Sides

Can you bring that bean salad?

August 11, 2010

Mixed Bean Salad with Sundried Tomatoes

I’m sorta sick of this bean salad, but I’m taking that as a good sign because I received more requests for this side dish than any other this cookout season. So apparently I am very skilled at opening five cans of beans and tossing them with sliced sundried tomatoes, slivered red onions, fresh basil and a super simple vinaigrette. Wish I could boast that this oft-requested recipe was extremely complicated and required some advanced cooking skills, but that would be a complete and utter lie. I can’t lie. I turn red and cry. Plus, complicated food is not really my style.
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Tian therapy

July 14, 2010

Summer Squash Tian

We have a tiny kitchen with, I’d estimate, no more than five square feet of workable counter space. On the positive, it’s a charming space, with 1930′s black and white tile walls and white cabinets. But a cook’s kitchen it’s not, which is why I’m grateful for the small breakfast nook adjoining the kitchen to the dining room. It’s here, in this mere eight by six foot space, where the majority of the real work happens. The chopping, the assembling, the serving. It’s my favorite room in the house, hands down. In it stands our chair-less “breakfast table”, beneath which sit three large baskets to house pots and cooking utensils that I can’t seem to cram into our sparse cabinet space no matter how Martha-Stewart-organized I try to be. It’s a sanctuary, of sorts. A space meant for one. This is where Kyle usually finds me upon arriving home from work, flitting back and forth from nook to stove, nook to fridge. It’s the space I find myself standing, balancing on my left leg, right foot propped up on my left calf, hip leaning against the table, after sitting all day at my desk. Chopping and dicing. Cooking therapy. In front of my work table (the walnut stained table you see in the majority of my photos) is a western facing window. Most evenings this assures some form of daylight is streaming through, illuminating the room and the food in front of me. Even after a long workday, I am not filled with dread at the thought of making dinner (most days, anyways). Rather I am content to stand in a silent house, save the sound of sizzling onions and garlic in the kitchen, setting sun before me, slicing summer squash and potatoes into thin coins, arranging them into a tian.
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A risotto for May

May 18, 2010

Lemon Risotto with Leeks, Peas and Tarragon

I first made risotto in college. It was this recipe, as a matter of fact, which still makes occasional appearances in our kitchen. It’s one of Kyle’s favorites. (I’ve determined his affection for it is related to one or more of the following: A) It tastes darn good and screams comfort food in every way imaginable. B) His dear wifey sweats and stirs over a steaming pot for 30 plus minutes all in the name of a better-than-leftovers-or-another-turkey-sandwich dinner. C) It comes to us via Giada and, well, I’ll leave you with that.) It was my first “advanced” recipe. You know, the step above omelets and homemade pasta sauce (what, you mean pasta sauce does not come from glass jars?). In other words, not that advanced. Really, it’s a breeze provided you’ve braced yourself for a steamy half hour over a pot and an upper arm workout. A little patience goes a long way.

This lemon risotto is lighter and perfect for the season. Comforting enough for these brief May cold fronts and accompanying chilly drizzle but bright enough to enjoy well into the early summer(!) months. I’ve often overlooked tarragon but really need to include it in my herb arsenal. I love how it pairs with lemon here.
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On channeling Ina

April 21, 2010

Roasted Red Onions with Honey Balsamic Reduction

Sometimes, when I’m cooking alone in an empty house, I talk to myself. Well, I talk to my make-believe audience. I pretend I’m taping a segment of my cooking show. (Is this weird? It’s weird, isn’t it?) My cooking show that exists in a lot of daydreams. And nightmares, actually, namely the one where I’m on the Today Show leading a healthy cooking demo and Al Roker keeps firing questions about my supposed secret fried chicken recipe, I don’t like my outfit and the anchors keep forgetting my name.

Anyways, back to my happy fictitious cooking show. Yes, I carry on a conversation with the invisible camera, describing the ingredients as I chop and stir, making sure not to pause too long because dead air does not make for good TV. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my solo cooking demos (except I’m wondering if I should really be disclosing this to the world wide web — too late), though I’ve noticed a couple things. One is I tend to whisper, even in an empty house, as if the neighbors will hear and know I’m home alone, talking to myself. Plus, I realize I don’t really like the sound of my voice. Like when you hear a recording of yourself and cringe? And two, I channel Ina Garten. I say things like how easy is that? and fabulous! and how bad can that be? Or I’ll insist on using really good vanilla and really fresh eggs. Am I being brainwashed by Food Network?

So when I was preparing this recipe, I kept hearing Ina in my head. While slicing the onions, I really love red onions. They’re a bit sweeter than yellow onions. [Take a nibble.] Mmm, such great flavor. While tucking them into the oven to roast, These will roast in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes covered, then I’ll remove the foil and allow them to roast for 20 minutes more. They’ll become caramelized and wonderful. How bad can that be? While preparing the reduction, It’s important to use really good balsamic vinegar here. Anytime you use just a handful of ingredients you want to make sure they’re really good quality. Makes all the difference. Oh, I think I hear Jeffrey! I mean Kyle, I think I hear Kyle!
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It’s the little things

April 17, 2010

Marinated Cremini Mushrooms

It doesn’t take much to make me really happy. A clean kitchen (heck, an empty dishwasher and sink will do it). Shoes that fit perfectly (I have terrible feet, you see). Discovering a forgotten pair of jeans (that I actually like) in the back of my closet. The aroma of fresh brewed coffee before I’ve really woken up (coupled with an errand-free Saturday morning is perfection). Swiffer dry cloths (if you have wood floors you know why). The high after a long run. A near empty peanut butter jar and a spoon. A glass of really good red wine after a really long week. The TV to myself along with a TiVo queue full of Project Runway and Chopped. The first open window drive home of the season. The way my hair looks and feels after a haircut (how do they make it so shiny?). And appetizers that don’t take much effort, like these here marinated cremini mushrooms. They make me happy, they do.

Is it just me, or does anyone else struggle with appetizers? When it comes to entertaining I am always at a loss for pre-dinner noshes, wrapped up in planning the main dishes and dessert, distracted with deciding which serving platters and bowls to use and focused on all of the other necessary logistics (Are there enough wineglasses, did I hang a fresh towel in the bathroom, did I remember to put on deodorant. You know, the usual). We tend to keep things simple. One main “thing”, like a cheeseboard, and a few supporting “things”. But sometimes the supporting “things” require a lot of last minute time and energy that I lack to wrap, stack, toast, roll or stuff. So stumbling upon appetizer recipes that require very little effort and less than 20 minutes of my time, and should be made hours, a day even, in advance makes me really happy. Like I said, it doesn’t take much.
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