Category Archives: Side Dishes

Sweet and Savory Side Dish: Spinach with Bacon and Pomegranate

Tis the season for pomegranates! I used them in a salad a couple weeks ago and was trying to find a way to use up the other pomegranate I had in an equally delicious, but more creative, way.

My good friend (we’ll call him D) told me he made spinach with pomegranate seeds in it, and I deemed him the genius of our time. It adds a nice crunch and sweetness to an otherwise soft and bitter green. And, as we all know, bacon makes everything delicious.

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You could try this dish out with mustard greens or kale and pair it with roast chicken. Or use it as a side dish at the Thanksgiving table at the end of the month and breath a sigh of relief that those creamy green beans finally have a replacement. (No one actually likes that green bean casserole, right? Don’t answer this if you lived through the 70s…)

Happy side-dishing! (Hint: Here is my tutorial on how to extract pom seeds)

Sautéed Spinach with Bacon and Pomegranate Seeds

Serves 4 side dish portions

What You Need

  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 12 oz. fresh spinach
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Dash or two of cayenne

Saute It

  1. In a large pan, cook the four slices of bacon until crisp over medium heat. Remove from pan once cooked and let drain on a paper-towel covered plate. Crumble once slightly cooled.
  2. Leave the bacon grease in the pan and turn the heat to medium-low and add the spinach, tossing to fully coat in the grease.IMG_6979
  3. Add salt, pepper and cayenne and toss again. Cook until spinach is just wilted, about two minutes.
  4. Plate the spinach and add the crumbled bacon and pomegranate seeds on top, tossing to evenly distribute.
  5. Serve and be amazed at how delicious poms are in spinach.IMG_6980

Tips and Variations

  • Cut the bacon into one-inch pieces prior to cooking to avoid crumbling afterward.
  • Use mustard greens or kale
  • Not a bacon fan or going meatless? Add smoked paprika to the spinach and sauté in olive oil instead.
  • If you want some more sweetness, add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar at the end.

 

Free-for-All Friday: Blue-Cheese Crusted Steak with Crispy Smashed Potatoes

It’s rare that I crave meat, but lately, a really good steak with blue cheese has been on my mind — creeping into my thoughts, ruining my productivity. I can only take so much tofu before I need something with built-in flavor.

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And the notion that you need to go out to devour a decadent piece of beef is absurd. You can make it in your kitchen in about half an hour. Promise.

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Vegans and vegetarians, don’t look away just yet! There’s a side-dish recipe buried in this post just for you!

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Happy cooking, friends. Liven up your weekend with this dish. Indulge. Eat and be merry.

Blue Cheese-Crusted Steak

Serves 1, but easily doubled

Ingredients

  • Your favorite cut of steak (I went for the ribeye)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste (or your favorite steak seasoning)
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 2-oz blue cheese, crumbled and at room temp
  • 1 Tbsp. bread crumbs or panko
  • 1 tsp. chopped parsley
  • Leaves from 2 stems of fresh thyme

The How-To

  1. Set the oven to broil.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the blue cheese, bread crumbs, parsley and thyme. Set aside for later.IMG_6845
  3. In a cast-iron skillet, melt the butter over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes, or until pan is hot.
  4. Meanwhile, season the steak (and make sure the chill is off the meat. Take it out of the fridge 20 minutes or so before you want to cook it).
  5. Once the pan is hot (sprinkle some water on it if you’re not sure. The water should sizzle), add the steak and cook on one side for two minutes, or until nicely browned. Flip the steak and add the blue cheese crumble mixture on top, slightly pressing down.IMG_6852
  6. Transfer the skillet to the broiler, allowing the cheese on top to get brown and bubbly. This will help finish the steak to a nice medium doneness. It should take about 5 minutes under the broiler.
  7. Let it rest before digging in. It’s hard, I know, but it’s also worth it.IMG_6857

Crispy Smashed Roasted Potatoes

Serves 4 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 12-15 red, yellow or purple potatoes (about 1-inch in length). Fingerlings work well.
  • 2 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup EVOO

The How-To

  1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Put the potatoes in a large saucepan (preferable in one layer) and cover with at least one inch of water. Add 2 teaspoons salt to the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook the taters until they are tender, about 30 minutes. Test for doneness with a sharp knife or skewer. They should be cooked through, but not overdone.
  3. While potatoes are cooking, set up a double layer of clean dishtowels on the countertop. As the potatoes finish, remove them individually from the water and let them drain for a minute on the dishtowels.
  4. Fold another dishtowel into quarters and, using it as a cover, gently press down on one potato with the palm of your hand to flatten it to a thickness of about 1/2 an inch. Repeat with all the potatoes. Don’t worry if some break apart a bit; you can still use them.IMG_6841
  5. Cover a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil and line with a sheet of parchment paper. Transfer the flattened potatoes carefully to the baking sheet and let them cool completely at room temperature.
  6. Sprinkle the potatoes with 3/4 teaspoon salt and drizzle the olive oil over all of them. Lift the potatoes gently to make sure some of the oil goes underneath them and that they are well-coated on both sides.
  7. Roast potatoes until crispy and deep brown around the edges, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with freshly-chopped parsley. Serve hot and alongside your steak.IMG_6846

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Free-For-All Friday: Baked Pears With Blue Cheese, Walnuts and Honey

I don’t really eat dessert. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate it, because I love me some chocolate. But it’s just not something I consume — or make — very often.

My very good friend Annie was helping me brainstorm some ideas for blog posts and she suggested a fall-type dessert, a sort of teaser for the impending season.

We came up with baked pears with blue cheese and honey, and walnuts for texture (and because I had some in my freezer patiently waiting to be used up).

Delicious on their own. Dynamite when combined.

Delicious on their own. Dynamite when combined.

This recipe is super simple and a crowd-pleaser, perfect for when you want to impress company. Pears are in season and you can choose a local honey to showcase on this dish. It’s a savory dessert with enough sweetness to leave that tooth of yours satisfied.

And let’s be honest, you can never go wrong with blue cheese. Even for dessert.

Baked Pears with Blue Cheese, Walnuts and Honey

Serves 4

What You Need

  • 2 Bartlett or Anjour Pears, halved and cored
  • EVOO, for drizzling
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2-3 Tbsp. blue cheese, crumbled (reach for the good stuff)
  • 2-3 Tbsp. walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • Your favorite honey, for drizzling
  • Fresh thyme, optional

What You Do

  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. On a lined baking sheet, lay the pear halves cut-side up. Drizzle with EVOO and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. If using thyme, sprinkle the leaves on.IMG_6726
  3. Bake the pears for about 20 minutes.
  4. Take the pears out of the oven and fill each half with blue cheese. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes.IMG_6742
  5. Remove the pears from the oven and let sit for about 3 minutes. Add chopped walnuts on top and drizzle with honey. Serve one half to each guest.IMG_6744 IMG_6754
  6. Take a bite and realize how deliciously savory dessert can be.

Tips and Variations

  • Toast the walnuts beforehand in the oven for about 5 minutes, or on a stove top in a dry pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
  • Use pecans instead of walnuts.
  • Top off with dried cranberries for even more of a fall flavor
  • Sprinkle the pear with cinnamon or cardamom instead of salt and pepper before putting it in the oven for more of a sweet flavor.
  • Use pears that are ripe, but firm.
  • Skip the honey and make this an appetizer by serving it on top of arugula with a balsamic dressing.

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What’s your favorite fall flavor? Tell me in the comments!

Free-for-All Friday: Pesto, Change-O!

Sometimes, you just need a change. So you cut your hair (and subsequently cry about it), or dye it; you take a short road trip; you try out your hand at feng shui (the couch looks great in that corner, by the way); etc.

Well, I needed a change. It took me a while to think about what I wanted and then *pesto!* — it came to me.

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Normally, pesto is made with fresh basil leaves, toasted pine nuts, garlic and olive oil. But change was in the air.

Arugula is easily my favorite green (also called rocket) and I had tons in my fridge…. like three packs. It’s not a problem until you have four.

Pine nuts are delicious (I used them in Monday’s meatless recipe), but they’re also expensive. And the little voice in my head said “reach for the walnuts.” So I did.

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This pesto takes just 15 minutes to make, from start to finish, including all the prep work (and clean up). You don’t need a food processor, a mini chop will work just fine.

Pesto is something that each chef, cook, mom, kitchen-dominator makes their own. Tweak as necessary, and don’t be scared to stray away from the measurements. Use them as a guideline and make this arugula-walnut pesto yours.

Enjoy summer arugula in a new way. And tell basil not to worry, he’ll make an appearance soon enough.

Arugula-Walnut Pesto

Necessities

  • 2 handfuls of fresh wild arugula (roughly chopped if using a mini chop)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup raw walnuts, toasted
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic (to taste)
  • Half a lemon, juiced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
  • EVOO

Assemble It

  1. In a mini chop or food processor, combine garlic, walnuts and arugula. Chop until well combined.IMG_6562 IMG_6564
  2. Add salt and pepper and then slowly add EVOO while mixing until desired consistency. If you’re using a mini chopper, you won’t be able to stream in the EVOO. Just add a tablespoon or two at a time and then chop until desired consistency.IMG_6566
  3. Add parmesan and lemon juice and blend again.
  4. Taste! If it needs salt, or more nuttiness, add ingredients as necessary. Make it your own.
  5. Add to any and everything — especially pasta. Oh, and lick the spoon. This stuff beats brownie batter by a mile.IMG_6571

Variations

  • Use toasted almonds
  • Roast your garlic for a more mellow flavor
  • Add red pepper flakes for some heat
  • Use lime juice instead of lemon juice
  • Try it out with different greens, like kale, for a boost of beneficial vitamins
  • Toss in some sun-dried tomatoes

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Free-for-All Friday: Lemon-Garlic Tilapia with Rice, Spinach and Spicy Lemon Green Beans

Remember when I said endorphins gave me creativity? I meant it.

They also make you happy and happy people don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t! (You’re in luck, Max!)

So I told you I was making fish and here I am to share with you all what I did and how it turned out. (hint: it was da bomb!)

I don’t really have a recipe for you because I just threw stuff together without taking note of how much I used. I’ll guestimate for you and encourage you to just wing it, also.

I got two tilapia filets from the grocery store and seasoned them.

I melted about 3 Tbsp. of butter in a pan and sauteed two garlic cloves in it and squeezed in about half a lemon’s worth of juice.

I poured that over the fish, topped each filet with two slices of lemon and stuck it in the oven at 375 degrees until done (10 min? 15? I have no idea how long it took.)

Meanwhile, I cooked up a serving of jasmine rice that I made with veggie stock instead of water and I threw in some petit haricot verts into a pan with EVOO, garlic, lots of red pepper and salt and pepper. Once the green beans were cooked through, I squeezed a couple teaspoons of fresh lemon juice over them (*Note: this will change their color from bright green to browny-green. Don’t be put off by this. They taste GREAT with lemon juice.)

When the fish was done, I threw a whole box of spinach into a pan that had EVOO, garlic and sriracha. I tossed to coat and then put the lid on top to wilt it for about a minute. When it was done, I gave it a generous splash of balsamic vinegar.

Then I simply put a pile of rice on the plate, topped that off with spinach and topped THAT off with the filet. I served the green beans on the side and scarfed.

huzzah!

Layers

The whole dish had a nice level of spice, thanks to the red pepper flakes and sriracha and the lemon added a nice brightness. It’s a repeat offender, for sure.

Have you guys thought up of any great fish dishes lately? Share them with me below!

Thankful Thursday: Broiled Grapefruits and Pinterest

I’m a huge grapefruit lover. I prefer fresh grapefruit juice to orange and I could eat the pretty pink fruit for breakfast (and lunch…and dinner) every day. I know some people are turned off by the bitterness of the large citrus, but I love it.

A nice farmer at the Coronado Farmers Market (you can read about his fruit here) gave me some free citrus this week—grapefruits and these lemon/lime/orange things (more on those later.) Well, thanks to Pinterest, I remembered seeing a picture of a broiled grapefruit. I was sold instantly.

Broiled Grapefruit

It’s like creme brulee but healthy…and without all the custard…and not made with a fancy hand torch…and pink.

If it weren’t for Pinterest, I would’ve never even thought of broiling grapefruit, which is why I’m thankful for the online pinboard with a cult following.

And I’m thankful for broiled grapefruits because my mouth likes doing happy dances, and mine did after eating this. You even have to crack the top open like creme brulee. Woo hoo! A “healthy” dessert.

Broiling grapefruit is pretty straightforward:

  • Make sure your grapefruit is chilled….I’d even consider popping it in the freezer 10-15 minutes before broiling.
  • Then you slice it in half and cut the flesh all the way around the rim of the fruit and then cut the segments (like you’re going to be digging into one like you normally do.)
  • Mix together some brown sugar and melted butter (I used 1 Tbsp. melted butter and 1/4 cup packed brown sugar for one grapefruit. I had enough leftover for another half).
  • Sprinkle the sugar mixture on top of each grapefruit half and broil for about 3 minutes, until the sugar is bubbly.
  • Take it out, break it open and enjoy!

Let’s look at it one more time, for good measure.

That's the good stuff

Psst…follow me on Pinterest by clicking the red icon at the bottom of the right-hand menu…scroll, scroll, scroll.

Meatless Monday: Bruschetta

Bruschetta is one of my most favorite meals. I know it’s usually listed in menus as an appetizer, but for me, it suffices as a whole meal.

Bruschetta (brew-sket-uh) is an Italian thing–crusty fried bread with a tomato “salsa” on top. You can take the healthy route and broil the bread with just a brush of EVOO, but fried is so much better (isn’t it always?)

I make mine very simple. This dish is very much “less is more.” I use fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic, kalamata olives and EVOO. I finish things off with a drizzle of balsamic. And that’s it! A couple slices of this and I can call it a night. It’s that satisfying.

Bruschetta is great on a night where you don’t really want to cook and you don’t want to weigh down your tummy.  Here’s the very simple recipe for two (or just yourself if you’re greedy hungry!) This is easy to double.

Simple Bruschetta

  • 4 thick slices (sliced 2-inched thick) of crusty bread
  • 2 large tomato, or 4 Romas, diced
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped
  • 3-4 basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (plus one clove cut in half for bread rubbing)
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • EVOO
  • Balsamic Vinegar (optional)

Toss it Together

  1. Mix the tomatoes, onions, minced garlic, basil and olives together.
  2. Drizzle the mixture with 1 Tbsp. of EVOO and toss again. Continue adding EVOO until you get the right amount of “wetness” for you. *Note: You can always leave it completely dry and drizzle EVOO on top after the finished product.
  3. In a deep, heavy bottomed pan, pour enough EVOO to cover an inch of the pan. You can mix equal parts vegetable oil and EVOO to prevent the EVOO from burning (veggie oil has a higher smoke point.)
  4. Heat over medium heat for about 1 minute.
  5. Place the slices of bread in the oil and fry for one minute, then turn and fry the other side until golden brown.
  6. Rub the halved garlic on the hot bread, then pile on the tomato mixture.
  7. Eat and enjoy!

*Image above found here.

Tasty Tip Tuesday: Liven Up Those Thanksgiving Side Dishes

This is my not-so-secret ploy to get you to read some of my articles over at Coronado Patch.

My recent farmers market article revolved around three classic Thanksgiving side dishes and how I switched them all up with one ingredient from the Coronado Farmers Market. My Tuesday tips are found inside the article.

Click here to read all about it.

Trust me, you want to check the story out before Thanksgiving—especially those green beans!

Fuyu Persimmons

disclaimer: the photo above is of persimmons from the Coronado Farmers Market. I really just needed some kind of media and it’s kinda relevant…forgive me?

Free For All Friday: Ask the Foodie

So I got this email early this week from a new subscriber—my best friend Pam‘s mom. She shares my love of food but has a lot more experience than I. And, she makes this amazing dish called firecracker shrimp that she got from an LA Times article a while back. You should be so lucky to try it. It’s a lot of work and she makes it perfectly. My mouth is watering just thinking about. Her husband is also rumored to make a mean creamed spinach. I’m going to get my hands on his recipe one of these days.

She says,

“I was checking out your food blog and was wondering if you have any unique ideas for sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving. I refuse to put marshmallows and brown sugar on them. I found a recipe for mashed that included blue cheese dressing that sounds sort of interesting. Let me know if you have any ideas!!”

What a challenge! Of course, I’m sure you’re all gasping “NO marshmallows or brown sugar?” I did, too. Then I recovered from my shock and went on a mission to find out some new twists on the sweet potato that didn’t add any extra sugar and instead made them a savory side dish for Thanksgiving.

Here’s what I found:

From Bon Appetit Nov. 2011 Issue

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes (about 6)
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1” cubes, room temperature
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup mild blue cheese
  • 1/4 cup store-bought candied pecans

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Roast sweet potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet until tender, about 1 hour. Let cool slightly.
  • Remove skins and transfer sweet potatoes to a large heavy saucepan over low heat. Add cream cheese and butter. Mash until well blended and creamy. Season with salt and pepper. Stir over low heat until hot.
  • Spoon into a warm serving dish and garnish with cheese and pecans.

Courtesy BonAppetit.com

I didn’t have time to test out the recipe this week, but I’m considering using it next Thursday on Turkey Day. Seems different!

Anyone here every make sweet potatoes with savory ingredients instead of the usual marshmallows and brown sugar?? Roasted perhaps?

Meatless Monday: When Smoky Met Scalloped

I haven’t written a real post in quite a while. My days are busy and spent staring at the computer screen for hours on end and the last thing I want to do after I’m done making dinner is stare at the screen some more. And that’s assuming I take pictures of the food I make for dinner!

Anyway, I’m trying something new this week. Creating a theme for everyday posts just for you—my five readers! Today we’re back with Meatless Monday (remember when we had some adventures in tofu a while back?) Tonight’s recipe is for the potato and cheese lovers.

I stole this recipe from Food Network (I’ve bashed the magazine before for its inconsistency in recipes). Their recipes seem to be hit or miss and I’m happy to report that this one is a definite hit.

Smoky Scalloped Potatoes

It takes a while to make—almost two hours from start to finish—so plan accordingly. I recommend getting a mandoline to slice the taters on. I’ve done this by hand and by nifty slicer and the mandoline saves so much time and makes everything even.

Pair this cheesy dish with a big salad. Go the Greek route, the Caesar route, or make a sweet/savory salad with pears, gorgonzola, craisins, walnuts and a honey dressing.

Smoky Scalloped Potatoes from Food Network Magazine, November 2011 Issue.

What You Need

  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper
  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 1-2 tsp. smoked paprika (I played it safe and used 1)
  • 2 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan

What You Do

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with 1 Tbsp. butter.
  3. Melt the remaining 2 Tbsp. butter in a large saucepan. Once the butter foams, add the shallot and garlic and saute until softened–about 5 minutes.

    Does anything smell better than shallots and garlic cooking in butter? Me thinks not.

  4. Add the flour and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the half-and-half, smoked paprika and potatoes. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

    Simmer down!

  6. Carefully pour half the potato mixture into the buttered baking dish. Shake the pan to arrange the taters in a single layer.
  7. Sprinkle half of each cheese on top of the layer, then add the remaining potatoes and shake again to arrange in a layer. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on the top of that layer.
  8. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.
  9. Remove the foil and place back in the oven for another 15 minutes*
  10. Let stand 15 minutes before serving**

*I broiled my potatoes for the last fifteen. They weren’t getting browned enough just by baking.

**As hard as it is, you should definitely let the potatoes sit. It’s a runny mess if you don’t let them cool, first.

Anyone here love scalloped potatoes? Anyone think of seafood when they hear the word scalloped? Check out tomorrow’s new theme: Tasty Tip Tuesday!

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