Category Archives: Side Dish

Greek Salad the Greek Way (or so I hear)

greek salad
I’ve never been to Greece, but my sister-in-law has. She told me that every time she ordered a “salad” while on the trip, it came without lettuce and instead focused on the tomato, cucumber, and peppers. Given that my garden is happily producing these three ingredients, I was immediately on board. The key is the combination of vegetables with olives and feta cheese and a highly lemony dressing. Next time I’ll do more research and give some proper facts and history, but for now I’m too busy eating my big Greek salad.

Greek Salad Recipe

2-3 medium sized tomatoes, cored, sliced into wedges and again into medium sized chunks
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced in half lengthwise twice and sliced crosswise
1 gypsy pepper (red, orange or yellow), chopped in medium to large pieces
1 small red onion, sliced crosswise and chopped medium
Handful of pitted kalamata olives, rinsed and chopped in halves or quarters
Feta cheese

1/4 (scant) cup olive oil
Juice of 1/2 – 1 meyer lemon
Salt and pepper

1. Prep and combine vegetables and olives.
2. Whisk the dressing ingredients and toss with vegetables.
3. Serve with crumbled Feta cheese on top or sliced on the side.

– I know some people don’t like raw red onion, but in this instance, the added bite is a nice and in my mind necessary, complement to the other flavors. That said, you may not want to eat this before, say, an interview or a first date.
– As vegetables vary in size, you’ll need to eyeball ratios. The main idea is equal parts tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers.
– Optional: Add 1 small clove garlic, crushed or chopped small, in with the dressing.

tomatoes in the gardenGypsy pepper red pepper on the vinecucumber in the garden


A New Favorite- Chick Pea Salad

Chick Pea SaladI had something like this chick pea salad at ‘wichcraft, a lunch spot in San Francisco at Mission and 5th Streets downtown. I was bewitched. Here’s my version- it’s my new lunch obsession.

Garbanzo Beans

Serves 2.

olive oil
pinch of cayenne pepper
3 shallots or 1 small red onion, chopped finely
1 large garlic clove, minced
2-3 celery sticks, cleaned, halved lengthwise and sliced
2-3 shakes ground coriander (~1/2 teaspoon)
2-3 shakes ground cumin (~1/2 teaspoon)
1 pint cooked garbanzo beans, about two cups (or 1 – 14oz can chick peas, drained & thoroughly rinsed)
juice of one meyer lemon
kosher salt & pepper
2 (generous) Tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro or parsley (I use both.)

Saute chick peas with shallots and celeryDirections:
1) Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in small saucepan. Add pinch of cayenne pepper.
2) On medium heat, saute the shallots & celery for 1-2 minutes or so until slightly softened.
3) Add the garlic and stir, cooking for another minute or so. Add the cumin and coriander. Stir and add a touch more olive oil.
4) Stir in the chick peas and mix thoroughly.
5) Mix in fresh juice of 1/2 lemon. Generously sprinkle with kosher salt. Taste. Stir and repeat with second half of lemon or adjust to taste.
6) Add a bit of freshly ground pepper if desired. Stir in chopped cilantro & parsley and serve immediately, slightly warm.

This chick pea salad is great on its own as a side or I often serve it on top of a tossed salad. See below.

Chick Peas with Mixed Greens SaladGarbanzo Beans salad for lunchIngredients:
Mixed greens or arugula (2-3 cups), cleaned and dry
Crumbled goat cheese (feta would work too)
One green onion, sliced
1/2 avocado, sliced
for dressing: kosher salt, olive oil, & red wine vinegar

1) Place greens in a bowl. Lightly sprinkle with kosher salt and then drizzle a bit of olive oil over the leaves. Add a splash of red wine vinegar and toss to coat evenly.
2) Add goat cheese, green onion, avocado and a mound of chick pea salad on top.
3) Lunchtime!

Note: I prefer to use dried garbanzo beans. After soaking & cooking the chick peas, I put them in pint mason jars and stash them in the freezer to use as needed.

Chick Peas on Arugula Salad

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice, Apples, Sage and Celery

Stuffed and Roasted Acorn Squash

This recipe is a delicious combination of flavors, it’s filling and comforting yet healthy and a a great way to utilize wintertime squash. The recipe calls for wild rice- I actually used a blend of wild rices that I threw in my rice cooker w/ the chicken stock. (Wild rices usually cook at a ratio of rice to water of 1:3.) I decided to use toasted pecans and fresh thyme in place of walnuts and sage since that’s what I had on hand. The trick with this recipe is to be sure to roast the acorn squash until it is basically fully cooked. Then stuff with the rice, bake another 10 minutes or so, and serve hot. I usually end up with extra rice, which makes a tasty lunch served on top of a bed of mixed lettuce or arugula the next day.

roasted acorn squash stuffed with wild rice

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice, Apples, Sage, and Celery

2 acorn squash, halved top to bottom, seeds and strings removed
1 1/2 cups wild rice, rinsed
4 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 small apple, peeled, cored, chopped
1 onion, chopped small
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
Small handful of chopped fresh sage leaves
Olive oil to brush or drizzle lightly on squash &/or to saute the vegetables
1 to 1 1/2 cup walnut halves or 3/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
4 tablespoon butter, divided
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 Tbsp maple syrup (optional)
salt, pepper

1. Bring stock to a boil.  Add uncooked wild rice, reduce heat and simmer about 50-60 minutes or until tender. Let sit.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Score the insides of the squash several times. Put the squash cut side up on a baking pan and drizzle olive oil lightly on top OR coat the inside with 1/2 Tbsp butter and drizzle with a touch of maple syrup. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Bake for about 1 hour until soft and the tops are browning.

3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium high heat, melt two tablespoons of butter (or olive oil), and saute the onions and celery until becoming soft, around 7 minutes. Add the apples, sage, and walnuts or pine nuts. After about five minutes, add the brown sugar and toss to coat. Continue to saute until the celery and apples begin to soften. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

4. Mix the skillet contents with the wild rice in a big bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings.

5. Pull the acorn squash out of the oven when it’s ready. Fill the squash with rice stuffing, drizzle each with olive oil or butter and salt, if needed.  Return to oven for 10 minutes or until a knife goes easily into the flesh of the squash along the top. (If any rice mix is left you can bake it in a separate bowl or heat it in a skillet and serve alongside.)

7. Pull the squash out the oven.  Serve when cool enough to eat.

8. You can make the rice stuffing beforehand or even pre-bake the squash in advance leaving the final 10-15 minute bake before serving.

roasted acorn squashServe this heart-shaped acorn squash on Valentine’s Day! ;)

acorn squash

Serve leftovers with lightly dressed arugula for lunch.

Green Beans with Chard

This recipe is a nice variation on steamed green beans. The beans look pretty mingled with the chopped chard, and it makes a great side dish for dinner parties.

1 generous bunch Swiss chard (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3-4 generous handfuls of green beans
2-3 shallots, outer skin removed and chopped
olive oil, butter
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
lemon juice or vinegar
toasted pine nuts (optional)

1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil while you prepare the chard. Fill a bowl with ice water. Tear the leaves from the stems and wash thoroughly in two changes of water. Discard the stems or set aside for another purpose.

2. When the water comes to a boil, add the Swiss chard leaves. Boil 1 minutes (from the time the water comes back to a boil) until tender but still bright green, then remove from the water with a slotted spoon or skimmer and transfer to the ice water. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop coarsely and set aside.

3. Wash green beans, cut off ends and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces.

4. Steam green beans until bright green and slightly softened, about 4-6 minutes.

5. Heat 1 T olive oil and 2 T butter in saucepan, about 30 seconds. Saute shallots, ~1-2 minutes.

6. Toss chard, beans and butter/shallot mix. Season generously with salt and pepper. Toss with juice from 1/2 lemon. Add toasted pine nuts if desired.

(Alternative addition if in season: toss in 1 heirloom tomato, chopped.)

A New-Found Love of Brussels Sprouts

Brussel Sprouts

I have a new fondness for brussels sprouts. For a long time, I swore I didn’t like brussels sprouts and refused to eat or cook them. That all changed when I finally agreed to try them in a dish at Beretta in San Francisco. Their recipe is absolutely delicious, and so I realized that it is indeed possible to create tasty brussels sprouts. It’s all in how they’re prepared. It seems the trick is to make sure they’re cooked through, but not overdone (like many vegetables), and they’re best when accompanied by other flavors, such as garlic, shallots, breadcrumbs, or Parmesan.

The first time I made them, I soaked them in cold water for about 10 minutes to ensure that they were clean. This may be overkill. It’s probably fine to simply wash them carefully, peeling off any leaves as necessary if they look dirty. However, I have learned that this step also helps them keep their vivid green color.

Next, I cut a small “X” in the bottom of each, to help them cook through. I steamed them for about 5 minutes, then removed them from the heat, let them cool slightly and cut them in halves. Next, I melted a pat of butter in a saucepan, sauteed minced garlic (1-2 cloves) and added the brussels sprouts, continuing to saute another few minutes. I tossed them with salt, freshly ground pepper, and a bit of freshly grated Parmesan before serving. That was all it took- tasty brussels sprouts!

Since then, I’ve been paring down the number of steps, and have been opting to simply saute the halved brussels sprouts for 7-10 minutes, skipping the steaming step. I may saute some minced shallots first or add in some minced garlic near the end, when they’re almost ready.

I recently discovered a few other recipes on Food52 that sound fabulous, although I have yet to try them. This recipe, Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Breadcrumbs and Lemon, calls for roasting and looks amazing. This Parmesan-Crusted Brussels Sprouts recipe is also a version that looks worth trying out.

I normally make green beans as a side dish for Thanksgiving, but this year it’s looking more and more like brussels sprouts might make it on the menu!

Tastiest White Beans

Dried White Cannellini Beans

Mark Bittman has definitely gotten me on the bean train. Having some black beans or white beans in the fridge allows for making quick and tasty meals on the go, such as quesadillas, soups, salads or sides. I recently discovered a love for white cannellini beans. The trick is using homemade chicken stock for the simmering (and not soaking the beans too long in the first step so they can absorb as much of the stock as possible in the second.) The whole process takes 2 1/2 to 3 hours, mostly unattended.

1 pound dried cannellini beans
1 medium onion, chopped small
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 carrot, diced small
1 stick celery, diced small
~1 quart (4 cups) homemade chicken stock
1 bay leaf
2 Tablespoons fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Rinse dried cannellini beans. Place in pot with cold water with the water 1-2 inches above the top of the beans. Bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, cover, and let sit about 1 hour. Taste a bean. The beans should be softening on the outside, but still a little hard in the middle, ie. not completely soft yet. Drain water from beans.

2. Add chicken stock to the beans, again with the water level about 1-2 inches above the beans. If you don’t have enough stock, add some water. Turn the heat back onto high to bring to a boil.

3. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, heat olive oil and saute onion, carrot and celery until soft. Add garlic and saute another 30 seconds or so. Stir the vegetables into the beans and stock. Add the bay leaf,  thyme, a few pinches of salt, and pepper.

4. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer on low. Check every 10 to 15 minutes. When the beans are completely soft, but not falling apart, remove from heat. It usually takes between 30 minutes to an hour for the beans to completely cook.

5. Remove bay leaf. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Use immediately or store beans with cooking liquid in the refrigerator and reheat as needed. (I find it’s best to only reheat the beans that I plan on using and leave the rest in the fridge, so they aren’t reheated multiple times.) Will last in the fridge for about one week.

Light Summer Campanelle Pasta with Green Beans

Light Summer Campanelle Pasta with Green Beans

I love a light pasta with fresh vegetables in the summertime. This recipe is lovely for dinner as a warm entree or could also be served cold as a pasta salad for lunch. The marinated artichoke hearts are optional, but add a nice tangy flavor.

1 small onion, chopped small
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped white mushrooms
~ 1 1/2 cups green beans, sliced into 1 inch pieces
1 cup coarsely chopped baby or regular spinach leaves
2-4 marinated artichoke hearts, chopped (optional)
Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 scant cup dry white wine
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
Salt and pepper
Dash of fresh or dried thyme
~ 1/2 lb. campanelle pasta

1. Boil water and cook pasta according to directions on packaging, likely 10 minutes cooking time.

2. Prepare vegetables while water is boiling. Cook vegetables while pasta is cooking. If pasta is finished cooking before the vegetables are done, drain and toss with a touch of olive oil, cover and set aside.

3. Heat 1 generous Tablespoon olive oil in saucepan. Add onion and saute for ~ 5 minutes. Melt in 1/2 Tablespoon butter. Add red pepper flakes and dash of salt.

4. Add garlic and saute for ~30 seconds or until fragrant. Stir in white wine. Let heat briefly, melding, and then add mushrooms and green beans (and artichoke hearts, if using). Stir in ~ 2 Tablespoons water, cover and steam 5-7 minutes, or until the beans are softened but still a little crunchy and bright green.

Saute onions, green beans and mushrooms

5. Melt in 1/2 Tablespoon butter, a touch more olive oil and and a splash of water if needed. Add dash of salt and pepper. Stir in spinach. Cover and cook about 1 minute.

6. Stir in a dash of fresh or dried thyme, add cherry tomatoes.

7. Mix vegetables into pasta. Serve with freshly ground pepper.