Tag Archives: 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 and Basil Chowder

fresh and clean summer soup

This is a variation on a corn, basil, and tomato salad that I made every week in August last year. The tomatoes are not quite worth their $4.50 a pound at the greenmarket, so my sweet corn and basil had to cosy up to some pimentòn de la vera instead. The barest hint of smoke and spice adds a bacon-esque richness to what is otherwise a very lean soup, and a squeeze of lime brightens the flavors. Making a stock from the cobs and basil stems gives the soup a little more depth. I made sure to keep boiling time to a minimum, since the entire point of summer cooking is to stay away from the stove whenever possible. We all know that time is better spent at the beach.

Corn and Basil Chowder

4 ears of sweet corn

4 c water

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbs butter

2 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp Spanish smoked paprika (I used agridulce, but hot or sweet would also work)

1c basil leaves, lightly packed (reserve the stems)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 lime

Using a sharp knife, slice the kernels of corn from the cob. Reserve corn, and place the cobs and basil stems in a large pot. Cover with the water, bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes while you prep the other ingredients.

Chiffonade the basil leaves, set aside. Mince the garlic.

In a small skillet, heat the butter on medium-high until it foams. Stir in the garlic and cook 2 minutes or until fragrant.  Remove from heat. Stir in paprika and salt.

Turn off the simmering pot of cobs. Discard the basil stems. Lift the cobs out of the water with tongs and shake excess water into the pot. Transfer to a cutting board and hold with the tongs in one hand while you scrape the last bits of corn off with the back of your knife. Discard cobs, add corn scrapings to the pot.

Add garlic mixture, corn kernels, and basil to the pot of corn stock. Squeeze the lime half over the pot and add a few grinds of black pepper. Stir everything up and taste it. Add more salt or pepper if you like.

Serve warm, room-temperature, or cold. The flavors develop after a day or two in the refrigerator, and the soup keeps up to a week. Makes an excellent breakfast on days you don’t want to cook.

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Filed under Main Dish, Recipe, Side Dish, Vegetables

Millet with Preserved Lemon and Cilantro

Poor little millet doesn’t get the attention it deserves.  It’s tiny and homely and known best as bird food in the US.  In fact, if you have a backyard birdfeeder, you occasionally might see millet plants sprout from dropped seeds.  But millet is an ancient grain, popular in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe since the dawn of time.  It’s gluten-free, high in protein, and easy to digest.  Oh, and it tastes good.

I consider millet to be somewhere between a grain and a legume, since it’s both starchy and protein-rich.  So I usually cook it like rice and spice it like lentils, just to make sure I have my bases covered.   And ever since I made a batch of preserved lemons (a half-gallon jar, last summer!), I’ve been looking for ways to use them up.  Only the rind is used in cooking, the flesh is scooped away and all the salty, satiny juice rinsed off.  Preserved lemons are very salty and fragrant, so just a little bit can flavor a whole dish.  They pair well with millet, especially since both are North African culinary staples.

This recipe is Moroccan-inspired, and features toasted spices, fresh herbs, and some homemade preserved lemon.  The outcome isn’t very glamorous, but the taste is fresh and bright, and certainly worthy of attention.

I’m sending this millet to Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Anh of Food Lover’s Journey.

Millet with Preserved Lemon and Cilantro (serves 2 as a side, can be multiplied)

1/2c millet

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp fenugreek

1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds

1/4 tsp cinnamon stick bits

4 black peppercorns

1 1/2c water

1 Tbs tomato paste

2 tsp grated ginger

1/4 preserved lemon rind, rinsed, flesh removed, minced (about 2 tsp)

2 Tbs minced fresh cilantro leaves and stems

In a small saucepan toast the spices until golden, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a spice grinder and grind.  Toast the millet in the same saucepan, and when fragrant, add the water and spices and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 15 minutes.

Add the tomato paste, ginger, and preserved lemon after 15 minutes.  Cover and cook 5-10 more minutes until the liquid is absorbed and millet is tender.  Remove from heat, stir in cilantro, and serve.


Filed under Grains, Pantry, Recipe, Side Dish