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Archive for the ‘side dishes’ Category

I came home from the Labor Day weekend with a big bag full of peppers, a gift from a friend with a large and productive garden. I was thrilled – homegrown produce is always welcome – but I wasn’t sure what to do with them. Her husband suggested salsa but I’d just come off a similar project and wasn’t all that interested in making more. I’d already made a delightfully cheesy hatch chile queso dip, but that only used five of the hatch chiles. There we so many more in the bag. So I did what I always do when I’m not sure how to proceed: I googled. “What to make with a lot of peppers” yielded the expected results with recipes for peperonata dominating. No surprise as it is essentially a pepper dish but I was surprised at the lack of variety in the recipes. Italian in origin, peperonata contains slowly stewed sweet peppers, onions, garlic and sometimes tomato, and it is absolutely delicious. But my peppers were mainly Mexican/Southwest in origin – anaheim, poblano, hatch, jalapeno as well as a mess of hungarian yellow. An idea formed. Would a spicy version work? I wasn’t sure but a southwest style peperonata was now in the works.

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I’ve been on a dumpling kick lately. A few weeks ago, I made out a bunch of Asian dumplings – pot stickers, won tons and the like – with various combinations of pork and shrimp fillings and homemade wrappers. Last week I made gnocchi, a frequent craving. In a few weeks I’ll make dozens and dozens of pierogis for my annual Polish Easter dinner. I’ve also made something simpler a few times to fill that dumpling gap – spätzle. Simple little noodle-type dumplings found in the cuisines of southern Germany and Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Alsace, Moselle and South Tyrol. They come together with basic ingredients – flour, eggs, milk, salt, pepper – and are quickly cooked in hot water. I usually have these ingredients on hand and they’ve become a frequent meal around here.

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Hey! So I’ve been cooking up a storm lately, but nothing really blog worthy. More so, just some old favorites, many that I’ve already posted. With Easter coming up, there are some good things in the archives for your holiday brunches and dinners so let’s recap today.

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When I started this exploration of the foods of recently maligned countries a few weeks ago, the only real familiarity I had with African foods were those from Ethiopia. When I first moved to Chicago, there were three Ethiopian restaurants within walking distance of my apartment. I’d go frequently on the weekends when they had a cheap and plentiful buffet and load up on all sorts of delicious things – the spongy sour bread that sops up all the delicious flavors, the deeply flavored, subtly spicy stews and the tender, flavorful greens. Oh man, those greens. Right off the bat, I knew I had to make those greens.

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To my great delight this little experiment of mine, the exploration of some recently disparaged countries, has been very warmly received. Thank you. Through our collective horror and disbelief, there’s an awful lot of us who want to fix things, to learn, to better understand. So it might be a small step, but let’s do that through some food. Today, continuing in the African direction, I’m taking a crack at a West African favorite – Jollof Rice.

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For the first time, in all my years of community gardening, my rosemary was popping this summer. Much to my surprise, it had grown into a large, vibrant bush. This had never happened before. Last year it flat out died on me in the middle of the summer and in other years it was small, stringy and unimpressive. I have no idea what I did differently this year. Maybe it liked that I went to France for most of the summer and left it alone. The good news is I can easily replicate that situation next year. Whatever happened, I was delighted to see it upon my return.

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If there’s one thing I love about the Midwest, it is sweet corn. Holy hell. I never experienced this growing up in Arizona. Fresh picked, it is crazy good and I buy several ears multiple times a week from the farmers markets during August and September. Can’t stop, won’t stop. I’ve been known to skid off the road, doing a messy gravel filled u-turn rather than pass a roadside stand deep in farm country. My new favorite way to cook an ear or two at a time is with this microwave method – perfectly steamed every time with little fuss and muss. A good slather of butter, a bit of salt then watch out. During these late summer days, I’ve been known to eat a few for dinner with maybe some watermelon because that’s really good right now too. Heavenly.

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