Category Archives: Side Dishes

Roasted Cauliflower

Cauliflower seems to be under-appreciated.  I think most people think of two main things for it – raw as a snack or steamed with some butter or cheese sauce.  Not that there is anything wrong with either option (because I’m certain I have NEVER said no to a cheese sauce), but there really are so many options.  Soup, cooked and pureed for a great side, baked in a gratin, battered and fried, pickled, the list goes on an on.

For this, I roasted it with some olive oil, salt, and pepper.  The roasting brings out some of its natural sweetness, and then I mixed it with toasted walnuts, golden raisins, and sherry vinegar.  A great side or a nice addition to a small plates theme.

Great warm or at room temp

Roasted Cauliflower with Walnuts and Golden Raisins

  • 1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • olive oil

Toss cauliflower with some olive oil and salt and pepper and spread in one layer in a sheet pan.  Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 10 mintues.  Turn cauliflower and roast another 5 minutes.

Roasty Cauliflower

In the meantime, heat a saute pan over medium high heat.  Add walnuts and toast for about 5 minutes or until starting to smell fragrant.  Add raisins and toss for a minute.  Reduce heat to medium and add sherry vinegar.  Stir to combine and let cook down until nuts and raisins are well coated.

Combine cauliflower, walnuts, and golden raisins in a bowl with a few tablespoons olive oil.


Our Florida Surf and Turf

On our Florida vacation, our beach house had a grill outside.  We found a nice meat market and picked up a large beef tenderloin, portioned it up, grilled it, and served it with some very garlicky shrimp and a side of potato and brussel sprout hash.  After a day on the beach coupled with this big meal and a couple bottles of red wine, we were all done for after eating!

Beef Filets with Butter Garlic Shrimp

Serves 4

  • 4 portions of beef filets
  • 1 pound large-ish shrimp, shelled, de-veined, tails removed
  • 4  cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 more tablespoons butter,  cut into smaller chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup white wine

Generously season both sides of steaks with salt and pepper.  Grill over hot grill about 4-5 minutes per side (depending on thickness) for medium rare.

White steaks are resting, make shrimp.  Heat cast iron pan over medium heat.  Add 2 tablespoons butter and olive oil.  Add garlic and slowly cook until bubbly and just starting to brown, about 2 minutes (don’t burn!).  Add shrimp, season well, and cook about 2 minutes. Add white wine and let reduce by about half, about 2 minutes.  Once reduced, turn heat off and slowly start stirring in butter chunks, about one at a time.  Taste for any final seasoning and serve over steaks with lots of garlicky sauce.

Potato and Brussel Sprout Hash

  • About 3/4 pounds small potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
  • About 3/4 pounds brussel sprouts, ends cut off, sliced in half
  • 1 medium white onion, cut into dice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons  butter

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water until just about cooked through, about 9 minutes.  Drain thoroughly.

Blanch brussel sprouts in boiling salted water until just cooked through, about 4 minutes.  Drain thoroughly.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive in cast iron pan over medium high heat.  Cook onions until cooked through and starting to brown in areas. Season and stir in butter and mix until melted.  Add to a large serving bowl. Tent with foil to keep warm.

Do the same with the potatoes and brussel sprouts, separately in two batches:  Heat a cast iron pan with the oil medium high heat, add the vegggies and season, cook until starting to brown in spots, and melt in the tablespoon of butter.  Add to serving bowl.  Once all veggies are done, give it all a good mix and serve with steaks and shrimp.

Our dinner table at the Beach House

It’s Football Snacking Time!

Are you ready for some football??!! I’m not! I have close to zero interest in it, and could easily live the rest of my life and never watch a game again.  However, my hubby is a die-hard Bears fan, and he loves him some football.  So, with that, Sunday’s in the fall often mean friends, food, and football.  And I certainly do like friends and food, and I’ll  take pretty much any reason to make snacks to share with friends.

To me, football just means a reason for me to make delicious snacks!

I wanted to do more of a from scratch pulled pork – meaning making a rub for it, searing it, and braising it low and slow.  But, I had spent most of the day Saturday at an Oyster and Beer Festival (it was awesome!), and had my fair share of beers and was in no condition to neither sear nor braise anything.  With that, I went the really easy route and threw the pork in  the crock pot with a can of beer and some fresh cracked pepper, turned it on low, and let it cook overnight.  Normally, I would make my own BBQ sauce, but considering my previous day of drinking, and that I still needed to make slaw, a snack of pimento cheese, tidy up the house, and set things out, from scratch just did not happen.

Pulled Pork BBQ Sliders with Creamy Slaw

  • 1, 3.5-4 pound pork shoulder
  • 1 can beer
  • 1 bottle BBQ sauce (I LOVE Sweet Baby Ray’s – don’t know if that is everywhere or just a Midwest thing)
  • Mini buns
  • 1 medium head cabbage
  • 1 red onion, sliced very thin
  • 1 red pepper, sliced very thin
  • 2 carrots, peeled
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • couple pinches of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed

For pork, set pork in crock pot. Add can of beer and some fresh cracked black pepper. Set on low heat for 10-12 hours.  Once pork is cooked, dump out excess liquid from crock pot. Shred pork. Add bottle of BBQ sauce and keep pork on warm.

For slaw, very finely slice by hand or with grater attachment of food processor cabbage.  Grate carrots by hand or process them through grater in food processor.  Combine cabbage, carrots, red onion, and red pepper in large bowl. In smaller bowl, combine mayo, sour cream,  vinegar, sugar, celery seed, and salt and pepper. Taste to make sure its balanced.  Add to cabbage and mix well. Season with any more needed salt and pepper.

To make sliders, place some pork on a bun, top with some slaw, and top with bun.  I recommend eating multiple sliders

Salmon with Potato and Bean Pesto Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette

This dish was so light yet so satisfying.  I picked up about 4 bunches of basil at the market, and made several jars of pesto.  I love warm/room temp potato salads so I decided to pair it with fresh green beans and just use the pesto for a dressing.  I felt like maybe the dish needed just a little something else to tie it all together, so I threw together a quick vinaigrette by grating a tomato on a hand grater and mixing with some vinegar and oil, and there you go – a light vinaigrette that would pair perfectly the salmon and pesto salad. Wanted to grill the salmon, but weather prevented it.

Salmon with Potato and Bean Pesto Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette

  • 2 servings salmon
  • 1/2 pound fresh green beans, ends trimmed (I used a variety of beans from the market)
  • 1/2 pound new potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • 1/4 cup pesto (click on link for my recipe or just use store bought)
  • 1 medium sized tomato
  • 1 shallot, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon powdered mustard (use Dijon if you don’t have powdered)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley and oregano)

For potato salad, place sliced potatoes in a pot of salted, cold water.  Set on stove and bring to a boil. Once boiling, bring temp back to medium to medium high heat (keep it boiling, but not super rapidly so that it tears all the skins off the potatoes). Once potatoes are tender, drain and toss with just a bit of olive oil.  Blanch green beans in pot of salted water about 5 minutes or until tender (might be more or less time depending on how thick or tender your beans are).  To save time, I just added my beans to my potatoes that were boiling when about 5 minutes was left.  Drain.

Mix potatoes and green beans with pesto.  If seems a bit dry, drizzle with just a bit of olive oil.

For tomato vinaigrette, slice a tomato in half crosswise.  Give the tomatoes a bit of a squeeze of the sink to force out some of the excess water and seeds. Then, using a hand grater, rub the cut, fleshy  side of the tomato on the grater until all of the tomato has been pressed through (except for the skin – this should be left in your hand.)

Add the red wine, shallots, and mustard to the tomato  juice/pulp.  Season with some salt and pepper.  Slowly whisk in olive oil.  Mix in herbs and taste for any other seasoning needed.

To cook salmon, heat a pan over high.  Add a couple teaspoons canola or vegetable oil (those 2 oils have a higher smoke point that olive oil – meaning it won’t burn at high temps – and you want to use that since we are searing the fish over a high temp). Add to pan and let sear on one side about 3 minutes.  Turn and let sear another 2-3 minutes.  Pop into a 400 degree oven and let cook another 2-3 minutes or until almost cooked through (I like my Salmon at medium – not well!)

Serve salmon with potato salad and some tomato vinaigrette.  You’ll have left over vinaigrette.

Caprese Pasta

I eat Caprese salads pretty regularly in the summer – probably about once per week, especially when we are getting tons of tomatoes from our garden.  We had all the fixings for it the other day, but I was craving pasta (I seriously  think I may have a pasta addiction), so I decided to combine the two, and it it worked out great!

Caprese salad plus pasta? Genius!

Caprese Pasta

  • 1 pound pasta (I used orecchiette)
  • about 3 cups chopped tomatoes (I used a mix of different types and sizes – big tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, whatever we had)
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup good quality olive oil
  • several splashes balsamic vinegar
  • several big pinches salt and freshly cracked pepper

Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente.  In meantime, combine tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper.  Once pasta is cooked, drain and let sit for just a few minutes so not quite so hot.  After its cooled just a bit, add pasta to bowl with tomatoes.  Add in the balsamic vinegar, basil, and any more salt or pepper needed for seasoning.  Give it all a big stir and serve.

Giant Rib-Eyes with Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette and Beet Greens (Or, How I Almost Gave Myself a Heart-Attack for Sunday Dinner)

Sweet Jesus! Were these some giant rib-eyes!  Not paying much attention at the butcher counter, I said, yeah, just give me a couple that are nice and thick…little did I notice that each steak was damn near close to a pound each!  I would like to point out that I was  not able to finish mine.  Or, it might have just been that I got suckered into my begging dog’s cute  little puppy eyes and decided to share with him.  Either way, I’m certain I exceeded my recommended daily allowance of red meat.  Oh well.  You only live once, right?

Grilled Rib-Eyes with Roasted Tomato and Shallot Vinaigrette

As for the beet greens, I’m excited to say those came from our garden.  The beets themselves turned out pretty small and pathetic; we only got a handful or so of nice big ones.  However, we had a nice big bunch of beet tops from all of the measly beets, so I sauteed those and combined them with our acceptable beets that I roasted.

How can I say no to this face?

Rib-Eyes with Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette

Serves 2

  • 2 Rib-Eyes (feel free to not go quite so over-board and get ones as big as ours)
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes (or any variety of small tomatoes – I think we actually used yellow teardrops.  The key is to use beautifully ripe tomatoes)
  • 2 shallots, peeled but left whole
  • 2 garlic cloves, left in their skin
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, separated in half
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives

Generously season rib-eyes with (preferably Kosher) salt and (preferably fresh-cracked) pepper.  Grill over a hot grill about 6 minutes per side for medium rare, depending on size for rib-eyes (a little less if you rib-eyes are smaller).  Let steaks rest after grilling for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix cherry tomatoes, shallots, and garlic with 2 tablespoons olive  oil and some salt and pepper.  Roast in a 400 degree oven for about  20 minutes.

Remove garlic from pan and squeeze garlic from thier paper into a medium sized bowl. (The roasty garlic should become all soft and squishy and mellowy-sweet tasting during its time in the oven).  Smash garlic with a fork until it forms a bit of a a paste. Add vinegar and stir up until somewhat mixed up.  Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Season with a little salt and pepper.

Roughly chop roasted shallots and add to vinaigrette.  Add tomatoes and any juices that have accumulated in the roasting pan (because those juices are delicious!)  Add chives and give it all a nice stir.  Taste to for any extra needed seasoning.   Spoon over rib-eyes.

Roasted Beets with Sauteed Beet Greens

  • About 1/2 pound or so of beets with their greens (tops)
  • Olive oil

Cut off beet tops and chop.  Rinse and drain and set aside.

Scrub and trim off root ends of beets.  Put in a roasted pan, drizzle with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with some salt and pepper.  Cover tightly with foil and roast in a 400 degree oven about 35 – 40 minutes, or until you can easily pierce the beet with a knife.  Remove from oven and let cool.

With a paper towel, wipe/rub away outer skin of beets.  Yes, this gets messy and may stain your hands and you’ll probably use a couple paper towels.  But, for me, beets are delicious and totally worth it.

After beets are peeled, cut into quarters (or a manageable size for eating, depending on the size of your beets).

For greens, heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add a good drizzling of olive oil and heat up pan.  Add beet greens and season with some salt and pepper.  Saute until beet greens get all wilted, about 7-8 minutes.  Toss in the roasted beets and give another little drizzle of olive oil and check to see if needs any more seasoning.

Beets are so pretty!

Ribs from the Smoker with Mac and Cheese

Man, this was a serious meal!  Both the ribs and mac and cheese were so good I had to have seconds of both, and I was about to pop. I thought the ribs were damn near perfect, but the hubs thought they should go longer.  They were not to the “fall off the bone” stage which he prefers (but I know many people don’t),  but neither of us had any problems putting away most of the rack.  We did our ribs on the smoker, but you could totally do them in a grill – just do them over indirect heat, and it will take about half the time as a smoker.  As for the the cheese in the mac and cheese, I think you can vary it somewhat, but you want to be considerate of how well each cheese melts and make sure one cheese does not overwhelm the entire dish.   I chose not to bake mine – I  wanted it to be super creamy, not crunchy how it gets in the oven.  I did not finish the mac and cheese with toasted bread crumbs on top because I did not have any, but that is really the only way to take your mac to the next level.  Next time.

I think I will take 5 pieces just for myself

Smoked Ribs

From Steve Raichlen’s BBQ USA, Apple City championship ribs from Murphysboro, IL

  • 2 rack baby back pork ribs (ours weighed about 3.5 pounds)
  • 2 quart plus 1 cup apple cider or apple juice
  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Remove the thin, papery membrane from the back of each rack if it still on it.

Place ribs in a large non reactive roasting pan or in a clean plastic garbage bag and pour the 2 quarts of cider/juice over them. Let the ribs marinate in the fridge covered for at least 4 hours, or as long as overnight.  Turn on occasion so they marinate evenly.

Make the rub.  Mix the paprika, brown sugar, black pepper, chile powder, garlic powder, mustard, celery salt, coarse salt, and cayenne in a small bowl and stir up with your fingers to mix.

Drain ribs and pat dry. Sprinkle rub over ribs until nicely coated on both sides –  about 1-2 tablespoons per rack.  You’ll have rub left over.  Rub the coating over the meat with your hands.  Let cure in fridge covered for about 4 hours.

Set up your smoker or your grill with indirect heat.  Use wood chunks if you have them, such as apple wood.

We cooked our ribs in the smoker for about 4.5 hours.  For a grill with indirect heat, I would recommend  1 1/2 to 2 hours.  When ribs are done, they will be browned and the meat will have shrunk back about 1/4 inch from the ends of the bones.  For a grill, mop ribs with juice evey 30 minutes.  For a smoker, mop ribs with juice once every hour.

Cut ribs into pieces and serve.  Feel free to use some BBQ sauce, but we were happy with the ribs just as they were.

So good we did not even use BBQ sauce!

Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 pound noodles, penne, macaroni, or something short and tubular-ish
  • 1/2 cup Fontina cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup Baby Swiss, grated
  • 1/4 cup Blue Cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut into 3 pieces
  • 1 cup reserved pasta water

Bring salted pot of water to boil.  Add pasta, cook, and drain, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid.  Return back to pot, adding all of the cheeses, the butter, and some salt and pepper.  Stir to combine.  Add a 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water and combine.  Decide if the consistency looks good, or if more cooking water should be added.  Taste for seasoning, adjust if necessary with additional salt and pepper, and serve.

Can you say unhealthy? I know I can say delicious.