Archive for the ‘Side dish’ Category


Spinach Gnocchi Gratin

February 17, 2018

Wasting food always gives me a massive guilt trip. Even though I know I can always compost spoiled fruits and vegetables rather than throwing them in the garbage, it always feels like such a poor use of resources (both financially and otherwise). So when I had most of a one-pound bag of cooking spinach and a small amount of heavy cream left over last week – both on the verge of getting too much past their prime – I was on the hunt for a recipe to use them up ASAP. This spinach gnocchi gratin in the Gourmet cookbook turned out to be a perfect fit.

So as soon as both my kids were down for naps at the same time, I figured I had just enough time to complete this recipe: about 1 hour. These aren’t the more common potato-based gnocchi you usually find on Italian restaurant menus; instead they’re based on French pâte à choux dough made by cooking flour in melted butter and water/milk on top of the stove and then beating in eggs. But rather than piping the dough onto baking sheets like pâte à choux pastries, these gnocchi are dropped by spoonfuls and par-cooked in boiling water, then baked in a casserole dish with a sprinkling of good Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

This recipe uses a few separate pans and bowls, but you can maximize your pan efficiency by using the same pan for the spinach and dough. While the spinach cooks, start the water heating in the large pot for boiling the gnocchi, then while the spinach is draining in the colander, use the former spinach pan to make the dough.

This also has quite a few more steps than most recipes I’ve made lately (having a toddler and a 3 month old doesn’t lend itself well to many of the complex recipes I used to make all the time!), but it sure did feel good to make something a little “fancier” for once rather than frantically trying to complete the laundry or stay on top of toy clutter, which is my usual naptime activity. :) Enjoy!

Spinach gnocchi gratin

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Red Lentil Dal with Coconut Milk and Kale

January 24, 2016

This red lentil dal is another easy recipe I clipped out of Food and Wine (February 2015) during my recent magazine purge. Dal is the Indian word for dried split peas or lentils, and is also used to refer to the thick stew made from them.  We had it as an accompaniment at most meals when I visited India in 2010 (including breakfast!); I fondly remember scooping up mouthfuls with delicious homemade chapati. This recipe adds kale as a hearty green to bulk up the stew, so this would be suitable as a light main dish (accompanied by a salad and some crusty bread) as well as a side dish.

I never really jumped on the kale bandwagon of a few years ago (which still seems to be going strong, although I hear it mentioned more often now in the form of green smoothies), but I don’t dislike it and am happy to try recipes that make good use of it. This dal recipe doesn’t specify the type of kale to use; even though I have more familiarity with the Tuscan variety, I bought the more common curly-leaf variety this time. The recipe only used about half the bunch, so now I need to figure out something to do with the leftover kale in the next couple of days! The type of chile peppers is also unspecified: the recipe just calls for “small red chiles.” I ended up buying Fresno chiles, which have a kick but didn’t overwhelm the dish with spice.

Overall we really enjoyed this lentil stew! The coconut milk adds just the right amount of background coconut flavor without being overly coconut-y. Recipe has been pasted into my binder of ones to keep and make again!


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Sweet and Sour Potted Meatballs

March 3, 2015

Two summers ago I bought myself a subscription to Saveur magazine. I enjoyed browsing through it, but most of the recipes either didn’t appeal to me upon reading through the ingredients/directions, or turned out to be duds. There also seemed to be a large percentage of articles about travel, whereas what I usually look for in a cooking magazine is good-sounding, well-tested recipes. And some pretty food photography. That’s it. I like the recipes themselves more than I like reading someone else’s story about their visit to the place of origin. :) So I let my subscription lapse. I can always browse recipes on their web site for free, and I don’t have to wade through ads or allow paper magazines to pile up “just in case.”

However, this is one recipe of theirs that we really enjoyed. Classic Italian meatballs in savory tomato sauce are amazing, but sometimes it’s nice to mix it up a bit! The sauce is still tomato-based, but the lack of Italian herbs and the addition of brown sugar and sour salt/lemon juice take these in an entirely different direction. I found rice to be an interesting inclusion in the meat mixture – not something I ever would have thought of to use inside meatballs, but the texture works well! I’m also not positive where the “potted” part of the name comes from… usually “potted” refers to a way of preserving meat/food. I’m guessing it’s that the meatballs are braised in the sauce rather than being fried/baked: “potted” like “pot roast,” maybe? A google search for “potted meatballs” indicates that this is primarily a Jewish technique for meatballs.

Either way, these were delicious, and really easy to make without using tons of dishes. Not quite quick enough to call it a weeknight meal, but I’d say not more than 45 minutes if you multitask the sauce and the meat. Enjoy!

Sweet and sour potted meatballs

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German Potato Salad

July 13, 2014

Have I really posted nothing here at all in 3 months? Time flies when you’re having fun… or not having fun, in this case. Since the middle of April and up until 2 weeks ago, I’d been agonizing over a career decision and due to the stress/anxiety/depression involved, I’ve not been interested in much else besides passive activities like reading novels, watching movies, and taking walks. Still been cooking but I haven’t felt like I had anything interesting to say about what I was making.

What made my job decision so difficult (and I realize I sound exceptionally privileged to say this, given how many people are struggling to find a job at all) was trying to pick between two amazing things that I love, when I can’t do both. My current job is awesome: I love the people I work with and psychiatric pharmacy is a special interest area of mine. But when my employer posted two brand-new positions in pharmacy informatics, I knew I had to look into it because of my IT background. So I interviewed at the beginning of May just to get some more information to see if it was something I might want to seriously pursue. And then I was stuck, because initially I thought I’d never leave my current position, but then this new one sounded so perfect for me. Due to a lot of HR logistics, they didn’t actually come back to me with an offer until 8 weeks after my interview, and in those 8 weeks, I think I probably changed my mind about 50 times. So it’s been a really rough 3 months, on both me and my husband!

Ultimately, I decided to accept the new position, and I start next month. :) It was really difficult announcing to all my coworkers that I’ll be transferring, but I feel better now that everyone knows and I don’t have to keep it a secret anymore. And I’m getting excited about all the new things I’ll be learning and doing! The types of projects with the informatics job are exactly the types of problem solving that I like doing, so I think I made the right decision. And I’ll be right up the road from the clinic I work at now, so I can always stop in to help them with their computer issues, and I’m sure I’ll be assigned to help them with some of their upcoming projects too.

So enough about jobs, back to the food… last weekend my husband, parents, and I met my in-laws at their condo in Chautauqua to celebrate July 4th. My father-in-law is currently undergoing chemotherapy, so he can’t eat anything with uncooked veggies or fruits unless they have an outer peel that can be removed. When my mother-in-law asked me to make a macaroni or potato salad, I wasn’t sure what kind would work well since all my recipes have fresh celery, etc. in them, or a lot of herbs. I finally settled on German potato salad, since the only veggies in most recipes are onions, and it wouldn’t affect the flavor too much to leave out an herb like parsley.

My grandfather always made amazing German potato salad, but I couldn’t find his recipe, so I turned to the internet to find a really good traditional version. I found one that sounded very similar to his at A Feast for the Eyes, so I adapted it a bit to my own tastes (and for my father-in-law’s restrictions). Turned out AMAZING. I increased the amount of bacon to 12 ounces (although it was probably closer to 11 by the time I finished snacking, haha) and used at least 1/3 cup bacon grease rather than 2 tbsp + lots of vegetable oil. I also used a little more than 1 cup diced red onion since my onion was big. I think my grandpa used red potatoes, which hold their shape better than Yukons, but I actually like the soft-with-chunks texture of the Yukons. I’ll have to try it with reds sometime and see how it turns out.

And with that, I hope to be back to a more frequent posting schedule now! Thanks for your continued reading. :)

German potato salad

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Pancetta

March 19, 2014

Brussels sprouts are easy to hate. As kids, most of us encountered mushy, sulfurous, overcooked sprouts and immediately wrote them off forever. But it seems that people have finally discovered that their flavor is highly dependent on cooking method (caramelization = good, boiling = bad), and as a consequence, they’ve actually become quite trendy as a seasonal offering on restaurant menus. I’ve also seen them served raw, shaved as a salad.

This fast and easy recipe from the Gourmet Today cookbook roasts simply dressed sprouts at a high temperature, creating those tasty browned bits that have such awesome flavor. I didn’t have pancetta or bacon on hand so I just used some leftover ham. This worked fine in the recipe, although it probably wasn’t quite as flavorful as the pancetta would have been. Overall, a great weeknight side dish!

Roasted Brussels sprouts with pancetta

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Bok Choy Gratin

October 6, 2013

I’m finally back from vacation and it feels good to be back in my own kitchen cooking again! We had an amazing time in Paris though – so much delicious food and so many amazing sights to see! I tried foie gras and beef tartare for the first time, and of course I ate plenty of cheese and baguettes and croissants and macarons… but since portion sizes are smaller and we were walking pretty much everywhere, I didn’t feel weighed down by the richer foods.

My parents were generous enough to pick up our CSA bag and leave it at our house before picking us up from the airport, so we arrived home to plenty of vegetables. Among those was bok choy, which usually leaves me stumped. Like many Chinese greens, bok choy would initially make me think stir fry, but I didn’t have any other appropriate ingredients at the time. What I did have, however, was some leftover Gruyère cheese, so I decided to give this recipe in Gourmet Today a try. I only had enough bok choy to make half, but that was perfect for my small 1-quart gratin dish.

The gratin turned out really tasty! The nutty Gruyère was a nice complement to the bok choy, and the bread crumbs added crunch. However, I don’t think that I’d run out and buy more bok choy to make it again right away; the prep work used a lot of dishes. Between cooking the greens, frying the shallot, and making the cream sauce, it was a bit much for just a vegetable side dish. There isn’t really any work that can be done ahead of time either, because the breadcrumbs would get soggy. I could see making it for a dinner party, but not for a simple supper with just me and my husband.

Bok choy gratin

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Lentil Salad with Tomato and Dill

August 21, 2013

The dill in our garden is beginning to go to seed, so I’ve been on the lookout for recipes that incorporate fresh dill. Don’t want to let it go to waste! This lentil salad recipe from Gourmet Today was perfect: it also enabled me to use up some more tomatoes and scallions that I had purchased at the market. So it was a win-win all around!

I love the texture of French green lentils; they’re smaller and less likely to get mushy than brown lentils when cooked. I’ve used them many times in the fall when making pasta with lentils and kale (which quickly became one of my staple recipes), and I was happy to find another recipe that incorporated them.

If I end up with a bunch of dill to use up again, I’d definitely revisit this recipe! The olive oil and vinegar dressing was a nice complement to the earthy lentils, and the fresh herbs, scallions, and tomatoes kept the whole salad from becoming too heavy. Bonus: it only takes about 25 minutes from start-to-finish since it’s recommended to serve warm!

Lentil salad with tomato and dill

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