Category Archives: Side Dishes

The Curious Case of the Delicious Raw Kale Salad

An uncommonly good raw kale salad. Cringe-inducing in its intention, but crave-inducing in its execution.

If you’re on a detox kick or simply just want a good, honest salad for lunch that won’t wilt within the hour, consider this option.

Raw Kale, Carrot and Avocado Salad with a Lemon Juice Dressing
Serves 4

1 bunch green kale, thick stems removed and leaves finely chopped
2 cups grated carrots
half of an avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
half of a medium sized red onion, thinly sliced
juice of 1 large lemon, about 2 tablespoons
3/4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce OR Dr. Bragg’s infamous Liquid Amino Acids
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

1.) Toss all of the ingredients together in a large bowl save for the sesame seeds. Use the back of a large serving spoon to really work the avocado into the vegetables to create a creamy dressing of sorts.

2.) Set aside for at least 30 minutes to allow for the avocado and lemon juice to soften up the kale. Serve garnished with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.


Goat Cheese & Beet Greens Crostini with a Salad of Roasted Beets & Frisée

Having a dinner party anytime soon?  Impress your eco-minded guests with this “green” appetizer from The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook: A Year In The Life of a Restaurant.  Not only does it utilize the beets, but also their uber-nutritious greens.  The greens cook down and are soft and mild – don’t be afraid!  Its presentation, with the beets bleeding vibrantly onto the frisée, along with the variety of colors and textures, is pleasing to the eye.

Goat Cheese & Beet Greens Crostini with a Salad of Roasted Beets & Frisée
Serves 4

Beets & Beet Greens
3 bunches of small beets (9-12 beets) with greens attached
fine-grain sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
large pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Goat Cheese Crostini
4-7 1/2″ thick slices of a baguette, depending on how thick it is
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1-2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, minced
fine-grain sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces crumbled goat cheese

1 head frisée, dark green tops snipped down to leave only the white and yellow parts, core chopped off, and leaves torn into medium pieces
2-3 tablespoons chives, snipped
fine-grain sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut stems off the beets, leaving about 1″ on the beets, as this keeps them moist during roasting. Remove beet greens from the stems, wash thoroughly, shake dry and roughly chop. You will have approximately 2 cups. Set aside. Scrub beets thoroughly, but take care not to rub off their skins. Place in a roasting pan with about 1/2 cup water. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Cover with aluminum foil and roast until a knife slides easily through beets; 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours; depending on their size. Some may be done before others. When tender, remove to a plate using tongs and set aside to cool. Leave oven on.

2.) Prepare the beet greens while to beets are roasting. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes more; until onions are beginning to brown. Add beet greens, season with salt and pepper, and cook until tender and vastly reduced in size; 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar; more to taste if you’d like. Set aside.

3.) When the beets are cooled, use your fingers or a dark-colored towel to rub off their skins and the stems. Do this over a sink, as it can get quite messy! Chop off the rough bottom and top parts of the beets, and cut the beets into quarters. In a medium-sized serving bowl, toss beets with 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon olive oil; more, if necessary. Set aside.

4.) Prepare the crostini. Generously brush both sides with olive oil. Spread parsley on one side, and season with salt and pepper. Move to a baking sheet and toast in the oven until the crust is firm and the bread is lightly toasted; 6-10 minutes. Remove and divide beet green mixture evenly amongst the crostini. Top with goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to serve. When you are ready to serve, heat in the oven for 7 minutes or so; until goat cheese is warmed but not melting.

5.) Prepare the salad. Reheat beets in saute pan over medium-high heat until warmed through; 4-6 minutes. Toss beets and frisée in serving bowl. Sprinkle with chives. Check for seasoning; adding more vinegar, salt, and pepper, if salad needs a bit more pizzaz. Serve immediately with the warmed crostini on a platter.

This recipe was adapted from The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook: A Year In The Life of a Restaurant by Michelle and Philip Wojtowicz and Michael Gilson with Catherine Price. Published by HarperCollins Publishers; 2009.

Best Kept Gourmet Secret: Roasted Cauliflower

I’ve seen cauliflower prepared like this a lot recently on restaurant menus. I last had it at Gilt Bar here in Chicago. The wondrous results you get from this simple cauliflower preparation makes it an exceptional side to pastas and meats. You can just pop it in the oven while you prepare the main course. No mad dash right before serving.

Roasted Cauliflower
Serves 4

1 head cauliflower
extra-virgin olive
fine-grain sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Chop cauliflower into relatively even pieces. In a bowl, toss cauliflower with enough oil to coat and season with salt and pepper.

2.) Spread evenly on a large baking tray. Bake for 30-40 minutes; until very browned. Serve warm.

Baked Acorn Squash

A quintessentially fall dish, its versatility makes for a hearty side, a charming dinner party appetizer, or a festive midday pick-me-up.

Baked Acorn Squash
Serves 2

1 acorn squash
1/2-1 tablespoon melted salted butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
a few drizzles of maple syrup

1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut acorn squash in half. Scoop out all of the seeds and stringy flesh. Place in a heavy, rimmed baking dish.

2.) Brush insides of squash with butter, sprinkle with sugar, and then give each half a healthy drizzle of maple syrup. Add 1/2 cup of water to the baking dish so the squash’s flesh does not burn while in the oven.

3.) Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes; until a knife easily pierces the skin and the tops are nicely browned.

Summer Vegetable Casserole

summer vegetable casserole

Summer Vegetable Casserole

extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
fine grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 pound petite golden Idaho potatoes (or any small, fingerling variety), sliced in 1/4″ rounds
1/2 pound roma tomatoes, sliced into 1/4″ rounds
2 small zucchini (1/2 pound) or other summer squash, sliced diagonally 1/4″ thick
1/4-1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9″ baking dish. Combine bell pepper, onion, garlic, and thyme in a bowl. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

2.) Place potatoes in the dish in an even layer. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread about tow thirds of the bell pepper and onion mixture over potatoes. Top with tomatoes and zucchini. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Evenly distribute remaining bell pepper and onion mixture on top of tomatoes and zucchini. Finish it off with as much/as little grated cheese as you prefer.

3.) Tightly cover with foil. Bake for 40 minutes. Increase oven temperate to 425 degrees, uncover dish, and bake for 20 minutes more; until lightly browned.

summer vegetable casserole

Simple Mushroom Salad

I recently ate a delicious, rustic Italian mushroom salad at my favorite restaurant, Riccardo Trattoria, in Chicago. Inspired by the delightful simplicity of the dish, I set out to recreate it at home. With only a handful of ingredients, and a pleasant renouncement of the stove, it makes for a perfect summer side.

Simple Mushroom Salad

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. button mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and thinly sliced crosswise
heaping 1/4 cup parsley, chopped

In a large serving bowl, whisk together oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Add mushrooms and parsley and stir to coat evenly. Taste, and season with more salt and pepper, if necessary.

Italian “Street Salad” of Fresh Peas, Mint, & New Potatoes

Jamie Oliver. Can I just say the man can do no wrong? I found this recipe in Jamie’s Italy. It’s a truly gorgeous book full of stories, musings, and rustic Italian recipes from the heart of Italy. This “street salad” (and its endless adaptations) is often served at street festivals and beloved by the locals. I switched out the fennel Oliver’s recipe called for and substituted fresh peas, champagne vinegar for white wine vinegar, etc. Get creative with your street salad!

Italian “Street Salad” of Fresh Peas, Mint, & New Potatoes
Serves 4

3/4 lb. new potatoes, scrubbed
fine grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 bag of mixed salad greens (arugula, radicchio, romaine, et.) or 3-4 handfuls
large handful fresh mint, torn
1 cup fresh peas

juice of 1 orange or blood orange
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
generous pinch dried oregano
2 tablespoons capers

1.) Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and boil until fork tender; 20-40 minutes, depending on your potatoes. Drain and set aside.

2.) Whisk together orange juice, vinegar, olive oil, oregano, and capers. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3.) Combine potatoes, greens, mint, and peas in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing and use your hands to gently coat the salad with the dressing.

This recipe was adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italy. Copyright 2006. Hyperion.