Category Archives: Side Dish

Carrot Ginger Salad (Dressing)

You know the default salad dressing at most Japanese restaurants, the sweet golden emulsion of carrots and ginger that’s so perfect on a bed of lettuce? I can’t get enough of it. I often wish it were appropriate to eat this salad dressing on its own, but the usual recipe is secretly full of oil and added sugar, which doesn’t make me feel so great.

I’ve adapted a lighter version of my favorite salad dressing, and it’s healthy enough to eat as a salad. If you’re planning to serve it over lettuce, make it a bit thinner. Make it a little thicker to serve on its own. You can also follow the variation below for a shredded carrot salad.

I’ve been making my own at home expressly for the purpose of eating it by the bowlful. And sometimes, I even mix in a bit of lettuce.

Carrot Ginger Salad (Dressing)

  • 1 pound carrots
  • 1/2 c ginger
  • 1/2 c shallots (substitute 3 cloves garlic)
  • 3 Tbs soy sauce (I used gluten-free)
  • 3/8 c rice vinegar
  • 3 Tbs sesame oil
  • 1/2 c water

If your carrots are especially fresh and tender, you won’t need to peel them. Just trim off the tops, cut into chunks, and toss into your food processor along with the ginger and shallots. Process until mostly chunky, then add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil and process until smooth, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times. Add water a little at a time while the processor is running. You might not need all the water, depending on the moisture level of your carrots. If the texture is too thick, add a bit more water and process again. And remember, I’m already omitting a cup of canola oil, so you can use some of that in place of the oil. Refrigerate one hour to allow flavors to meld, if you can wait that long. Then serve over lettuce, or just spoon it up. This dressing can be used for about two weeks, but it will lose some of its fresh flavor after a few days.

Variation: If you’re looking for a Frenchier version of this salad, grate carrots on a box grater for fluffy texture. Mince shallots. Grate ginger (easier if it’s frozen) on a Microplane. Mix all ingredients together.



Filed under Dressings and Sauces, gluten-free, Side Dish, Vegetables

On the Bagel Trail

I’m embarking on a quest for truly excellent bagels at home. Yeah, I could stop at a Murray’s every morning or stash a dozen from H&H in the freezer, but I want to make them myself. I suppose I have a bit of a frontier attitude, so I look upon most foods and think, “I can make that at home! It’ll be so much cheaper and more convenient!”

This is the same attitude that always led me to raft down the Columbia River when playing Oregon Trail. Usually, I ended up with drowned oxen and a broken axle, but sometimes that pixellated covered wagon pulled through. That’s what keeps me going.

So I’m testing out a bunch of bagel recipes and techniques in hopes that I’ll eventually find a combination that will get me through. At least this time no virtual lives are at stake. If you have a tried-and-true bagel recipe, pass it on!

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Filed under Baked, Side Dish

New Leaf

Hi there. It’s been a while, but I’m back. I’m not here to scatter handfuls from my bushel of excuses on lack of posting over the past month–that’s so 2005. Instead, I’ve got more posts that involve acutal cooking and pretty pictures of food. About time, right?

I’ve recently partnered with a certain Ian to get into some healthier habits. I haven’t been very interested in cooking lately, and I feel like everthing I eat comes out of a crackly plastic bag. Sloppy nutrition makes me tired and I don’t want to cook when I’m tired, so I end up in a not-too-pleasant cycle. So in order to feel better, and feel better about myself, I’m going to concentrate on cooking healthy foods more often.  I’m a bit of an amateur nutrition buff, so I’ll be writing about the health benefits of the things I cook. Dessert lovers, don’t worry–this isn’t going to become a shame-dispensing health site. I promise only to share the most delicious recipes and ingredients, including plenty of cookies, jam, custard, and ice cream.

That said, I’m turning over a new leaf–literally (you knew that joke was coming). This bundle of joy is Red Russian Kale, one of my favorite leafy greens. It’s much milder than other kales, and one of the prettiest brassicas around. When it’s young like this bunch, you barely need to cook it at all, and it could even serve as a salad green once de-stemmed, or shredded in a delicate slaw. The leaves are so tender I couldn’t stop myself from taking a bite of one on the way home, even though I prefer them sauteed. I cooked this kale the way I cook most leafy greens. Just a quick stir fry with some oil (about 2 Tbs) and a minced clove of garlic, and it’s ready to go. I chop everything up, heat the oil on high, toss in the stems, stir about 2 minutes, add the leaves, stir for 2 minutes, add the garlic, & stir 2 more minutes.

Everyone knows that the dark green leafies contain lots of iron, calcium, manganese and vitamins A, C , and K. But did you know that they fight cancer and aid brain function? Dark brassicas are commonly used as a liver detoxifier; high fiber content means they cleanse the colon as well. That brings to mind their high sulfur content (it’s why they smell a bit like an unlit match as you cook them), a clever inclusion gives them slight antimicrobial properties.

But forget about all that for a minute, and listen when I tell you that they are delicious. Cooked in a little oil, with some garlic and maybe a bit of red pepper, these greens are soft, rich, fresh, and nourishing. I don’t salt them because their mineral content makes them taste salty enough. And you know, for health. These might be just the thing to wean me off of my Peanut m&m habit. So here’s to the new me, the new you, and the new crop of kale. Consider this new leaf flipped.


Filed under dinner, Recipe, Side Dish, Vegetables

Corn Spaghetti

That’s right kids, corn spaghetti. I dabble in gluten-free cookery from time to time, as I’m slightly sensitive to the stretchy stuff. Usually I feel tired, bloated, and cranky when I’ve had more than a little gluten, so I keep it to a minimum. That means I’m always trying new GF products and recipes.

I got this corn spaghetti at Whole Foods, so I’m sure it’s pretty widely available. It cooks up just like any other pasta, and it’s surprisingly mild. The taste is reminiscent of corn tortillas, but since it’s cooked in water, it doesn’t have the distinct taco taste.

My first dish with this was simply dressed with a little olive oil, salt, and red pepper. I can imagine it would be great in sopa seca, the Mexican noodle casserole.  It would also be good in a take on Shanghai pan-fried noodles, or anything else that features fried noodles.

I’d totally buy this again, and I’ll keep you posted when I make a more complex recipe with it.

Has anyone else tried corn spaghetti? What did you think?


Filed under gluten-free, Pantry, review, Side Dish

Deskmates 2: Beet Around

I love beets. When they’re roasted for a few hours, they’re so sweet and tender, and the way the deep red flesh moves (and looks) is almost muscular. I’m intrigued by this root that so closely resembles a beating heart.

I also love raw beets. They’re especially good thinly sliced and paired with cucumbers in a light rice wine vinegar and sesame oil dressing. And the striped chioggia beets are prettiest raw. Their colors blend together once cooked, and even if they’ve just been sitting in the salad dressing too long.

The slight astringency of these raw chioggias pairs well with cooked quinoa, more cucumber, chopped parsley and a strawberry vinaigrette. This salad made a brief appearance at a work lunch potluck – it was completely gone by the time I headed back for seconds.

Though I can’t say enough about their texture, taste, and versatility, I think I love beets best for their longevity. I roasted a bunch of beets about a month ago, ate a few, and forgot the rest. Yesterday I discovered them waiting patiently in the back of the fridge without even a hint of mold or decay, and promptly added one to my lunch. There’s one left from that batch, and I’m sure it will still be fine when I get around to eating it in a few days. Then I’ll need to re-stock.

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Filed under Deskmates, Grains, Side Dish, Vegetables, Work Lunch

Nose to Tail Watermelon

I hate waste and I love pickles. So preserving the rind of a juicy summer watermelon makes perfect sense to me. I get jars and jars of delicious pickles, crisp pink watermelon cubes, and of course the satisfaction of using every part of the beast. And believe me, a 15-pound watermelon is a beast. This recipe is sweet, spicy, and slightly sour and features some of my favorite flavors – cinnamon, lemon, mustard seed, vinegar. It’s worth getting a whole watermelon just to make these.

Pickled Watermelon Rind

For the rind:

  • 1 15-pound watermelon
  • 8c water
  • 1 Tbs coarse sea salt

For the brine:

  • 2c cider vinegar
  • 1c water
  • 1c turbinado sugar
  • 1 Tbs coarse sea salt
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 10 allspice berries
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
  • 1 lemon’s zest, peeled off in long strips
  • 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorn
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbs brown mustard seed
  • 1 Tbs coriander seed
  • 1 large bay leaf

With a chef’s knife, cut the watermelon into quarters. Slide the knife between the rind and flesh of each quarter the way you’d loosen a cake from its pan. Pull the flesh out in one chunk and reserve for a sorbet, salad, or snack. Use a soup spoon to scrape the remaining flesh from the white part of the rind. Strip the green skin away with a vegetable peeler. Cut the rind into 1-inch squares. Place the rind and 1Tbs salt in a large stock pot and cover with the 8c water. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer about 5 minutes, until the rind begins to turn translucent. Remove from heat, drain well in a colander. Put the cubes into sterilized jars, leaving about 2 inches at the top. (I used one 2-quart jar and two pint jars.)

In another pot, place all the brine ingredients. Bring to a boil and cook just until the sugar and salt dissolve. Ladle the brine and spices over the rind cubes. Cover with 2-piece lids and boil in a water bath for 15 minutes. Or if you don’t care about sealing the jars, leave them on the counter for 3 or so hours until they’re at room temperature, then cover and refrigerate.

The pickles are ready to eat after a day of brining, but their flavors fully develop after a week.


Filed under Fruit, Preserving, Recipe, Side Dish


Tuesday it was about 95 degrees, and despite the heat, I was hungry. Rather than order takeout or eat raw seasonal vegetables like any sensible person, I ended up cooking the plainest of pantry staples. I don’t know why, exactly, but I was craving mujadara. It’s a mixture of rice, lentils and onion, and not much else besides a little salt and olive oil. It sounds dull at first, but the way the sweet caramelized onions slither amongst the rice and lentils melding the flavors, is nothing short of extraordinary. I’ve had versions of mujadara that involve herbs, spices, stock, and vegetables, but when I make it at home, I like to give the stage to the trio of rice, lentil, and onion. This version uses brown rice and red lentils because that’s what I happened to have on hand, but it would be equally delicious with the traditional long-grain white rice and brown lentils or any other rice or lentil you can find. The cooking times for each would just need to be adjusted.

My method of cooking red lentils is a little unorthodox, but it’s necessary for these delicate little lentils. If I cook them like other lentils, no matter how gently I simmer them they always seem to dissolve into a potful of mush. Sometimes that’s perfect, but for this recipe, they need to keep their structural integrity.

I’ve been having this for lunch all week, accompanied by watermelon, juicy apricots, and sunburn. It was totally worth the steamy evening in the kitchen.


For the lentils:

  • 1 1/4 c red lentils
  • 1 1/2 c water

For the rice:

  • 1 c brown rice
  • 1 1/2 c water

For the onions:

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c water (may not need all of it)
  • 2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

Start with the lentils. Bring their 1 1/2 c water and 1/2 tsp salt to a rolling boil. Stir in the lentils and return to a boil for 2 minutes. Cover and remove from heat. Let stand 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring gently and re-covering after 30 minutes. The key is to let the lentils absorb water at their own pace. The salt toughens them just enough to let them hold their shape.

While the lentils are soaking, get the rice going. Rinse the rice in a fine mesh sieve, then put in a small pot with the 1 1/2 c water. Cover and bring to a boil, which takes about 5 minutes. Reduce to low heat and simmer 30 minutes. Remove from heat, keeping covered, and let stand 15 minutes.

During that half-hour when the rice is cooking and the lentils soaking, start on the onions. Dice the onion (or slice into half-moons, but I prefer smaller pieces), making sure the pieces are all about the same size. Heat the ordinary olive oil in a large skillet and add the onions once the oil shimmers. Add the salt and stir, then reduce heat to medium. Stir ever two or three minutes until the onions lose most of their moisture. Then turn down the heat keep stirring at short intervals. Eventually, the sugar in the onions will begin to caramelize and stick to the pan. The darker they are, the more flavorful, but be careful not to burn them. Splash a tablespoon or two of water into the pan to deglaze it and pick up the fond (that sweet dark pan-crust). Keep stirring until your onions are a rick golden brown, about 25 minutes, then turn off the heat.

Stir the extra virgin olive oil into the onions. Fluff the rice with a fork and stir that into the pan of onions, too. (If your skillet is getting full, you can transfer the contents to a mixing bowl. Gently fold the lentils into the rice mixture, taste, and add more salt if needed.

Serve warm or at room temperature.


Filed under Main Dish, Pantry, Recipe, Side Dish