Side Dish Archive

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 »

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

broccoli parmesan fritters

broccoli parmesan fritters

Last week, it was pointed out to me that among the 750 recipes in the archives, there is but a single recipe that utilizes broccoli. Just one! (It’s a great one, though.) For comparison, there are 11 recipes that use cauliflower and 26 with mushrooms. What terrible oversight could have led to this? I buy broccoli (and its friends) approximately once a week, year-round but this wasn’t always the case. I never disliked broccoli — I’m not this guy — but it wasn’t until my toddler took a great interest in chomping down on huge florets, raw, cooked, or three days old, that it became part of our regular rotation.

we go through a lot of this
choppped roughly

Please understand: this is not one of those stories about how preciously advanced my toddler’s tastes are, how early he took an interest in foie gras and how he turns his nose up at white flour pastas, preferring farro. Oh no. It is, in fact, the opposite. Let’s say you called me on the phone day — you know, presuming we lived on a planet where people still spoke on the phone — and said “My toddler! He eats nothing but macaroni and cheese and graham crackers! How do I get him to eat vegetables?” I would respond, without blinking twice: “Fritters.” Except my enthusiasm for fritters is so great that it would come out “FRITTERS!” in the background, I’d be doing jazz hands, and in my head, there would be Rockettes singing and high-kicking to this tune that I promise to never sing for you in person that goes, “Fritterrrrrrrrs! Fritters are the answer!” Let’s definitely never speak about this part again.

best part: mashing the broccoli

Continued after the jump »

Friday, June 1, 2012

asparagus with almonds and yogurt dressing

roasted asparagus with almonds and yogurt

One of the things I love about my city is the way we jump at the chance celebrate local events as unofficial, illogical holidays, just because. I get redorkulously excited about the Mermaid Parade, as well as the dapper sea of white uniforms all over the city during Fleet Week. I still haven’t convinced my (Russian! it’s in his blood and everything, I tell him) to do a Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge with me on New Year’s Day, but I did get him to stand on a center median of 14th Street looking west on Wednesday night at 8:16 p.m. (along with such a confusing cluster of people that a second crowd formed to scratch their heads at us) to catch a glimpse of this season’s Manhattanhenge. The events are random and even a little absurd, but NYC is no place to miss a chance to let your goofy flag fly.

asparagus headshot!
asparagus, from the sky, er, stepladder

I have another, smaller, day that I add to this list, which is the day that the mini-Farmer’s Market in my neighborhood opens each May. (Were you to dig through the archives, there’s a clear day every May when the site switches from pantry-raiders like soup and pasta to fresh new happy things.) Like a hopeless nerd with a shiny apple for the teacher on the first day of class, I show up the minute it opens and make a beeline for the broccoli, spinach and baby watermelons. I buy too much. I come back later and buy more, anyway. After six months of brown vegetables, you can’t blame me for overdoing it at the prospect of pearly stalks of rhubarb, lawns of asparagus, and strawberries that are red all the way through.

toasted marconas, lemon, hard-cooked eggs

Continued after the jump »

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

dijon-braised brussels sprouts

saucing the sprouts

Is there anything so dull as a brussels sprouts recipe just days after the brussels sprout-ing-est holiday of the year? No? Phew. Because these sprouts, they’re a long time coming. It took me forever to get them right. I’d originally intended them for the cookbook. I made them six different ways in the fall of 2010, and I never found what I was looking for. It was a year before I could even look at brussels again, and by that time, the book had moved on without them. But I had not.

a sad bag of sprouts, much to peel
halved

I wanted a brussels sprout dish that was the opposite of what I’ve been seeing around in the last couple years — that would be free of nuggets of slab bacon, toasted nuts, buttery breadcrumbs, crumbled cheese or individual leaves, deep fried until crisp as potato chips. Do I dislike any of these things? Heavens, no. But they’re all so heavy. And rich. And brussels, with their cabbage origins, are hearty enough. I wanted to cook them in a simple braise, and then finish them with a piercing, heavenly sauce, something that cut right through the leafiness without adding mountains of pork fat. I wanted the cabbage equivalent of our favorite chicken dish.

pan-browned brussels

Continued after the jump »

Saturday, April 23, 2011

crispy potato roast

crispy potato roast

I fell for a photo this week. It was on marthastewart.com and it looked like an accordion, or maybe a Slinky, of thinly sliced, crisped potatoes and my brain computed this as CHIPS. POTATO CHIPS MASQUERADING AS GROWN-UP SIDE DISH. MUST MAKE POTATO CHIP CASSEROLE (I was kind of like this dog here) and although further investigation of the recipe unveiled no actual use of potato chips, creamed canned soup or anything also that would really allow it to be titled a Potato Chip Casserole, it was too late and I was making it anyway.

spuds
peeling

Plus, I was looking for a gratin alternative for potatoes for my family’s Seder on Monday night and this fit the bill perfectly. It’s not that I don’t like, nay love, any excuse to drown potatoes in cream and butter and swaddle them in a blistered cheese lid, but given that there was already going to be a spread, it didn’t seem necessary that the potatoes be so over-the-top.

slicing

Continued after the jump »


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