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Archive for the ‘Vegetable Side Dishes’ Category

One of our favorite vegetables for Fall and Winter is fennel. It’s subtle anise flavor, lends a  certain sweetness that complements this season’s cooking perfectly. The best part about this root vegetable is it’s versatility. It can be eaten roasted, sautéed, braised or raw. While the white bulb is the most used part of this vegetable, don’t throw away the stems — they can be used to subtly flavor soups and stocks. The feathery fronds that sprout from the tops can be used as a finishing herb or added to salads and sauces. When it comes to flavor and bang for your buck, fennel is definitely the seasonal produce that packs a punch! Here are some of our favorite ways to use this Fall gem:

KEEP IT RAW
One of our go-to salads this time of year is an explosion of flavors and textures and it all starts with thinly shaved fennel (to shave it thinly, we recommend a hand-held slicer like the Kyocera ones – great tool to have in your kitchen). Then we have halved grapes, thinly shaved apples and leaves of watercress. We toss the whole thing lightly in a maple vinaigrette (maple, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper and olive oil). This is a salad that makes you want to eat salads.

SWAP IT OUT
A great way to start using fennel is to swap it out for onions. Any time a recipe starts with some sautéed onions and garlic try using some fennel and garlic instead – you’ll notice it’s sweet, rich flavor in the background of dish. For instance, try caramelizing it in some butter and thyme in place of caramelized onions…..you’ll be eating this sweet concoction right out of the pan!

BRAISED & BROWNED
Leave it to the French to figure out the most luscious way to prepare fennel: braised in buttery stock and finish in the oven with cheese. To do this, cut the stalks off the fennel and then cut the bulb in quarters. Place in a pot with a couple pats of butter and enough stock to just barely cover the fennel. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until very tender. Strain out the soft fennel and place in a shallow baking dish. Top with a sprinkle of parmesan or Gruyère cheese and some salt and pepper. Bake at 450 until golden and melted. A vegetable has never tasted so good!

Join us for our popular Global Comfort Food class to learn an amazing Fennel, Bread and Tomato Soup recipe that is perfect for cold Winter nights. If you already have Thanksgiving on the brain, we have you covered with our annual Thanksgiving 101 class, where we’ll demonstrate how to create a Brioche Dressing with Caramelized Fennel, Fuji Apples and Pancetta that is sure to become a family favorite!!

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These little fritters are always a hit at our catered event…there’s something about a crispy vegetable that is so appealing! We make many variations on this recipe, substituting the zucchini with shredded raw butternut squash, carrots, sweet potato, yellow squash. But these are my personal favorite — they are light and delicate on the inside and crispy on the outside, topped with a creamy dollop of ricotta. Just be sure to squeeze the shredded raw vegetables very dry before moving on with the recipe…otherwise you’ll have soggy fritters. Also, don’t skip topping the ricotta with plenty of cracked black pepper just before serving (or red chili flakes if you like some heat) — it’s that tasty final touch that puts these over the edge.

Zucchini Fritters with Ricotta & Mint

makes about 25 fritters

4 medium zucchini, coarsely grated (makes about 6-7 cups)

2 tbl finely chopped scallions

2 tbl finely chopped dil

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup crumbled feta

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

vegetable oil, for frying

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup chopped mint

Place the shredded zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon of salt. Toss and let stand for 5-10 minutes. Rinse lightly and squeeze as much of the liquid out as possible and transfer to a bowl.
Add the scallions, dill, flour, baking soda, feta, egg, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add about 1/2-inch of vegetable oil to a wide pan. Add heaping tablespoons of the batter to the pan and cook until golden. Flip and cook until golden and cooked through on the second side. Remove and place on a paper-towel-lined pan to remove excess oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt as soon as they come out of the oil.
Whisk the ricotta and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve the fritters hot topped with ricotta and some fresh mint and final sprinkle of cracked black pepper.

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I’m always so excited to see the first asparagus of the season. It usually begins with just a few bundles on the tables of our farmer’s market…the tentative beginnings of the crop. Then, within a couple weeks, there are huge piles of asparagus signaling Spring is really here. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for Spring….ready for some sunshine, ready for all my favorite green veggies (artichokes, peas and spring onions) and ready to eat asparagus like crazy for the next few months until it goes out of season.

I recently learned more about the difference between the large, thick stalks of asparagus and the thin, pencil variety. I always thought the thin was more tender and desirable. Turns out the large, thick asparagus are actually the first shoot of the plant and, therefore, more tender and flavorful. But you have to be careful to trim the bottom of those big stalks (that part is full of fibers and can be tough) and peel the outer green layer. Then you’re left with the most flavorful, tender asparagus to work with. I like the big ones simply steamed and served with a drizzle of good olive oil and a squirt of lemon juice and a crunch of Maldon salt — simple and delicious.

When I have the smaller stalks, my favorite thing to do is toss them in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and throw them on the grill. I love the charred black bits against the bright green and all that smokey flavor. If I have more time, I’ll make my favorite Roasted Red Pepper Sauce to go over the top….full of more smokey flavors and a nice acidic tang from Sherry vinegar. We also use this sauce in our catered events to serve over roasted potatoes or salmon….it’s also delicious sopped up with some good bread! Enjoy!

 

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

makes 2 cups

2 red bell peppers

1 clove garlic

1/2 tsp red chili flakes

1 tsp dijon mustard

2 tbl Sherry vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Place the peppers over a gas flame and cook, turning as needed, until all the skin is blackened. Remove and place in a bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Let cook for 10 minutes. Use paper towels to rub off the black skin and discard. Cut open the pepper and discard the stem and seeds. Pat the pepper dry and place into a blender. Add the garlic, chili, mustard, vinegar and olive oil. Blend until very smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

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We were recently asked to make latkes for a catered event and we were thrilled!  We made over 160 latkes for this all-appetizer party for 50 people, along with 5 other menu items and the latkes were the first thing to go — they were a smash hit. And no wonder — who doesn’t love a crispy pile of potatoes after all? Latkes are one of those foods that, for many, represent family tradition and holiday celebration — and that means that for every family there is a grandmother-approved way of making them and eating them. For some it’s extra crispy, for some it’s soft in the middle, for some it’s smoked salmon, for some it’s applesauce. While we don’t want to step on grandma’s toes, we decided it would be fun to mix it up and offer a variety of toppings for this particular party. So we did latkes with creamy horseradish sauce, watercress sauce and smoked salmon, creme fraiche and caviar, apple-thyme compote and pomegranate-orange relish. The smoked salmon one went first, but I like the apple-thyme compote the best. At the risk of ruffling the feathers of tradition, here are our tips for making the perfect latke, along with a recipe for the watercress sauce that was such a hit. We did one batch with just potatoes and onions and one with some added carrot. In the end, they all tasted the same and you couldn’t really see the orange of the carrot. I’ve done a version with all butternut squash before that were pretty and delicious — a nice alternative to the original.

1. SHRED WITH SPEED – While there’s nothing wrong with using a traditional box grater, there is nothing like hand grating 10 pounds of potatoes to make you never want to cook again. And we are against anything that makes cooking harder than it needs to be. So may we suggest pulling out those grating disks that came with your Cuisinart (or other food processor) that are on a bottom shelf somewhere collecting dust. This is their time to shine. Remove the standard blade from your food processor and replace with the largest grating blade and the whole grating part of this recipe will take under 5 minutes.

2. MOISTURE IS THE ENEMY – Whenever the goal is making something golden brown, moisture is not your friend. This poses a problem when working with vegetables that have a lot of natural water in them, like potatoes. The key to the perfect latke is drying your potatoes before you continue with the recipe. To do this, we like to use a clean, dust-free kitchen towel. Simply dump the freshly grated potatoes in the towel, bundle together and squeeze over the sink. You’ll be surprised to see about a cup of liquid come out. Do this in batches until all of the potatoes are dry before mixing in the other ingredients.

3. DON’T SKIMP ON THE OIL – Sorry, folks, but this is not a low-fat recipe. It’s fried. That’s what makes it delicious. So don’t try to get away with a few squirts from an olive oil spray bottle. You’ll need a solid 1/4-inch of oil on the bottom of the pan to get these to golden perfection.

4. BE CAREFUL. THIS IS HOT OIL WE’RE TALKING ABOUT – May seem obvious but it just takes one burn from a splatter of hot oil to ruin your day. Our advice is to use tongs to gently turn over the latkes – they allow you much more control than a spatula.

4. SEASON TWICE – If there was one single tip we could give you that could turn your home-cooked food from just OK to fantastic, it’s to learn to season correctly. This means using salt and pepper at multiple times during a recipe. For this one, you’ll add salt into the mix AND sprinkle some salt and pepper on the latkes when they come out of the pan. This ensures the flavors are all balanced. There’s nothing worse than a bland latke.

TRADITIONAL LATKES

makes about 2 dozen

4 large russet potatoes, peeled

1 onion, peeled

1 cup flour

2 eggs

1 tablespoon salt

vegetable oil for cooking

Grate the potatoes and onions using the largest grating blade in your food processor. Use a clean kitchen towel to squeeze the vegetables dry in batches. Dump all of the dry veggies into a large bowl and add the flour, eggs and salt. Use your hands to mix together until well combined.

Add about 1/4-inch of vegetable oil to a large skillet and place over medium-high heat. To see if the oil is hot enough, drop a couple strands of potato into the oil – if it sizzles immediately, you’re ready to go.

Drop about 2 tablespoons of the mixture at a time into the oil creating little piles (don’t spread the piles too thin or they will fall apart when you try to turn them). Once golden on the first side (about 3 minutes), use tongs to gently turn over and cook until golden on the other side.

Remove and place on a paper-towel-lined baking sheet and immediately sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with your favorite topping.

NOTE: Latkes do not hold well overnight. If you want to make them before serving, your best bet is to make them same day and let them sit at room temperature. Before serving, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven and cook for 5 minutes until sizzling hot. If you have extra cooked latkes, they freeze nicely. Place them on a baking sheet in the freezer. Once frozen, combine them in a Ziploc bag and keep in the freezer for up to a couple months. To reheat, place directly from freezer on a baking sheet in a 375 degree oven and cook for about 15 minutes or until sizzling hot.

WATERCRESS SAUCE 

makes 1 1/2 cups

1 cup watercress leaves

1 clove garlic

1/4 cup fresh dill

zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 cup sour cream

1/3 cup mayonnaise

salt and pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Serve latkes with a dollop of this sauce and a small piece of smoked salmon.

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I’m always looking for new and interesting side dishes for the holiday table. There are so many food traditions this time of year, so many family culinary “rules” we are required to follow. Like how to perfectly roast a turkey (is basting really necessary?) or what size marshmallows go on top of the sweet potatoes (how about zero?). With all these traditions to keep, I think the one dish on the table that’s open to yearly interpretation is the vegetable dish. For many, it’s an unimportant side that’s just there to make us feel better about all the white food we’re eating. But for me, it’s a place of endless opportunity and inspiration. My tactic: make it as beautiful as possible so it steals the show from the entrée. This year’s contender: slices of orange squash lacquered with a ruby glaze, topped with a vibrant pesto and a sprinkle of pomegranate jewels.

This dish is not just nice to look at. It’s a delicious blend of sweet, tangy and salty flavors. First, I make a glaze of pomegranate juice, honey and orange. Then I use this glaze to brush onto the acorn squash slices while roasting. Meanwhile, I blanch kale and use it to make a pesto along with fresh mint, salty Parmesan and fruity olive oil. Finally, it all comes together topped with crunchy pomegranate seeds. The best part about it is it’s good hot or room temperature and can be prepped out ahead of time. Another plus: it’s a hearty dish that will delight any vegetarian guests you may have around your holiday table this year.

Note that you can change this recipe around in many ways. Use a different winter squash (butternut or kabocha would be excellent). Use a different green or herb for the pesto (arugula and basil is a fantastic mix of sweet and spicy).

POMEGRANATE LACQUERED SQUASH with KALE PESTO
serves 4-6

for the squash:

1 cup 100% pomegranate juice
1/3 cup honey
1 tbl orange zest
1 garlic clove, (peeled & left whole)
3 tbl butter, cold
4 lbs acorn squash, (2 small-medium)
salt and pepper, as needed
olive oil, as needed

for the pesto:

2 cups roughly chopped kale
1/4 cup mint leaves
1/4 cup walnuts
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup grated parmesan
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a small pot, combine the pomegranate juice, honey, orange zest, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Boil about 5 minutes or until reduced by a little more than half (it should just coat the back of a spoon). Remove from heat and whisk in the cold butter. Season with a bit more salt and pepper. Use a large knife to cut the squash open. (NOTE: If this is too hard to do, you can soften the squash slightly by microwaving for 1 minute OR by dropping into boiling water for 1-2 minutes.) Scoop out the insides and cut the squash into 1-inch thick wedges. Toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Brush with the glaze and roast for 10 minutes. Brush with more glaze and continue roasting for 10 more minutes or until tender. Remove from the oven and brush with more glaze. Let cool about 2 minutes before removing from pan and tossing with the rest of the glaze.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil and get a bowl of ice water ready. Drop the kale into the water and cook for just 30 seconds or until bright green. Remove and plunge into the ice bath. Once cold, remove the kale from the bath and pat dry. Place in a food processor with the mint, garlic, walnut and parmesan. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Blend until chunky before beginning to drizzle in olive oil. Add oil until mixture is a thin pesto. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Serve the squash hot or room temperature topped with the pesto.

Enjoy!!

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I was making our famous beer braised short ribs the other night for a catering job and wanted to make an interesting side dish that would (A) help soak up all that great braising liquid and (B) add a nice color to the plate. I love a basic mashed potato as much as the next person, but white and brown just seems so sad sometimes. So I decided to do a potato-squash puree. It has the best of both worlds. Its thicker than a squash puree because of the addition of some potatoes and it has the sweetness of the squash.

I started with a mix of butternut squash and yukon gold potatoes (although you can use any combination of potatoes and Winter squash) and a few bay leaves. I always add a few bay leaves into the cooking water for my mashed potatoes — they impart a nice layer of earthy flavor. And because all purees need a good bit of butter to make them luscious and rich, I added browned butter and chopped sage. The result was a gorgeous orange puree that was the perfect place to nestle a pile of lovely braised short ribs. And if cutting up butternut squash is the reason you don’t cook with it, check out our video on Cooking with Winter Squash for a demo on how to easily manage this winter beast.

By the way — if you have any leftovers (which I doubt), you can easily reheat this puree and thin it out a bit with some chicken or vegetable stock and you’ve got a lovely creamy soup.

Fall Puree with Sage Browned Butter

serves about 6

6 cups cubed butternut squash

3 cups cubed yukon gold potatoes (peeled first)

3 bay leaves

6 tablespoons butter

2 tbl chopped fresh sage

salt and pepper

pinch freshly ground nutmeg

Combine the squash, potato and bay leaves in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until fork-tender. Drain (don’t rinse!). Discard bay leaves.

Meanwhile, in a small pan, melt the butter over medium heat and continue to cook until the butter browns. Add the sage and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat.

In a food processor, combine the cooked veggies, browned butter mixture, some salt, pepper and nutmeg. Blend until smooth. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed.

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