Category Archives: Sides

Vampire killer

Garlicky Crusty Loaf

If you put a rustic, crusty loaf of bread on the table in front of me a decade ago, you’d either better have a loaf of your own or at least not expect me to share more than crumbs.

When Cooks Illustrated printed its famous Almost No-Knead Bread, I became obsessed, making loaf after loaf — some plain, some studded with garlic, parmesan, or sun-dried tomato and herbs.

Oh bread, I have missed you.  Its not that I haven’t tried to re-create your perfect crusty exterior and light and fluffy interior.  I’d just failed so many times that I’d given up.  Recently, I began experimenting with psyllium instead of using gums.  The result has been nothing short of amazing.  I finished the first loaf before I could remember to take pictures.

Since it was halloween yesterday, I decided to try a garlic loaf to ward off all sorts of evils.  (Actually, my immune system has been a little challenged lately, and I ready that garlic helps boost immunity.)  Normally, I use a tablespoon or so of minced garlic, but this time I opted for cloves in this Garlicky Crusty Loaf.  It toasts up very nicely, and it would make the perfect base for bruschetta.

 

 

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Berries bite back

IMG_1887One of the things I love about traveling is that it forces me to try new foods and new combinations of familiar foods.  I am forever grateful for Italy for introducing me to a surprising combo that stole my heart, fragole con aceto balsamico — fresh strawberries drizzled in balsamic vinegar.  Most of the time, it’s served as a dessert, but paired with the peppery bite of arugula and the amazingly tangy taste of plum tomatoes, it makes a wonderfully simple lunch on a summer day or a stunning accompaniment to grilled steak or chicken.

Strawberry and Tomato Salad

Bacon guilt

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Six months into living in the Middle East, and I still feel guilty walking into the non-halal section of the market and even more ashamed when I have to place my coveted package of pancetta affumicata on the checkout belt in front of the abaya and hijab clad cashier.

But, it’s pancetta affumicata, and I’ve gone nearly three years without…

Sorry vegan, Muslim, and non-pork eating friends.  There is just something about the taste of pancetta and bacon that turns the ordinary into something… well, something decadent.   Feel free to leave it out or use your favorite substitute.  I won’t judge if you don’t.

Leek and Potato Gratin

 

Getting saucy

Albóndigas en Salsa de Tomate (Meatballs in Tomato Sauce)

Setas al Ajo (Garlic Mushrooms)

I’ve been craving paella lately, and it’s so much better when its shared alongside a good Spanish red and a lively conversation.  Sounds like the recipe for a dinner party!!!

If I’ve learned anything entertaining friends, it’s that not everyone shows up on time – maybe they get lost or maybe they’re just not obsessively punctual like yours truly.  So, I fix an appetizer or two that we can munch on as the group comes together.  The main course tends to be something that comes out of the oven after the last guest arrives or can stand the rest.  Or, occasionally in the case when I haven’t had time to prep the ingredients in advance, isn’t even close to ready and becomes its own entertainment as guests stand around my open kitchen watching me finish cooking.

Normally when I make paella, my tapas selection tends towards olives, marcona almonds, sausages.  This time, I decided to try a couple of warm tapas, Albóndigas en Salsa de Tomate (Meatballs in Tomato Sauce) and
Setas al Ajo (Garlic Mushrooms).

Note to self: buy more GF bread next time!!! The sauce on these meatballs was so good, one friend kept going back and scooping out one meatball and two or three spoonfuls of the sauce, which he would them mop up every last drop of with the GF bread I had toasted.  Another piled mushrooms on pieces of toast like bruschetta, so that the garlicky sherry sauce would soak in.

 

 

Well-traveled food

Baked Bhajias (Veggie and Chickpea Patties)I first experienced bhajia in Mombasa, then as pakora in India, and then as dhaltjies in Durban. I love finding food that has traveled from one continent to another and in one bite recognizing a taste of the original with a new twist you maybe weren’t expecting but find just as pleasurable.

These bhajia, stuffed with broccoli and cauliflower, are really just another variation on the theme.  I ran out of garbanzo bean flour and wondered what would happen with canned chickpeas.  You can pan fry or deep fry them if you want that street food feel, but since the ingredients are so healthy to begin with, it seems a shame to coat them in oil.

I can never decide which chutney I like better, so I usually end up dipping one side of the bhajia in a cilantro mint chutney and the other in a tamarind date chutney.

Change artist

20131026-064333.jpg As a kid, I thought butternut squash was just a mellow, but forgettable, accompaniment for about any roasted meat.  Of course, my mother used to buy it already puréed in the frozen foods section at the market.  It’s kind of hard to generate excitement over a frozen orange brick of anything.

Back then, I had no appreciation for how amazingly versatile it can be, especially when you start with fresh squash.  For instance, I made this Moroccan Spiced Butternut Squash to serve alongside some salmon, and it completely stole the show.  I was so disappointed there were no left overs, that I’ve been thinking of other dishes to serve it with ever since.

An identity crisis

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How many foods can inspire a passionate backyard barbeque or dinner table debate over whether they should be labelled a grain, vegetable, or fruit?

Corn is one of those ingredients you don’t find on a lot of five star restaurant’s menus. After all, what customer will pay top dollar for something they can get out of a can or find on a buffet line.  It’s a shame, because the sweetness of fresh corn really complements spicy dishes, like this take on a Cajun dish – Blackened Salmon with Sausage Maque Choux (pronounced “mock shoo”).

Oh, and if you haven’t Google’d it already, the answer is all three.

Good Luck Chicken

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I’ve loved Thai cuisine since my first bite…longer ago than I care to admit. When I finally had an opportunity to visit Thailand, I vowed to try something new at every noodle cart, street vendor, and restaurant. Just when I think I’ve found my favorite — the dish that will make me give up all others — I discover another new love. In the summer, I crave the salads filled with vegetables, protein, and most importantly, flavor; they are satisfying without being heavy.

Trying to replicate Thai dishes at home scared the heck out of me, until I learned how crazy easy (and fast) they are.   If you’re a fan of the chicken lettuce wraps served in Chinese restaurants, you should really try the bright flavors of Larb Gai, for a change your taste buds (and waistline) will thank you for. BTW, larb means “good fortune” in Thai, so what more excuse do you need for trying this?

Overcoming a bad reputation

IMG_1047Zucchini gets a bad rap as a bland, mushy side, but it can be so much more.  This simple, but flavorful dish is a great compliment to grilled meat, poultry, or fish, but you can also turn it into a meal in itself by adding diced chicken sausage, tofu, or feta. Oh, and these freeze beautifully!

Confetti Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini

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