Category Archives: side dish

pickled pearls of wisdom

when i first heard that alliums were the produce of choice for this month’s can jam, i couldn’t have been more excited. i am a savory girl, for sure. i’ll take leek confit over a square of chocolate any day. roasted garlic over cheesecake. and i’d choose caramelized onions before selecting a big bowl of ice cream. i soon learned however that my dreams of canning all of my favorite onion and garlic preparations were being shot down at every turn for one very good reason. alliums are low-acid vegetables and they don’t care who knows it. because of this fact, and because i am fairly new to canning, i was having difficulty finding a way to safely can any of my beloved lily family favorites. by the looks of some of the chatter on twitter about this month’s challenge, i am not the only one who was having difficulty.

then i sat down and reminded myself that this was precisely reason that i wanted to join the can jam: to stretch my canning muscles. honestly, if it was gonna be so effortless that i would be able to whip up something without any thought process whatsoever, then what’s the point, right? and isn’t that what life’s all about? setting out to do one thing, then quickly realizing it ain’t happening according to expectations and adjusting as necessary? since i usually choose to make quick, refrigerator-style pickles, i decided that canning a pickle would the most logical next step. i settled on pickled cocktail onions more because they are adorable and i love the taste of anything pickled, than for their obvious practical application of fulfilling a gimlet-lover’s dream. i do plan on giving away a jar or two to the few friends that are known to have cocktail hour, but mostly i will keep them on hand for grilling season, as i imagine their briny little selves will shine next to a pork tenderloin with a nice char or as cooling antipasti. hell, i may even throw them in my next bloody mary.

pickled pearls (makes 1 1/2 pints)

adapted from saving the season

1 heaping pint cocktail onions (just over a pound)

3 cups champagne or white wine vinegar

4-5 tbsp granulated sugar

a few dried chilies de arbol

6 whole allspice

4 whole cloves

10-12 whole black peppercorns

10-12 coriander seeds

2 bay leaves

1- 3″ cinnamon stick

a few grains of cardamom (you can bust the pods open with a rolling pin)

make a brine from 1/4 coarse sea salt (regular iodized salt may turn the brine dark and cloudy and flaky kosher salt may not give the proper proportions for the brine) and 4 cups water, heat gently until salt dissolves, then cool to room temperature.

trim the root and stem ends of each onion and peel away a layer or two ‘to reveal the pristine and glassy interior’ (love that description). this may take awhile, so just slow down and revel in the zen of the activity.

place onions and brine in plastic bags (i used a separate bag for the purple and white onion as to discourage any bleeding of colors) and set in a large bowl to catch any accidental leakage. it was also very easy to keep the onions submerged in the brine this way. brine for a minimum of 12 hours, maximum of 48.

when ready, place vinegar, sugar and aromatics in a saucepan and bring to a boil. simmer for about 15 minutes, then remove from heat. meanwhile drain onions from brine and pack them tightly into sterilized jars. pour brine over onions, leaving 1/2″ headspace, and divide aromatics among jars, adding more if desired. if you are squeamish about heat on the palate, be careful with the hot chiles. breaking them open or adding them to a 4 ounce jar could render the onions rather spicy. process 10 minutes in a hot water bath.

the instructions say to allow flavors to marry for at least 2 weeks before using.

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Filed under appetizer, condiment, side dish

tamale dressing

if you’re still casting about for an additional side to add to your thanksgiving repertoire or you just want to try a new and exciting dressing/stuffing this year, boy do i have a treat for you. if you have had thanksgiving with me in the last several years, you’ve had this dressing. a few times i’ve even used my own homemade tamales. i also make a very traditional bread and sage dressing so everyone can have what they want, but this one always runs out first.

there are a few variations of this dressing floating around out there and mine is originally from the local paper, but i can’t remember the source anymore. i have really adapted it to be my very own, however. the original and my own have diverged completely with the exception of the spirit of the dish. it’s thanksgiving’s crazy-mixed-up tex-mex cousin, who came up from the valley for the holiday. looking forward to all the family that is coming to our house for thanksgiving ~ hope yours is wonderful!

tamale dressing (makes a large casserole pan)

12 tamales of your choice (i choose traditional pork)

1-8×8 pan prepared corn bread

1 cup finely shredded white cheese (oaxacan, mozzerella, jack)

2 cups chopped fresh tomato (or 1-28 ounce can rotel tomatoes with green chiles)

2 cups chopped onion

1 poblano pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

salt and pepper to taste

preheat oven to 350 degrees. crumble tamales and corn bread into large bite-size pieces by hand into a large bowl. do not blend or process as this will result in a very dense and mushy dressing. saute tomato (drain if using canned), onion, pepper in a a few tablespoons of butter until soft (about 5 minutes). add oregano through through cumin and saute for about a minute. add salt and pepper to taste. cool briefly. add tomato mixture and cheese to tamale/cornbread mixture and toss gently-do not over mix. pour into a large greased casserole or baking pan and bake for 30 minutes until heated throughout and lightly browned on top.

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Filed under main dish, side dish

white grape gazpacho

 grape gazpacho close3

ok,  so while most of you are getting out your sweaters and jackets, here in texas we are simply pretending it’s fall. we finally got a break from the 100 degree days this week, and by the looks of it, you’d think 95 was the most refreshing temperature imaginable. it’s all relative, I suppose. this is all to let you know that while you may no longer be in the mood for chilled soup, we are still right smack dab in the middle of enjoying such things.

now while i’m not a big fan of  ‘fruit’ soups in general (to me, they’re just a smoothie in a bowl that is frustratingly difficult to drink with a spoon), this is a very unusual blend of refreshing ingredients. althougth there is an element of sweetness from the grapes, it is gently tempered by the nut meats, fresh bread crumbs, and garlic. i told you this was unusual. in fact, at first i wasn’t even sure that i liked it. but it definitely grew on me. give it a try (even if you have to wait until next summer!)

white grape gazpacho (4 first course servings)

adapted from great cold soups and the new york times

3/4 cup toasted blanched almonds or marcona almonds

2 tbsp toasted pine nuts

2 cloves garlic

2 1/2 cups green grapes

1 cup white grape juice

1/2 cup water

2 slices day old hearty white bread, crusts removed and cubed

1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

a few tbsp walnut oil for finishing

place blade on bowl of food processor. with processor running, add nuts and garlic until finely minced. then add grapes, grape juice, water, and cubed bread and puree until smooth. strain mixture into a bowl through a fine sieve. chill for at least 3-4 hours. meanwhile whip heavy cream in a bowl until soft peaks form. fold into grape mixture gently. garnish with sliced reserved grapes and drizzle with walnut oil.

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Filed under appetizer, fruit, grapes, side dish, soup

provencal tomato tart

 

tom tart 2

so the last days of summer seem to be upon us. and i don’t feel particularly sentimental about it. you see, down here in texas the summer is fairly brutal, especially this year. we may be approaching close to 60 days of 100 degree (or better) temperatures. and so there is no love lost between me and summer this year. good riddance. sayonara. adios, mofo.

tom tart flours

tom tart crust in pan

but wait. don’t leave without offering up the last of your tomatoes. i will take them gladly. i will put them in a tart with pesto and mozzarella and offer them up for the last week of summer fest.

provencal tomato tart (serves 6)

don’t let the long list of instructions for the crust scare you off–use your favorite store-bought crust if you can’t be bothered. the tart itself is so easy and versatile: substitute mustard for the pesto, gruyere for the cheese, you get the idea.

adapted from ‘once upon a tart‘ cookbook by frank mentesana & jerome audureau

for the crust:

(or use savory crust of your choice, par-baked)

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 semolina flour (this small addition makes for a fantastic crunch)

1/2 tsp salt

6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 1/2 tbsp cold solid vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces

small glass of ice water

put the flours and salt in bowl of a food processor fitted with metal blade. pulse a few times to integrate. add the butter and shortening all at once and pulse quite a few times, until mixture forms little balls (like moist crumbs) and no chunks of butter or shortening remain. be sure to use the pulse feature, you do not want to run it continuously and create a paste. dump dough into a large bowl and add 2 tbsp ice water. using your hands, start forming the dough into a ball, adding more water if needed. the dough should just hold together into a ball, you do not want it to be wet. wrap in plastic and flatten into a disc. place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

roll dough out to 1/4″ on a lightly floured board and place gently in tart pan with removable bottom. chill 30 minutes. this will prevent your the sides of your tart from shrinking too much when you bake it.

preheat oven to 400F. prick holes over bottom of tart with the tines of a fork. cover with aluminun foil or parchment paper and weigh down with pie weights or dried beans. bake in center rack in oven for 10 minutes. remove foil or parchment and weights and bake for 5-10 minutes more, until light brown. cool to room temperature on a wire rack.

tom tart pesto

for the filling:

4-5 tbsp fresh basil pesto

a few handfuls grated mozzarella cheese

6-7 roma tomatoes

a few tsp dried herbes de provence

slice tomatoes and place in colander with a pinch of salt to drain off any excess liquid. spread pesto evenly across bottom of par-baked tart crust. sprinkle cheese over. layer tomatoes like dominoes. scatter herbs atop tomatoes. bake until tomatoes begin to shrivel and cheese melts, about 10-20 minutes.

now, visit a way to garden, matt bites, steamy kitchen, and white on rice couple (and their commenters/participants section!) for other delicious tomato recipes this week!

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Filed under appetizer, main dish, side dish

fresh lady creamer peas

 

creamer peas-finished

at the risk of sounding unpopular, sometimes due to the extreme heat, crushing crowds, and added expense of it all, i just have to take time off from the farmer’s market. don’t get me wrong, i love to support local growers, organic or otherwise (you’d be hard-pressed to find any farmer’s at the market who use chemicals or sprays, anyhow), but i am not a competitive person by nature, so sometimes all the nudging to get at the best tomatoes, peaches, and eggs can get a bit much for me. but after a break from it a few weeks back, i come with new eyes and spot some fresh lady creamer peas. this is exactly the type of thing that makes each farmer’s market unique: the distinct nature of the local produce. this, of course, begged the question: what to do with them? after poking around online and coming up with with virtually nothing about this very specific item, i had my suspicions about where to turn for assistance, robb walsh‘s ‘the texas cowboy cookbook’. robb has become an expert in regional cooking, including cowboy and tex-mex cooking styles, real texas barbeque, texas gulf specialties (like oysters, etc), you name it. if you love anything texas, these books are for you.

creamer peas -book

these  peas, which are interchangeable with any fresh field peas such as black eyed or purple hull peas in their cooking style, are a cinch to make and compliment a great texas summer meal. we had ours with grilled pork loin and summer squash, and cornbread.

creamer peas

fresh lady creamer peas (serves 4-6 as a side dish)

1 pound shelled lady creamer, black -eyed, purple hull peas (about 3 cups)

2-3 slices bacon, chopped

1 medium onion, diced

2 cups stock (preferably homemade chicken or veggie)

salt & pepper

hot pepper sauce of your choice (i prefer cholula, the best hot sauce on earth, that’s just me)

rinse and drain peas. in a large skillet over low-medium heat add bacon to pan. remember you are rendering the fat from the bacon. it’s important to cook it on the slow side, otherwise you end up with most of the fat still clinging to the meat of the bacon instead on as liquid in the pan. when bacon is crisp, remove meaty pieces and set aside to drain on paper toweling. alternatively, you can leave them in the pan, but since i prefer my bacon a bit crisp, not limp, i take it out and add it back in at the end of cooking. add diced onion and cook until softened and translucent. add stock and peas. bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer peas until desired tenderness, about 15-20 minutes, checking liquid level and adding more stock (or water) as necessary. i like them a little firm, but this is not the usual texan way. add bacon back in (if removed) and season with salt & pepper. serve with a little pot likker (some of the cooking liquid, i know it’s not greens but, hey…it’s good), hot sauce, and corn bread to sop it all up.

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Filed under bacon, beans, side dish

asian noodle salad

 

asian noodle salad 5

it’s hot. i don’t know about where you live, but here in texas, we are approaching almost two week’s worth of officially oppressive 100 degree (and above) weather. i made the bad decision to bake a cake at 5:00 o’clock in the afternoon the other day. i learned my lesson. no more cooking inside until this passes. i boiled the noodles for this salad at 8:00 o’clock in the morning and that’s the last of it. it’s officially salad weather. and this is a doozy. i found it on the pioneer woman‘s website, where she gleened it from jamie oliver. she says it’s her favorite salad ever. ever. ever.  and i have to concur. this is one sweet salad. i love the pasta to veggie ration. as i’ve said before, this is how i justfy eating lots of pasta. the ratio between pasta and veggies needs to be at least 1:1.

asian noodle salad

this is a versatile salad in that you could swap out the veggies for what you preferred or just what you had on hand. but please don’t leave out the cilantro. it was made for a salad like this. so cool and refresing. oh, and don’t leave out the brown sugar in the dressing, as the  pioneer woman points out. it needs it to balance out the other ingredients in the dressing. otherwise, it is too bitter and completely unenjoyable. i mean, don’t even bother, ya know?

asian nood;e salad 2

don’t you feel healthier just looking at all those veggies? i love napa cabbage. i don’t use it enough. how about you?

asian noodle salad 3

you could use any pasta you prefer. i had fettucine so that’s what i used. i also added some cashews. just a few. as a treat. peanuts or almonds would also work well.

asian noodle salad 4

asian noodle salad (makes a ton)

adapted from the pioneer woman and jamie oliver

salad:

1-8 ounce package pasta-cooked al dente, drained and rinsed (if made ahead of time, be sure to add a bit of oil to them to prevent fro sticking together)

1/2 head napa cabbage, sliced thinly

1/2 head purple cabbage, sliced thinly

several large handfuls of baby spinach

1 bell pepper (red, yellow, or orange) thinly sliced

1 small bag bean sprouts (i did not use these because i hate them more than life itself…)

2 scallions, thinly sliced (green and white parts)

1 cucumber, chopped or sliced as you like

 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

 

dressing:

juice of 1/2 lime

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp sesame oil

3 tbsp soy sauce

3 tbsp brown sugar

1 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 jalapeno, finely chopped (seeds and ribs removed for minimal heat if you prefer)

more cilantro, chopped

1 cup cashews, peanuts, or almonds (optional)

 

prepare noodles and set aside. mix together salad ingredients in a very large bowl. whisk dressing ingredients together in a separate bowl and pour over noodles. add nuts, if using, toss to combine. mix salad and noodles with dressing together. can be made ahead of time but is best eaten within 24-48 hours.

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Filed under pasta, salad, side dish

creamy asparagus risotto (or dear, spring weather-how do i love thee?)

risotto-1

for most of the country this time of year means spring. warm days, cool nights, new blossoms pushing up throught the earth, a sense of renewal spewing up from your pores. but for those of us in texas, we had that feeling about 2 months ago and have now forged on to blood-boiling heat like you would not believe. we haven’t hit 100 degrees yet, but when you factor in what temperature it “feels like”, we’re up to about 104, i think. i also think i forget to move back to california every year when this happens. but this week, and this week only, we got a reprive. the last vestige of spring is upon us and, mercifully it has been in the 80’s during the day and in the unheard-of 50’s at night.

to help celebrate this, i present to you aspargus risotto. y’all know risotto, right? that dish that you have to stand over and stir for hours on end? well, after this week it’ll be no-can-do with our weather. but if you live in a place where you won’t get arrested for startin’ up the stove after april, you should give this a whirl. it is a simple, but very satisfying meal in itself. it is also a method for which, from here on out i will provide a step-by-step guide. a method just basically means once you get, you get it, and you can substitute solids and liquids freely. as long as you stick with the rules, o’ course!

risotto-2

it is best made with a short grain, starchy rice called arborio.

risotto-3

heat your butter/olive oil combo. remember this combo not only allows you to saute at a higher heat than just with butter alone, (because oil has a higher flashpoint than butter, meaning it won’t burn as fast) but it is also a very rich combination.

risotto-4

add in your onions or shallots, saute for a few minutes, then add your rice. but whatever you do, do not brown the mixture.

risotto-5

like i did.

then add your wine–at least a decent drinking wine please. if you don’t embibe or like the flavor, you can leave this step out and just start with adding broth to the rice.

risotto-6

at this point, you’ll want to stir and stir and stir the mixture. this not only allows the wine to infuse into the rice, it also releases the starch from the rice which gives risotto it classic creaminess in the final product.

risotto-7

start adding the stock, one cup at a time and repeat the process.

risotto-8

don’t forget when you get the wine out for the risotto to go ahead and pour yourself a glass. after all, you’re already finished with all the prep work and sharp implements, so enjoy youself!

risotto-9

when the risotto is about 5 minutes away from being al dente (tender on the outside, firm to the bite on the inside), add your asparagus, or other veggie to the mix.

risotto-10

taste it to see if you like the consistency of the rice and veggies, then remove from heat. then add the reason we’re all really here, the butter and cheese.

risotto-12just look at it glisten. it should a bit loose but not too soupy. plate it up and add a drizzle of good quality olive oil, and another good helping of parmesan cheese. omg. i’m going to go make some more of this right now.

creamy aparagus risotto (serves 4 as a main, 6-8 as a side dish)

2 tbsp olive oil (plus more for drizzling)

4 tbsp butter, divided

1 cup arborio rice

4 shallots or 1 medium onion, chopped as fine as you like

1/2 c white wine

4 cups chicken or veggie stock (this is the time to get out the good stuff, the flavor of this depends greatly on your choice. hey, no pressure!)

1 pound fresh asparagus, woody ends removed and reserved, sliced into 1/4 inch slices on the bias (see picture-it makes it pretty!)

1/2  cup parmesan cheese (plus more for serving)

 set 4 cups stock of your choice in a small sauce pan with the woody ends of asparugus, bring to a slow simmer and remove asparagus after 3-4 minutes. leave stock on very low to keep warm.

heat oil and 2 tbsp butter in large saute pan over medium low heat. add shallot or onion and saute about 2-3 minutes until softened, but not browned, like i did. then add arborio rice and saute an additional minute or so. add white wine, if using. simmer, while stirring until wine is almost absorbed into rice. then add stock 1 cup at a time, each time stirring almost contantly until liquid is absorbed between additions. do not overcook rice. the whole process should only take about 18-20 minutes. after you have added your last cup of stock, or about 5 minutes before rice is al dente, add asparagus and stir with rest of mixture, taking care not to overcook or break apart the delicate tips. take off the heat and add remaining 2 tbsp butter and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. gently stir until butter and cheese have melted. serve topped with a drizzle of good quality olive oil and a bit more parmesan cheese.

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