Side Dish Archive

Monday, November 18, 2013

green bean casserole with crispy onions

green bean casserole with crispy onions

One of the best food books I read last year but rudely never got around to telling you about (in my defense, this time last year was a little nuts) was a 135-page, photo-free and straightforward guide called Thanksgiving: How To Cook It Well by the New York Times former restaurant critic and sometimes newsroom editor Sam Sifton. And although I realize there is barely a page on the internet or of printed matter near you right now not currently angling to be the one that gets to walk you through the biggest home cooking holiday of the year next week, I like this one more. Maybe it’s because one of the earliest lines in the book is “You can go your whole life and then wake up one morning and look in the refrigerator at this animal carcass the size of a toddler and think: I have to cook that today. There is no need to worry. Thanksgiving does not have to be a drag,” and continues in that empathetic but not remotely patronizing tone for the remainder of the book, cheering you on through turkey purchases and homemade stock, classic sides and newer ones worthy of consideration, game plans and even tidbits on seating, such as whether it’s okay to separately seat the Republican, Marxist and Free Spirit factions of your extended family (in short: yes, absolutely yes).

halved and thinly sliced onion
onions tossed with flour, crumbs and seasoning

But it’s more likely because the book is compact, something you could drop in your bag and read later on the subway and be transported away from the crowds and airlessness to a glowy evening late in every November when you can shed all the crutches usually required to get through the day (shortcuts, irony, rushing, a mega-latte in a to-go cup, permanently adhered to your hand), set a table (any plywood over milk crates will do), forgo the appetizers (Sifton is adamantly anti-salad or anything else on Thanksgiving that will take up valuable stomach space better saved for foods draped with butter, cream, maple syrup and bacon*) and reminisce about that silly time you spent half the day making an gourmet sous-vide vegetable confit when all anyone really wants is the casserole they’ve always secretly loved and only get to revisit once a year.

cook a handful at a time, spread out

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

zucchini parmesan crisps

ugly and therefore tasty zucchini chips

Sometimes, I think the internet is trying to tell me something. Well, most days, many things, such as why nobody should ever, ever click on a certain VMA performance (which is like begging me to click, only for me to run away with my hands over my eyes. Why would you do that to me, internet?!), why this lady should be all of our new heroes, the effect of mirrors in grocery carts and also maybe where tiramisu comes from? So much stuff, people. But sometimes, the message is a little more pointed, such as the time a few weeks ago I was checking out a tres leches cake recipe for research on a likeminded popsicle and the sidebar suggested that maybe I might consider making zucchini crisps instead?

let's get ready to make zucchini crisps!
slice them to a scant 1/4-inch thick

I was suspicious — ever-mushy and damp zucchini? as chips? without frying but only using a tiny bit of oil? — and so I clicked over. They looked beautiful. People seemed to universally rave about them. It was almost dinnertime and, as usual, fully prepared food had yet materialize on our table, the forces of the universe disappointing me yet again. And of course, because it was August, I had no fewer than four zucchinis withering away in my fridge, waiting to be called upon for a higher purpose.

eh, skip the oil step

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

mama canales-garcia’s avocado-shrimp salsa

mama canales-garcia's avocado shrimp salsa

I’m not a summer person. Is it uncool to admit that you sort of hate sweating? Probably, so it’s a good thing you already knew I was a dork. New York City summers seem to be endless strings of heatwaves, and humidity so thick that even 82 degrees can feel like 105. Being pale and freckled, I seem to go through my body weight in sunscreen each summer, and still burn. Inside, the window air-conditioner units are always buzzing and always too cold; I consider summer something I must endure until my real love — crunchy fall leaves, cardigans, apple cider stands — returns in late September.

tomatoes, jalapeno, onion, avocado and shrimp
tiny shrimps, cut tinier is triply redundant, right?

Or so I thought. This summer, something has shifted and it’s like I finally paid attention, and when I did, I realized I’ve had it all wrong. Summer is awesomely, fantastically busy, and with only the good stuff, long days and social butterfly weekends. We haven’t even put the kid to bed on Sunday night before we start discussing how many friends-with-pools/barbecues/ferry excursions/beach towns/playground sprinklers/grilled anything we might be able to stuff into the next weekend. When the heat starts melting your brain, and with it, any ridiculous attempts at dissecting something you read in The New Yorker that week, you get to instead have intense discussions about the ideal popsicle format, how to best fill water balloons, which beaches have the silkiest sand and who makes the best Aperol Spritz. (Buvette, you’re winning.) I realized that there’s barely a month left to summer yesterday, and felt sad, because we need more time. The whole time I’ve been kvetching, summer waged a quiet war on my view of the seasons (“Does fall have watermelon this good? I didn’t think so!” “When was the last time you saw a rainbow through a sprinkler in January?!”) and it won.

chop this: small tomatoes or big

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, June 27, 2013

pickled vegetable sandwich slaw

mustard seed-pickled sandwich slaw

If you’re one of those people who saw the word “pickled” in the title and said “Ugh, no, sorry, not for me,” do know, I was the same not too long ago and encourage you to fight the good fight for as long as you can, because once your tastes cross over to the vinegar side, there’s little going back.

fact: colorful things taste better

Something of a gateway pickle, these should be eyed suspiciously as well. The thing is, one day you’re eating the foods you’ve always liked — sandwiches, salads, tacos, cheese — and you wouldn’t change a single thing. And then, once day, the quadruple-threat crunch/sweet/salty/punch of a pickle gets under your skin and suddenly, the food landscape is a bleak, depressing place without them. You need pickled red onions on your tacos, pickled celery in your tuna and egg salads, cucumber slices in your potato salads, grapes with your sharp cheeses and pickled carrot sticks in the fridge whenever the mood strikes, and nothing’s ever quite right without them again. I can find a clear demarcation in my pre- and post-pickle junkie days (it’s just about 10 (!) years ago, when I took up with this Russian I married) and think there’s still hope for you. Here, how about some granita instead?

julienned radishes, maybe not recommended

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

zucchini rice gratin

zucchini, tomato and rice gratin

As promised, I am here to aid you with you midsummer afternoon’s zucchini nightmare, er, bounty. But please, just because I try to help people who weren’t wary enough of friends bearing baskets of zucchini doesn’t mean that I should be mistaken for someone who never lets zucchini expire on her watch. I went away for the weekend and left my last haul to meet a terrible end in my kitchen. Let this gratin be my zucchini repentance.

sliced zucchini
lightly roasted tomatoes and zucchini

I started making this zucchini rice gratin a few years ago. At the time, well, rice wasn’t my thing. I wouldn’t say I didn’t like it, just that it never, ever occurred to me to make it, which likely related to the fact that I burned it 100% of the time I made it, which led to pot-soaking and -scrubbing and a plague about our apartment known as a Grumpy Dishwasher. It hardly seemed worth it for a bit of rice. I’ve since figured out that nearly every package of rice lists the wrong amount of water (I always need more) and that on the gas stoves I’ve had, even the thinnest wisp of a flame, the lowest I can make it before the burner goes out entirely, will cook my rice in about 2/3 of the suggested time. I share these tips just in case any of you out there also need to go to Rice Remedial School, though you guys seem smart. I bet you’ve got this figured out already, and long before you wrote a cookbook that uses it no less than three times.

mixing rice, onions, herbs, parmesan

Continued after the jump »


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