Side Dish Archive

Thursday, November 20, 2014

crispy sweet potato roast

crispy sweet potato roast

I have a complicated relationship with sweet potatoes. I think they’re one of these wonder vegetables — impossible to mess up cooking, pretty consistently delicious whether you buy them freshly-dug from the farmers market or from a grocery chain, aglow with vitamins A and C and chock full of fiber. [Which I mostly think about because I’m the mother of a sweet potato junkie.] I like them in cake, sweet biscuits and pie. I like them with goat cheese and a light vinaigrette, gratin-ed with a tangle of chard, with a strange-but-addictive mix of spices and roasted in wedges, and one-bowl-meal-ed with roasted broccoli, black rice and miso sauce. But I also have all sorts of quibbles with them. They’re never crispy enough. They’re rarely savory enough — basically, if you get within 10 feet of my savory sweet potato dish with cinnamon, I go into hiding. For me, the louder the contrast between their sweet, soft nature, the happier I am eating them.

sweet potatoes everywhere
peeling

Which means that it was only a matter of time before I took this pretty-pretty crispy potato roast from the archives and tried to put a Thanksgiving spin on it. The ta-da factor is strong here and the workload manageable. You thinly slice a whole lot of sweet potatoes and arrange them in a butter and olive oil-brushed dish, and brush them with even more. You can slide slivers of shallots between the sweet potato pages. You’ll want to shower the whole thing with salt and black pepper or red pepper flakes. You bake it with foil on long enough that the insides get tender and without foil long enough to get the tops brown and crispy. This is not your standard holiday sweet potato mash.

you'll have a lot

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

pretzel parker house rolls

pretzel parker house rolls

There are kitchen discoveries that lead to nothing but trouble. The first time I caramelized sugar, I knew I was ruined. Why would anyone want to eat drab white sugar if they could eat it cooked to a 100x as delicious toasty amber syrup? The first time I tried browned butter, I went on a butter-browning bender (cookies! breadcrumbs! crispy treats!) which, frankly, shows little sign of abating today. So, it should be no surprise that when I finally cracked the authentic pretzel-making code six months ago, I didn’t know where to stop. Everything comes up pretzel now! I’ve made pretzel scones and pretzel challahs. I’m dreaming of pretzel shortbread and popovers, pretzel bagels and grissini. I might need an intervention.

kneaded and doughy
a bored-of-watching-dough-rise selfie

But before you all gather round my canister of food-grade lye, my latex gloves and the onion goggles I really should have more shame about owning, and sit me down for a talk about where things are going, I think we need one more pretzel thing this year, and I’d like to believe I saved the best for last.

my unscientific way of dividing doughs

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Monday, November 10, 2014

pickled cabbage salad

pickled cabbage salad

I first discovered the peculiar subcategory of chopped raw vegetables called “health salads” some 14 years ago when a friend introduced me to the many wonders of the prepared foods aisle at Zabar’s. Even then, I found the idea of one type of salad being labeled “healthy” while my other favorite in the same refrigerator case, the Mediterranean Pepper Salad with Feta and Olives was, I don’t know, something akin to a heart attack on a cracker, somewhat eye-rolling but I now realize that it was the coleslaw-like salad’s mayo-free dressing that designated it such a lofty nutritional status.

what you'll need
lots of cabbage

Regardless, ever stubborn, I did not eat it because it lacked much-maligned mayo, because it was chock full of folate-rich cabbage or because it was branded wholesome, but because I liked it. Crunchy, bright, as good on day 2 as it is on day 7, it was the perfect light meal or side to a sandwich and even though I lived nowhere near the store and found shopping at Zabar’s, even on the slowest day, to be a shopping-cart-rammed-into-the-back-of-my-heels level of annoying (though, really, I should know better than to pause between locals and their smoked fish counter), I was a loyal customer for life so long as they could keep providing me my lightly pickled cabbage fix.

i like it colorful

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

cauliflower cheese

cauliflower cheese

What, you’ve never had cauliflower cheese before? Why, it’s right up there on the American Heart Association’s recommended diet, above the kale and below the oat bran. Okay, well, maybe just the cauliflower is. I realize this dish may sound strange if you’ve never heard of it. The first time I saw it on a menu in the UK last fall, I thought a word was missing, perhaps “with” or “and.” I mean, you cannot make cheese out of cauliflower or vice-versa, or at least I hope not.* And then I tried it, bubbling and brown in a small ramekin aside my roast** at a tiny Inn in the middle of nowhere that looks like something you’d see in a Bridget Jones Diary (basically where I learned everything I knew about the UK before I got there, well, that and Morrissey songs) and I stopped talking. I stopped thinking. My heart may or may not have stopped beating for a moment, though I’m sure it was love, not fibrillations. How could it be anything but, when cauliflower florets are draped with a sharp cheddar cheese sauce spiked with mustard and a bit of cayenne and then baked in the oven until bronzed and, wait, what were we talking about again?

cauliflower, spice, s/p, butter, milk, cheese
chopped florets

This is a British dish, if the sharp cheddar, mustard powder, cayenne and charmed name didn’t give it away. I realize that British food has long been a punching bag for other supposedly superior world cuisines, but I found this to be anything but the case. Even if I had, the awesome names of national dishes — toad in the holes, bubble and squeaks, spotted dicks, singing hinnies, jam roly-polys and doorstop sandwiches — would have more than compensated for any failures in the flavor department.

cook until firm-tender

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

cauliflower slaw

cauliflower slaw

Given my druthers, a word I’ve been looking for an excuse to type in a sentence for at least eight years, I would never choose a salad with lettuce in it over one that’s mostly shaved or shredded raw vegetables. I mean, lettuce — the dewy, freshly-plucked-from-the-earth stuff that spends a couple months a year gracing local farmer’s markets — can be absolutely delicious, but nine times out of ten, the same word is used to refer to that packaged stuff that doesn’t taste like a whole lot. And can we talk for just a second about that prematurely rotten red leaf that no bag of mesclun is ever without? Clearly I have spent an unnatural amount of time thinking about this. But in a world filled with avocado cup salads, broccoli slaw, butternut squash, carrot salads with harissa, feta and mint or tahini and crisped chickpeas, chopped salads with lime, sunflower seeds and radishes, crushed peas with sesame dressing and fennel with blood oranges* I’ve found little reason to worship solely at the salad altar of baby field greens.

what you'll neeed
thinly sliced raw cauliflower

Ever since I made one of my favorite salads to date, the broccoli slaw, I have wanted to make a cauliflower slaw companion for it, and I know this because I have listed it no less than five times on my sprawling To Cook list. I knew that I wanted it to be “mayo-free,” with a “sharp lemony dressing.” I knew that I wanted it to have “tiny dried currants” in it, and that maybe I’d soak/plump them in the dressing for a while so they added more than just sweetness. I knew that, like the broccoli slaw, it should have well-toasted almonds in it, and that I didn’t mind if it had capers in it, especially if they were crispy. But I couldn’t figure out the structure — I was convinced that cauliflower, shaved thinly, would be nothing but a pile of rubble, but not in a charming way. And then a couple months ago a cauliflower salad appeared on the menu of my favorite restaurant, Barbuto in the West Village (which also brought us this kale salad), and to my delight, it turned out to have many elements of the cauliflower slaw I’d been dreaming about — theirs with raisins, hazelnuts and a unholy helping of olive oil — and the cauliflower had been shaved thin on an adjustable-blade slicer and it was perfect. Sure, there was some rubble but there was an equal amount of nicely intact slices and all I wanted to go home and make it the very next second.

cooling the almonds outside

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