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Sweet Broccoli Magic

17 Aug

I saw you wrinkle up your nose at that title up there. Give me five minutes–I’m gonna change your mind about this vegetable, even if you think it’s bitter or limp or boring. Nothing could be farther from the truth when you use a really easy, hands-off technique to cook it.

We had dinner at a friend’s house this summer; she always makes something that’s simple and amazing, and this time was no exception. Steak and a really good salad (I need to ask her if I can share her salad trick with y’all, come to think of it), and broccoli. But this broccoli was sweet and crunchy and unlike any I’d had before, and I went back for a big second helping of just that. It was that good.

Her secret? Roasting. You know how if you cook a chicken or Brussels sprouts with a little oil and salt in a scorching hot oven, magic happens? The outside of the goodies caramelizes while the inside stays nummy and juicy and amazing? Same thing with broccoli. And why it didn’t occur to me before now to try it is a mystery. Doing it with my new favorite ingredient–garlic oil–makes it just about the perfect vegetable (Confession: The first time I made this, I left the pan on the counter for about 10 minutes while the rest of dinner came together. And at the end of that 10 minutes, the broccoli was almost gone. I picked at it the whole time. Seriously good stuff, and it’s a vegetable! Sweet!). It’s crunchy and sweet and perfect.

Even if you think you don’t like broccoli…even if you’re used to that frozen stuff or boiled stems that flop over on your fork like a wet washcloth…try this. You’ll be a believer, I promise. It could not be simpler or more delicious. You need:

Broccoli florets (I use about two cups)

A tablespoon or two of garlic oil (use regular olive oil if you don’t have this)

About a quarter-teaspoon of salt or No-Salt substitute

(That’s it. See?)

Heat your oven to 425 degrees and spray a rimmed baking sheet with oil or your nonstick goodness of choice.

Lay your broccoli on the pan and drizzle it with the oil. Toss with your hands to get every bite a little bit of oil (the broccoli will not be coated). Sprinkle with salt, pop in the oven, and cook it about 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven, until the tops of the florets are brown and crunchified. Tell me that’s not the easiest, most delicious veggie you’ve ever had.

Steakhouse Mushrooms

22 May

We had steak for dinner last night (marinate flank steak all day in soy sauce, Worcestershire, lemon zest, garlic, honey, sherry, and red pepper flakes, blot it dry, spray it with a little olive oil, and broil it 3″ from the flame on a cooling rack in a baking sheet until the meat hits 145 degrees in the center, flipping once). I didn’t eat beef for a long time–12 years–and rarely missed it, but I’m glad it’s back in my diet. Lots of iron. Lots of yummy. Moderation.

The thing I did miss all that time, though was sauteed mushrooms. And I don’t know why on earth I didn’t just make some. They’re traditional to serve with steak, sure, but it’s so easy to whip some up and they go with so many things (I may or may not have had a bowl as a snack this week, all on their own) that I really should have made them much sooner. Spoon some over a burger. Serve them up with roast chicken. Snarf them down right out of the pan. Whatever suits your fancy.

These are super easy and very economical–use whatever cheapie mushrooms are in your grocery store. Buttons, baby bellas, whatever. You can make them with larger ‘shrooms too, but cut them up first. And they are delicious. Beefy tasting and yummy-savory-garlicky in a subtle kind of way, and the kind of thing you’d likely get aside your steak in one of those chi-chi restaurants none of us can afford.

Pull out your pan and a few pantry staples, kids (speaking of, my kids wouldn’t touch these. Fine with me–pile my plate high, picky people). You’re going to love these mushrooms. You need:

1 pint mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

About 1 tsp olive oil

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp soy sauce

1 clove garlic, very finely minced (or a Dorot frozen garlic cube, which is what I used)

salt

Put a small saucepan or saucier over a medium burner and let it heat up for a few minutes. Pour in the olive oil and swirl it around to coat the bottom of the pan. Dump in your mushrooms, hit ’em with a pinch or two of salt, and stir for a second. Then leave them alone for stretches of about 5 minutes. You’re going to see a lot of liquid in the pan and think things are going wrong, but have patience. After a little while, your mushrooms are going to start to brown and then they’re going to soak up all that liquid like magic.

Once your mushrooms get a nice light brown on them, stir in the Worcestershire and soy sauce, and then stir in five-minute increments again. Your mushrooms are going to soak up the sauce and then start to caramelize on the bottom of the pan. Once they are a deep golden brown, stir in your garlic and keep everything moving constantly for about two minutes–you want to get rid of the sharp raw garlic taste, but you don’t want to burn it. Take it off the heat and sing a little song to the mushroom gods, because this, my friends, is heaven.

Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes

22 Mar

This is my favorite veggie dish of all time. Bar none. It’s sweet, it’s comforting, it’s packed with nutrients, and it’s super simple. I had a big bowl of it for lunch yesterday and I may well have another for dinner tonight. The leftovers are delicious heated up or cold, and don’t even get me started about recycling it as a breakfast dish with a poached egg on top (oh yummmmm).

You should make it, and that’s really all I have to say about it. Really–words don’t do it justice.

You need:

Sweet potatoes (about 1 per person)

Honey (1 tbsp per potato)

Olive oil (1 tbsp per potato)

Salt to taste (I use about 1/4 tsp per potato)

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray it with olive oil or your nonstick goodness of choice. Do not skip this step–you will be very sad when your nuggets of sweet potato deliciousness stick like cement later.

Peel your potatoes and cut them into 2-inch pieces (I half them lengthwise, then cut each half into a half lengthwise, and then cut them into slices cross-wise). Plop them into a bowl and stir them up with the oil, honey, and salt. Lay them onto your nonsticked sheet pan with their flat sides down–they’re gonna get all brown and crunchy against the pan, and you want the biggest side to do that because it is so stinkin’ delicious that your taste buds will throw their own little party right there in your mouth.

Slide your pan into the oven and let those babies roast for about 20 minutes, until their bottoms start to crunch up. Flip them over, give them another 15 minutes or so, and serve.

 

Roasted Balsamic Brussel Sprouts

6 Mar

Hi gang!

It’s been awhile–sorry about that (I really am…I miss you guys). You know those weeks there’s so much going on that you can’t breathe? That was last week. Cereal for dinner every night kind of stuff. But it’s over and I’m inhaling and exhaling and cooking again.

I spent last weekend in Las Vegas with a group of friends–we’ve never done a big trip away and it was super fun. By the end, we called it our food tour. Phenomenal restaurants in Vegas–I ate food from Thomas Keller, Todd English, and (of course) Michel Richard, and a lot of local chefs who really have it going on behind the stove. One of the things we enjoyed was roasted brussel sprouts, and I have not been able to get them out of my head ever since. When I saw a bunch at the grocery store yesterday, I bought them, brought them home, rinsed them off, and stared them down until we came to an agreement: high heat and balsamic vinegar.

You can almost not go wrong roasting vegetables. Cooking them quickly at a high temperature caramelizes them and makes them sweet and crunchy; if you’ve only had steamed asparagus, you really should roast some (same method we’re about to share with the sprouts), because you won’t believe the difference in flavor. And roasting does beautiful things to brussel sprouts. These are like popcorn–I swiped a few off the pan every time I walked past it for the entire time they cooled down. Addictive. Sweet and crunchy with a hint of bitter inside. Delish.

I tossed mine (the ones I didn’t snarf down ahead of time, anyway) into a salad at lunchtime, but these make a fantastic side dish or snack–and I don’t snack on vegetables, so you know they’re good. I hope you’ll give them a shot, especially if you think you don’t like sprouts. They’re a game changer. You need:

1 bunch brussel sprouts (fresh; frozen will get soggy)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

a sprinkle of salt or salt substitute

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray it with olive oil.

Cut the stems off your sprouts, and then cut the sprouts in half lengthwise. In a bowl, toss them with the oil, vinegar, and salt. Lay them on the baking sheet in a single layer, pop them into the oven, and roast them for 35 minutes, turning them halfway through. Get addicted.

Summery Balsamic Quinoa Salad

16 Feb

See this?

Stick a fork in winter and call it done, y’all. I am ready for summer. Bring on sunshine and short sleeves and flip-flops and days at the pool, and bring on some fresh summer produce!

Sadly, I have little to no pull with Mother Nature, so I’m making do with recipes that make the most of summer-ish fruits and veggies I can find in my supermarket in February. They’re not as tasty as their summer siblings, but give me a little burst of July when stirred into dishes with the right flavors. Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese are some of the ingredients that make not-so-spectacular produce pop a bit more, and I broke them out this morning to make something new for lunch.

Quinoa salads aren’t unique–they’re everywhere. What I don’t get, though, is why most of them call for cooking your quinoa (you know quinoa, yes? Cook it like rice and enjoy its perfect protein?) in one pot and your veggies and aromatics in another. Dudes, quinoa is just like rice–it’ll suck up whatever flavors you cook it in. And softening onion and garlic on the stove makes for some darn tasty bits on the bottom of your pot. Why not stir the quinoa grains right in there and make the most of them?

This recipe came out of the space between my ears. It’s not Julia Child–go ahead and mess with it. I added pine nuts for crunch, but it’s just as good without them. Throw in mushrooms or chicken or shrimp or tofu to make this a substantial entree. Ease up on the cheese. Whatever makes you happy. Quinoa, just like rice, is very forgiving. Play around without fear.

This made a big bowl o’ salad that’s happily resting in my fridge. I have lunch for a few days here. And every day. it’s going to be like pulling out a little bit of summer, which sounds really good right now. Want some? You need:

1 cup quinoa, rinsed well (I find it at Target now–check your market near the grains or in the health/organic aisle)

1/2 a yellow onion, diced finely

1 clove of garlic, diced finely

1 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 cups broth–I used chicken but veggie would work

Salt

About 1/2 cup of grape tomatoes, halved

About 1/3 of an English cucumber, diced (These come in plastic wrap–the skins are thinner than regular cukes)

1/2 cup pine nuts (leave out if you want–no harm, no foul)

About 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

A handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped

About another tablespoon olive oil

About 2 tbsp Balsamic vinegar

In a medium saucepan, heat your olive oil over a medium flame and then stir in your onion. Cook that until it softens up, and then stir in your garlic. Immediately stir in your quinoa grains and stir them around for a minute to let them toast a little bit. Then stir in your broth, stick a lid on the pot, and let it cook for about a half-hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until the liquid is absorbed and you see little rings around the outside of your quinoa grains. Take it off the flame and let it cool to room temperature.

(note: this is a great thing to do while you’re making dinner at night. You’re going to refrigerate this anyway, so make it the night before when you have time–it’s just one more pot to clean)

Once the quinoa has cooled, stir in the tomato, cucumber, pine nuts, Parmesan, basil and olive oil and Balsamic. Stir it up, pop it in the fridge, and look forward to a summer lunch!

Lemony Quinoa

5 Jan

I’d planned to mess around with this recipe today and post it for y’all tomorrow, but I just finished wolfing down a bowl of its deliciousness and couldn’t wait to share. If you were here (live and in person), I’d be shoving spoonfuls at your face and demanding that you try it. Because it is that good and so very healthy.

Quinoa is a grain that’s gluten-free and a pretty darned perfect source of protein, which makes it an allergy sufferer’s dream. I don’t fall into that category; I eat it because it’s super easy to cook, very versatile, and fills me up for a long time.

You can use it just like rice if you want to, but I like it as a main dish. This recipe was my lunch today. Turn it into a more substantial lunch or dinner entree with some cooked shrimp, chicken, tofu, or even smoked salmon stirred in at the end. Asparagus would also be a lovely addition, but any veggie you have in the house would probably work beautifully in this dish. That said, this would be a really good side dish alongside grilled chicken or fish.

I found the idea for this online, but the original called for raw red onions, cumin, and red pepper. And I’m sure that’s all good, but I have to talk to people in the afternoon, so raw red onion isn’t going to work for me (it’s super potent stuff), and I wanted more fresh and light than smoky this time around. I substituted cooked regular onion (you could use dried onion flakes too), swapped out the seasoning, and cooked it in broth instead of water to give it a little more flavor.

You’ll see lemon juice in this recipe. If you like lemon–like, really like it–go ahead and zest your fruit, and stir the zest in at the end. It’s really lemony that way. I happen to like lemony, but you might want to give this a try without that step the first time around and see if you think you need more citrus. I’m betting you could also use orange for a different flavor.

You’ll also see sliced almonds. I like them for their crunch, but you can leave them out and use more celery or chuck in some raw carrot for the same kind of mouth feel without nuts.

This is one of my favorite new healthy recipes, and I can’t wait for leftovers tomorrow. You need:

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed well (gets rid of the bitterness) and drained

The juice of one lemon

A dash of salt

About a cup and a quarter of chicken or vegetable broth

About 2 tbsp of sweet onion, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1/4 cup sliced almonds (or a crunchy vegetable if you don’t want nuts in the dish)

About 3 tbsp chopped fresh basil

About 2 tbsp shredded or grated parmesan cheese

Heat a small/medium saucepan over medium heat. Spray it with something nonstick and saute the onions until they’re soft and translucent.

In the meantime, juice your lemon into a 2-cup measuring cup. To the juice, add broth until you have 1 1/2 cups of liquid. Once the onions are cooked, pour that mixture into the pan and stir in your rinsed quinoa grains and salt. Bring that to a boil, clamp a lid on it, and cook it over medium-low heat until most of the liquid is gone (just like rice).

Remove the quinoa from the heat and stir in the basil, celery, almonds (or substitute), and, if you want a lotta lemon, the zest from your lemon. Stir everything together and let it sit about 5 minutes. Spoon it into bowls (2 for entrees, 4 for side dishes) and sprinkle it with the parmesan.

Garlic In the Bread

28 Nov

We’ve talked about my family’s love of all things bread, and my own personal addition to really good garlic bread. Garlic and butter and carbs–I mean, really. What’s not to like?

I started thinking, though, that it’s kind of a pain to have to get bread and slice it and butter it and put seasoning on it and broil it, especially on nights you’re in a hurry or eating leftover pasta. You can zap last night’s dinner in, what, a minute? But making the garlic bread for night 2 of a meal kind of takes the quick-and-easy out of leftover night.

And so, I came up with this–it’s a basic Mark Bittman bread recipe that couldn’t be simpler, doctored up with garlic bread spice baked right into it. You make the bread, wrap it in plastic, and give it a few days (or eat it right away–whatever works). And then, when you get your leftover Italian food out to give it a spin in the food nuker, you just slice off the appropriate amount of this bread and pop it into your toaster. A little bit of butter at the end, and voila. Garlic bread.

Nice, no?

We ate this for two nights and the kids devoured it. Don’t skip the toasting part, though–it’s not nearly as good in its plain-bread state as it is with a little crunch to it. This will freeze nicely, so it’s totally fine to wrap up whatever part you don’t eat right away and save it for your next go-round of spaghetti or whatever. I’m thinking this would also be a great bread to toast, slather with tomato sauce, sprinkle with Parmesan, and lay a poached egg on top of for breakfast. In fact, I may have to try that tomorrow.

Bread with the garlic baked in–it just doesn’t get a whole lot easier. You need:

3 cups of bread flour

2 tsp yeast

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup warm water

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tbsp garlic bread spice (either the recipe I shared a few weeks back or whatever you like)

Combine all of the ingredients in your bread machine and run it through the dough cycle.

If you don’t have a bread machine, combine all the ingredients with your mixer and knead it by hand for about five minutes, and then let it rest and rise for about 45 minutes or so.

Heat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray it with cooking spray.

Punch the dough down. Lay it on your baking sheet and roll and convince it into a log–mine was about 14 inches long by 4 inches wide or so:

Cover that with a clean dish towel and let it rise about a half-hour. Brush it with water and put it into the oven for 15 minutes. Then, lower your temperature to 350 and let it bake about another half-hour, until it’s golden brown and baked through.

Remove it from the oven, let it cool, and slice and toast.

Spanish or Italian Rice

6 Oct

Once a year, DH heads to Long Island to go ocean fishing with a client. I like this for two reasons: first, DH really likes his client and they have a great time together, so there are many smiles when he comes back home. And second, the person who really hits the jackpot from these trips is me, because I end up with a freezer full of rockfish.

These, my friends, are some gorgeous pieces of fish. They come home in a cooler as massive sides, unlike the wafer-thin filets I can buy at the market. I cut them into steaks (and they really are–a good two or three inches thick), wrap them individually, bag them, and store them in their portions in my freezer, ready to be pulled out for whatever deliciousness I have in mind that night. I usually make fish tacos because everyone will eat them, but last night, I felt like Italian.

Which leads me to today’s recipe for rice. I envisioned a yummy tomato-and-garlic basted fish over rice last night, but plain old white rice wasn’t going to cut it, and something out of a box wasn’t in the cards either. I wanted that same yummy tomato-ness in my starch, and put my grade school math to the test.

Flavoring rice is pretty simple. Two cups of liquid to one cup of rice (except water or broth–if you’re only using those, subtract a quarter cup of liquid). That holds true for tomato sauce, the juice in cans of tomatoes, or any other liquid that goes into the pot. Two to one.

I did the measurements last night so you can skip it, and honestly, I’d have eaten a big bowl of this on its own. My kids gobbled it up (boo-ya!). DH ate without comment, which is a score unto itself. And it was delicious with my rockfish, which we’ll talk about next week.

Onward. Ditch your box, gang. Try this. Trust me. You need:

1 tbsp olive oil

8 oz (1 cup) chicken or vegetable broth

One 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, undrained

1 15 oz can of tomato sauce

3/4 cup water

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 cup diced onion

1 tsp Italian seasoning

2 cups of white rice

In a large flat pan (I used my Every Day pan by Calphalon) or stockpot, stir together all of the ingredients. Turn your stove to medium (start with everything cold and heat it up together–you’ll get fluffier rice), bring it to a boil, give it a good stir, cover it, and lower the heat to low.

Cook for about 20-25 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so, until the liquid is almost absorbed. Take the lid off for the last few minutes of cooking. When you don’t see any excess liquid in the pot. turn the burner off and let it all sit for a few minutes.

(To make this more Spanish, add a little saffron, cumin, and/or chili powder to the mix)

Use ‘Em Up Tomatoes au Gratin

30 Aug

We were supposed to go to a party on Saturday–a baby shower for my husband’s cousin who is very happily expecting. Baby showers make me happy, and I gleefully shopped for the perfect gift and then the perfect dish to contribute to the event. It was to be my tomato-cucumber salad, as produce is at its amazing height where I live and I have a big mess o’ basil growing in a box on my deck.

Mother nature apparently shares not my love of showers. While I was wrapping up a little something to welcome the new person to the world, she was wrapping up a hurricane. And then she flung it right up the east coast to my house. When Saturday morning arrived, I sadly put my perfect outfit back on its hanger, called the party-giver to offer my regrets, and stowed my basil and other herbs in the garage to wait it out with our lawn furniture, toys, and random bits of outside life we didn’t want blown away.

That, my dear friends, left me with a mess of tomatoes to use up. And what do we do when we have veggies and need a little pick-me-up?

We toss carbs on top. Carbs and olive oil and garlic, and we toast it up under the broiler to make the most amazing, simple side dish (my lunch today, but who’s really counting?) you can imagine. Your house will smell like Italy and your mouth will be delighted.

This is so good that I’m going to stop rambling on and tell you how to make it, and then you should, right now, while the little red fruits are still at their peak. Go on. You need:

Tomatoes, cut into quarter-inch slices

Italian-style bread crumbs–I used about a third of a cup

Garlic powder–I used about a teaspoon

Grated Parmesan cheese–I used about two tablespoons.

Olive oil

Salt

Pre-heat your broiler, to low if you have a choice. Spray a small casserole dish with olive oil or nonstick spray. Layer your tomatoes in the dish, in a single layer as much as possible, overlapping where necessary. Sprinkle them with a touch of salt and a drizzle of oil.

In a small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, cheese, and garlic powder. Lay that mixture on top of your tomatoes until they’re just peeking out. Drizzle a bit more olive oil on top and put the dish under the broiler until the crumbs are brown and toasty. Enjoy.

(My amounts are inexact–it depends on your dish size and the number of tomatoes you use. But this is a perfect playing recipe–you can’t possibly mess it up. Guesstimate, adjust, and have at it.)

 

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Super Simple Take-Along Asparagus

25 Jul

We spent the weekend at our favorite vacation spot and, as luck would have it, got a call from some very good friends about dinner; they also happened to be in town. Fun! They invited us to dinner and we quite happily accepted, and then I offered to bring a dish and was asked for a side.

No problem, right? Except that, being on vacation, I didn’t have my usual arsenal of pots and pans and Yummy Things in Jars and Bottles. Also, being a working girl, I didn’t want to run out and buy $30 worth of condiments and spices and such for one dinner party, and then haul it all back home where it would sit for awhile (being duplicates of what I already have) until I didn’t want to use it anymore. So I hopped in the car and visited the local market to see what was fresh and in season, and would avoid both one person’s soy allergy and another’s gluten sensitivity.

This was perfect. In-season asparagus, a lemon, a little cheese, and a sprinkling of oil, and I had the perfect side–allergy-friendly, truly delicious, and perfect at room temperature, so there was no pressure to make room in her oven when we got there. It was gobbled up, and I’ll definitely do it again.

You need:

A bunch or two of asparagus (I used a bunch and a half for four adults)

One lemon

A little shaved or shredded Parmesan cheese (ask the deli for a sample, or just buy a hunk and know it’ll last forever)

Olive oil spray

Heat the oven to 425 degrees and spray a baking sheet with the oil.

Snap off the woody ends from the asparagus and lay it in a single layer on the baking sheet. Give it a scant shot of oil on its top side.

Cut the lemon in half, and sprinkle the asparagus with the juice of half  of it.

Put it in the oven and let it roast until it starts to caramelize and is crisp-tender. That was about 10 minutes in my oven, but keep an eye on it.

Pull it out of the oven, sprinkle it with the juice of the rest of the lemon, and sprinkle the cheese on top (it’ll melt just enough to stick to the spears…mmmmm). Let cool, package up, take along, and enjoy.

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