Category Archives: Sides

Rockin’ Roasted Tomato Panzanella Salad

A couple weeks ago, my local Asian/Produce market had a gorgeous crop of vine-ripened tomatoes, at the awesome and rare price of 99 cents a pound.  Me being the lifelong tomato-lover that I am, I just could not pass up such a deal.  I loaded up about 4 pounds and set off to brainstorm on how to use them up before they went bad.  Now, I’ve wanted to try panzanella salad for a few years now, but never thought my husband would be very receptive to the wet bread thing…until now.  He has tried many, many new things in the past few years, and I’ve learned to simply not tell him what I’m making when I think he might put up a fight.  So, this time ’round, I knew I was gonna go for it.  Only problem was it was late March and quite chilly here in Jersey.  A cold tomato and bread salad just didn’t seem quite appropriate.  After a little more thought, I decided to roast the tomatoes, toast up the bread, and serve it at room temp.  The result, I must say, was the best thing I’ve made in a long time (yes, DH agrees) and I’m so glad that we photographed so that I can share it with all of you….it’s a must try!  When it gets a little warmer I plan to develop a summer panzanella so keep a look out for that in the coming months.

Ingredients

Vine-Ripened Tomatoes

Ciabatta Bread (stale is okay)

Fresh Garlic

Fresh Lime Juice (plus a couple tbsps. of zest)

Fresh Lemon Juice

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Red Onion

Fresh Parsley

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese (can also use parmesan, asiago, romano, etc.)

Process

Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees, then cube your bread.

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Place on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and toss in the oven.

030Then cut your tomatoes into medium wedges.

033Toss in a baking dish, grate some garlic over the top, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.  Then pop ’em into the oven.

034While your bread toasts and your tomatoes roast, you can prepare the dressing.  Squeeze the juice of one lemon and one lime into a bowl, drizzle in some olive oil whisking while you do so (to emulsify or homogenize the liquid).

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Thinly slice some onion and finely chop the parsley, toss in the vinaigrette and season the whole mess with plenty of salt and pepper.  Stir it up, taste it, sniff it, and continue to season until your tastebuds are all tingly.

047When your bread is golden brown and the tomatoes are soft, bubbly, and brown, remove from the oven and allow to cool for a couple minutes.

0501Toss the tomatoes into the dressing, with most of their juices.

051Your bread should look like this:

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Now toss that in, too.  Use your vegetable peeler to shave up a heaping pile of cheese shards then add to the salad.

053Now use your mitts or grab some salad spoons and toss up the whole thing until everything is well-combined.

054Be careful not to over mix, you don’t want it to be squishy, you just want everything to be coated in dressing.  Now, serve it up with some protein, and ENJOY!

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Because We Are Addicted…Roasted Brussel Sprouts

So, you’ve now seen brussel sprouts in two of my more recent posts, and you may be picking up on the fact that they have sort of had the effect of a very addictive drug.  Before I made them on Christmas Eve, I had only tasted them once before, and I thought, “Hey, these aren’t so bad.”  I also thought I could make them better.  After seeing a Produce Pete segment on the weekend Today show, just before Christmas, I decided it was time to give it a try (Pete seems to convince me to try a lot of new things).  You can’t imagine the eye rolling and grunting I got from DH when I announced my plans, but I put my foot down, and purchased some (by the way, they are very, very inexpensive).  I browsed recipes on the Internet for a while and finally decided to use a method that I found in an Ina Garten recipe, but jazz it up with bacon and onions.  HUGE HIT!!!  So huge, that when we visit our families in a couple of weeks, I plan to make it as a part of the dinner I’m cooking for everyone.  Even if you think you hate brussels, please give this a try, and remember:  everything is better with bacon.

Ingredients

Brussel Sprouts

Onion

Bacon

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Process

Begin by preheating your oven to 425 degrees.  Then rinse the brussel sprouts and cut each one in half.

022LOOK!  They are pretty.

023Set aside, and then brown small strips of bacon in a large frying pan, over medium heat.

024You can use as much bacon as you would like, I used three slices.  While the bacon is starting to render its fat, dice up some onion.  When the bacon is golden and about halfway to crispy, add in the onion (if your bacon has rendered an excessive amount of fat, you can drain some off).

025When the bacon is crisp (not hard) transfer it, and the onion, to a paper towel to drain and set aside.  Then, add the halved brussel sprouts to the pan (you can skip this step if you don’t want to be bothered, it just gives them a head start), and season with salt and pepper.

026When the brussels are just lightly browned, transfer them to a baking dish (gently, now), coat with olive oil and place in the oven to roast.

028You really want the brussels to get dark and caramelized (I learned this from Mark Bittman of the New York Times, he suggests that brussel sprouts are best when they almost look like you’ve burned them), I cook mine for almost half an hour.  After about 15 minutes, add the bacon and onion to the baking dish and give everything one good stir.  You can check the coloring of the brussels, now.  For me, 10-15 minutes longer, gets them right where I want them.  When they are to your liking, remove them from the oven and dress them with a sprinkle of kosher salt (Ina says you should salt them like french fries).

031Um…just look at them.  How could you not want to just dig in?  They are lovely, a real treat with the crispy outer leaves and soft, sweet center.  Topped off with the smokiness of the bacon and the added sweetness of the onion, it’s really an almost perfect side dish.  Just give them a shot, and ENJOY!

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Taking The Turkey Up A Notch

Okay, so, leftovers and me don’t really have a great history.  Once I’ve had something for dinner and then for lunch the next day, I get insanely bored and won’t touch the stuff again no matter how much I still have left.  By the way, I also hate wasting food so I usually force feed DH anything that might go to waste.  So I actually did pretty well with our Thanksgiving Part Two food.  As I mentioned, I ate a little on Thursday then we ate it for dinner on Friday and Saturday.  It was great, we both really enjoyed it, but there’s a lot of meat on an eight and half pound turkey breast and I still had plenty to work with tonight, but no way was I gonna make up a turkey sammy or serve it up with anything TG related.  Then I remembered a chicken fried rice recipe from Joelen’s Culinary Adventures that I made a couple months back.  And of course, anything that you can make with chicken, you can make with turkey.  As the day progressed so did my plans, and instead of sticking to Joelen’s recipe exactly, I altered it to use the veggies and spices that I had on hand.  To me that’s what recipe research is all about, using what you find to develop and round out your own ideas.  So that’s what I did and Dan actually said that we should buy more turkey just so that I could make this dish again!  Here it is:

Ingredients

Onions

Fresh Garlic

Celery (this was leftover from TG, too)

Carrots

Turkey (or any other meat, cooked and chopped)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Soy Sauce (I used reduced sodium)

Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Ginger (ground or fresh)

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Kosher Salt

Egg

White Rice (cooked)

Frozen Peas (you can really use whatever veggies you like though)

Process

Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet (remember it’s fried rice so don’t be too skimpy with this), you want your pan to get very hot.  While it heats up, chop all your veggies, I use the microplane for the garlic just because I prefer it very fine.  You can also chop your meat, now.

007Once the pan is hot enough (the oil should shimmer when you swirl the pot), add your veggies and sautee until onions are translucent.  I also season the veggies with salt and pepper (again, layering the flavor).

008Once the veggies are nicely sauteed, add the turkey to the pan and cook until heated through, slightly crispy and browned.

010Then you should push all the veggies and meat aside and scramble the egg into the pan.  You can either scramble the egg in a bowl and quickly stir it in or you can crack the egg into the pan and stir it in very quickly (I forgot to scramble it ahead thus, I discovered that the second option works just fine).  Once the egg starts to cook, you can incorporate it into everything else.

012Then you can add the rice to the pan.  You should be sure to crumble it up with your fingers instead of throwing in the whole block (according to Joelen, the latter will mess up the texture).  Now’s the time to add in more salt and pepper, ground ginger and pepper flakes to taste, and enough soy sauce to moisten and flavor the rice.

013Stir everything together until all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.

014Now you can add any other veggies that you would like, if they are frozen or cold, stir them in and cover the pan over medium low heat until they are warmed through.

016Serve with a healthy portion of duck sauce or spicy mustard and a light libation and ENJOY!

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Thanksgiving Part Two

For the first time in several years, I did not host Thanksgiving dinner. For DH and I, we’ve split the years that we’ve lived together between spending Thanksgiving with my brother and his partner and staying home and just cooking for the two of us.  But this year, my aunt, my mom’s older sister, invited us over and although I absolutely love cooking a big Thanksgiving meal, I simply could not refuse.  What can I say?  I love my family and could never pass up the opportunity to spend a holiday with them.

That being said, I just couldn’t help myself.  Thanksgiving is just not the same without sausage and apple stuffing and fresh cranberry sauce.  So in addition to the cake I made to bring to my aunt’s house (Paula Deen’s Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake:  see my polls tab), which was a big hit, I made a citrus and herb turkey breast, gravy from the drippings, and the aforementioned stuffing and sauce.  The intention was to eat the meal I cooked on Friday, but before we joined up with the family, I helped myself to a serving of stuffing and cranberry sauce, and after returning home, DH spooned up a serving for himself, announcing, “Thanksgiving’s not the same without your stuffing.”  So although we both had impromptu tasting sessions of Thanksgiving Part Two, we really enjoyed it on Friday.  Everything heated up beautifully, you would never had known it was cooked the day before.

The Menu

Citrus and Herb Turkey Breast

Sausage and Apple Stuffing

Fresh Cranbury Sauce with Orange Zest

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

Note:  All of the above were prepared on Thursday.

002I think this was the best stuffing I’ve ever made.  I used in artisan sourdough boule and I think it made all the difference.

001Could food be any prettier?

003To complete the meal, on Friday I used reserved turkey drippings to make gravy scented with fresh sage and rosemary and served everything alongside some buttery black pepper corn.  We were in heaven!

005004We didn’t think to get a pic of dessert but, it was delicious, here is the Food Network photo.

Anyway, who says you can’t have two Thanksgivings!?!  It’s impossible not to ENJOY!

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Cheesy Mashed Cauliflower

On a recent Saturday morning, I was watching the Produce Pete segment on the Today Show and he was talking about cauliflower, when I realized that I had never cooked cauliflower.  To be honest, I don’t remember ever eating it any way but raw.  I love it raw but, I certainly couldn’t serve it for dinner that way.  So armed with all my tips from the ever-so-helpful Pete, I picked up a pretty little head of cauliflower and set off to find a good recipe.  I was sorely disappointed with my Internet search.  Most of the recipes I found were bland diet recipes.  So I figured if they’re a substitute for mashed potatoes they need cheese and since they are a nice fresh veggie they could benefit from some herbs.  Here’s what I came up with:

Ingredients

Cauliflower

Lemon (zest and juice)

Fresh Parsley

Butter

Parmesan Cheese

Milk

Process

Rinse the cauliflower and scrape off any oxidized brown spots with the back of a knife.

0012Then cut the head in half and remove the core and all the greens around the bottom.

0032You can then cut or break the cauliflower into similarly sized florets.

0043Next, place your veggies in a large pot of cool, salted water and bring to a boil.  Allow to boil until just fork tender (soft enough to mash) but, not mushy.

0053While the cauliflower cooks, chop the parsley and finely grate the lemon zest.  You can also gently heat the milk in the microwave (you probably don’t need more than 1/4 cup for one head of cauliflower).

0062When the caulflower is tender, drain very well in a colander and return to the pot, on low heat.  Add the herbs, lemon juice, and lemon zest.  Season with salt and pepper and mash with a potato masher.

0072To smooth out even more, remove from heat and place into a bowl, add a couple splashes of milk and lots of cheese, and go at it with your hand mixer.  If you like it chunkier just stir in the milk and cheese.

0091Note:  Cauliflower has a lot of water in it, more than I anticipated, as a result, my finished product was looking a little runny.  If yours comes out like this, return it to the pot and let some of the liquid cook out over medium to medium high heat (keep a close eye on it!).

0102As per the results of my poll (that some of you so graciously voted in) I served the cauliflower with Italian style meatloaf muffins, and of course, another generous sprinkling of parm.

Please excuse the unsightly white speck on the table, apparently the cameraman was off his game...lol.

Please excuse the unsightly white speck on the table, apparently the cameraman was off his game...lol.

Enjoy this tasty and light alternative to mashed potatoes!

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Oh What To Serve, What To Serve?

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Dirty Jersey Disco Fries

All I can say is YUMMY!  I’ve been eating disco fries, a variation of cheese fries commonly served in the diners of New Jersey and New York, since I was a little girl.  When I was young, there was a giant flea market in the town I grew up in and I loved to go there, mostly because I knew I would be having fresh cut french fries doused in cheese and gravy.  Until recently, I didn’t even know they were called disco fries, apparently that was a term coined in upstate New York, I just knew they tasted like heaven.  It may come as a surprise to some of you who don’t know me personally but, if asked what my favorite foods are, french fries will always be first on my list.  Growing up, I always had them deep fried but, for the most part I make oven fries now, which I’ve discovered get much crispier without all the fat.  Anyway, when I saw that there was going to be a Local Eats challenge on Joelen’s Culinary Adventures, I jumped on the chance to indulge on a long-time favorite.  I did my best to lighten up the dish by using lots of chicken broth for the sauces, part-skim mozzarella, and by baking the fries. The crumbled bacon is what turned this dish into a meal for us.  By the way, I picked up this method for the oven fries from Smitten Kitchen a couple weeks ago, it works beautifully.  Here goes:

Ingredients

Fries:

Russet/Idaho Potatoes (I usually allow two med./lrg. per person but, since it was dinner I threw in an extra)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Gravy:

Flour

Butter

Chicken Broth/Stock

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Mozzarella Sauce:

Pasteurized Mozzarella Cheese

Flour

Butter

Chicken Stock

Milk (whatever you have in your fridge is fine)

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Garnish:

BACON!

Process

Start out by cooking up your bacon as you normally would (I used four slices).  When making bacon to crumble, I usually cut into strips before I fry it, it just makes it less messy when it’s time to crumble it up.

0132When your bacon is fully cooked, set aside on paper towels to drain, and pour out most of the fat from the pan.

0151

In the same pan, allow a couple tablespoons of butter to melt.  To the butter, add equal parts flour and stir until the mixture smooths out.

0142This is your roux, season with salt and pepper and allow to brown, stirring occasionally, until it reaches a shade of brown a little lighter than peanut butter.  As I mentioned in Meatloaf Meatballs, do not leave it unattended!

018While your roux cooks, you can clean up your potatoes.

0113

Cut the potatoes into thick wedges, I find that steak fries hold up better to the gravy and cheese than thinner fries do.

0122Parboil the potatoes in salted water until just fork tender.  Once the water reaches a boil, this should only take a few minutes.

When they reach this point, drain well, and transfer to a large bowl.

0161Coat with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper, then toss the potatoes onto a cookie sheet in a single layer (my potatoes did suffer some breakage this time around, but these things happen in the kitchen and the bottom line is, they still taste just as yummy!)

0171Bake the potato wedges in a preheated, 400 degree oven until they are crispy and golden.

Some time while you are prepping the potatoes, your roux will have reached its desired color.  At this point you can add the chicken broth.  Do this while stirring constantly to avoid the dreaded lumps.

019I used about three quarters of the can of chicken broth.  Once all of the liquid is incorporated, let the gravy come to a boil while stirring occasionally.  Once it has reached a rolling boil, it should be a nice consistency.  You can then remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl until ready to serve.  Note:  cover the bowl so the gravy doesn’t lose too much of its heat as it sits.

021Rinse out your pan and start another roux.  This time, just give the flour a few minutes to cook, we don’t want the roux to pick up any color since it’s for a cheese sauce.  Again you can season with a little salt and pepper.  While the roux cooks, you can grate the cheese, I used about half a block.

0221

After the flour has cooked up a bit, add the rest of the can of chicken broth, again, stirring continuously.  Once that has come together, you can add the milk(I use two percent), I used about equal parts broth and milk.

023Congratulations, you have just made a bechamel sauce(albeit lightened up a bit)!  After the mixture has thickened a bit, you can add in the cheese.

024When the cheese is melted, the sauce is done.

Around this time, your potatoes should be reaching the desired level of crispiness.  When they appear to be to your liking, remove from the oven and allow to cool for just a couple of minutes, then transfer to a serving dish.  Pour the gravy and cheese sauce over the fries and sprinkle the top with bacon.

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How could you not ENJOY!?!

Note:  for those not afraid to try new things, try them with a little ketchup on the side, it really is good!

A Joelen’s My Kind Of Town Thanksgiving Entry-Check out the Round Up.

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