Archive for the ‘Versatile Side Dishes’ Category

OK, folks, I’m back! I’m going to start out slow and post the simplest recipes I can think of that I keep making each week.

Kale Salad with Meyer Lemon


  • Kale (any kind will do – you can use whatever looks best or whatever comes in your veggie box)
  • Lemon (Meyer is the nicest, but any kind will work)
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.

As you are waiting for the water to boil, prepare your kale: I tear it off of the stalk as I rinse it, and then place it in a dish pan. Sometimes I rinse it again, depending on how dirty it is.

When the water has come to a rolling boil, add salt (about like you would for a pot of pasta) and then put the kale in. I just bring the water back to a boil and then drain the kale in a colander, so basically I guess that is blanching.

Place the hot kale into a large bowl, and then squeeze lemon and drizzle olive oil over the top. Serve warm or cold. The lemon will discolor the kale, which is unfortunate, but it still tastes good.

Oven Roasted Cauliflower

Until recently, I thought cauliflower was kind of a nothing vegetable that you gave squeamish kids who only eat white food and are afraid of broccoli, but then I learned that it’s actually good for you and it can even be delicious!


  • Cauliflower
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Black pepper, freshly ground


Preheat oven to 400 and place rack on the bottom.

With stem side up, remove all of the leaves from the cauliflower – I use a paring knife and score them, then break them off. Cut about 1/4 of an inch off of the dried up end of the stem. Following the line of the stem, cut the florets off of each side, and then cut the middle part into three “steaks.”

Place cauliflower in a cast iron skillet or baking dish and drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. For best results, make sure your pan is large enough to spread out all of the cauliflower along the bottom so that everyone gets equally brown.

Place skillet or pan in the oven and cook for about 30 minutes or so, turning steaks and rotating florets halfway through. Serve warm or eat cold for a healthy snack!


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The stuff in the back is the peppers and eggplant (no sausage, since I made it as a side dish for the meatloaf)

The stuff in the back is the peppers and eggplant (no sausage, since I made it as a side dish for the meatloaf)

This is a delicious versatile side dish without the sausage, or a delicious main dish with the sausage.

Peppers & Eggplant (& Sausage)

OPTIONAL: 1 lb spicy Italian sausage, cut in chunks, browned in a large heavy bottomed pan, and then the fat poured off

2 – 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, sliced

1/2 tsp salt

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 – 4 Japanese eggplants, quartered lengthwise, and then chopped

3 bell peppers, chopped (yellow, red, and/or orange)

2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

red pepper flakes, to taste

  • OPTIONAL: Cut sausage into chunks, brown in a heavy bottomed pot, remove from pot, and then pour off the oil. (Another option is to leave the sausage juice in the pan and use that to brown the onions. This is a delicious option, but some people just don’t like sausage juice.)
  • Place olive oil in pan, heat over medium high heat, and then add onions and salt.
  • Stir onions occasionally until they get wilty, then add garlic.
  • Continue to stir occasionally as onions and garlic caramelize.
  • Add eggplant and peppers, stir, and cover mixture.
  • Let the nightshades cook for about 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the parsley, pepper, red pepper flakes, and sausage, and cook uncovered for about another 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • When the nightshades have reached the desired tenderness, serve with some nice crusty french bread, or over polenta.

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This post has been on hold since July when things got hectic because that guy Dan proposed to me and then we launched straight into wedding planning. Fortunately, September is a good month for barbecues, and this potato salad is fantastic for barbecues! (Picture will be added later – I forgot my camera at someone’s house last weekend, and that’s where the pictures are.)


My grandma made the best potato salad, but I can never leave well enough alone so I added a few things. I believe I have maintained the integrity of the dish, however, with the perfectly balanced flavors and textures of big chunks of red potato and hard boiled eggs, and a nice creamy sauce. We had this with Dan’s smoked ribs and our home made barbecue sauce and, let me tell you, THAT was a match made in heaven!

Grandma’s Potato Salad, with a Twist

1. Boil the potatoes, and then dress them while they’re hot. Here’s what you’ll need:

2.5 lbs red potatoes (as fresh as possible so the skin is still tender), scrubbed, bad spots cut off, and cut in 1-inch cubes (do not peel)

Large 8 – 10 quart stock pot

Enough water to cover the potatoes, plus about 2 inches more

1/8 cup salt (for boiling the potatoes)

1/4 cup cider vinegar (to dress the potatoes after they’ve boiled, but while they’re still hot)

1/8 cup olive oil (to dress the potatoes after they’ve boiled, but while they’re still hot)

  • Pour a few cups of water into the stock pot to throw the potatoes into as you chop them. My mom told me this prevents them from getting gray. I never questioned it; I just do it and the potatoes never get gray, so do with this information what you will, as I cannot explain the chemistry behind it and have never not done it.
  • When you have cut all of the potatoes and they are in the stock pot, make sure you have covered them with water, plus about 2 more inches above that level.
  • Use a larger stock pot than you need in order to prevent a big foamy mess on your stove. You should have at least 4 inches of clearance between the top of the water, and the lid.
  • Add salt.
  • Cover pot, and place over high heat.
  • Keep a close eye on the pot, as potatoes always look sweet and innocent, and then they suddenly boil over.
  • If you’re bored, hard boil your eggs and start chopping scallions as you wait.
  • As soon as the potatoes feel a bit tender (but just before you think they’re perfectly done), pour them into a large colander. They will continue to cook after you drain them, which is why you want to drain them before they taste perfectly done.
  • Transfer potatoes back into the pot, and pour the cider vinegar and olive oil over them.
  • Place in fridge to chill and marinate overnight.

2. Hard boil the eggs. Here’s what you’ll need for that:

10 chicken eggs (preferably brown, cage free, hormone free, antibiotic free, made by happy chickens)

2 -3 qt sauce pan

Enough cold water to cover the eggs

  • Carefully place eggs in pot, and cover with tap water.
  • Place pot on stove, and heat over medium to medium-high heat to rolling boil.
  • Boil for 10 minutes, then remove from heat, pour off water, and run cold water over the eggs.
  • Crack and peel eggs while warm (it seems to be easier when they’re warm, and then they’re easier to store in the fridge overnight when they’re out of their shells).
  • Store in fridge overnight.

3. Make the Dressing

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup mayonnaise (I like the Trader Joe’s organic kind)

1 – 2 Tbsp crumbled Roquefort (optional)

Fresh dill to taste, coarsely chopped (optional)

Fresh ground black pepper to taste

  • Place mayo, sour cream, and Roquefort in a small bowl and mix until smooth.
  • Add dill and pepper in bowl and mix.

4. Assemble the Best Potato Salad Ever:

Chilled potatoes (from step 1)

Chilled eggs (from step 2)

1 bunch of scallions, chopped

Dressing (from step 3)

  • Place chilled potatoes and eggs in a large bowl.
  • Chop scallions and add to potato/egg bowl.
  • Pour dressing over potatoes, eggs, and scallions.
  • Stir with a large spoon to distribute dressing.
  • Snack on some while you’re nice and hungry.

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100_1256I went apricot picking over the weekend, so I decided to use a bunch of them in a black rice salad. I’d had a delicious black rice salad at a cooking group dinner, but could not get a hold of the recipe or the chef, so I figured it out myself.

Black Rice Apricot Salad

1 cup black rice

1 3/4 cups water

1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp cayenne

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1 Tbsp olive oil (or butter)

1 tsp sesame oil

1 T balsamic vinegar

1 cup fresh apricots, pitted and sliced

2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds

2 Tbsp pine nuts

2 Tbsp sunflower seeds

5 leaves fresh basil, thinly sliced

5 leaves fresh mint, thinly sliced

1 T fresh parsley, chopped

1 T fresh chives, chopped

  • Place rice in colander and rinse until water runs clear.
  • Transfer rice to pot, and add water, pepper, salt, cumin, and cayenne.
  • Bring contents of pot to a boil, stir, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer about 35 minutes or until all water has been absorbed.
  • Add vinegar and oil (or butter) while rice is hot.
  • Cover, and allow to cool (maybe about an hour or so).
  • When rice is cool, transfer to a bowl, add the rest of the ingredients, and then stir.
  • Refrigerate.
  • This dish is best served cold, and it gets better as it sits, so if you can make it a day ahead, that’s the way to go.

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100_1201My dad always requests these yams when we are “camping” at their construction site. I make them in an electric skillet there, but they could be made in any type of skillet on the stove. The ones pictured here have swiss chard in them, which is not how I usually make them but it was a really good addition.

I use the same method for all pan fried potatoey things, so if you substitute any sort of potato for the yams in this recipe, you are in for yet another delicious.

Pan Fried Yams

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced

2 Tbsp olive oil

4 cloves of garlic

2 tsp salt (1 to sprinkle over the onions as they brown, and the other to sprinkle over the yams when you put them into the skillet)

3 large yams, peeled and cubed (cubes should be about an inch or so)

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp pepper

1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne

1 bunch chard, sliced (optional)

  1. Heat oil and add onions, sprinkle 1 tsp salt over the top.
  2. When the onions wilt, add the garlic.
  3. When the onions begin to brown, add the yams.
  4. Sprinkle remaining salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper over yams.
  5. Squeeze lemon over yams.
  6. Stir.
  7. Cover and cook until yams are almost tender, stirring periodically.
  8. Uncover and let the mixture brown over low heat, until the yams and onions are as brown as you like, stirring periodically so nothing burns. Add chard during this part of the process.

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