Archive for the ‘Side Dishes’ Category

Sweet(ass) Potato Fries

May 17, 2011 2 comments


The more I cook, the more I find myself using less seasoning when I cook. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a spice drawer that is slowly overtaking my kitchen (Thank you Penzeys). Salt, pepper, and oil olive have now become my taste bud trinity. This recipe is no exception. Now you could get crazy and add other types of seasoning like curry or a little cayenne for some kick. But sometimes simple is good.

I like this recipe since you can do them in the oven or on the grill. My kids eat them up like regular fries and I appreciate how easy they are to make. When selecting the potatoes, try to get ones that are symmetrical as they are easier to cut up and make for more uniform looking fries.

Sweet Potato Fries

Serves 5

3 large sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wash and peel the potatoes. Cut in half and once again and then cut into strips, like steak fry size. Place on large cookies sheet. Drizzle oil over the potatoes and using your hands toss the potatoes so they are covered in oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper evenly over the fries. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Sweet Potato Fries and a Black Bean Burger

Sweet Potato Fries and a Black Bean Burger

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If you can use a knife, you can make Tomato Salad w/Crisped Capers

August 23, 2010 Leave a comment

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I don’t think I have seen the movie “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”, but I have felt under siege by the army of cherry tomatoes that have filled the garden.  Trying to avoid 80 million mosquito bites while picking tomatoes from the garden, I geared up yesterday with jeans, a hooded sweatshirt and gloves.  I still ended up with 4 bites on my face (the only area of my body exposed to those blood sucking pests) but it was worth it when I brought by harvest indoors.

cherry tomato plant

Nature's Stoplight

Here is a recipe from Tal Ronnen that I have only made once, but it will be a repeat recipe every summer, as it’s easy, fast and the word “fresh” doesn’t even capture the amazing taste of this recipe.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Crisped Capers

Makes 6 servings

  • ¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained3 pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch wedges ( I use cherry tomatoes and sun gold instead)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil chiffonade
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the capers and cook until crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to paper towel.

Place the tomatoes in a large bowl. Drizzle with the remaining ¼ cup oil, add the basil, season with salt and pepper to taste and gently toss to coast. Sprinkle the capers on the salads after they’re plated so they stay crisp.

How do you use your cherry tomatoes?

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I Put the “Hoe” in Homemade Potato Salad

June 14, 2010 2 comments

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Amidst the rows of slip and slides,  you can hear in neighborhoods everywhere the “thud” of bean bags hitting cornhole boards, and smell the official scent of the season, the grill.  Yes, summer has arrived.

One savory food that will be served in backyards everywhere is truly the prince of the picnic…potato salad.  Last weekend Dave and I spent Sunday a cookin’…Dave made his homemade brats and I made potato salad, strawberry rhubarb crisp with homemade ice cream.  When I noticed that the only thing I didn’t make was the buns for the brats, I realized that I must have been compensating for the week ahead, when I knew I wouldn’t have time to really cook.  Either that or I was just trying to avoid the kids all day, which is entirely possible.

The garden is also loving this summer weather and I was thrilled to be able to use my green onions in the potato salad. Although weeding it has become a backbreaking task.  I have never used a garden hoe, but I might try it to spare my spine.

Getting back to the tater salad, I have brought this recipe to quite the number of clam bakes and shindigs and I always have someone asking me for the recipe.  It’s that good.  So here it is in all its glory.

California Potato Salad
Serves 16 side dish servings

2 1/2 lbs white potatoes
1 cup mayo
8 oz sour cream
2 Tbsp milk
1 1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 salt
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1 cup sliced green onions
2/3 cup cubed cheddar cheese
3-4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 avocado, cubed

In a large saucepan, cook potatoes in boiling water for 20 minutes or so, until the are just tender (do not overcook!).  Drain and cool.  Cut into bite sized cubes.  In a very large bowl, combine the mayo, sour cream, milk, pepper and salt.  Gently stir in potato cubes, eggs, green onions, and cheese.  Cover and chill for 2 hours minimum (can be made a day ahead).  Before serving, top with bacon and avocado.

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Google Arugula (Say that three times really fast)

May 24, 2010 2 comments

It’s  been a typical Chicago season change this week. We went from winter, caught a glimpse of spring and shot straight to summer.  I was going to blog about a great asparagus soup I made before it got hot and humid, but that may have to wait until next week, when I am sure the weather will be like 50 degrees, cloudy and rainy.

This was my first year growing arugula in my garden and it’s done a fabby job of getting bigger each day.  Then I realized, “What am I going to do with all of this?  I don’t have any arugula recipes”.  Frantically, like any person who has internet access and free time,  I sent the query to my Facebook and Twitter pals.  Turns out, not many people know what to do with it besides make a salad.  Second stop, my cookbook/magazine collection.  Even though I like trolling the internet for recipes, I enjoy sitting down and searching through my cookbooks that I trust and finding a hidden gem.  I found some good candidates, but nothing I was happy with.  So, I went back online to Epicurious my standard recipe finder site.  I really like it because it has reviews so you can see all the ins and outs before attempting a new culinary adventure.  I was glad to come across a recipe right away, so I would  not have to resort to my last ditch effort..Google arugula.

I came across a recipe for Arugula and Fava Bean Crostini.  It was the perfect springtime use for my new garden friend.  I did substitute edamame for the fava beans and did not use the mint; it was a great addition to our first outdoor meal of the season.  This would make a terrific appetizer as it is it light and was bursting with fresh flavors.  I think after I ate about five slices,  I was almost bursting as well.

Do you have a favorite use for arugula? Please share yours,  as I have a lot left in my garden and so others can get ideas for this  peppery plant.

Spinach Salad and Ribs – A Meal Through Photos

When making dinner the other night I found myself taking a ton of pictures.  This is a nice meal that’s great for company because the ribs braise in the oven for a few hours.  I call them Super Easy Ribs and my own recipe for Spinach Salad (salad recipe is at the end of the post).  I could eat this salad at least once a week… easy, healthy and yummy!

Oven roasted ribs, spinach salad and the appropriate beverage

Making the ribs…

After braising in tin foil for 2 1/2 hours they go on the cookie sheet.

Braising liquid gets dumped into a saucepan and gets reduced to make a glaze.

And after a hot date with the broiler...they are done!

Spinach Salad Recipe
Serves 6

Roughly 3/4 lb baby spinach (or about 2/3 of one of those big tubs)
6 strawberries, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
4 Tbs red wine vinegar
A little less than 1/2 cup canola oil
Several dashes of tabasco
Several dashes of black pepper
4 Tbs sugar
1 tsp salt

**For extra something, you can add crumbled bacon, although I don’t think it needs it.

Mix all ingredients (except strawberries and onion) very well and pour over spinach and toss well.  Add berries and onion and toss well again.  Let sit for around 10 minutes or so for the spinach to wilt. 

Irish Soda Bread…and some memories on the side

March 15, 2010 3 comments

My grandmother was a woman I wish my daughters could meet today…and meet again when they are 13, 22, 30 and my undisclosed age of not yet a cougar, but too old to know most of the bands on Saturday Night Live.  She made her own rules and broke the norm when she did not get married until she was 30 years old.  A die-hard Cubs fan, Gramma would yell at the TV and enjoyed family parties.  She embodied the joie de vivre that most women and even men in our family admired and respected.  She lived to be 97 years old and loved sharing laughs with friends and family.

I will bake the bread on Weds, so this is in lieu of a photo

One part of my grandmother that still lives on today is her food.  She didn’t cook anything spectacular and any sibling or cousin of mine can attest to her shake-n-bake chicken and her “cucs” that she always brought to Easter dinners.  On St. Patrick’s Day,  my family always had corned beef and cabbage and Gramma came and brought her Irish Soda Bread.  As a kid I would drool over her bread and still do to this day.  A few years before she passed, I called her up one day to get her recipe.  Every year I make it for St. Patrick’s Day and only make it on that day.  It’s too special of a memory to be shared on any other day.  Not that she would understand my blog, if she were still alive today, but part of me thinks she would smile upon my sharing of her recipe to friends and strangers.  But she would do the same…that’s my Gramma.

Irish Soda Bread
Serves 10

3 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups raisins
2 beaten eggs
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 Tbs melted butter

Grease a 9 inch springform pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Combine all the wet ingredients in a large bowl.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix in raisins.  Bake for 50 minutes.

Zinfandel-Braised Beef Short Ribs w/Rosemary Parsnip Mashed Potatoes

October 25, 2009 Leave a comment

Do you ever think from time to time, what you would take from your house, if it was on fire?  Aside from my family and dogs, really high on my list would be my binder of recipes.  It is a patchwork of pages of recipes from family members, friends, magazines, TV shows and websites.  I love the feel of it, all of the history and memories of meals it contains.  It is not the actual recipes that I think are important, it is the memories of each meal, from the first time time cooked, to the twentieth. wagner ware

Another item in my kitchen that contains memories, is a cooking pot that was Dave’s grandmother’s.  It is a slightly unique vessel  made by Wagner Ware made of thick shiny aluminum that reminds me of an old time zeppelin.    I am not sure of how they are constructed now, but one that is 50+ years old sure has withstood time and temperature.   In addition to meals, it also was used in canning, a tradition that Dave carries on today.   I can only guess at how many meals his grandmother cooked in this pot and how it gives me feelings of joy that it will be passed down to one of our children. 

A fantastic meal that goes from the stove top to oven in a pot like this is Zinfandel-Braised Beef Short Ribs w/Rosemary Parsnip Mashed Potatoes.  I have made short rib recipes before, but this one stood out to me, mainly because I have several bags worth of parsnips to use.   But after cooking this for the first time, this recipe stood out for its incredible taste.  It made a wonderful Saturday night meal and I would have to give this a 10/10 (restaurant worthy).


parsnips and onions

zinfandel-braised short ribs w/rosemary parsnip mashed potatoes

One key to making the meat really shine is to make sure you give the meat enough time to brown, searing it well on all four sides.  For the potatoes, I cut the amount of butter in half, as it seemed like a lot.  The family really enjoyed this meal, especially my oldest who was my little sous chef.   She took pride in helping cook the meal and we had a lovely afternoon in the kitchen, just the two of us.   Recipes and cookware can serve us up more than just a great meal, they can also nourish us with great memories as well.