Side Dishes

The Case of Lazy Summer

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lazy dog

I normally would feature a recipe but I’ve decided to turn the tables around here and let people share their summer recipes ideas on my blog. Not because I don’t have ideas of my own. With an upcoming wedding, family reunion, social gatherings, flying across several continents, time pressing projects,  and social gatherings that I have attended, I wasn’t able to squeeze any time to fit blogging in my schedule. No, I have not forgot about you or my blog. I was also feeling tired as heat does have an impact my laziness and lack of motivation.   As my mother says, “Temperature is inversely proportional to my desire to move”. My tolerance for heat is very low. Nonetheless, I accomplish nothing from shirking from my responsibilities. I suppose my commitment, conviction, and determination is what’s keeping me fueled.

We all need a break from time to time. So do I. Rather than searching and publishing summer recipes today, some of my friends lent me great summer recipe ideas that are easy and most importantly, don’t require much usage of heat. The kitchen is the last place I want to be during the summer but cold soups, ice cream and smoothies isn’t necessarily going to cut it for me nor will it for my family. Cooking never takes a summer vacation. There are still bellies to fill and palates to satisfy.

I was in need of low carb lunch recipes and an acquaintance recommended this Coca-Cola chicken wings recipe.  As delicious as it is easy, preparation only requires 20 minutes of your time.  I have eaten coca-cola chicken before but I am intrigued by this recipe. I am a sucker for chicken wings or finger food for that matter. They are just convenient and easy to eat.   I may try them out for my July 4th barbecue.  Another person lend me his Zucchini Pizza Boat recipe which would be ideal for a Meatless Monday dinner. I love the idea, simplicity, and creativity behind using zucchini instead of pizza dough.  This recipe not only makes for a healthy dinner idea but it’s perfect for incorporating more vegetables in your kids diets.

Sometimes my schedule takes over my life and I don’t always have the time nor the energy to whip up gourmet nutritious meals. Take-out meals are not an option for me as tempting as they may seem. That is why this bake curried cauliflower quinoa recipe is ideal. As the contributor to this recipe puts it, it’s gluten-free, vegan, and full of detoxifying turmeric and white vegetables, which are great for keeping your immune system healthy. Stuffed vegetables seem to be the latest rave and I am itching to give this unbelievably easy stuffed vegetables recipe  a try. No meal is complete without a dessert. These easy no-fail gluten-free chewy chocolate almond hazelnut cookies   are a great way to conclude a heavy meal.

 

Roasted Asparagus with Tomatoes and Mushrooms

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oven roasted asparagus

I initially intended to make roasted asparagus to be served as a side dish along with wheat berries. I won’t go into the gross details as to why I aborted that idea. Let’s just say I had a disgusting awakening by some intruders who already claimed the wheat berries for themselves. What a shame and a waste of wheat berries. Anyhow, grossing you out while trying to enamor my oven roasted asparagus recipe seems counterproductive so I shall proceed to share the more appetizing aspect of it 🙂

Roasting is my favorite method of cooking vegetables, not the least which is the oh so glorious, green asparagus. For starters, roasting asparagus is a lot easier than steaming them. Asparagus takes minutes to cook and therefore is more vulnerable to being overcooked. Secondly, roasting asparagus deepens the flavor and brings out the vegetables’ inherited sweetness. Moreover, if you have been notified about last minute company, this side dish only takes 12 minutes to prepare therefore minimizing the stress factor. Lastly, it can be served on its own or used in a number of side dishes.

Due to the wheat berry incident, I threw in some mushrooms and cherry tomatoes to the mix. The more, the merrier. But the key to mastering the culinary art of cooking asparagus is not to overthink it. Preparation is not taxing in the least.  The thicker the asparagus is, the better is it for roasting – it won’t dissolve into a pile of mush.  My choices for seasonings are salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder, olive oil, and a bit of lemon juice. This lovely platter of oven roasted asparagus makes a delicious addition to any holiday table.  Leftovers can be tossed in with pasta, salad, or in any grains. You can throw in some chicken or cheese and create a meal out if it.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 lbs of asparagus rinsed thoroughly and ends trimmed
  2. 1 lbs of mushrooms washed and rinsed
  3. 1 lbs of cherry tomatoes stems removed
  4. 1 onion thinly sliced
  5. 2-3 cloves of garlic minced
  6. 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  7. 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  8. Salt and pepper for taste

 

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lay vegetables out in a single layer in a baking dish or cookie sheet. In a small bowl, whisk olive oil , garlic, salt and pepper. Drizzle evenly over vegetables.  Roast for 8-12 minutes depending on the thickness of your asparagus until lightly browned and tender. Drizzle with lemon juice before serving.

Yields 4 servings

 

 

Vegetable Risotto

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vegetable rissoto

Apart from making various sauces, leftover vegetable soups can be used in lieu of vegetable broth for making risotto, as I recently discovered. Everyone has their own little invention; I have my own. I normally manage to finish leftovers but for some reason, I underestimated the quantity of vegetable soup I made a couple dinners ago. Not wanting to have soup for the third time nor wanting to dispose of it, I was lost for ideas until I nearly forgot I had a surplus of risotto nesting comfortably in my dark pantry. Growing tired of serving vegetable and rice with fish, I concocted a new risotto recipe idea.  I simply put leftover vegetable soup and risotto together and voilà:  behold the vegetable risotto.  Without trying to be presumptuous, sometimes an empty growling stomach invokes creative cooking ideas.  All it takes is an empty stomach, boredom, and some wheels spinning in my head (and accessible ingredients) and I’ve already created a meal in no time with very little effort.

If you already know how to make risotto, then you know how time consuming and fussy it can be. In actuality, however, it only takes approximately 20 minutes to cook.  I used leftover vegetable soup and didn’t even bother to strain the vegetables.  Cooking with risotto is more of a technique than a side-dish. Once you get a basic understanding and feel for cooking risotto, you can create a dish that is very satisfying, easy to prepare, and doesn’t fail to impress family members and guests alike.  Once you develop the confidence in cooking with risotto, do not be afraid to experiment or apply your own technique once you have followed the basic steps.

I feel that the vegetables makes this risotto a more hearty side-dish.  While risotto is a side-dish that has become associated with swanky high end restaurants,  it is the epitome of Italian comfort food.  An easy risotto recipe is not as elusive as you may think.  There is a myriad of risotto recipes and ideas to indulge in and not just your standard mushroom or pea risotto. To turn this vegetable risotto recipe into a meal, you can add cheese, leftover pieces of chicken, beef, or even tofu.  I once made risotto pudding when I didn’t have rice in the house and it spoke for itself.  Whether you are looking for a comforting midweek dinner idea or an elegant dinner party appetizer, this vegetable risotto recipe is a guaranteed winner. I know this may seem like an overused cliche to you but I wouldn’t be publishing a defective recipe.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 onion chopped
  2. 2 cloves of garlic minced
  3. 1 1/2 – 2 cups of aborio rice
  4. 3/4 cup of dry white wine
  5. 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  6. 6-8 cups of leftover vegetable soup
  7. 1 cup of cheese (optional)
  8. Salt and pepper for taste

Instructions

Heat leftover vegetable soup in a sauce pan over low heat.  Heat olive oil  in a large shallow skillet. Add onion and garlic and saute till fragrant. Add rice and saute for 2 minutes. Pour in wine and stir constantly until fully absorbed. Add one ladle of vegetable soup with the vegetables in them a time and stir until soup is absorbed. Continue this process for 15-20 minutes or until the rice is al dente. Remove from heat.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Yields 6 servings

 

 

Quinoa with Squash, Leeks, and Sage

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2014-03-16 12.41.49

I borrowed this recipe from a magazine I receive on a weekly basis. The recipe was titled Quinoa with Hidden Sweet Potatoes in the honor of the hidden miracle behind the story of Purim. I modified this recipe by using squash instead of sweet potato and adding leeks and fresh sage instead. I like sweet potatoes but I happen to be more partial towards squash. You may think that squash is overused in my recipes but I can never use it enough. It literally has the Pavlov effect on me besides chocolate. Plus there are family members who don’t particularly like sweet potato so squash was my alternative. Now that Purim has past, this quinoa recipe would make a great gluten-free side dish idea for Passover. Quinoa recipes offer many variations.  What I like cooking with quinoa the most is that I can almost incorporate any ingredient I want and it’s still a complete yet light side dish. Most vegan recipes happen to be side dishes and quinoa happens to be one of my favorite. Not only quinoa is easy to digest and healthy, it is also versatile.  You can create your own variation but right now I am using the ingredients I have. If I wanted to, I could have added toasted almonds to the mix as well. I could have minimally added toasted pumpkin seeds if I wanted to. Nuts, seeds, all the above or neither, this vegan and gluten-free side dish serves well with roasted chicken or fish.  Or you can eat it as it is. Certain side dishes are filling by itself. If I am in the mood for a light meal, I won’t normally serve anything else.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  2. 1 cup of quinoa
  3. 2 cups of peeled and diced butternut squash
  4. 2 cloves of garlic minced
  5. 1 medium leek, light green and white parts cleaned and thinly sliced
  6. 2 tablespoons of fresh sage chopped
  7. 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  8. 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
  9. 2 cups of reduced sodium vegetable broth
  10. Salt and pepper for taste

Instructions

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the broth, squash, quinoa, cinnamon, nutmeg, sage and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the liquid is absorbed and the squash and quinoa are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Gently stir in the spinach and cook until it just begins to wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper.

Yields 4 servings

 

 

 

Avocado Mayonnaise

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2014-03-04 15.36.44

My hat goes off to my father in-law for the inspiration behind this recipe. I never particularly cared for mayonnaise. To me, it was a vegetarian alternative to sour cream. When I found out that mayonnaise is made from raw eggs, I have been using it as sparingly as possible. I have been searching for vegan versions but the recipes seemed too complicated for me to follow. Plus I made a huge mess in the process of making homemade mayonnaise.  I don’t exactly recall how mayonnaise came up in the conversation but my father in-law and I were talking about various condiments that pair with fish.  Not much of a fan of mayonnaise himself, he makes his own avocado spread that tastes just like mayonnaise without eggs or soy. I tried his idea and it was a success.

Most vegan mayonnaise involves pureeing tofu with some vinegar and salt. While it may appear to look a bit like pale mayonnaise, it takes a stretch of the imagination to taste anything other than seasoned tofu. Typically these vegan versions tend to lack richness, umami and color and inevitably have that vaguely astringent tofu taste. I don’t fancy tofu for that matter either.

In case of an authentic mayonnaise, egg yolks generally serve as the emulsifier. They contain lecithin, a compound which gives it its super power of combining oil and water. But eggs aren’t the only food that contain lecithin. Soybeans also provide an abundant source of lecithin as well. By using soy milk as an emulsifier,  I was almost certain that I would be able to make a vegan mayonnaise that was rich, creamy and flavorful. My first attempt didn’t was a failure at it’s best. A one to one substitution of egg yolk to soy milk did not provide enough lecithin which resulted an oily mess. For batches 2-4 I tested different ratios and finally found a quantity of soy milk that would create a smooth creamy emulsion

My father in-law’s version is just as  mild, creamy, and delicious. As usual, I have listed quantities as a guide only. I tend to add in the lemon juice, vinegar,  mustard, and ground pepper at the end, and keep tasting in between each addition. Every batch yields a mayo of a slightly different personality, depending on my mood, and what I am going to use it for. But the quantities I have provided will keep you on the right track. But sometimes plain and simple condiment is all I really need. After all, good condiments add a touch of something extra to main attraction events without taking over the spotlight. This vegan mayonnaise recipe idea is  fantastic served with veggie burgers, and works  many wonders with felafel and tuna salad. From hereon, I will use this eggless mayonnaise more often if I decide to make a basic, quick coleslaw, or potato salad. If you were hesitant about using mayonnaise before, this raw mayonnaise recipe may convince you otherwise.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 2 ripe Haas avocados
  2. 1/4 cup of unsweetened soy milk (you can use rice milk for a soy-free version)
  3. 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  4. 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
  5. 2 teaspoons of mustard
  6. 1 teaspoon of apple vinegar cider
  7. 1/4 teaspoon of paprika
  8. Fresh ground pepper for taste

Instructions

Place all ingredients in a food processor and puree for about a minute until smooth and creamy.

Yields 1 1/3 cup

 

Barley with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Broccoli

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barley and trees

This side dish idea is an inspiration from 2 recipes I cross-referenced. I borrowed this idea from a pasta and broccoli recipe but used barley instead for a gluten-free and lighter version. I also thought about imitating a baked barley recipe in one of my cookbooks but decided to cook it instead. Baking would have been too time consuming for me.  Interestingly enough, hubby quipped that the texture of this side dish was similar to that of risotto which I suppose you can theoretically use  if you prefer risotto instead of barley.  To honor the upcoming holiday of Tu B’svhat, I used barley, sun dried tomatoes, and broccoli which sort of resembles miniature trees. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate side dish idea for this occasion. I thought about including dried mushrooms and toasted pine nuts but didn’t go through with the idea. I will, however, include those additional ingredients for your enjoyment. As one of the Seven Species (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates), barley is a grain with a nutty flavor with a pasta/risotto constancy. Dating back to the Biblical era, barely has been and is still used in many side dishes and stews. Pearled barley, as used in this recipe, is hulled barley that has been polished so that the bran of the kernel are removed.  While pearled barley is lower in nutrients than hulled barley, it cooks more quickly.  As a less familiar side dish than rice pilaf, couscous, pasta or potatoes, barley can dress up a meal.  For instance, you can throw in some chicken. For a dairy version, you can include crumbled goat cheese as well. Healthy and easy to prepare, this side dish is perfect for potlucks.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  2. 1 onion finely chopped
  3. 4 gloves of garlic minced
  4. 1 cup of sun dried tomatoes
  5. 1 cup of dried mushrooms (optional)
  6. 1 cup of broccoli florets
  7. 1 cup of pearled barley
  8. 2 1/2 cups of hot vegetable or chicken broth
  9. 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley chopped
  10. 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest
  11. 1/2 cup of toasted pine nuts
  12. Salt and pepper for taste

Instructions

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onions and garlic. Cook, stirring often, for about 5-7 minutes. Add broccoli, sun dried tomatoes, and mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes. Add pearled barley to the skillet. Cook, stirring often, for another 3 minutes.  Slowly pour in hot broth.  Reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 45 minutes or until tender.  Remove from heat. Keep covered for another 5 minutes. Uncover and let cool for 5 minutes. Stir in parsley, lemon zest and toasted pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper.

Yields 4 servings

Fish Bites with Dill Sauce

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Fish Bites

With no disrespect for my dearest mother who I endlessly love and admire, I never really cared for stuffed fish. My indifference for this particular dish was not influenced by her cooking.  While I am normally a fastidious eater, I devoured almost anything she made. It’s merely due to the fact that the idea never appealed to me. She would (and still does) make and served stuffed fish, or gefilte fish every Friday night. Sometimes she would embellish it with salsa which I would occasionally eat.  This post is not meant to offend anyone who eats gefilte fish. God bless you if you do. Personally, I prefer chilled pickled salmon which my grandmother makes. I hope to share a recipe shortly because it on the top ten of my favorite fish recipes. Last night, I brainstormed the idea of making stuffed fish balls from a cocktail meatball recipe. That idea never materialized in the least.  I decided to make fish bites or bite sized fish patties out of my own volition instead.  Rather than using store-bought prepared stuffed fish, I used a combination of fresh salmon and halibut.  This recipe would also work well with sole, cod, haddock, and talapia or any fish with the least amount of bones. I was mostly surprised how quickly these fish bites were consumed. When there were two nuggets remaining, entertaining the idea of leftovers was laughable. The last two remaining nuggets were shared with me and hubby. Quick and easy to make, these crispy delights make a perfect family-friendly fish recipe idea. I served them with a homemade dill sauce, just mayonnaise, fresh dill, lemon juice, and ground pepper, but they’re just as delicious served with tomato ketchup or plain low/non-fat yogurt for dipping.  You can make these fish bites in advance and reheat them when ready to serve. Serve with fresh salad and grains.

For this recipe, you will need:

  1. 1 lbs of salmon
  2. 1 lb of haddock
  3. 1 egg or 2 egg whites beaten
  4. 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
  5. 1 tablespoon of fresh dill
  6. 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley
  7. 1 clove of garlic minced
  8. 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  9. 1/4 cup of bread crumbs
  10. Salt and pepper for taste
  11. 2 tablespoons of olive oil

For the dill sauce, you will need:

  1. 1/3-1/2 cup of  lite mayonnaise
  2. 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh dill
  3. 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh mint
  4. Juice from one small lemon
  5. Ground fresh pepper for taste

Instructions

Grind salmon and halibut in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a deep shallow bowl. Add all the ingredients except for olive oil and mix well. Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Manually form fish batter into balls or patties and saute for 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

For the dill sauce, process mayonnaise. dill, mint, lemon juice, and ground pepper in a food processor until blended. Serve along side with fish bites.

Yields 10-12 fish bites