest of them to be about the same size) – assorted, if you can find them, but any kind will work
1 generous handful of fresh chopped thyme (or 1 generous palmful of dried thyme)
olive oil for tossing – about 3 Tbs or so
Salt to taste

The Recipe:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a baking dish large enough to hold the mushrooms in a (more or less) single layer, toss all the ingredients together.  Spread them out so that they’re back in a (more or less) single layer.  Read a magazine or contemplate tomorrow’s To-Do list while you wait for the oven to finish heating.  (And please tell me I’m not the only one who peruses my To-Do list like that.)

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, until the mushrooms are kind of dark and wrinkly.


How Did It Go?
YUM.  I’d intended to just eat these as a side dish, but I ended up using them in various things.  They’re  great hot from the oven all by themselves, but I also threw them into pasta with a little more olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.  They’d probably be good tossed like that with broccoli or spinach instead of pasta, too, though I didn’t try that.  I ate them at room temperature, with a glass of wine one evening as an appetizer (which was so good it ended up being my entire dinner).  I think my favorite way of eating them though, was reheated (in the microwave – I didn’t feel like messing with the stove or oven) and spooned over sourdough toast spread with chicken liver pate.  They’d be good in various bruschetta recipes, too, and they’d be AMAZING spooned warm over a steak or even some chicken, especially if you added a sprinkle of blue cheese crumbles to it.

And like I said, I almost didn’t post this.  It’s been sitting in my notebook for a week or so now, because I kept thinking it didn’t seem like a REAL recipe.  But you know what?  It tastes freakin’ AMAZING.  And in the end, that’s all that matters, right?

Recipes from the Farmers’ Market: Roasted (ok, Baked) Onions

I really wanted to roast some onions after the last trip to the Market.  Really, a LOT.  But see, my oven isn’t totally clean at the moment.  (I really need to run the cleaning cycle soon.)  And the way my condo is laid out, the main smoke detector is about 25 feet from the oven, IF you measure around the wall between them.

You see the issue here.

(Actually, you should have seen me Thanksgiving morning, roasting brussels sprouts at 7am when the smoke alarm went off.  I was running around like a crazy person trying to shut it off before I woke anyone up.  I’d fan the alarm with a magazine to make it stop, then run into the bedroom to grab an electric fan.  By the time I got back to the hall, the alarm would be going off and I’d have to fan with a magazine again.  Then I’d plug the electric fan in and angle it toward the kitchen/outside door.  Then more magazine fanning.  THEN the smoke alarm 5 feet from the hall one – the one in the bedroom – started going off, TOO.  It was an experience, I’m telling you.)  (The brussels sprouts were good, though.)

ANYWAY.  Such was my dilemma with these onions.  In the end, I baked them at 350 instead of roasting them at 400 (375 is the highest non-alarm-setting for me at the moment), and they were still amazing.  They just took a little longer.  😉

Also, this is another of those no-recipe recipes.  You can increase or decrease pretty much anything in this recipe without altering the other ingredients, and it will still work.  (Although if you increase the number of onions, I would not recommend cutting back on the butter.)  But that’s what cooking is all about, right?  Taking something and making it your own.

The Ingredients
6 medium red onions
1/2 stick butter (about 4 Tbs) (or more, if you – ahem – REALLY LIKE BUTTER.)
3 Tbs chopped fresh thyme (or 1 Tbs dried)
6 big fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped (or 1 Tbs dried)
Salt to taste

The Recipe
Quarter the onions.  Spray a large baking dish with nonstick spray (or smear some butter or oil in it) and squish the onion quarters in there (don’t break them up).  It’s ok if they’re fitted in pretty tightly, but don’t stack them: single layer only.

Melt the butter and pour over the onions.  (Or, if you’re lazy like me, cut off thin pieces from the cube and sort of prop them on the onions.  What?  It works!)

Sprinkle the thyme, sage and salt over the top.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

WARNING: Your house will smell like cooked onions.  I like that smell, but not everyone does, so I’m just saying . . .

These are really good served alongside any kind of meat.  (I’m partial at the moment to serving them with kielbasa and sauerkraut.)  They’re also really good if you toss the onions and some of the pan juices into some pasta and let it soak up some of the butter-onion sauce.  They’re good on toast, and I’ve never tried it, but I bet they’d also be good tossed with some chicken and steamed broccoli (and maybe a squeeze of lemon juice).

Happy cooking!

Recipes from the Farmers’ Market: Fennel Salad

I forget where I first found the idea for this, but it’s pretty much a staple in my house when fennel is in season.  (I like to switch back and forth between this one and the kale salad so I don’t get bored!)

But the really great thing about this is that it’s what I call “measurement-free cooking.”  And that’s exactly what it sounds like.  If you’re just learning how to cook, recipes like this one are great for figuring out how to eyeball ingredients and learn what tastes best to you, and if you’ve cooked for a long time (and are anything like me), you love recipes like this because no measuring = one less dish to wash!  (Oh, come on.  I can’t be the only one who finds that a major plus!)

This is a REALLY simple salad, but if you want something more “main-dishy,” cooked shrimp would be great mixed in just before serving.  Maybe in that case a little olive oil and some Parmesan cheese, too.  And pepper, to taste.  Good stuff.

2 heads fennel, sliced (if you’re cheap like me, you can also chop the big long stalks, but chop them FINELY, because they tend to be strongly flavored.)
juice from 1 juicy lemon, or 2 not-so-juicy ones (you can tell by how squishy they are = the squishier, the juicier)
Salt to taste (but probably a little more than you think you’ll need.)
**NOTE: you can increase or decrease this at will, and it also won’t matter if one batch has a LOT of lemon and the next batch doesn’t.  This is what I mean by measurement-free cooking: it won’t matter if it’s 2 Tbs lemon juice or 1 Tbs or 3Tbs.  It doesn’t matter if you use HUGE fennel bulbs or little ones.  This is a pretty foolproof recipe, as long as you add salt carefully: it’s WAY easier to put more in than it is to take it out, ok?)

The Recipe
HAHAHAHAHAHahahahahaha!!!!  Super easy, here!
Slice the fennel into a bowl. 
Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice all over the fennel.
Salt the top.
Stir the whole thing.
Now let it sit on the counter for a while (ideally for 4 or 5 hours, but I’ve done it for 30 minutes, and it’s still good).  When you walk past it, give it another stir.  After a while, taste it and see if it needs more salt.  If so, add more.  Continue to give it a stir whenever you happen to think about it.  No pressure.

After a while, you’ll notice that the sharp tastes of the fennel and lemon mellow out and create a WAY more savory and complex taste than either of them has alone.  The fennel will still be crunchy but not hard, and the lemon will react with the salt to taste more savory and less sour. 

You can chill it before serving, or just serve it at room temperature.  I’ve done both, and people always ask me for the recipe either way.  It’s that good.