Dave and I took a pot of Italian Sausage chili and a salad over to our friend Jim’s new house the other day.
When Jim bought his new house, I promised him I’d bring supper over one night to christen the dining room. Something terribly simple and portable, complete with a great bottle of wine (or two) that we would “break” open to celebrate this incredible homecoming. I finally made good on the promise and: it was a night to remember –complete with dessert later on at Minneapolis’ incredible CORNER TABLE restaurant. (Go soon…)
As often happens, while we were eating we were talking about food. Jim said, “I just need some sides I can make and keep in the frig so I can then grill a little piece of fish or chicken each night. I don’t mind eating the same thing for a few days.” We’re sometimes the same way. I’ll make a big something with lots of whole wheat pasta and vegetables and we’ll eat the leftover pasta for lunch for a couple of days no problem. Like this salmon from the other night that’s done just about in one pan.
or I might make Vietnamese Chicken Salad and make a second bowl without chicken:
But there are also sides I make just for sides. Here are a four of my do-often favorites — nothing earth-shattering or out of left field at all, but wonderfully right in time for grilling season. There ya go, Jim!
ORZO WITH VEGETABLES
Bring 4 quarts of salted and peppered water to boiland stir in a cup of orzo. Let cook 7 minutes and drop in 5 ounces spinach or arugula (or a combination). Cook until tender, another two minutes or so, and drain. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat over medium heat: 1/4 cup chicken stock with two minced cloves garlic, 2 tablespoons raisins, 1 chopped bulb fennel or a cup of sliced celery, and 4 sliced green onions or ramps. Let simmer 3-4 minutes or until vegetables are beginning to soften. Stir together drained orzo and spinach with chicken stock-vegetable mixture. Season with 1 tablespoon olive oil, a pinch each of crushed red pepper, kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper. Stir well; taste and adjust seasonings. Garnish with 2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds and or chopped fresh parsley. Serve hot or at room temperature. 4-5 servings. Doubles easily. Perfect for grilled fish or chicken.
Cook’s Note: If you’d like this more in the vein of a salad, splash on some red wine vinegar (sparingly–say a teaspoon at a time, tasting along the way) and add some chopped kalamata olives or marinated artichoke hearts. The green beans below, chopped into one-inch pieces are good additions and create a complete side.
Ingredients: orzo, fresh spinach, chicken stock, garlic, raisin, fennel or celery, green onions or ramps, olive oil, crushed red pepper, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, almonds, parsley.
ROASTED CUMIN CARROTS
Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Trim and scrub well one pound carrots, but don’t peel. Place in large bowl and toss well with two teaspoons each crushed cumin seed (crush using a mortar and pestle), and minced garlic. Drizzle on a tablespoon each olive oil and red wine vinegar. Season well with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Place carrots on a baking tray and roast 30-35 minutes or until tender. Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold. A nice thick grilled pork chop or a pork tenderloin would be my choice with these carrots, though I’ve had them with lovely lamb and was perfectly content.
Provenance: These carrots are one part of a well-known FOOD AND WINE salad, “Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad with Citrus Dressing.” While it’s a great salad, I enjoy the carrots all by themselves. They can also be roasted with just oil, salt, and pepper and perhaps minced rosemary. I don’t see why you couldn’t add 2 potatoes, if you’d like: slice them length wise into quarters and then into eighths and toss them with the carrots. You’ll need to increase the amount of seasonings a bit, of course, about by half.
Ingredients: a pound of fresh carrots, cumin seed, garlic, olive oil, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, crushed red pepper.
|My Current Addiction Snack. Dave’s, too.|
If available, for really fast cooking, you can buy the plastic package of skinny green beans (haricots verts), which is about a pound and microwave per package instructions, about 2-3 minutes at full power. Otherwise, buy a pound of string beans or haricots vests. Microwave 2-3 minutes, or until tender-crisp, with 1-2 tablespoons water in a bowl, covered by a plate or wrapped with plastic wrap. OR Bring a big pot of water to boil with a very large pinch of salt and lots of pepper, add beans, and cook just a few minutes until nearly tender (if beans are young) or longer if beans are old. Drain well and toss with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, lots of salt and pepper, and the grated zest of one lemon and a good pinch of crushed red pepper. I’ll bet you can’t eat just one hot, warm, or cold. 4 servings. I eat these with everything.
Cook’s Note: For a more filling side, mix the green beans together with some rice (along with the olive oil, etc.) A squeeze of lemon juice might be needed; a cup or two of sauteed mushrooms and/or onions would be lovely.
Ingredients: green beans, olive oil, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, lemon zest, crushed red pepper
CAYENNE SWEET POTATO FRIES
Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel potatoes and slice in half lengthwise. Slice in half again and then into 1/2-inch fries. (This will work if you cut them into big, steakhouse fries–wedges– an inch wide, too.) In a large bowl, toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cinnamon –about 1/4 teaspoon each — and a pinch (1/8 teaspoon) of ground cayenne. Turn potatoes out onto a rimmed baking sheet in one layer. Bake 20-25 minutes or until crispy, turning once to prevent burning. Serve hot. Great with a turkey burger or grilled sausage.
Cook’s Note: Another seasoning choice is smoked or regular paprika, salt, and pepper. Cumin could be used instead of the paprika.
Ingredients: sweet potatoes, olive oil, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, ground cayenne, cinnamon