Saturday, September 10, 2011

Great Side Dishes

Sometimes the side dish is better than the main dish.  Sometimes its so good that you don't even bother making a main dish...

First off, a combo that sounds bizarre, but once you try it - you'll fall in love!  Liz introduced us to this Tomato and Mango Salad while we lived in Williamsburg.  Here's my version:

Tomato Mango Jalapeno Salad (excellent with fish or as a fresh and light first course or on its own if you had a big lunch...)
Peel and cube one large, ripe mango.  Cube 2 medium super ripe* tomatoes.  Finely chop 1/4 of a red onion.  Finely chop 1 jalapeno (or less, to taste).  Toss with the juice of 1/2 a lime.  Chill and let the flavors 'marry' for at least 30 minutes.  Enjoy!  (I've found that once this salad sits overnight, the jalapenos are actually less spicy.)

Sometimes the simplest sides are the best - in all of these cases, I thought they were better than the main dish!

Super Ripe* Tomatoes with Arugula (topped with balsamic vinegar)
Here, served with rockfish cooked in parchment with herbs, onions, and lemons.

  Spaghetti Squash
Cook the spaghetti squash according to label directions.  (They're always some variation of this:  Poke several holes in the squash.  Microwave 2 minutes.  Cut in half.  Remove seeds. Microwave in a glass dish, face down, until tender - usually 5 to 10 minutes.)  Using forks, pull the squash apart into spaghetti.  Drizzle lightly with good EVOO (quality shows when there's nothing masking the flavor) and fresh squeezed lemon.  Top with fresh ground pepper.  Serve.  (Here it was served with white wine poached tilapia, topped with butter toasted breadcrumbs and capers.)

Sliced Tomatoes
So simple, but so incredible.  Sliced super ripe* tomatoes, drizzled with good EVOO (once again, quality matters), a pinch of sea salt, and fresh ground black pepper.

Sauteed Artichoke Hearts AND Spinach Salad
If you read my post about artichokes, you know how much I love them!  I still stand by my word that whole artichokes are the best way to go, but frozen artichoke hearts are pretty amazing too!  Not every store has them - I originally discovered them because my college roommate Emily would buy them at Trader Joe's.  Unfortunately, Colorado does not have TJs.  I think I found them at Sprouts this time.  Simple preparation:  saute thawed artichoke hearts in a small amount of EVOO.  In another pan, toast butter, breadcrumbs, and fresh ground black pepper.  Squeeze a tiny bit of lemon on the artichoke hearts and top with toasted topping.

Whenever I use a pomegranate for any recipe, I have a ton of the yummy seeds leftover.  They're fun to add to a variety of foods!  They dance beautifully when dropped into champagne, they make an exciting oatmeal topping, they are a tart counterpoint to cake, they're fun on ice cream/sorbet, and they're perfect on salads.  This salad was simply baby spinach, sliced mushrooms, and pomegranate seeds.  Topped with sweet and sour dressing.  This is a simplified version of my family's annual "Christmas Salad" but still delicious.  I've also made the same salad with warm sauteed mushrooms instead.  Yum!

Both sides were great!  They both also out-shined the lemon-white wine steamed tilapia with capers.

Last but not least, is one that the side was fun to make (but I can't claim it was better than the main dish - I love steak too much to claim that!)

Twice Baked Potatoes
I microwave baked my Idaho potatoes, then scooped them out.  I added (per potato) 1 Tb sour cream, a generous amount of black pepper, 1/2 Tb of melted butter, and a large pinch of shredded cheddar then mixed.  I divided the filling between the potato skins, then baked them in a 375 degree oven until golden brown on top.

Here, served with pan-seared steak (seared in melted butter in a cast iron skillet).  BTW - such an easy way to cook a steak and incredibly delicious (if you don't have a charcoal grill)!

*In most cases, the tomatoes at the grocery store are anything but ripe.  Options:  1)  Grow your own tomatoes (we can't do that - we live in an apartment that doesn't get enough sun on the patio).  2)  Buy your tomatoes from a farmer's market (delicious, but they're not always in season).  3)  My most common tactic:  buy the on the vine tomatoes at the grocery - allow them to ripen at home until they're so ripe that they're almost mushy/you're afraid they might start molding at the stem.  This sometimes works to make plum tomatoes palatable as well.

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