Tag Archives: side dish

Zucchini-Ricotta Fritters

Zucchini.  I love it–the plants are lush, the flowers beautiful, they create a LOT of food for my family for a very small investment.  Did I mention a LOT?  One of the joys of growing zucchini is the continual search for another way to prepare it.  The August 2011 Food and Wine and Mario Batali provided this easy-peasy and fast zucchini solution.

I’ve made zucchini fritters before I found this recipe, and they were pretty good.  And then I made them from this recipe and they were uh-maze-ing!  The magic?  Ricotta and lemon zest.  Oh, yeah.  So fresh!  So citrusy!  So yummy!!!

This recipe is MOSTLY zucchini!  It calls for 2 medium, but I had captured 3 while they were small that day…

  • 2 medium (or 3 small) zucchini
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 large scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • olive oil for frying
  • lemon wedges for serving

In a large bowl, combine zucchini, scallions, garlic, ricotta, eggs, lemon zest, and salt and pepper. 

Stir to combine and add flour.  Stir until just incorporated.

Line a large baking sheet with paper towels.  In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of olive oil until shimmering.  Working in batches, add 2-tablespoon mounds of the zucchini batter to the hot oil, spreading them to form 3-inch puddles.

Fry over medium-high heat, turning once until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes.  Drain on paper towels.

Serve right away, with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Yum-yum-yummy!  Perfect with pasta, or with a fresh tomato slice, or the next morning, reheated, with an over-easy egg and a bit of cheese on top!  Zucchini–it’s what’s for breakfast!  🙂  Food and Wine suggests a wine pairing of a citrusy, spritsy, Spanish white.

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Garden-Fresh Ratatouille

I had never had ratatouille before this summer; knew there was an animated movie about a rat gourmet and that’s about it.  I came across a recipe in my newest cookbook, Gluten-Free and Easy.  How fabulous to find all the ingredients for ratatouille right in my very own garden!  What could I do?  I had to try this yummy-yummy recipe.

  • 1 large onion, finely sliced (My onions are still a bit small, so I pulled 7 smallish ones.)
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 large eggplant, about 1 pound, chopped (I’m growing a lovely heirloom striped variety called Italian Bicolor.)
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 large green pepper, seeded and diced (this is a Big Bertha Bell)
  • 2 baby yellow squash, chopped
  • 2 1/4 pounds ripe plum (roma) tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup white wine (REALLY makes all the difference in the flavor!!!)
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf (I bought a sweet bay plant from the greenhouse this year, so I have fresh bay!  Woot!)
  • 2 TBSP chopped basil
  • 1 TBSP chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
  • 1 tsp salt
  • good grind of black pepper

(Wow does this use a bunch of my garden produce!  Yay!)

Cut a small x in the bottoms of each tomato (helps the peel to separate), blanch in boiling water for a couple minutes, shock in ice water, cut off stem end, peel and chop.

In a large saucepan or skillet over medium heat, saute the onion in olive oil until soft.

Add the garlic, eggplant and coriander and cook, stirring for 5 minutes.

Add zucchini, green pepper and yellow squash.  Cook for another few minutes.

Stir in tomatoes, wine, tomato paste, thyme (the leaves will cook off the stems, which can be removed later), and bay leaf.  Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes until vegetables are tender.

(Now we’re smellin’ yummy!)  Stir in basil and parsley.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with your choice of starch.  The recipe suggests a baked polenta or mashed sweet potatoes with pumpkin.  I had some pasta.

So good warm with a bit of parmesan!  It was also yummy cold the next day for lunch, with a bit of basil pesto.  The eggplant provides a sort of meatiness that makes this vegetarian meal (or side dish) satisfying to the meat-lovers in your house.  The flavor from the wine melds with the veggies to create a yumminess that is more than the veggies would be on their own.  And, with all of those freshly picked veggies?  Gotta be good for you.

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Celine’s Salt Potatoes

Doncha just love how sweet and tender baby potatoes are?  Doncha just love them chilled with a bit of salt the next day?  Here’s my new fav way to have baby potatoes–no need for the salt shaker the next day!  My mom shared this recipe on a recent visit.  Simple and yummy!

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds baby potatoes (Mom has tried this with every color potato but blue(!) and says yummy no matter!)  The key to the recipe is using baby potatoes only–if you cut bigger ones, they absorb the salt and get TOO salty–NOT yummy.
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup kosher salt (Amount will vary depending on how many little taters you have–keep salt and water proportional.)
  • 1 quart water  (potatoes must be covered by the brine–adjust water and salt accordingly.)

Mix the salt and water, add the potatoes.  Bring the pot to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer.  Boil potatoes until fork tender.  I learned the true definition of fork tender the other day–it’s when you stick the potato with a fork and it slides right off!  I just love cooking–always learning something new!









When potatoes are nice and tender, scoop them out onto a rack sitting over a sheet pan to catch the drips.  Let the potatoes dry–this won’t take long.  They end up with the perfect amount of salt on the skin!  Mom says red potatoes actually show the salt crystals so they get all sparkly–how pretty will that be?!

Serve up your yummy little perfectly salted taters family style with the rest of your meal.  Be sure to sneak a few into a secret hiding place in the fridge for later!

Mmmmm-mmmm-mmmm!  So yummy!  I ate them with my fingers.  Baby potatoes are so moist they don’t need butter or sour cream or anything.  The salt layer on the skin is the PERFECT amount for the potato.  (I keep typing “potatoe”–curse you, Dan Quayle!) 

The potatoes in my garden are just getting to this size.  I hope I’ll be able let a few of them mature so I have some for the winter!

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Parsley Pesto Mashers

It’s raining!  A welcome relief after the last few “blast furnace” days.  Here I am, computer on my lap, listening to thunder and enjoying the fresh rain smell.  I had the day off from the greenhouse and ran around doing things I haven’t been able to get to lately…on the list of things to do today:  blog the mashers I promised 2 weeks ago!  Wow–thanks for being patient! 

Parsley and garlic are naturals with potatoes, and the pesto made this side dish super easy.  Have a look at what you need for Parsley Pesto Mashers:

  • 3-4 potatoes, scrubbed, cubed, boiled until fork-tender
  • 1/2 cup parsley pesto (Find the recipe at the end of this post.)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp hard cheese, such as pecorino romano (Or more if you like!)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup half and half  (Feel free to use skim if you want to cut a few calories or heavy cream if you’re feeling decadent!)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cube potatoes so they’ll cook quickly and evenly.  Peel if you want; I like the earthy flavor of the peel, so I leave them on. Place in a pot, add water to cover and cook until fork-tender.

Drain potatoes and add back to the hot pan to dry them–the hot pan will cook off excess water that can make your mashers soggy–bleh.

Add half and half and mash with a hand masher.  If potatoes seem too dry, add a bit more half and half….or butter! That would be extra yummy!

Add cheese and pesto, mash together until evenly mixed and desired smoothness or lumpiness is achieved.  Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.

Serve ’em up along side the entree of your choice.  I was a bit worried they’d end up too, too green….but they were just fine!

Next time you’re invited somewhere and asked to bring a side, or if company’s coming and you want to impress, or if you just want a nice, flavor-y, comfort-y somethin’ with your dinner, these mashers are the way to go!

I had leftovers….so the next day, I snuck some out of the fridge, made little patties and fried them in a skillet with a bit of butter.  Yummy!  I got caught, though and had to share–the garlic smell lured Mr16 from his lair!  Next time, I’ll add an egg to help them hold together better.  Maybe I’ll make fritters from the mashers to begin with!

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Mama Celine’s Refried Beans

My Midwest parents moved to New Mexico years ago and embraced all things Southwest–the decor, the landscaping and the food!  Mom was quick to find new friends who cooked traditional foods, asked for their recipes and, being a good mom, shared them with me!  I love these refried beans–so much better than canned and super easy to make.

The fun red chile bowls and woven placemats are from The Pink Store–a great place for Mexican and Central American this-and-thats, and a spectacular restaurant featuring amazing food, seriously dangerous margaritas and wandering Mariaches.  It’s across the border in a little town called Palomas, run by friends of my parents.

  • 2 cups dry pinto beans, picked over for little stones, etc.
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or put through a garlic press (Mom’s recipe said 2 cloves, but we REALLY like garlic!)
  • 1 small can chopped green chiles (optional, but yummy!)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup milk

Place pintos, water, onion and garlic in a large pot.  Bring to a boil, put lid on, and turn off heat.  Let soak for 2 hours.

Return to heat and boil for 3 hours–until beans are tender.  Keep the lid on, so beans won’t boil dry.  (Your kitchen will be smelling really garlicky!)

Drain and mash beans to the consistancy you like.  I use a potato masher and leave some beans whole.

Add butter and milk, stir to combine and continue cooking until absorbed.

Add green chiles, if using, and salt to taste.

Spoon into a bowl, get out some tortilla chips and Ole!

These beans are great by themselves (and with cheese on top!) with chips.  Serve them as a great side dish for Mexican entrees like Pulled Pork Enchilada Bake, Melt-in-Your-Mouth Slow Cooker Carnitas, Fajitas Fantastico, Freakin’ Fabulous Fish Tacos, or Especialidad de la Casa Enchiladas!  They are also a delicious ingredient in Music Fest Pitas. Yummy!

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Celine’s Potato Salad

My mom is famous for her potato salad–the magic lies in the dressing.  When I was a kid, Mom made the dressing in a yellow Currier and Ives mug.  It was an old mug with crackled glaze that coffee had permeated, darkening the cracks.  Mom knew exactly how much of each ingredient to put in by how it looked in the mug, and knew she had the correct proportions when the color of the dressing matched the color of the mug. 

Then one day…..the mug broke.  Would the potato salad ever be the same?  Turns out, yes!  We had a flavor memory of it and knew when the dressing tasted right and called to mind that old mug by its color. 

This potato salad tastes like a Memorial Day or Labor Day picnic and is fairly simple to make:

  • 6 potatoes, peeled, boiled and sliced
  • 2 eggs, boiled, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4-1/2 cup red onion, diced  (adjust to how well you like onions)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise  (or Miracle Whip)
  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard 
  • 2 TBSP white vinegar
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Peel and quarter potatoes.  Boil until fork tender, drain.

Hard boil eggs, cool.   (I boil them for 5 minutes and then let them stand in the hot water for another 5 minutes.)

While potatoes and eggs are cooking, make the dressing.  Add mayo, mustard, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper to a 1 cup measuring cup.

Mix with a fork until blended.  Taste it.  If it tastes too “sharp,” add a bit of sugar.  If it tastes too sweet, add a bit of vinegar.  Adjust salt and pepper to your liking.  Here is the color for it to be truly “Celine’s Potato Salad.”  The color can be adjusted with mayo (to make it lighter) or mustard (to make it more yellow).

Cool potatoes just enough to handle them.  You want them to be a bit warm when you coat them in the dressing–they’ll soak up the flavors better.  Slice potatoes into a bowl.

Dice onion and add to the bowl.

Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the dressing over the potatoes and onions, stir gently to coat.

Peel and slice the eggs.  Arrange them over the top of the potato salad.  Sprinkle with paprika, cover and cool completely in the refrigerator.

Serve along side your favorite picnic fare.  It’s the perfect cool and creamy accompaniment to grilled meats.  To obtain the classic flavor, don’t change anything in the recipe.  

This yummy potato salad takes me right back to my childhood and picnics at the house for summer holidays.  I can smell the charcoal and the burgers cooking.  The perfect drink pairing–lemonade.  The perfect end to the evening–catching fireflies.  Ahhhhhhh……

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Grown Up Mac and Cheese

Put that blue box down.  I know mac and cheese is a comfort food.  Heck, I confess to sneaking a taste of the mac and cheese I used to make for Mr16 and reveling in the orange cheesy wonderfulness.  But you’re a grown up now and you deserve a grown up mac and cheese! 

Over the years, through low carb diets and weight that accumulated too easily, mac and cheese disappeared from the menu here at our house.  Then, I came across THIS recipe in the April 2011 Food and Wine magazine!  A recipe that takes mac and cheese to a level Velveeta and the blue box never dreamed possible.  OMGosh the savory cheesy fabulosity of this completely stove-top mac and cheese–topped with an uber-flavor-y cheese crisp! 

The ingredients are mostly as you would expect:

  • 8 oz coarsely shredded cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 4 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika (Look for it in the spice aisle–the smoky flavor it gives to this mac and cheese is amazing!)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 ounces fontina, coursely shredded  (I didn’t have fontina, so used gruyere instead–yummy!)
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone  (Can substitute cream cheese.)
  • salt to taste
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg  (Optional–nutmeg is not in the original recipe, but I really like a bit of nutmeg in a cheese sauce.)
  • 1 package small macaroni  (The original recipe asked for 8 oz elbow mac.  I used a 13 oz package of rotini and had plenty of sauce.)

Start water for your pasta and cook according to package directions.

Sprinkle half of the cheddar onto an extra large non-stick skillet in four 4-inch mounds.  Cook over moderate heat until cheese is lacy and golden, about 4 minutes.  (Cook in batches, if needed.)

Using a flexible spatula, carefully flip each crisp and cook until golden, about 1 minute.  Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and break into large pieces.  (Have a knife ready to help scrape the crisp off the spatula when you flip them.)

In a very large sauce pan, melt butter. 

Whisk in the flour and paprika, cook over moderate heat until bubbly, about 2 minutes.

Add milk and whisk until smooth.  Cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly until thick and creamy, about 5 minutes.

 Stir in remaining cheddar and fontina (gruyere).  Cook over low heat until melted and smooth.

 Remove from heat and stir in mascarpone.  Season with salt and nutmeg.

Add sauce to the drained pasta and cook over low heat until hot and bubbling, about 2 minutes. 

Spoon into bowls, top with a cheese crisp and prepared to be comforted!

Wow was this fabulously yummy!  Creamy, smoky, rich, and cheesy–a depth of flavor perfectly complimented by the cheese crisp.  A bit more effort than the blue box, but sooo worth it!  I think the sauce by itself would be a delicious fondue-esque dip for veggies or could be used as a veggie sauce for a side dish–I think cauliflower would be killer-yummy with this cheese sauce!

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Twice-baked Potatoes

If you bake a potato once it’s pretty yummy, right?  A pretty yummy (and common) side dish for a steak dinner.  So it stands to reason, if you bake it twice it will be amazing, and take your steak dinner to a whole new level–a Date Night worthy level! 

While your steak marinates, you can make this yummy side dish.  Gather up some baked potato-y ingredients:

 Ingredients for 2-4 servings:

  • 2 baking potatoes
  • 3 TBSP butter
  • 1/4 cup-1/2 cup plain yogurt  (or sour cream if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chives snipped into small pieces for garnish and extra flavor!

You’ll also need a ziploc bag and a baking sheet.

Preheat your oven to broil.

Scrub and pierce potatoes with the tines of a fork to release steam as they bake.

Bake potatoes however you want.  I baked mine in the microwave–pushing the potato button twice.  🙂

Cut potatoes in half lengthwise, and scoop out the centers with a spoon, keeping the potato you scoop out in a bowl and leaving a 1/4 inch shell.  Place shells on a baking sheet.

Add butter, cheese, yogurt, salt and pepper to the potato centers in the bowl.  Mix with an electric mixer until fluffy.

Place whipped potato mixture into a ziploc bag.  Snip off one corner.  (You’ll be using this ziploc as a piping bag.)

Squeeze the potato mixture down into the corner, twist the excess bag around close to the potatoes and squeeze the potatoes into the shells, dividing the mixture evenly.  (Make fancy patterns if you want…or not!)

Place pan under the broiler for 3-5 minutes or until as browned as you like.

Place on serving dish, garnish with chives and await the compliments!  “Wow!  You’re amazing!”  “These are so yummy!”  “How did you do this?!”

Jazz up the recipe next time with some garlic powder….or chopped rosemary….or a different cheese….  Once you have the method, you can become the twice-baked potato master!  Yummy!

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Mmmmmm! Mushroom Risotto

The same copy of Everyday Food with yesterday’s salmon recipe also had this recipe for Mushroom Risotto.  I LOVE risotto!  So creamy and yummy with just the perfect amount of texture.  Mmmmm!  Risotto has a reputation for being difficult.  There IS a lot of stirring involved, but really–you don’t have to stir it constantly.  Really.  I had time to get ingredients together for the salmon’s sauce, measure them out, and photograph them in between rounds of stirring.   I was also able to chop the herbs for this recipe after I started risotto-ing. 

The idea for the entire meal came from perusing the magazine and for me, were reminiscent of spring.  If you like risotto and have a wee bit of patience, you CAN make this risotto.  And once you do, you’ll have the technique to make all sorts of fancy risottos!  (Or is it risottoes?)  Gather up these ingredients:

  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup butter, divided  (1/2 a stick or 4 TBSP)
  • 1 large shallot, diced  (These shallots are from last year’s garden and are on the small side.  I decided 3 small=1large.)
  • 1/2 pound cremini or button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • coarse salt and pepper
  • 1 cup Arborio rice   (Regular rice will NOT work.  The plump, roundish grains of arborio rice contain the startch you need to make the creamy sauce.)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine  (I used a Reeder Mesa Riesling.)
  • 2 TBSP grated parmesan
  • 3 TBSP chopped mixed fresh herbs  (I had chives and parsley.  The recipe also suggested marjoram.)

In a medium saucepan, bring broth to a simmer, reduce heat and keep warm.

In a 10 inch heavy bottomed skillet or pot, heat 2 TBSP butter over medium high heat.  Add shallot and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper.  Cook until beginning to soften, 4 minutes.

Add rice and cook, stirring, until rice is translucent at edges, 1 minute.

Add wine and stir until evaporated, about 2 minutes.

With a ladle, add about 1 cup of broth to skillet.  (My ladle holds almost 1/2 cup, so I used 2 ladle-fulls.)  Cook, stirring constantly (it’s ok to take a quick break) until broth is absorbed, 4 minutes.  (The stirring is important to help the rice release its starch to create the creamy sauce–so don’t just let it go on its own.)

Repeat, gradually adding broth by the cupful and stirring constantly until rice is tender but still al dente and sauce is creamy.  (20-25 minutes)  You may not need all the broth.  (I used all but 1/3 cup of mine.)

Remove skillet from heat and stir in 2 TBSP butter, parmesan and herbs.

(Not sure why the flash fired for the herbs.  This really is all the same batch of risotto, even though the flash made the color weird in that last picture.  Could have something to do with my “high quality” cell phone camera!)

Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve!

There ya go!  An impressive and yummy side dish!  The flavor was perfect with the salmon and asparagus and was enhanced by serving the same wine I used in the risotto.  Mr16, who doesn’t much care for rice, had seconds!  (And then I hid the leftovers for my lunch the next day!)

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