Archive for the Category ◊ Side Dishes ◊

13 Jul 2011 Southwestern Pasta Salad

I have not been very impressed with the food section of our local paper in the last, oh, decade.  There is one column in particular that drives me iNSaNe.  Typical recipes include a bit of Dream Whip here, Bisquick, Cream of Chicken soup and canned mushrooms there,  with Tater Tots, Rice-a-Roni, and crushed up Ritz Crackers stirred into a can of Pineapple Tidbits on the side. PLUS, not one of the recipes has been tested by the columnist! (Although she does say how good they all sound and she might get around to trying one over the weekend…)  Arggghhhhhh!!

That all been said and vented, there have been a few recipes over the years that I have tried.  And I have to admit, most have been pretty good.

This one here is a keeper. The basic salad can be thrown together with cans from the pantry, and it’s good for you with lots of fiber from the beans and lots of other feel good stuff from the veggies.  If you have some fresh herbs on hand, the basic salad can be jazzed up a bit, but it’s not necessary, the basic salad is good as it is.  If you want to go all out, throw in a few chopped avocados and a pound of bay shrimp.  This salad serves a bunch of people, so it’s ideal to take to any potluck or family gathering.  I’ve made this a number of times, and I have only had the recipe for a few weeks.  It’s been a popular side dish, and I love, love, love how fast and easy it is to throw together from ingredients I have in my pantry.

This recipe was inspired by two recipes that ran in the “Home Plates” column in the San Jose Mercury News in June 2011, both recipes were attributed to Hazel Lawson Gentry.  I took the best of both recipes, experimented a bit with quantities, and came up with this, my new “go-to” Pasta Salad.  You can do the same!  This recipe is very flexible and very forgiving. Make it yours!

Southwestern Pasta Salad

For the Dressing

1 cup ranch dressing

1 7 oz. can chopped mild green chilies

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

For the Pasta Salad

1 pound corkscrew, penne, or wagon wheel pasta, cooked and drained according to package directions (if you want less pasta in your salad, cook only 1/2 lb pasta, use 1 can of beans, and  keep all the other quantities the same.)

1 15 oz. can petite diced tomatoes (in the summer use 2 cups diced tomatoes from your backyard or from the farmers market), do not drain

1 OR 2 15 oz. cans (your choice) of black beans, pinquitos, or kidney beans (I use 1 can black beans), drained

1 15 oz. can corn (or 2 cups frozen corn, or fresh cooked corn stripped off the cob), drained

1 7 oz. can sliced black olives, drained

If you have it…

4 sliced green onions

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, parsley, or basil

To make this Pasta Salad “Supreme”

2 diced avocados

1 lb. bay shrimp

  1. Combine the ranch dressing with the undrained chiles and the cumin powder.  Set aside.  (Dressing can be made up to one week in advance.)
  2. Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Cool with cold water, and drain well.
  3. Combine the pasta with the can of undrained diced tomatoes and the drained beans, corn and olives.
  4. Stir in the desired amount of the prepared dressing–you might use 3/4, or you might use all of it.  It all depends on how much liquid your pasta absorbs (this depends on the brand, the style, and how long you’ve cooked your pasta), and your personal preference, how saucy do you like your pasta salad?  Stir in as much as you think you’d like.  Save any leftover dressing, after a few hours the salad might look a bit dry and you can stir in the rest of the dressing at that time.  (If the salad looks dry and you have no dressing left, stir in a few spoonfuls of salsa!)
  5. If using, stir in your choice of herbs, green onion, avocado and bay shrimp, and salt and pepper, if needed.
  6. Cover the salad with plastic wrap and chill until serving time.

That’s all there is to it!  Easy peasy!

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  Print out this recipe.  It will become a staple. Do you know how much stress is relieved by having a good, “go-to” pasta salad that can be made at the drop-of-the-hat, without a trip to the grocery store? Invite the neighbors over, get the burgers on the grill…, it’s Summertime and the livin’ is easy!!

12 Jul 2011 Apple Fennel Salad

I have some very, very strange friends.  They get up early.  To go running. Sometimes, on a weekend, for fun, they’ll run like 26 miles.  To get a T-shirt.

Sometimes these strange friends invite me over for dinner.  I usually offer to bring dessert.  (If left to their own devices these strange friends of mine would probably serve apple peels with grape nuts and flax seed.  I think one of them ate an M&M two years ago.  She still talks about it as if it were yesterday.)

These strange friends of mine eat a lot of salad.  I don’t much care for salad.

A few weeks ago these strange friends of mine swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco to get a T-shirt.  Then they thought they’d throw a party to celebrate.  I took ice cream sundaes.  With whipped cream.  One of the men told me white liquids were evil. My friend Barb brought this salad. Fennel? Really?

My little secret is, that up until this party with the strange T-shirt people, I had never tasted fennel.  I couldn’t think of a less appetizing way to try it for the first time than raw. In a salad. But Barb was smiling, and the other T-shirt people were ohhhing and ahhhing, I couldn’t not put any on my plate.

Manohmanohman, was it ever good! I’ve bought four fennel bulbs since that party, and learned to cut, core, and slice them.  I’ve served this salad to my daughters, my son, grandson, a boyfriend and a vegetarian friend.  I’ve eaten the leftovers while washing the dishes. It’s a yummy, crunchy, sweet, savory salad that’s both refreshing and light.  You’ll feel very healthy eating it, and happy.  Maybe those t-shirt people know a thing or two about salad. Shoot, I hope there aren’t any adverse side effects to eating this salad. I wouldn’t want to wake up at 5 AM one Saturday morning  thinking it would be a good idea to run 26 miles for a T-shirt…

This is my friend Barb.  I am helping her make quilts out of her T-shirts…. <sigh>

Barb says she clipped this recipe from “O” Magazine in January of 2005.  I reduced the olive oil and added in some lemon juice. It’s a very easy salad to make, very easy.  I made it tonight after my daughter had started making Turkey burgers.  We had both the burgers and the salad on the table at the same time.  (BTW, my daughter and I were wearing T-shirts from Old Navy, they cost about $7.00 each, we got to choose the size and the color,…and we didn’t have to run 26 miles to get them...)

Apple Fennel Salad

  • 2 med fennel bulbs
  • 2 Granny Smith apples (I found the Granny Smith apples to be a bit too tart for my liking, I used Fuji apples)
  • 1/2 cup thinly shaved Pecorino Romano Cheese (I’ve substituted Parmesan)
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  1. Remove fennel tops and chop 1 tablespoon of the green, feathery fronds. Trim root ends, halve, core and thinly slice fennel bulbs.
  2. Peel, core, and thinly slice the apples.
  3. In a large bowl, combine sliced fennel bulbs, sliced apples, shaved cheese, olive oil, parsley, lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper; toss gently.
  4. To serve, arrange salad on a large, chilled serving pate. Sprinkle with reserved fennel fronds.

Makes 4-6 side dish servings.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  I know this recipe isn’t what you usually expect from me, but it’s a very, very good recipe.  I hope you try it.  It’s lovely.

28 Jun 2011 Grilled Vegetable Platter

I love veggies, as long as they are cooked.  If they are grilled, even better.  I started grilling veggies a few years back.  I just sliced and grilled.  Except for loosing a significant number of veggies through the grill, they worked out great.  I grilled carrots, zucchini, asparagus, onions and sweet potatoes.  Now I am working on fancier grilled veggies; a little marinade, a little glaze, grill marks…

Last week I received an email, “Top Ten Recipes of June 2011”.   This email came from Taste of Home magazine.  I am not a huge fan of Taste of Home, too many of their recipes start out with a mix, but I am a sucker for Top Ten lists. So I opened the email.  The picture of the  Grilled Vegetable Platter looked good, the recipe had five stars out of five stars with twelve reviews, so I clicked away.  The recipe sounded good and looked simple enough, so I tested it…, winner, Winner, WINNER!

Don’t feel like you have to stick to the veggie combo listed.  Grill what you have and what you like.  I left out all the bell peppers.  I. don’t. like. bell. peppers.  I didn’t add in any mushrooms because I just posted that fabulous recipe for Grilled PortobellosTaste of Home reviewers also reported adding green beans, snow peas, sweet potato rounds, and halved cherry tomatoes  into the mix.

My change to the Taste of Home recipe is to make two marinade mixtures.  Use one to marinate the veggies in prior to grilling (and then discard that marinade with the Ziploc bag), and then use the second one to drizzle over the veggies after grilling, the second marinade is just slightly different from the first. I also substituted freshly minced garlic for the garlic powder in the first marinade.

Now for my number one tip on grilled veggies… Grill the veggies first, before the meat or the fish.  Veggies are grill hogs, taking up an entire grill, and some of them take a surprisingly long time to grill, onions especially. The asparagus will cook most quickly, then the squash, then the carrots, and the onion will probably still be cooking when you start in on the meat.  Just remove each veggie when done and, when your veggie platter is mostly complete, drizzle with the second marinade, and place the whole platter in a warm oven.  Another reason for cooking the veggies first?  You can be in the middle of cooking them when  your guests arrive, and I haven’t met a guest yet who is not impressed by a grill covered in marinated mixed veggies, some with nice char marks!

Grilled Vegetable Platter

For the pre-grilling marinade

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

For the post-grilling drizzle

  • 2 Tablespoon olive oil (this is the time to use your best tasting/most expensive olive oil)
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 Tablespoon (which is equivalent to 1 1/2 teaspoons) Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Veggie Mix (mix it up to suit what you have on hand, what you like to eat, and how many people you are serving…keeping in mind grilled veggies make great leftovers and are almost as good eaten at room temperature as they are when they are eaten fresh from the grill)

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed
  • 3 small carrots, cut in half lengthwise
  • 3 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 large sweet red, yellow, or green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 2 medium yellow summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 sweet potato (I prefer Garnet Yams), peeled and cut into slices
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into four wedges (I used a sweet Vidalia onion)
  • other possible add ins or substitutions: mushrooms, halved tomatoes, green beans, snow peas…
  1. Combine the olive oil, honey, Balsamic vinegar, oregano and minced garlic or garlic powder for the marinade. Pour into a large resealable plastic bag; add the vegetables. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for 1-1/2 hours.
  2. Combine the ingredients for the drizzle; cover and set aside.
  3. Place vegetables on a grilling grid (I don’t do this…I place the veggies directly on the grill, and loose a fair number of asparagus spears, skinny carrots and zucchini).  Grill, covered, over medium heat for 4-6 minutes (adjust for each veggie) on each side or until crisp-tender. Note: The onion wedges will probably fall apart.  That’s OK.  Just grill the slices (the slices that don’t fall through the grill, that is).  As soon as each slice is nicely brown and feels soft, transfer to platter and drizzle with some of the second marinade mixture.
  4. Transfer to a large serving platter. Drizzle with the second “marinade” mixture.
  5. Serve, or if desired, place in warm oven (250 degrees) to stay warm until needed

So now you know what you will be grilling, what should you have for dessert?  S’mores (or S’mores Bars?), Frozen Bananas (always fun), or my personal favorites, Fresh Blueberry Pie or a Mixed Berry Pie?? Have some fun and search my recipes!

Outdoor grilling rocks! Hope you are enjoying both cooking and dining outside.  Next up, grilled artichokes! Thanks for stopping by my kitchen again today.  I love it when you pop in!

 

19 Jun 2011 Bloomin’ Onion Bread

You know how you read a recipe and you just KNOW it’s going to be good?  This was one of those recipes, a Sourdough bread round, cheese, butter, green onions and a sprinkling of poppy seeds, baked.  What’s not to like? I saw a picture of this delicious concoction on Foodgawker last week and immediately clicked to read the recipe at The Girl Who Ate Everything and The Changing Table. How I held off making it for three days, I just don’t know.  I am glad I didn’t wait any longer though!

The Bloomin’ Onion Bread was a showstopper; I was thrilled with it, and my nine guests couldn’t wait to tear into it.   Everyone thought it was delicious.  I served it with Bourbon-Brown Sugar Flank Steak (which was horrible), broccoli, a lovely salad, and fresh watermelon.  Quite an easy Summer BBQ.  Pity about the flank steak though.  That was another recipe that I thought would be great: marinate a flank steak in dark brown sugar and bourbon and then grill it.  What’s not to like?  Well, brown sugar on steak for starters.  The steak ended up being sweeter than the Yellow Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting that I served for dessert.  Why that recipe for the horrible flank steak was posted I just don’t know.  There were even comments posted about liking the steak!

Anyway, here’s a recipe for a side dish that does work, that is delicious, and looks lovely on the table.  Enjoy!

Bloomin’ Onion Bread

  • 1 unsliced  sourdough round (I bought mine at Le Boulanger)
  • 12 16 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, thinly sliced (12 oz. is plenty, 16 oz. would be a bit over-the-top, I think))
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup finely diced green onion
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the bread lengthwise and widthwise without cutting through the bottom crust. The top of the bread  should look like a checkerboard. Cutting the second way can be a bit tricky, but the bread is very forgiving, and if you have a nice sharp knife it’s not so bad.
  3. Place the cut bread onto a piece of  foil on a baking sheet.
  4. Insert cheese slices between cuts, both lengthwise and widthwise (a good job for a young family member or a guest that arrives early).
  5. Combine melted butter, chopped green onion onion, and poppy seeds in a small bowl or pitcher. Drizzle evenly over stuffed bread.
  6. Wrap the bread in the foil.  You will probably need a second piece of foil to cover the of the top.
  7. Place the wrapped bread on the baking sheet into a preheated 350 degree oven and bake  for 15 minutes.
  8. Unwrap the bread (I just took the foil off the top)  and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
  9. Serve immediately.  Place a serrated knife on the serving plate,  which would be helpful for cutting hunks of bread off of the loaf to place on individual plates. I didn’t do this,  the cretins at my table didn’t seem to mind, but you might have civilized folk at your table…

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  Stop by again, and I’ll post my easiest recipe for BBQ flank steak, one I have been using for 20 years, and it’s always well received.  Be sure to subscribe if you’d  like to receive a notification when a new recipe posts. To scroll through the recipes already posted, just click the “In the Kitchen With Polly” logo on the very top left hand side of the page.  Enjoy!

09 Jun 2011 Marinated and Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

The best Marinated and Grilled Portobello Mushrooms I’ve ever had were served at my 30th high school reunion. (Yes, I am that old. Dang it.)  The mushrooms were served at room temperature, they were “meaty” (as Portobellos are known to be), tangy, smokey, and a bit salty.  Of all the things to remember about a high school reunion, I remember the mushrooms?  There’s something seriously wrong with me…

Most unfortunately,  I don’t have that particular Helix High School 30th Reunion recipe for mushrooms, but I have finally found a recipe and method  that seems to come pretty darn close.  For this I have to thank Cook’s Illustrated, which was a starting point for this recipe.   I adjusted their method just a bit to ensure some nice grill marks on the Portobello slices, and to make it a bit more convenient to prep ahead of time.  The original recipe is from the 2010 “Summer Grilling” publication (page 61).

These Portobellos are marinated, grilled, sliced, grilled a second time, marinated a second time, and served.  Yes, another recipe that is a bit of a bother, but the steps are easy, and can be done ahead of time, and the final step can be done while the guests stand around ohhh-ing and ahh-ing and wishing they knew how to make such marvelous mushrooms.  You’ll feel so accomplished. Trust me on this.

Marinated and Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

4 large Portobello mushrooms (between 5 and 6 inches in diameter, about 6 oz., each, in weight)

Pre-grilling Marinade

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt

Post -grilling Marinade

  • 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  1. Combine all ingredients for first marinade in a large Ziploc bag.  Add cleaned mushrooms, seal bag, and toss gently. Let mushrooms stand at room temperature for about one hour in this marinade.
  2. Cut four 12-inch pieces of foil.  Remove mushrooms from marinade.  Place one mushroom, gill side up, on each square of foil.  Fold foil edges over mushroom and seal securely.
  3. Grill mushrooms in foil packed, gill side/sealed foil side UP, until mushroom is tender and juicy, about 10 to 12 minutes.  Set aside to cool.
  4. Carefully open foil packets.  Remove mushrooms and slice, on the diagonal, into long thick slices.
  5. Combine all the ingredients for the second marinade in a large bowl and set aside.
  6. 20 minutes before dinner, return sliced mushrooms to grill.  Grill each slice until nicely grill marked.  Depending on the heat of your grill this could take anywhere from 1-3 minutes on each side.
  7. Place grilled mushroom slices in bowl with marinade and toss to coat.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let mushrooms marinate for 15 minutes (and up to 30 minutes).
  8. Remove mushrooms from marinade and place on serving platter. Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  If you would like to receive a quick 2-line email when I post my next recipe, please enter your email address in the “subscribe” box in the right-hand column 🙂

Happy Grilling!

P.S. This grilled recipe is being added to the summer grilling link party at Family Fresh Cooking! Let’s get Grillin’ with Family Fresh Cooking and Cookin’ Canuck, sponsored by Ile de France Cheese, Rösle, Emile Henry, ManPans and Rouxbe!

05 Feb 2011 Top Ten Superbowl Snacks

Here is my Top Ten List of  Superbowl Snacks…  Enjoy!

Crockpot Bean Dip: A must!  Serve with tortilla chips (my kids prefer “Scoops” ). Mix up the dip the night before.  Put in crockpot two or three hours before the party starts and leave it on low/warm for the entire length of the party.

Meatballs on Toast: Men and teenage boys can’t get enough of these.  Mix up the meat mixture in advance (the night before is fine), then broil as needed.  The recipe is delicious “as is”, but you can certainly put your signature on it. A friend of mine adds some curry powder and ground lamb to make Curried Meatballs on Toast.  Add some cilantro and cumin and red pepper, Mexican Meatballs on Toast. Oregano, basil, garlic, lemon pepper, Greek meatballs on Toast?

Bacon Asparagus Rolls: All veggies can be forgiven when rolled in bacon.  Delicious, “two more-ish” as my English Aunties say (as in, “I’d like two more of those, please)  and different.  These will make you a legend in your own time.

Baked Chicken Taquitos: A bit more substantial, but can be cut in half for finger food. Don’t forget to sprinkle with salt before baking.  Serve with a salsa for dipping.

Mozzarella Sticks:   Fried Cheese. Fabulous. My 2011 addition to my Superbowl snack line up, I know it will be invited back every year.  Make the night ahead and freeze, then fry as needed.  Can be reheated in the oven as needed.

Baked Spinach-Artichoke Dip: Might be a bit girlie for a Superbowl spread.  But let’s get with the times.  Girls like football, too.  Some men eat quiche, but even more men will eat Spinach Artichoke Dip.  This one is really for the girls though.

Blue Cheese Dip with Veggies: Come on, you have to have some raw veggies set out.  What better to dip them in than a strong, assertive blue cheese dip?  Dip must be make two hours ahead, but making it the night before is fine. Veggies can also be made ahead and stored overnight in refrigerator in  air-tight bags.  You just need three veggies, really, in order of importance: celery sticks, carrot sticks, and cucumber slices.

Gringo Grandma’s Chili: One always needs a pot of chili for Superbowl Sunday, especially if the game is in Texas! Set up a chili bar. Small bowls with spoons, chili in the crockpot, mini corn muffins or cornbread, hot dogs, buns, fries, grated cheese, onion, Tabasco…  This recipe makes a lot of chili, leftovers will freeze well, but also make a fine dinner for Monday.

Oven Baked Chicken Nuggets: Make ahead and freeze.  Use any boneless chicken.  Most like cubed chicken bread.  I prefer chicken tenders.  Make ahead, and just pull out of the freezer and bake.  Set chicken nuggets out next to a bottle of ketchup and a bottle of Ranch dressing.

Oven Baked Fries: You can’t get a more economical Superbowl snack. Make two pans of these. These should be a staple.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  Have a great Superbowl Sunday (even if you don’t like football)!!  I always enjoy myself and I know next-to-nothing about the game 🙂