Category Archives: side dishes

A Very Grill Worthy Side: Artichoke and Mushroom Pilaf

We are finally seeing a change in the weather. The humidity has left the building so to speak, chased away by rain and a more than welcome cold front. Stores are decked out for Halloween and Pumpkin Spice everything is invading earth as we know it. That means that Fall is just around the corner, at least according to the calendar.

Cooler weather doesn’t mean that the grill is going into hibernation. Far from it. These are the evenings that were made for grilling. You can keep your grilling food company outside without breaking a sweat. That little bit of coolness in the air makes me think once again of comfort food. While I’m not ready for hearty casseroles and soups, a bit of a starchy and filling side dish is just what Mama D ordered. That’s how this little gem came to be.img_2319

I have taken some short cuts in the interest of time (school is back in session and so am I). I used one of those cooked rice pouches. These are surprisingly good when mixed with vegetables and seasonings. They have a firm texture meant to soften in the microwave, but when used on the stove with a flavorful liquid, the result is perfect al dente rice. There are several brands out there and they come in various flavors. I used a Long Grain and Wild Rice package. It had a little added flavor of its own without being too unhealthy, but I added a good amount of fresh thyme and homemade chicken stock for more personalized flavor.

You are more than welcome to cook your rice from scratch. If you do, cook it early in the day and let it chill out uncovered in the refrigerator for a few hours. This allows the rice to dry out resulting in more flavor absorption and less mushiness. 

The vegetable array consisted of artichoke hearts (Trader Joe’s Frozen), crimini mushrooms, and shallot. Then there was that generous handful of garden thyme….img_2325

The veggies sautéed in a skillet with a bit of olive oil and several splashes of chicken stock. When everything sported a late summer golden tan, I added the rice. and the thyme leaves. Then it was just a matter of letting everything get better acquainted while being plied with more chicken stock.img_2333

All of this took about as long as the chicken breasts needed to grill. The plate was finished with sautéed green and wax beans with baby carrots. Simple to make, quick to get ready and delicious to eat.img_2337

Artichoke and Mushroom Rice Pilaf
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This recipe uses a package of pre-cooked rice. you could cook your own, but do it early in the day and let it chill before adding it to the vegetables. Use any type of rice that you like. You could even do this with quinoa, farro, or barley.
Servings
3
Servings
3
Artichoke and Mushroom Rice Pilaf
Print Recipe
This recipe uses a package of pre-cooked rice. you could cook your own, but do it early in the day and let it chill before adding it to the vegetables. Use any type of rice that you like. You could even do this with quinoa, farro, or barley.
Servings
3
Servings
3
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Swirl the olive oil into a large heated skillet. Allow the oil to get hot. Add the artichoke hearts, mushrooms and shallots to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally until everything is lightly browned and tender. Add a little chicken stock if things seem too dry.
  2. Squeeze the package of rice to break it up. I used a Long Grain and Wild Rice Blend, but brown rice or any other grain would work. Open the package and add the rice to the skillet.
  3. Remove the thyme leaves from their stems by sliding your finger from the top to the bottom. Add the leaves to the skillet
  4. Toss to combine the ingredients and use a wooden spoon to separate the rice if necessary. Cook over medium heat, adding the chicken stock as needed. You want things to move around easily and to be a bit juicy.
  5. Continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently until the rice is tender and the flavors are well blended. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. drizzle with a little olive oil.
  6. Serve with grilled meat, poultry or fish.
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As I write this it is a lovely afternoon, perfect for a walk, which I intend to do shortly. Enjoy this wonderful change in the season and give a hearty side dish a whirl.

 

 

Can You Grill It? Potato and Green Bean Salad, Revisited

Yes, the grill on Mama D’s balcony is still working its grates off. It is after all, grilling season and everything is fair game. That’s where my “Can you grill it?” test comes into play. Taking a recipe or food that is usually made in the comfort of the kitchen into the great outdoors can be an adventure. Sometimes the result is wonderful, every once in a while, not so much. This potato salad, however, was a rousing success.

I’ve made this salad before and I’ve even shared the recipe. I don’t know why it took me this long to realize that it would be awesome on the grill. Well, thankfully it did (dawn on me, that is) and I wanted to share it with you.

Baby red potatoes got steamed until almost tender and green beans were blanched before meeting up with some sliced onions.IMG_2057

Everything got tossed with a little salt and pepper and a generous glug of olive oil before diving into the grill basket. Can this really count as a grilled dish if some time on the stove was required?  Why yes, it can. Partly because I said so, but primarily because the potatoes would burn before they cooked through and the green beans would lose their beautiful green-ness if this step wasn’t taken. So there.

My original recipe used a vinegar based dressing featuring a combination of balsamics (white and other wise) with olive oil, garlic, and grainy mustard. For the grilled version I lost the vinegars and went straight to the lemon juice. I know they are available all year, but fresh squeezed lemon juice just says summer to me. I have a condiment crush on grainy mustard right now, so it played a major role in the dressing. Some garlic, olive oil and a few snips of rosemary from the herb garden and I called it dressing.IMG_2052

Once the veggies were suitably golden, I tossed them with the dressing and lo and behold, a perfectly delicious side dish was born. In this case, it was paired with some grilled chicken thighs, but I think that any protein would enjoy sharing a plate with this “Can you grill it?” winner.IMG_2064

Grilled Potato and Green Bean Salad
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Grilled Potato and Green Bean Salad
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Steam the potatoes for 5 - 7 minutes or until they are barely tender. Set aside.
  2. Blanch the beans in boiling water for 2 -3 minutes until barely tender. Remove from pan and plunge them into an ice water bath. Drain and set aside.
  3. Combine the potatoes, beans, and onions in a large bowl. Add a bit of the olive oil and some salt and pepper and toss to coat everything evenly.
  4. Spray a grill basket with non-stick spray and set on a grill over medium/high heat. Spread the potato mixture evenly in the basket.
  5. Cook, tossing occasionally until the potatoes are golden and tender and the beans are tender with a bit of crunch. How long this will take depends on your grill. Don't go too far away.
  6. When the vegetables are cooked place them in a large bowl.
  7. Combine the remaining olive oil and the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until blended. Pour the dressing over the veggies and toss to coat. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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You can be sure that the grilling adventures will continue. There will be more “Can you grill it?” tests that will hopefully result in some fantastic recipes that will find their way into these posts. Until the next time, Happy Grilling!

 

Quick Quips About Sides and Cauliflower Mash with Broccoli & Cheese

It’s been some time since I shared a side dish recipe. I will remedy that now with this quick, decadent, and delicious take on Cauliflower Mash. This  mash has been hanging around Mama D’s Kitchen since my Low-Carb Diet phase. Back then I embraced Cauliflower as a substitute for potatoes. While my diet has become more balanced, I still watch those carbs and I often go to this side to fill out a comfort food plate.

It starts with cauliflower of course. Where it goes from there is totally up to the cook’s imagination. On this particular day I was using up some leftovers from the shower we gave for the new Grand-boy to be. The broccoli and cauliflower came from the crudites platter. The cheese spread was from a cheese football ( my boys are sports obsessed and the shower theme reflected that). The recipe for this, by the way, was awesome. It came from Jeff Mauro. Click on his name to check it out. While this cheese spread gave my dish a delightful cheddar flavor, any cheese spread, homemade or otherwise will work. The only requirement is that it be cream cheese based. (Boursin, or Allouette would be great.) This is crucial to it melting into the cauliflower and creating the perfect creamy texture.

One pot of boiling water did double duty. First, I blanched some broccoli florets, shocked them and let them dry while the rest of the magic happened.IMG_1282With the water still boiling I added the cauliflower that was chopped into small pieces. I like my veggies “al dente”, but this is one time when a little overcooking is a good thing. Well cooked cauliflower results in smooth mash.IMG_1285The cauliflower went back into the pan along with the cheese spread that was at room temperature. They were mashed together just like mashed potatoes would be. The ratio was perfect so no other liquid was added. If things seem too stiff add some milk, a little at a time. Take it slow because you can’t take it out if you use too much.IMG_1288All that was left to do was fold in the broccoli and grace the dinner plate with a generous mountain of creamy goodness. Yes, that is a bacon wrapped chicken breast that is peeking out of the corner. Since I was reflecting back on those low-carb days of old, I thought that I would go for the gusto and create an entire plate of  goodness in their memory.IMG_1293Honestly, this side would be wonderful with anything. Give this recipe a try, and by all means make it your own.

Cauliflower Mash with Broccoli and Cheese
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It's hard to believe that just three ingredients can create something so delicious.
Servings
3 - 4
Servings
3 - 4
Cauliflower Mash with Broccoli and Cheese
Print Recipe
It's hard to believe that just three ingredients can create something so delicious.
Servings
3 - 4
Servings
3 - 4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Bring the cheese spread to room temperature while the broccoli and cauliflower cook.
  2. Heat a large pan of water to a boil. Add a good amount of salt. Dump the broccoli florets in and blanch for 1 - 2 minutes. Immediately remove to an ice water bath. Drain well on paper towels and set aside.
  3. Add the cauliflower to the same pan and cook until the cauliflower is very tender. This should take 15 minutes or so. You actually want to overcook it slightly...trust me.
  4. Drain the cauliflower well and return to the pan. Add the cheese spread and mash with a potato masher. If the mixture seems too thick add a little milk and continue to mash until the mixture is almost smooth.
  5. Fold in the broccoli. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed, (but you probably won't need to). Serve.
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While we’re on the subject of cauliflower, check out the Not Potato Salad and the Cauliflower Mac & Cheese recipes from the archive. these are all wonderful ways to eat your veggies.

Steak Night Saturday and Porcini Pasta With Mushrooms and Cream

We have a tradition at Mama D’s house. Saturday is Steak Night. This is an inexpensive alternative to going to a pricey if not wonderful steak house. The steak is almost always a Petite Sirloin, a tender and flavorful steak that rivals a much more expensive filet at easily half the price. Many markets around here are starting to carry it and the going price is around $6.99 per pound, so you can indulge in its meaty goodness and not break the bank. Salt and pepper or a bit of Montreal Steak Seasoning is all it needs before the grill does its magic.

This isn’t about the steak…it’s about a side dish that was an inspired alternative to the potatoes I usually serve. It started with some Porcini Flavored Pasta that I found at a specialty store. I don’t often opt for these kinds of pastas, but Papa D fell in love with them and the price was right, so I thought I’d give them a whirl. I’m glad that I did.

Inspired by the earthy mushroom aroma that greeted my nose when I opened the bag, I knew that I had to add more layers of mushroom flavor to create a dish that would hold its own next to the steak. So I invited some Crimini Mushrooms and a good dose of my Porcini Rosemary Salt to the party.DIGITAL CAMERAThis was a heavenly trio that became a quartet when some shallots joined in to provide a subtle onion flavor.2015-09-12 16.39.05The mushrooms and shallots sautéed in some olive oil. I added some chicken stock to keep everything moist while keeping the fat content at bay.2015-09-12 17.15.26 After all, there would be some cream joining the pan shortly and I felt that one indulgence was enough.2015-09-12 19.25.15A good dose of fresh rosemary continued the woodsy flavor profile as the sauce thickened ever so slightly. The addition of the Porcini Rosemary Salt took the flavors to another level as the sauce continued to simmer gently until the pasta was ready. Once the pasta entered the pan the it was a few minutes to Side Dish perfection.2015-09-12 19.33.58

Porcini Pasta with Mushrooms, Rosemary, and Cream
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Porcini Pasta with Mushrooms, Rosemary, and Cream
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, but cut the time by one minute. Drain. While the pasta cooks make the sauce.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a medium fry pan. Add the mushrooms and shallots, and cook until the shallots are soft and the mushrooms are beginning to brown.
  3. Add about 1/3 of the stock and simmer for a few minutes until the stock is almost absorbed.
  4. Add the remaining stock and rosemary and cook 4 or 5 minutes.
  5. Add the cream and simmer for a few more minutes. The sauce should thicken slightly. Add the porcini salt and taste. If you think it needs more of the salt add a pinch or two. Add some fresh ground pepper and serve.
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It joined the grilled steak with pride and made Steak Night Saturday something very special.2015-09-12 19.44.01This dish could easily take center stage and be a delectable main dish as well, so find some Porcini Pasta, make some Porcini Salt, and welcome Fall with a dish that sings of the earth.

 

On the Side…The Other Half of Dinner Love

Dinner is my favorite meal of the day. I love to create a plate of love for the evening meal. As you know, Mama D is a big fan of the one dish meal, be it soup, skillet, or casserole. Sometimes, well actually, quite often she enjoys a plate of food divided; that is a protein, a starch and a vegetable each standing on their own.DIGITAL CAMERA

I thought it was time to share some thoughts on and recipes for side dishes. At times side Lamb chop with Tomato and Zucchini Gratindishes take a back (or is it side?) seat to the main event. A succulent steak, beautifully sauced chicken, or a juicy piece of pork bask in the spotlight, but those dishes that sit off to the side of the plate are the compliment to the protein and very often make that protein even better.

DIGITAL CAMERAFrom a health standpoint, our plate should be half filled with vegetables, the other half shared by protein and starch, particularly whole grains. While I’m still an unapologetic carnivore, I have been trying to adjust the balance of the plates I create. I’ve been working towards putting as much creativity into the sides as I do the main.

When it comes to side dishes, I can’t help myself, sometimes I just have to put the starch and veggies together. There are plenty of one pan sides coming out of Mama D’s Kitchen.

DIGITAL CAMERAOne of my current favorites unites Brussels Spouts and Yukon Gold Potatoes. Bacon and onion hold it all together and a generous dusting of freshly cracked pepper seals the deal.DIGITAL CAMERAThick sliced bacon browns up nicely in a pan. Once the bacon and most of the drippings are removed, the onions, potatoes and Brussels sprouts jump in together until everything is tender, brown, and delicious.DIGITAL CAMERAThis side goes well with anything and is super easy to prepare. A recipe is hardly needed, but here you go.

Skillet Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes
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This is an easy side dish that combines a vegetable and starch in one pan. The bacon and onions make this a fabulous side dish for any protein.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Skillet Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes
Print Recipe
This is an easy side dish that combines a vegetable and starch in one pan. The bacon and onions make this a fabulous side dish for any protein.
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat a large fry pan over medium high heat. Add the bacon and cook stirring occasionally until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels. Pour all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings out of the pan.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the potatoes, sprouts and onion to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally until everything is tender and lightly browned. This should take about 15 -20 minutes, but let your eyes and taste be the judge.
  3. Add the freshly ground pepper and serve.
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The casserole side dish is always a welcome addition to any meal. This particular one combines broccoli and cauliflower in a decadent cheese sauce.DIGITAL CAMERA How does this fit into Mama D’s healthier lifestyle? Well, as Oscar Wilde said everything in moderation including moderation. While not the lightest of dishes, I have trimmed a little fat here and there. I used an extra sharp cheddar cheese that allowed me to use only 3 ounces. A touch of blue cheese added some extra zing. DIGITAL CAMERAI did splurge on real butter, but it was only two tablespoons.  A good amount of onions caramelized in the butter before the flour was added to create a roux. I used low-fat milk in the sauce to trim a little more fat as well.DIGITAL CAMERAI blanched the cauliflower and broccoli to shorten the cooking time.

DIGITAL CAMERA I like the vegetables to be a little softer in this type of casserole, but if you want a little extra crunch skip this step.

I used whole wheat Panko crumbs, a small nod to health, but throw me a bone here.

DIGITAL CAMERAPanko is very crisp already so I only added a bit of butter along with some smoked paprika. Before it went into the oven I gave it a good dose of olive oil cooking spray.DIGITAL CAMERA The crust had the crunch of something made with a lot more fat.DIGITAL CAMERA

This casserole will easily serve six people as a small serving is almost as satisfying as a large one especially when it is paired with wonderful roast meat or poultry of your choice.

Broccoli and Cauliflower Au Gratin
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Broccoli and Cauliflower Au Gratin
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. To blanch the vegetables: Bring a large pot of water to a vigorous boil. Add the broccoli and cauliflower. Cook for 2 minutes (for the broccoli) and 3 minutes (for the cauliflower).
  2. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and immediately put them in a bowl of ice water. When cool drain completely and place in a gratin dish that has been coated with olive oil cooking spray.
  3. In a medium saucepan melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they are golden brown, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the flour and cook and stir for several minutes. Slowly pour in the milk stirring constantly to prevent lumps.
  5. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil. Continue cooking and stirring until the sauce has thickened. Stir in the mustard.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheddar and blue cheese. Once the cheeses have melted, pour the sauce over the vegetables. Stir gently to coat everything evenly.
  7. Melt the remaining butter in a small pan. Add the Panko crumbs and smoked paprika and toss until the crumbs are coated.
  8. Sprinkle the crumbs over the casserole. Spray the top of the casserole liberally with olive oil cooking spray. Bake in a 375 degree oven until the vegetables are tender, the top is golden, and the sauce is bubbly. This should take 30 to 40 minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 - 15 minutes before serving.
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I believe that sides make the meal. It’s that little extra dose of love that elevates the meal to something special.