Tag Archives: side dish

Golden Beet and Shiitake Farrotto

farrotto tf

Posted by Lynda Balslev

When you switch out the rice with farro in this risotto-style dish, you end up with farrotto. Like rice, the farro grains steep and simmer in stock, but without the nonstop requirement of stirring with rice. The difference is that farro has a hearty chewy texture, never succumbing to mushiness. Each nutty whole wheat grain maintains its shape, exuding earthy wholesomeness. You can’t help but feel healthy when you eat it.

Farro has an ancient pedigree, originating in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Also known as emmer, and compared to spelt, farro is a species of wheat, high in fiber and rich in protein and B vitamins. It’s delicious in salads, pilafs, breads, soups and stews. If you haven’t tried it, you should.

Farro with Golden Beets and Shiitake Mushrooms 

Carrot and rutabagas are good substitutes for the beets. Serves 4 to 6.

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium shallot, finely chopped, about 1/4 cup
6 ounces shitake mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups farro, rinsed and drained
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 medium yellow beets, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch dice
Salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the farro and cook, stirring, until slightly toasted, about 1 minute. Pour in the stock and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until the farro is tender but chewy, 20 to 25 minutes.
While the farro is cooking, heat one tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the beets and sprinkle with salt. Sauté until crisp tender and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a plate.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the same skillet. Add the mushrooms in one layer and cook over medium-high heat until softened and slightly golden, 5 to 6 minutes.
To serve, toss farro with the beets and parlsey. If using feta, sprinkle over the farro. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Crispy Prosciutto

Crispy Parma tastefood

Do you like crispy bacon? Then try making crispy prosciutto. Oven baking slices of prosciutto (or any other dry cured ham) transforms supple ham slices into crunchy shards ready for munching or crumbling over salads, soups, pastas and vegetables. Baking dehydrates the meat, concentrating its flavor and intensifying its saltiness while cooking off excess fat. The resulting wizened slivers of dried pork add a punch of flavor to almost anything and taste great as simple finger food. I call these salty snippets crack-croutons because they are highly addictive and intensely flavorful. 

Crispy Parma Slices Lynda Balslev

Oven baking is a great way to use up any leftover parma, coppa or prosciutto in your fridge – if you’re lucky enough to have leftovers. If not, the method is so easy and quick it justifies shopping for a whole package to open and pop into the oven. And you don’t have to spring for the expensive stuff – any thinly sliced dry cured ham will do. I often use German prosciutto from Trader Joe’s that’s half the price of the Italian equivalent. 

crispy parma cru Lynda Balslev

To crisp the ham, arrange the slices in one layer, without overlapping, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in a 350°F oven for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the ham stay in the oven for another 10 minutes. Remove and cool, then break into shards. The crispy ham will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to one week – but I promise it will be long gone by then.

Five ways to use crispy prosciutto:
1. Scatter over mixed salads.
2. Sprinkle over creamy soups and chowders.
3. Garnish eggs and frittatas.
4. Crumble the shards and use to season cooked vegetables.
4. Add to cheesy pasta dishes and homemade pizzas before serving.

Grilled Broccoli Rabe

broccoli rabe tastefood

Broccoli rabe, also known as rapini, is a brassica, or mustard plant. It resembles skinny leafy broccoli with narrow stems, spiky leaves and tiny green buds that resemble miniature broccoli heads. Slightly bitter and peppery, rapini fries up well in a skillet with robust ingredients such as garlic and red chili flakes – which is how I often prepare it. Yesterday I tried a different method and tossed the slim stems with olive oil and salt, then gave them a good char on the grill. Not only was it super easy to prepare, the charred flavor was a perfect match with the assertive rapini. I served it as an accompaniment to a whole chicken I roasted in a skillet on the grill. While the chicken rested, I cooked the rabe. Then, before serving, I drizzled a few tablespoons of the chicken pan juices over the greens. While chicken pan juices are not a necessary addition, I highly recommend it.

Grilled Broccoli Rabe

Serves 3 to 4 as a side dish.

1 pound broccoli rabe
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat. Place the broccoli rabe in a bowl. Drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil. Lightly season with salt. Toss to coat. Carefully place the broccoli rabe on the grill, perpendicular to the grates. Cook with the lid closed until bright green in color and charred in spots, about 4 minutes, turning once or twice with tongs. Transfer to a serving plate. Serve warm.

Black Lentil Salad with Asparagus, Kale and Egg

black lentils bowl tastefood

Black lentils are the star of this salad. These tiny pellets are nicknamed Beluga lentils since they resemble caviar. They remain firm when cooked, which makes them a great addition to salads, and their shiny blackness provides vivid contrast to colorful vegetables. Like their brown or green brethren, black lentils are a superb source of iron, fiber, protein, folate and magnesium. Plus, they are easy on the wallet. Not bad for a little legume.

black lentils salad tastefood

Black Lentil Salad with Asparagus, Kale, Egg

For a larger salad, arrange the lentils on a bed of mixed greens or arugula.
Serves 3 to 4 as a side dish.

1 1/4 cups black lentils
3 cups water
Salt
6 to 8 thin asparagus
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 red or green spring onions, white and pale green parts thinly sliced
2 hard boiled egg yolks, crumbled
1 red jalapeno pepper, minced
1 1/2 cups shredded kale
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup cilantro

Rinse and pick over the lentils to make sure there are no small stones. Combine the lentils and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the lentils are tender but still firm, about 25 minutes. Drain and cool to room temperature. Transfer to a large bowl.
While the lentils are cooking, blanch the asparagus. Bring a wide pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the asparagus and cook until bright green and crisp tender, about 1 minute. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Cut off the tips and slice the stalks into 1/2-inch pieces. Reserve all of it.
Whisk the garlic, oil, lemon juice, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the black pepper in a small bowl. Add to the lentils and toss to coat. Add the asparagus tips and stalks, the spring onions, 1 crumbled egg yolk, the jalapeno, kale, parsley and cilantro. Gently stir to combine. Taste for seasoning – you might need more salt. If desired, douse with a little extra oil. Transfer the salad to a platter or divide among serving plates. Garnish with the remaining crumbled egg yolk and serve.

Kale Gratin

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Winter Greens Gratin

Gratins are a great way to eat your vegetables, especially in the winter. Who can resist bubbling pots of roasted vegetables and winter greens, crispy golden on the top and cheesy-creamy in the center? Hearty earthy greens, such as kale, spinach and chard, stand up exceedingly well to rich bechamel and melted cheese (what wouldn’t?) Serve in a large gratin dish for family style dining or spoon into individual ramekins for fancy serving. Either way, you can be sure that everyone will be eating their greens.

Kale Gratin
Feel free to add other greens or vegetables, such as chopped broccoli or cauliflower. Pecorino or Gruyere cheese may be substituted for the Parmigiano. Serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped, about 1/2 cup
1 to 2 bunches kale (Tuscan or curly), tough ribs removed, coarsely chopped (about 10 cups)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano cheese, divided
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat the oil in a deep skillet or wide saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and saute 1 minute. Add the kale and saute until slightly wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until light golden, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cream. Simmer, stirring, until thickened. Whisk in 1/4 cup cheese, the salt, pepper and nutmeg until the cheese melts and the sauce is smooth. Pour over the kale and stir to combine. Transfer to a buttered gratin dish or individual ramekins. Top with the remaining cheese. Transfer to oven and bake until the tops of the gratins are golden brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Serve warm.

Roasted Cauliflower with Chilies, Lemon and Mint

cauliflower tastefoodEat your vegetables – Roasted Cauliflower

It’s a hunch, but I would be willing to bet that you could persuade the most ardent veggie haters to try this cauliflower recipe. Roasting cauliflower magically transforms the snow white crucifer with cabbage-y notes into a tender yet crispy, caramelized treat, coaxing out its natural sweetness and nuttiness. Simple seasonings, such as paprika, salt and pepper gently enhance the flavor. You can serve it simply like that, or go the full Monty and toss it with chilies, lemon and mint.

Roasted Cauliflower with Chilies, Lemon and Mint

Sambal Olek is a Southeast Asian chili sauce. It’s Middle Eastern cousin, Harissa, may be substituted. Serves 4.

1 large head cauliflower
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Finely grated zest from 1/2 lemon
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Harissa or Sambal Olek

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Slice the cauliflower, top to bottom into 3/4-inch slices. (Slicing the cauliflower will provide flat sides which will brown easily when roasting). Cut away the thick stems, and gently break the florets apart into large bite-sized pieces. Place in a large bowl. Add the garlic, 2 tablespoons olive oil, paprika, salt and pepper. Gently toss to coat, then spread onto a rimmed baking sheet. Some of the florets will break into small pieces, but that’s ok – the little bits will get nice and brown while roasting.

Roast on the bottom rack in the oven until the cauliflower turns brown on the bottom, about 20 minutes. Transfer the pan to the top third of the oven and continue to roast until golden brown on top and tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle with extra olive oil. Drop small spoonfuls of sambal olek over the cauliflower and garnish with lemon zest and mint. Serve warm or at room temperature with extra chile sauce on the side.

Baked Root Vegetable Fries

root veg fries tastefood

You can have your fries and still feel virtuous with these colorful roots. Give the russet potato a well-deserved break, and substitute carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, or sweet potato for the ubiquitous spud. As their name implies, root veggies are the roots of growing plants, which means that they are storehouses of energy and nutrients. Not only that, they are jammed with pent up flavor and natural sugars, which translates to sweet, earthy, nuttiness on the plate.

Mix and match your favorite roots and spice to your taste. Simple salt and pepper is always a winner, or spice them up with a zesty mixture of cumin, paprika, and cayenne. And yes, you can have your dipping sauce too without tipping the scales. Try a cool and creamy Greek yogurt sauce infused with garlic and chipotle for a smoky, low fat and highly addictive sauce. Alternatively, ditch the sauce and ramp up the garlic notes with a zesty lemon, garlic and parsley gremolata.

Baked Root Vegetable Fries 
Serves 4 to 6

1 large parsnip
1 large carrot
1 medium sweet potato
1 medium rutabaga
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Chipotle Sauce:
3/4 cup Greek whole milk yogurt
1 chipotle in adobo, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar

Lemon Gremolata:
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian parsley leaves
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

Heat the oven to 425°F. Cut the root vegetables in 2-inch batons, about 3/8-inch thick. Place in a large bowl. Add the oil,  salt and pepper and toss to coat. Spread in one layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake on the lowest rack of the oven until browned on the bottom, 20 to 25 minutes. Move the baking sheet to the top rack of the oven and bake until golden brown on top, about 20 minutes.

While the vegetables are roasting, whisk the chipotle sauce ingredients in a small bowl if using. Serve the fries with the sauce for dipping.

Alternatively, remove fries from oven and toss with the gremolata ingredients.

Root Vegetable Mash

mashMashed Sweet Potato, Celery Root and Rutabaga

Root vegetables are winter’s best kept secret. Packed with nutrients, natural sugars and starch, the lowly root is a healthy and flavorful substitute for the ubiquitous potato, and a superb way to get your vitamins and nutrients in the cold weather season. A good peel of skin reveals a rainbow of colors ranging from magenta to ochre to creamy white, sure to brighten any dreary winter day – and your holiday table. Feel free to mix and match roots, such as sweet potato, parsnip, rutabaga, carrot, celery root, and of course the dependable russet, to your taste and preference.

Root Vegetable Mash

Choose a balance of sweet and savory roots for even flavor (I used 1 pound each of sweet potato, celery root and rutabaga) and mash to your desired consistency. I like to leave my roots a little chunky for a more rustic presentation.

3 pounds mixed roots
Salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
Freshly ground black pepper

Peel the root vegetables and cut into 1-inch chunks. Place in a large pot and cover with cold water. Add 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and cook until vegetables are tender and easily pierced with a fork. Drain and return to the pot. Let cool 5 minutes. Add the garlic, butter, sour cream, and yogurt. Mash with a potato masher or in a food mill to desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon into a serving bowl and serve warm.

Prepare ahead: The mash may be prepared up to 1 day in advance of serving. Cool completely and transfer to a buttered, deep gratin dish. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before serving. Preheat oven to 325°F. Dot the top of the mash with 1 tablespoon butter and cover with foil. Bake in oven until heated through, 35 to 45 minutes.

Baby Beet Gratin with Orange and Thyme

baby beet gratin tastefood

Beet Gratin with Orange and Thyme

It took a good long while for me to reconcile with the flavor of beets. I gazed at them from the sidelines, attracted to their vibrant hues, aware of their nutrient-rich flesh, yet wary of their earthy notes. As a cook, I wished to like beets, and as a parent, I wanted to serve them – so I willed myself to eat beets until I learned to love them.

At first, I took baby steps. I nibbled small bites. I  doused them with citrus to offset their earthiness. I grew bolder and roasted beets in olive oil, discovering that fire and char nicely counteract their dirt-like flavor. My go-to beet became the golden variety, which is pleasantly mild and nutty. And, eventually, I succeeded. Now, I am a beet convert. Yet while I no longer shudder at eating a completely naked beet, I continue to craft recipes that embrace the sweet beet while tempering their earthy nature.

This gratin recipe allows beets to shine amidst a minimal cast of characters. The co-stars of the dish happen to have their own strength and assertiveness, helping to tone down any earthy qualities that might be lurking in each bite. Layers of beets are cloaked in sour cream infused with orange zest and thyme. Gruyère cheese ripples throughout, adding a complementary nuttiness. The beets release their juices while cooking, saturating the gratin with spectacular color and all the flavors meld together. When I made this, it was so good, everyone at the table was reaching for seconds. As a cook, parent and beet convert, I find that a very good thing.

Baby Beet Gratin with Orange and Thyme

I prepared this recipe in individual ramekins with a variety of red, golden and chioggia beets. A gratin dish will also work for family style serving. Feel free to mix and match the beets to your taste. Eight large beets may be substituted for the baby beets, but be sure to peel the skin.

Makes 1 (8 by 8-inch) gratin or 8 (6-ounce) ramekins

2 cups sour cream
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Unsalted butter
3 bunches baby beets, unpeeled, ends trimmed, scrubbed clean
4 ounces finely grated Gruyere cheese
Fresh thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Butter 8 (6 ounce) ramekins or an 8 by 8-inch square gratin dish. Whisk the sour cream, garlic, orange zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a bowl.
Thinly slice the beets with a mandolin or knife.
Arrange 1/3 of the beets, slightly overlapping in the baking dish or individual ramekins. Spoon 1/3 of the sour cream over the beets, carefully spreading to cover. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese. Lightly season with salt, pepper and pinch of fresh thyme. Repeat with 2 more layers.
Bake in the oven until beets are tender and the gratin is bubbly and golden, about 45 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thanksgiving Sides: Wild Rice with Dried Fruit and Pecans

Rice Stuffing

~ Wild Rice with Dried Fruit and Pecans ~

This rice dish is a hearty and flavorful accompaniment to pork, poultry and game. It’s a great addition to the Thanksgiving table, where you might be tempted to call it a stuffing. Dried apricots, cranberries and pecans stud the rice, adding substance, sweetness and festive color. Whether you use it to stuff a bird or simply serve in a bowl as a side, this is a pretty autumn dish. Feel free to mix up the fruit and nuts, substituting raisins, chopped prunes, dried figs, walnuts or hazelnuts. For a vegetarian option, substitute vegetable stock or water for the chicken stock.

Wild Rice with Dried Fruit and Pecans

Use all wild rice or a blend of rice. A blend of wild rice, brown rice and red rice is pictured. Serves 6.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely diced
1 ½ cups wild rice or wild rice blend
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup chopped dried apricots
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup chopped toasted pecans
½ cup chopped Italian parsley leaves

Heat the oil in a medium pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots and saute until they begin to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the rice and garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add the chicken stock, thyme, salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until rice is just tender but still firm, about 45 minutes. Add the dried fruit and pecans. Cover and remove from heat. Let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve warm.