Category Archives: sides

Bacon-wrapped Asparagus


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What’s better than grilled asparagus? Grilled asparagus, wrapped in bacon. These were so simple to make and completely delicious, and totally worth the little bit of a smoky kitchen. Throw open those windows and get ready to make this fantastic side!

BACON-WRAPPED ASPARAGUS (serves 4)

  • 1 lb. asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 4 pieces bacon
  • 1 tsp EVOO
  • Pinch of Kosher salt

1.Preheat the oven to 400.

2.Trim the asparagus – you can either just snap off the ends or cut them. Wash and dry well.

3.Divide the stalks into four even bundles.

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4.Wrap one piece of bacon around each bundle, making sure not to overlap the bacon as much as possible. This is key to getting the bacon to cook at pretty much the same rate the asparagus does.

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5.Place each assembled bundle on a cooling rack over a foil-covered baking sheet (this will create a little convection-cooking and allow the bacon to cook evenly). Brush the asparagus with a little olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.

6.Bake for approx. 25 minutes or until bacon is cooked through. Serve and enjoy!

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Cauli-rice


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I swear, cauliflower is one of my favorite sneaky little foods. It seems so boring and basic, but then all of a sudden, it’s cauliflower mashed “potatoes” that would easily pass for the real thing. Or it’s an insanely flavorful roasted little snack. Or it’s blended with potatoes and a hearty, comfort-food-style soup.  I kept reading about cauliflower “rice” and – amazingly – doubting its ability to be awesome. And then I tried it, and once again, cauliflower surprised me. This was so delicious (and healthy!), I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the real deal.

CAULI-RICE (serves 2)

  • Half a head of cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp. EVOO
  1. Carefully cut away most of the stems of half a head of cauliflower. Working in batches, pulse in a food processor until the texture resembles rice.

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2. Heat EVOO in a large skillet over medium heat.

3. Add cauliflower to the skillet when oil is heated, then cover and let cook for about 10 minutes. You want to let this sit a bit to pick up some flavor from browning, so don’t stir it more than once or twice.

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4. When cauliflower is ready, serve alongside just about anything. We had ours with salmon in parchment for a super-simple, heart-healthy Sunday dinner.

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Roasted Red Pepper Dip




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Every good soft pretzel bite deserves something even better to dip it in or spread on it. There’s this awesome restaurant in town, POSH at The Scranton Club, which serves fresh-made soft pretzels accompanied by this incredible dip in lieu of your usual bread basket. Their food is fantastic, so even though I usually want to eat this whole basket, I try to show some self-control so I can still have room for dinner.  Then, I just make this soft pretzel bite/roasted red pepper dip at home.

I don’t even like roasted red peppers, but this – blended with cream cheese, feta, lemon and seasonings – is out of this world. I’ve taken this combo to a couple parties this year, and it quickly became my most-requested recipe.

ROASTED RED PEPPER DIP (inspired by POSH at The Scranton Club)

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Lemon-Dill Sauce

This goes with just about any kind of fish, combines some of my favorite things (lemon, dill & greek yogurt) and is super, super simple to make. It’s tangy and bright and we just love it. This becomes a kind of creme fraiche, which is terrific since I can rarely find that around here!
 
LEMON-DILL SAUCE (makes a little more than a cup)
– 7.2 oz. plain greek yogurt (usually the amount in 1 container) 

– juice of 1 lemon
– fresh chopped dill, about 1 tsp.
– pinch of kosher salt

1. In a small bowl, combine the greek yogurt and the lemon. 

 

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White Beans and Kale with Parm, Nutmeg and Walnuts

Remember when you thought the only thing you could make with kale was some variation of a kale, sausage and bean soup? Oh, just me?  It’s true, but what a difference a couple years makes. I use kale all the time now, and it’s such a great base for sides, quiches, smoothies and – okay, soups. You could throw this together in about 15 minutes and it’s a perfect little snacky dish or a substantial side for whatever else you’re making for dinner. The nutmeg is perfect in this, adding a little sweetness, and the beans get kind of crunchy on the outside while still remaining soft and creamy on the inside. Serve this with some good bread or just on its own.
 
WHITE BEANS AND KALE WITH PARM, NUTMEG AND WALNUTS (serves 3-4 as a side)
– 1 can large beans – butter beans are really good for this
– 3 cups kale, stems removed, washed and chopped
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 tbsp. EVOO
– couple grinds of nutmeg
– 1/4 c. freshly grated parm
– 1/4 c. toasted chopped walnuts
– kosher salt & pepper, to taste
 
1. In a large pan, warm the EVOO over medium-low heat until shimmery. Add chopped garlic and stir for approx. 30 seconds, until fragrant.
 
2. Add the beans (drained and rinsed). Let these kind of sit on one side for a little bit before flipping to the other side. You want the outsides to get a little golden brown color.

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Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower with Thyme

I cook with cauliflower so much that I finally looked up its health benefits, just so I could mentally pat myself on the back for making good eating decisions. So here you go: it’s a great source of fiber, vitamin C, provides anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, and on top of all of that, it’s basically the tofu of vegetables since you can make it taste like just about anything. This was a really quick and tasty side dish, the onions make it a little more hearty, the thyme adds some dimension, plus: parmesan. Enjoy.

PARMESAN-ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH THYME
– 1 head cauliflower, cut into slices and florets
– 1 onion, sliced
– 4 sprigs thyme
– 6 garlic cloves, skin still on
– 3 tbsp. EVOO
– fresh parmesan
– Kosher salt & pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400.

2. Slice the cauliflower into pieces and florets, add to a big bowl.

 
3. Do the same with the onion, then add the garlic cloves (these will roast and be amazing) and the thyme.


4. Add the EVOO, kosher salt & pepper. Shake everything up so that the cauliflower and onions are coated. Continue reading

Black Bean and Cilantro Hummus

 

The incomparable Caravia’s does just about everything perfectly. Their food is amazing, their produce is the best/most organic you can find in the area, everything is selected with care and detail, and the health inspector, while visiting, told them “If every place was this clean, I’d be out of a job”. Oh, and it’s a family-run business (by one of my favorite families of all time) and you should go there immediately, if not sooner.

Anyway, they make a ton of awesome food, but one of my favorites is their black bean and cilantro hummus. I tried to duplicate it, but I’ll admit a loss when I meet one – theirs is still better.  So the next time you visit Clarks Summit, pick some up. If not, this will do as a substitute!

BLACK BEAN AND CILANTRO HUMMUS (makes enough for a party-size serving)
– 1 BPA-free can of chick peas (also called garbanzo beans)
– 1/2 BPA-free can of black beans
– approx. 3 tbsp. cilantro
– 1/4 C. tahini
– 1/4 C. EVOO
– 1/4 – 1/3 C. chicken (or vegetable) broth
– juice of 1 lime
– 1 tsp. cumin
– kosher salt to taste

1. Drain and rinse the black beans and the garbanzo beans. Add the garbanzo beans to a bowl, set the black beans aside for later.

2. In the bowl with the chick peas, add the tahini, EVOO, 2 TBSP of cilantro, cumin and kosher salt. Mix it all together pretty well.

3. Add the mixture to a food processor, pulse it until it’s combined. 


4. Little by little, add the broth – continuing to pulse the mixture – until it’s pretty light and fluffy.

5. Put the mix back in the bowl, stir in the 1/2 can of black beans and the remaining 1 TBSP of chopped cilantro. Mix it all together and refrigerate. Serve with chips, veggies, pretzel chips, or even use it as a sandwich spread.

Tomatillo Salsa

Tomatillos have to be one of the cutest foods out there.  They come in their own little leaf packaging, they’re a bright green which would be fabulous in a wedding color palette, and they’re perfectly, adorably, palm-sized. They also have a really unique flavor – kind of tart, kind of tangy – and are a great, fresh base for an incredibly flavorful salsa.  I used this as a topping to the fish tacos I made a couple of days ago, and it was terrific.

TOMATILLO SALSA (serves 4)
– 4-5 tomatillos, seeded and diced (approx. 2 cups)
– 1/3 red onion, diced
– 1 lime, juiced
– 2 small cloves garlic, chopped
– handful cilantro, chopped
– 1/2 tsp. cumin
– 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, couple of grinds fresh black pepper

1. Peel the “leafy” part away from the tomatillos.  This has a bonus of smelling like crumpling leaves in the fall!  Wash the whole tomatillo to remove any residue.


2. Cut the tomatillos into quarters, then with your fingers, kind of push out the whole middle part to “seed” them.  These seeds are teeny, so don’t worry if you don’t get all of them.  You also lose a lot of the bulk of the tomatillo in this process, but that’s ok too.


3. Dice a 1/3 of a red onion – make slits along the natural ridges of the onion, lengthwise, then flip it to the side and make horizontal cuts. The onion will dice itself naturally.


4. With a Citrus Reamer, juice a lime into a small prep bowl.  Add the cumin, garlic, salt & pepper, stir to combine.


5. Combine the diced tomatillos, onion, chopped cilantro in a bowl.  Add the dressing and stir to combine.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Serve as a topping to any mexican dish, or even on its own.

Sauteed Zucchini Ribbons with Shallots & Garlic

I’m really looking forward to zucchini season coming around again.  I use it in so many recipes that it makes me sad to see the miniature little organic zucchinis that are available this time of year.  That said, grab a bunch of them, because this is one of the tastiest, most delicate side dishes you can make.


SAUTEED ZUCCHINI RIBBONS WITH SHALLOTS & GARLIC (serves 2-3)
– 5 small or 3 large zucchini
– 2 shallots, sliced into thin moons
– 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
– 1 Tbsp. butter
– Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Wash the zucchini, then peel it.  Even though the skin will be removed, they’ve still grown in the ground and are dirty – so wash them to get rid of anything that’s lingering. With a vegetable peeler, remove the outside layer of the zucchini – the greenest part – and discard.  Then, continue to peel the zucchini into ribbons until you get to the seeds in the middle.  Throw away the “core” of the zucchini, and set aside the ribbons.

2. In a large saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  When melted, add the garlic and shallots, and saute, stirring frequently, approx. 3 minutes.

3. Add the zucchini, then saute until wilted and beginning to color, approx. 5-7 minutes.  If too much brown starts to appear on the bottom of the pan, add 1 tbsp. of water and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove the brown bits and incorporate them back into the zucchini. Add kosher salt & pepper to taste at the end, so that the zucchini gains some color and doesn’t “sweat” as much.

4. Serve alongside your favorite “main” – I love this with steak, but it works with just about anything.

Cauliflower Mashed “Potatoes”

These were, in my opinion, the recipe standout during the South Beach Diet craze.  With the inclusion of (small amounts, but still) butter, heavy cream, and a dollop of Boursin cheese, a little richness gets added, but  these still stay much more on the side of “healthy” than traditional mashed potatoes ever would.  I actually think these are better than mashed potatoes – see if you can sneak them in as a substitute and see if anybody notices the difference.

CAULIFLOWER MASHED “POTATOES” – serves 3-4
– 1 large head cauliflower (organic, preferably)
– 1/4 c. heavy cream or half & half
– 1 tbsp. butter
– 2 tbsp Boursin – we use shallot & chive, but any flavor you like will work
– Kosher salt & pepper to taste
– 2-3 bay leaves

1. In a deep pot, boil about 3 inches of water & add a couple of bay leaves.  The bay leaves will infuse the water, and consequently the cauliflower as it steams, with more of a “potato” sort of flavor.


2.  Wash a cauliflower, then cut it into chunky florets.  The easiest way to do this is to cut the cauliflower in quarters, then cut out the middle stem.  The florets should naturally fall away, and you won’t get tons of chopped up pieces of cauliflower all over the counter.

  


3. Throw the florets in a Colander, then place over (not in) the boiling water, and put a lid over the top of it to keep in the steam.  I’m sure there are (much) fancier ways to steam things, but this is what we’re working with here.

4. Let cauliflower steam for approx. 10 minutes until fork-tender.  Remove the colander from the heat, turn off heat completely, and drain the water.

5. Put the cauliflower back in the drained pot on the same burner you previously used, which is now turned off.  This is my Dad’s trick for getting rid of excess water for mashed potatoes, and it works just as well here.  The leftover heat will kind of zap out any remaining water, which will give you fluffy “potatoes” instead of soggy, watery ones.  Stir the cauliflower pretty well to make sure it doesn’t burn.

6. Add the “extras”.  Heavy cream, butter, boursin.  The remaining heat of the burner will help break these down and combine them.  Mix this all together, then remove from the burner.

7. With an Immersion Blender – I’m amazed by how often I use this in cooking – blend this all together, really really well to achieve your desired consistency.  Taste, then add seasonings – I typically start with 1/2 tsp. kosher salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper,  stir & taste, then adjust again.

8. Serve immediately, or refrigerate leftovers up to 2 days.