Tag Archives: Side Dish

Orange Marsala Cranberry Sauce with Sage

I make it no secret that I am a little particular about what kind of food I generally serve.  I wouldn’t call myself a total food snob, because I still enjoy a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese as much as the next person.  It’s just that when I cook, I rarely use processed or convenience items.

This morning I bought both Cream of Mushroom soup and Pillsbury Crescent Rolls.

Sometimes tradition wins out.  And sometimes it’s OK that you serve Green Bean Casserole and don’t make rolls from scratch.  Our Thanksgiving meal has a certain set of necessary items … anything “experimental” is fine, but you will not replace my grandmother’s Creamed Corn with Quinoa Salad.   Or decide that you are going to try something “new” with the stuffing — our table can only have my grandmother-in-law’s Portuguese Stuffing on it (which I will photograph and write up for future reference).  The mashed potatoes must be made from yukon golds and the gravy will be laced with Marsala.  You just don’t mess with the memories.

The one exception to that is the cranberry sauce, because no one in my family cares about it in the least.  They will take an obligatory bite, but I will eat it with a spoon.  This year I made a version with orange zest, Marsala, and sage (to meld with my Marsala-laced gravy).  If I thought anyone cared enough, I’d try to form it in the shape of a tin can, with the requisite ridges we all grew up with.

And I haven’t ventured to look at the ingredients on the Crescent Rolls yet, but what is Thanksgiving without some good old petroleum by-products in your bread?

Orange Marsala Cranberry Sauce with Sage

Make about 3 1/2 cups

1 quart of fresh cranberries, rinsed
3/4 cup Sweet Marsala, plus 1-2 T
3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
Healthy pinch of salt
Zest of two oranges, finely chopped
2 t fresh sage, finely chopped

1.  In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, 3/4 cup Marsala, orange juice, brown sugar, and salt over medium heat.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium low.  Simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes until all cranberries have popped and mixture is thick.  Remove from heat.

2.  Stir in additional 1-2 T of Marsala, chopped orange zest, and chopped sage.  Store in refrigerator.  (Can be made 2-3 days ahead)

Garlicky Bread Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes and Sweet Corn

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day lamenting the fact that I have had nothing to post because my summer cooking has been so simple — and really not recipe worthy.  How can I legitimately write a recipe for tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil?  Or chicken on the grill? Or lightly cooked corn with butter and salt? Or cucumbers with a bit of sour cream and mint?

It’s just all so … basic.  When you start with seasonal produce grown down the road and picked the same day, you just really don’t have to do much.  And late summer has all of our favorite stuff — corn, tomatoes, raspberries — which are not exactly challenging to eat up.  Zucchini, on the other hand…

So after my little pep talk, I decided to make something slightly more “recipe worthy.”  A counter full of heirloom tomatoes, a crate of sweet corn, a bunch of basil, and some beautiful artisan sourdough bread were the inspiration — and I’m pretty sure nothing bad can happen when you combine those ingredients.  The key to dishes like this are simple, but high quality ingredients.   Your dish will go from delicious to “out of this world and I feel like I’m in Italy” if you invest in wonderful olive oil and have a great artisan baker for the bread.

This would be perfect for a picnic or party and is still good the next day (the bread in the leftover salad loses its crispness, but my daughter and I didn’t mind and polished the rest off for lunch.)  Pour yourself a large glass of red wine and savor summer.

Garlicky Bread Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes and Sweet Corn

Serves 6-8

1 1/2 loaves of sourdough bread (about 1.5 pounds)
4-5 ears of corn, husked
1 large handful of basil, washed and torn into pieces
4-6 heirloom tomatoes, cored (I used 2 large and 4 smaller ones)
3-4 T good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (plus 1 T)
1 1/2 T lemon juice
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

1.  Prepare bread:  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove crusts from bread (reserve crusts for another use) and tear bread into bite size pieces.  Don’t cut it — the rustic nature of the torn bread is perfect.  Toss the bread with 1 T olive oil and salt and pepper.  Place on a baking sheet and toast (stirring occasionally) for about 8-10 minutes until just lightly toasted. Set aside.

2.  Prepare corn:  Cover ears of corn in a large pot with cold water.  Bring water to the boil (as soon as it boils, the corn is done).  Remove and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Cut corn off the cob and set aside.

3.  Prepare dressing:  Mix 3-4 T of olive oil with lemon juice, chopped garlic, a healthy pinch of salt, and freshly ground pepper.

4.  When you are ready to serve, cut tomatoes into wedges or small chunks.  On a large platter or in a bowl, gently mix toasted bread, corn, tomatoes, basil, and dressing.  Taste and adjust with more salt and pepper or additional olive oil if necessary.  Using a vegetable peeler, make large strips of Parmigiano Reggiano and scatter over top of salad.  Serve immediately.

Late Spring Couscous with Spinach, Zucchini, and Pumpkin Seeds

So the school year is wrapping up  and I am firmly planting my head in the sand related to how I am going to a) keep everyone entertained all summer, b) get my paid work done and deliver a large project at the end of August, c) maintain some sanity amidst the fighting siblings and wet bathing suits and towels on the floor, d) have a house that doesn’t look like it needs an intervention, e) keep the plants thriving outside given that hoses are quite possibly the most annoying thing to use ever, and f) do grocery shopping with an entourage who likes to find every possible piece of crap and put it in my cart.

And this all with cocktail time not starting until 5:00 PM?  Can’t we push that up a little?

Oh, but I kid.  I complain a good game, but I am actually looking forward to summer.  Just the idea of relaxing mornings where we aren’t rushing around to get out the door … or the idea of making a pot of coffee and actually being able to drink a few leisurely cups… and not having to think about getting homework done every night… or throwing dinner together at a seriously uncivilized time just to get to soccer practice.  We are all ready for a little vacation.

This dinner was put together on one of those rushed evenings where we were hurrying to get to an end of the school year concert, but I think it would also be a great aprés swimming dinner when you have to divide your energy between hanging up that wet stuff, making a meal, and unpacking the pool bag. To non-parents I know this sounds like a pathetically small task — but you are wrong. Unpacking the pool bag is a terrible task filled with wet stuff, soggy snacks, water bottles, leaky sunscreen, loose change, hats, visors, goggles, Spiderman diving toys, wallets, cell phones, floaties, allergy medicine, and reading material that rarely gets read.

Ahh.  Summer.

Late Spring Couscous with Spinach, Zucchini, and Pumpkin Seeds

Serves 4-6

2-3 cups of spinach, stemmed and chopped
1 small zucchini, trimmed and diced
1 clove garlic
Salt and pepper
Olive Oil
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup couscous
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
1-2 large green onions, trimmed and finely chopped
4-5 sprigs of oregano (remove leaves from stem and chop)

Dressing:
2/3 cup canola or olive oil
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
1 large clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 t salt
Freshly ground pepper

1.  In a large sauté pan, heat a few teaspoons of olive oil with chopped (1 clove) garlic.  Sauté spinach until wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove to a bowl.

2.  In same pan, heat a bit more oil and sauté diced zucchini until lightly browned and softened.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove to a bowl.

3.  In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil.  Add one tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt.  Add cous cous, stir, and cover pan.  Immediately remove from heat and let stand for about five minutes.  Stir to fluff the cous cous and allow to cool a bit.

4.  Whisk together dressing ingredients.

5.  In a large bowl, combine cooked spinach and zucchini, cooked cous cous, toasted pumpkin seeds, chopped green onions, and chopped oregano.  Re-whisk dressing and pour about 2/3 of it over cous cous mixture, tossing well to combine all ingredients.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.  Salad can be served at room temperature or chilled.  Reserve remaining dressing and add to the salad before serving if necessary (if the cous cous sits in the fridge for a while it will soak up the dressing and may need more.)

Black Beluga Lentil Salad with Ham and Kale

I have been MIA in the Cuizoo world lately.  Sorry about that.  It’s the strangest thing with this stage of life and motherhood (or maybe parenting older children in general) . . . I feel like I never have a minute to rest, yet I never have anything to show for it.  I’m not closing big deals.  I’m not renovating a house.  I’m not planting a garden.  I’m not traveling.

The things that occupy my days are the same old things.  People ask me what’s new and I struggle.  The driving to and from school and activities? The laundry that needs to be put away again? The twenty minute crying benders over the wrong pair of socks or the lack of cookies? The cooking? The grocery shopping? The loading and emptying of the dishwasher? The cleaning up of toys and clothes from the floor? The piles of junk that stack up in the exact same places?

I spend my days in constant do loops and nothing is ever done.

And because of it, I end up mostly frustrated and bored out of my mind.  Is that honest enough for you?

The spring weather helps.  Activities and schedules are changing a bit.  I have gone back to work ten hours per week.  I’m thinking about heirloom tomatoes and swimming pools.  These are good things.  But, damn if I still don’t feel absolutely unproductive and unrewarded.

And it’s the ultimate “it’s not you, it’s me” thing.  The love I have for my kids and husband is beyond anything I have ever known.  I am so truly fortunate in that and I thank the Baby Jesus for them every day.  My rewards come climb in bed with me early in the morning and write me notes telling me how much they love me.  I know that is enough for now and forever.

But what is it about motherhood that makes you feel like you are in Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” silently crying out, simply hoping that the act might break up the monotony and frustration?

Or is that just me?  And beyond, what do you do when you have a leftover ham bone?

Black Beluga Lentil Salad with Ham and Kale

Serve 8-10

3/4 lb. dried Black Beluga Lentils
1 ham bone/ham hock
1 small bunch of kale, stemmed and chopped
1 large leek (or 2 small), trimmed, well washed, and white part thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
1 1/2 cups of cooked ham or prosciutto, chopped
Salt and pepper
2/3 cup of olive oil
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 T dijon mustard
Juice and zest of one lemon
Chopped fresh herbs, if desired (thyme or chives would be nice)

1.  Place lentils and ham bone in a large pot and cover with plenty of water.  Bring to a boil and cook for about 20 minutes until lentils are tender.  Strain and remove ham bone.  Place lentils in a large bowl.

2.  In a sauté pan, cook chopped kale in a bit of olive oil over medium heat until wilted.  Add 2-3 T of water, reduce heat, cover, and cook about five minutes longer until tender.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove and place in large bowl with lentils.

3.  In the same pan, sauté chopped leeks for 2-3 minutes in a bit of olive oil until just wilted.  Remove and place in bowl with lentils.

4.  Mix the dressing by combining olive oil, sherry vinegar, garlic, dijon mustard, juice/zest of lemon, and about 1 t of salt and pepper to taste.

5.  Add chopped carrots, celery, and ham to lentils, leeks, and kale.  Toss with dressing and season to taste with additional salt and pepper and chopped fresh herbs if desired.  Can serve slightly warm or make ahead and chill.

Grilled Mexican Corn

In our house, we love the movie Nacho Libre.  Of course it is silly, but it is also heartwarming and touching in many ways (with a great soundtrack too).  Thankfully, most of it is safe for children because it is one of their favorites — but I am a little liberal when it comes to movies. Every time we see it, I seem to enjoy it more.

In one scene, Steven is eating street corn and it always looked absolutely delicious.  And when he offers it to Nacho, he yells “get that corn outta my face” and swats it away. It has become a standard line in our house anytime corn is served.  Actually, movie lines are a big part of almost everything we do (Hello National Lampoon’s Vacation? We can’t start a trip without some reference to it.  OK, so maybe not that part I linked to though.)

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When we saw that a local vendor started serving grilled corn at our farmer’s market, I immediately told the kids we were going to have Nacho’s “Get That Corn Outta My Face” for lunch that day.  After trying it, my three year old decided we needed to call it “Get That Corn In My Face.”  He devoured it.  And then, somehow, ideas for Mexican Corn or Cuban Corn were everywhere.  I saw recipes in Cooks Illustrated and my hometown newspaper all in the same week.  It is apparently the “Tuscan” anything or the dulce de leche of this summer — somehow everyone decides it’s popular and pretty soon Pizza Hut is serving it.

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I decided I was going to figure out my version of it in time for corn season — even though I generally don’t fuss too much with corn beyond boiling, buttering, and salting.  I never want to risk the fleeting season by wasting a dozen ears on a dumb recipe.  This, however, is worth it.  It is divine.  I will warn you that it is rich — much richer than the corn you are probably used to.  Grilling the corn really enhances the sweetness and the kernels lose a little bit of their pop, making it almost meaty.  The toppings make it even richer — so it’s almost a meal in itself. Definitely serve it with something light.  If I could get my act together, I’d love to have a grilled corn party where I serve nothing but corn in this style with lots of different sauces and toppings.  What a great end of summer party that would be …  served up with appetizers and lots of real margaritas.  And, of course, we’d all have to wear our stretchy pants.

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Grilled Mexican Corn

Makes one dozen ears

Mayo mixture:
1 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped finely
1/2 t ground cumin
1 t smoked paprika
Zest of one lime
Pinch of chipotle powder (or more to taste if you like it spicy)
1/2 t salt
Freshly ground pepper

Butter mixture:
2 T butter, melted
1/8 t smoked paprika
1/8 t ground cumin
1/8 t salt
Freshly ground pepper

1 dozen ears of sweet corn
1 1/2 cups Queso Fresco, Cotija, or Feta Cheese (in small crumbles)
1 cup cilantro, chopped
12 wedges of lime

1.  Mix ingredients for mayonnaise mixture in medium bowl.  Mix ingredients for melted butter mixture in a small bowl.

2.  Preheat grill and rub ears of corn with melted butter mixture.

3.  Grill corn for about 8 minutes.  (We used indirect heat and grilled the corn for about 8 minutes indirect, turning frequently, followed by about 1-2 minutes over the coals to char the ears lightly.  I have also done this on a low flame gas grill — just be sure you are turning and moving the corn frequently so it doesn’t char too much.  The goal is to have the corn be just cooked with a slight char on it.)  Remove corn from grill and place onto a platter.

4.  Put cheese, cilantro, and lime wedges in separate serving bowls next to platter of corn.  Brush each ear of grilled corn with the mayonnaise mixture.  Then sprinkle with cheese, cilantro, and the juice of a lime wedge.  (You can do the whole platter or allow guests to prepare their own ear of corn.)

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Rhubarb Applesauce

When I picked up our CSA share yesterday, I got another bunch of rhubarb to join two others in my fridge. We like rhubarb, so there is no good reason why we haven’t used it. I guess between weekend travel and having no time to make a dessert (which is how we prefer it, obviously), it has just started to pile up. I wanted to do something slightly more savory, which is tough with rhubarb because it is very tart and needs some sugar. I settled on the idea of something “applesaucey” and it was a hit with our grilled pork. It would be great with some strawberries added in (if you like the strawberry-rhubarb combo and are willing to part with your strawberries — but I’m not there yet.)

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I added fresh ginger because it marries with the rhubarb so nicely, but the kids probably would have enjoyed it more without it. There were yelps from my almost three year old son about it being a little “spicy” — but I have a hard time judging that because he thinks rosemary is spicy. His other beliefs include: 1) Don’t trust anything with a tongue (“lickers” as he calls them) based on a fear of dogs who lick him, 2) The best parts of being a grown up are being able to watch Harry Potter movies and touch the ceiling, and 3) The purest form of evil is the garbage disposal. So, take or leave his cooking advice.

I sweetened this with a bit of honey (not to be confused with a bit o’honey) and it worked well. If you are making this for a more mature audience (one not afraid of lickers), I think it would be wonderful with some freshly chopped chives or rosemary.

Rhubarb Applesauce

Serves 4

4-5 cups of rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces
3-4 cups of apples, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
1/2 cup of honey
1/2 cup of water
1 T freshly chopped ginger
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of cardamom
Freshly chopped herbs (if desired)

Combine all ingredients (except herbs) in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Simmer for 20-30 minutes until completely softened and the rhubarb is falling apart.  If your apples are still too chunky, you can use a potato masher to break them up.  Serve as a side dish or with grilled meat.

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Whole Wheat Macaroni and Cheese

It’s only been recently that I have been able to crack open a box of mac and cheese and cook it for my kids.  I’ve always had to make it from scratch with soy cheese/soy milk because my daughter was severely allergic to dairy (which she has thankfully outgrown).  And somehow when you get used to making it from scratch, it just doesn’t seem that much harder than making it from the box.  Sure, it takes a little more time because you have to make the cheese sauce — but just think a minute about that powdered cheese sauce mixture.  Think about how one makes a cheese sauce (or cheese) and then reduces it to a fine powder which requires no refrigeration.  Really think.  I’ll wait.

Confused?  Yeah, me too.  I’m no food scientist, but even if it is Annie’s Mac and Cheese with Whole Wheat Pasta, you still can’t explain to me how that powdered cheese can provide one with the same nutrients as cheese.  And sure, we still make it once in a while and I keep a few boxes in the pantry in case the terror threat level gets jacked up (I have plastic sheeting too) or if we encounter Armageddon (and are lucky enough to still have running water).  But, on most days I take the 30 minutes of prep time and use a very novel product … some call it cheese.

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My version is made with whole wheat pasta, is thickened with sprouted spelt flour (or whole wheat flour), and uses 2% milk.  The only thing I don’t cut back on or substitute is cheese.  Because you can do a lot of things to macaroni and cheese, but the one thing you CAN’T do is not use cheese.  And I even count soy cheese as real cheese here, because the final product is so darn good and such a great treat for those who can never have mac and cheese (I’d take the homemade soy cheese version over Kraft any day of the week).

This makes a great side dish (as you well know), but it is also a great main course if you add in some cooked vegetables/greens or serve it with a big salad.  Certainly you can add some meat if you like — ham, bacon, proscuitto, etc. are a natural fit.  It is also very flexible in what type of cheese you use — anything works.  And you can do it one of two ways — just toss the pasta with the cheese sauce (a la Kraft) or baked with some breadcrumbs on top.  Your choice.

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And the coolest part?  You will now know how to make both a roux and Bechamel Sauce.

(Allergy note:  if you want to make this dairy free, simply use dairy-free margarine or olive oil, soy milk or rice milk, and soy cheese.  It works out quite well.)

Whole Wheat Macaroni and Cheese

Serves 6-8

Pasta and Cheese Sauce:

1 lb. whole wheat pasta
6 T. butter
6 T. sprouted spelt flour (or whole wheat flour)
4 cups of milk (I used 2%)
Cayenne Pepper
Nutmeg (freshly grated is the best)
1 t. salt
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated (a little over 2 cups)
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Breadcrumb Topping:

1 T. butter, melted
1 T. olive oil
1/2 t. smoked paprika
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 cup of freshly grated cheese (your choice of cheddar or parm, or both)
3/4 cup of panko breadcrumbs

Fresh herbs for garnish, optional

1.  Cook pasta until very al dente (it should be slightly undercooked) in salted boiling water.  Mine was supposed to cook 10 minutes total, and I cooked it about 7 minutes.   When finished, drain and set aside in a bowl or in the pan it was cooked in. (*If you are not going to bake the finished mac and cheese, you should cook your pasta fully in this step.)

2.  Meanwhile in a medium saucepan, melt 6 T. of butter and whisk together with 6 T. flour over medium heat.  This is a roux.  Cook the roux for 2-3 minutes.  Add in 1 t. salt and stir.

3.  Slowly add the 4 cups of milk, whisking constantly.  When all the milk is added, use a spatula to make sure you have all of the bits of roux out of the corners of the pan.  This is now called a Bechamel Sauce.  Bring the sauce to a boil, whisking frequently.  It should have thickened considerably.  Reduce heat to low and cook the sauce for about 20 minutes, whisking every once in a while.

4.  Stir grated cheeses into Bechamel Sauce and mix until they are completely melted and incorporated.  Season with a bit of Cayenne Pepper, Nutmeg (somewhere between a pinch and 1/8 of a teaspoon of both — to your taste), and additional salt and pepper if necessary.  Remember that you are seasoning the sauce for an entire pound of pasta, so make sure it’s not bland.

5. Toss cooked pasta with Cheese Sauce and taste to make sure it is well seasoned.  Adjust if necessary.  You can serve it at this point if you want just a creamy mac and cheese.  If you want baked mac and cheese, read on.

6.  Preheat oven to 350 F.  Butter a 9×13 glass baking dish and pour in the pasta with cheese sauce.

7.  Combine breadcrumb topping ingredients in a small bowl.   Sprinkle all over top of pasta/cheese sauce and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown on top.  When it is done, you can sprinkle it with some fresh herbs (chives, parsley, etc.) if you like.

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