Archive for Side dish

Creamy Kalamata Spread

I’m back! After a crazy year of school, I’m hoping to get this blog going again, starting with this easy spread perfect for summer picnics and potlucks. It’s based off of something sold at my local co-op, except that has feta cheese and roasted red peppers in it as well. I would encourage the enclusion of 2 tbsp of chopped roasted red pepper if you have some around, but I didn’t. I included something else to make up for feta’s saltiness that keeps the price down: some of the brine from my olives.

I brought this to a picnic today and served it with slices of baguette. It would also be great with crackers or sliced fresh vegetables. This would also be a really easy recipe to double for a larger crowd. You can also use vegan “cream cheese” to serve friends who don’t eat dairy.

Prep time: 20 min, plus some chilling time.

Servings: 4-6 as an appetizer


  • 4 oz neufchatel (low fat cream cheese)
  • 10-14 pitted Kalamata olives in brine, about 1/4 cup diced
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • pepper
  1. Put the cheese in a small bowl and set aside on the counter to warm slightly. Finely dice the olives and green onion, discarding the root end of the onions. Mince the garlic.
  2. Combine all ingredients in the bowl with cheese mixing thoroughly with a fork. Add 1/4 tsp olive brine and taste. Add more brine and pepper to taste. Alternatively, for a smoother dip, combine the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. (I like chunks of olives, but you may not.)

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Kohlrabi Coleslaw

A month or so ago, my favorite apple farmer at the farmer’s market, Al, started to get in his apple crop. The early varieties are all tart and best for cooking in some way. But in the middle of summer, I like to keep my baking to a minimum so pies and tarts were right out. That’s when I hatched the idea for this ‘slaw.

This is a coleslaw in a minimal sense. There’s no thick dressing weighing it down. However, it’s very refreshing to have at an end-of-summer picnic. It’s nice and crisp, which is the point of coleslaw in my mind. It’s there to balance out the chewy hotdogs, tender baked beans and juicy fruit cobblers. And this one does just that.

Servings: 8-10 side dish servings

Cooking time: 20 minutes prep, 1 hour+ chilling


  • 1 kohlrabi bulb (enough for 1 1/2 cups when chopped)
  • 2 small, tart apples (enough for 1 cup when chopped)
  • 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp+ ground pepper (or white pepper if you have it)
  • dash of salt (less than 1/8 tsp)
  1. Peel off the outer layer of the kohlrabi. Chop into thin, matchstick-like pieces (julienne). Place in a medium bowl. Peel the apples and remove their seeds. Julienne them and add them to the bowl. Squeeze the juice of half the lime over the mixture (you may want to squeeze a little bit onto the apple immediately after you cut the first one to prevent it from turning brown). Finely chop the mint and add to the bowl. Add the spices and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight. Taste and adjust seasonings with additional lime juice and pepper if necessary. Serve with sunshine.

Note: this would be good with a 1/2 tsp of celery seeds mixed in.

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Courgette Croquettes

This time of year, everyone needs recipes for their prolific zucchini plants. I dared to plant one myself this year. Unfortunately, one of our windy rain storms toppled it over. Oh well. Zucchini are pretty cheap at the farmer’s market.

Not only is this a tasty way to use zucchini, it’s a continuation of my series of Greek recipes. The lemon and mint are really tasty here. The thing that’s tricky about this recipe is frying the croquettes quickly enough to cook all of them and get them to the table while they’re all still hot. I’m terrible at that. Nevertheless, they were quite tasty.

Servings: About 6 as a side dish with other items; enough for 8 appetizer servings

Cooking time: 40 minutes prep time, 1 hour+ chilling time, 30 minutes for frying

  • 5-6 medium zucchinis
  • half a medium white or yellow onion
  • 3 garlic cloves (enough for 1 1/2-2 tbps once minced)
  • 1 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • fresh parsley, enough for 1 cup once chopped
  • fresh mint, enough for 1/3 cup once chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 lemon
  • vegetable oil for frying
  1. Grate the zucchini in a large, mesh colander. Sprinkle lightly with salt (1/2 tsp) and let sit in a sink or over a bowl for at least 15 minutes, or while you complete step 2.
  2. Grate the onion into a large bowl. Mince the garlic and add it to the onion. Finely chop the parsley and mint, being careful to remove any large stems. Add them to the bowl.
  3. Push down on the zucchini in the colander to remove more of the water. Add the zucchini to the large bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, eggs and the juice of the lemon. Wash your hands. Mix together with your hands.
  4. Cover and chill the mixture at least one hour or over night. Shortly before you’re ready to serve them, heat 1/2 inch of oil in a pan. When you can feel heat coming off the oil about three inches above it, drop a small piece of bread in the pan. If it sizzles quickly, the oil is hot enough. (Make sure it doesn’t smoke.)
  5. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the zucchini mixture into the hot oil, trying to keep the mix in a pile. Depending on the size of your pan, you should be able to fit five to seven croquettes in at once. Make sure to leave space around them though so you can flip them over. When a croquette is golden on one side (3-4 minutes), flip it to the other side. When a croquette has fried on both sides, remove it with a slotted spoon or spatula onto a plate lined with paper bags (to absorb the grease). Serve as soon as they’re all done.

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    Earlier this week, I made a feast of Greek food to send off a friend who studies Classics. When I visited and studied in Greece about four years ago, I fell in love with it. The people, the landscapes, the weather, the language and most certainly the food.

    I bought a Greek cookbook while I was there so I could try to replicate some of the wonderful treats myself. However, like most translated cookbooks, the recipes aren’t always perfect. Besides the sometimes odd directions, there are poorly translated ingredients and many rough estimates of measurements. Many of these recipes clearly came out of a family kitchen where the cook learned to estimate based on how he or she knew the dish should turn out. Not exactly what a non-native needs.

    I’m going to try to publish a few of my re-interpretations of these recipes in the next few days. However, I start with my tzatziki recipe, which is not from the book at all, but from watching the cook in the dig house where I was working. It’s best to start on this recipe at least a day if not two before you plan on eating it so that the flavors blend. That makes this a great entertaining recipe because making this ahead of time actually improves its flavors and leaves you free to work on other items.

    This refreshing dip disappeared quickly at our dinner earlier in the week. I guess I should have doubled it!

    Servings: 5-6 appetizer portions

    Cooking time: Active time, about an hour. Start to finish, 2 days.


    • 2 cups plain yogurt (I used non-fat), or use 1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt and skip step 1
    • 2 medium cucumbers
    • 3-4 garlic cloves (at least two tablespoons once minced)
    • 1 lemon
    • a little salt
    1. Line a sieve with cheese cloth or coffee filters (perhaps a double layer of coffee filters), and set this over a medium bowl. You should have 1-2 inches of space between the bottom of the bowl and the bottom of the sieve. Scoop the yogurt into the sieve. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least four hours or overnight.
    2. After the yogurt has drained (or maybe a little while before it’s done if you’re doing this all in one day), peel the cucumbers and slice them in half lengthwise. If you’re using large cucumbers, you may want to scoop out some of the seeds from the middle. Grate the cucumbers into a fine mesh strainer. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt (1/4 tsp is fine. Not more than 1/2 tsp.) Allow the cucumbers to sit in the sink or over a bowl and drain while you do step 3.
    3. Peel and mince the garlic. Scoop the drained yogurt out of the sieve and into a bowl. Add the minced garlic, stirring well, and set aside. Discard the yogurt whey.
    4. Back to the cucumbers. Wash your hands. Scoop all the cucumber shreds into a pile on one side of the strainer. Pick up a ball of shreds with your hands, 1/4 cup worth or so. Squeeze the cucumber over the empty side of the strainer. Amazing how much water it has, no? Do this with all the cucumber shreds. Once you think you’re done, push all the little balls of cucumber back together and squeeze them some more. I usually do this one against the side of the strainer. The amount of cucumber will probably be reduced by at least a third of what it was, if not a half. Mix these shreds into the yogurt.
    5. Cut the lemon in half. Squeeze the lemon halves over the yogurt mix through one hand to catch the seeds. Mix well. Taste. It might need a little more lemon or salt, but you might want to add these just before you serve it because the flavors will change during step 6.
    6. Cover and refrigerate at least four hours or overnight. Taste again before serving. It should be very garlicky…and delicious. Serve with pita wedges or pita chips, with some olives on the side.

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    Southern Feast, part 1

    Pimento Cheese

    Pimento Cheese

    A little over a week ago, I had a few friends over for a southern feast. While most of the food here is fine Texas fare, I must admit the fried green tomatoes are something I picked up from my time with my parents in Memphis.

    It was impossible to do all fine southern treats in one go, so there will have to be some other feasts of southern cuisine later in the summer (besides, okra isn’t in season here yet). I’m also not going to put all the recipes here because, well mostly because I’m lazy. too lazy to type them and was too lazy to measure things at the time. I also must admit with shame that I did not make good cream gravy to accompany everything, not because I’m lazy, but because I’m terrible at timing cooking, and we were all too hungry to wait for gravy. So I provide instead our menu with links to a few recipes for some of these items, followed by one recipe.


    • Pimento Cheese with celery sticks and crackers
    • Chicken Fried Steak
    • Mashed Potatoes
    • Fried Green Tomatoes with ranch dressing
    • Homemade Biscuits with butter and honey
    • Strawberry Shortcakes
    • Minty Spiked Lemonade

    Pimento Cheese

    For those not familiar with pimento cheese, it’s more of a dip than a cheese. You can serve it with celery, crackers, or whatever you like. It’s served cool to room temp., not hot. Any good homemade version should not be anything like that disgusting schmear found on “pimento cheese sandwiches” cut into quarters.

    Serves: about 6 as an appetizer


    • 8-10 oz. sharp cheddar cheese (real Longhorn cheddar w/ the red wax is best if available, but it’s not in Iowa and it was still fine)
    • 1 garlic clove
    • 1 4 oz. jar diced pimentos, drained
    • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (light is fine-do not use fat free)
    • 1/4 cup sour cream (same as above)
    • 1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
    • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
    • 1/4 tsp onion powder
    • a few pecan halves (optional)
    1. Grate the cheddar cheese while it is still cold from the fridge (don’t use prepackaged shreds. They don’t have as much moisture). Then set the cheese aside to warm to room temperature. It’s easier to mix if it’s warmer, but easier to grate cooler.
    2. Meanwhile, dice the garlic clove and drain the pimentos (and dice them if you couldn’t find a jar of diced).
    3. In a medium bowl, mix together the garlic, pimentos, mayo, sour cream, mustard and spices. Then mix in the cheese. Blend well.
    4. Pack into a smaller bowl, preferably one you will use for presentation. Cover tightly and chill at least two hours, preferably overnight. When ready to serve, garnish with a few pecan halves on top, perhaps in a nice pattern. Serve with dipping items.

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    Spring Stir-fry

    It’s farmer’s market season!! I love this time of year because I get to eat really healthy food for very reasonable prices. I can buy almost all my groceries there, except milk (and I usually don’t buy cheese there just cause it’s so expensive), including bread and pasta and eggs, even hummus! This week I bought asparagus, four bunches of baby bok choy, spring garlic, red and yellow tomatoes, hummus and a cinnamon roll, all for $14.50. (I have to admit that while I could by all my groceries there, I inevitably supplement with other items, such as the red pepper in the following recipe. It is definitely not bell pepper season yet.) I will buy asparagus almost every Saturday and Wednesday until the season ends. Mmmm…asparagus…

    To use my delectable produce, I decided to make a light stir-fry so I could still taste the freshness of everything in it. Spring garlic is like a green onion with mild garlic taste (so mild, in fact, that a friend who planted some couldn’t really tell the difference between it and green onions, which he had also planted). You can definitely smell the garlic in the aroma, but it is not a strong flavor. Which is just fine for this dish where the mild bok choy and asparagus are really the stand-outs.

    The key to stir-fries is to have everything chopped in advance and arranged into groups depending on how long it takes things to cook. The actual time in the wok for this dish is only 5-7 minutes.

    Spring Stir-fry

    Servings: 2 main course servings, 3-4 side dish

    Cooking time: half an hour or less


    • 2 stalks/heads baby bok choy (large is fine, but you’ll have to chop it up more)
    • 1/2 a bunch asparagus-should make about 1 1/2 cups once chopped
    • 1 med. red bell pepper
    • 4 stalks spring garlic
    • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
    • red pepper flakes to taste
    • 1 tbsp honey
    • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
    • 1/4 tsp dried basil
    • 1-2 tbsp lime juice (sorry, I didn’t measure)
    • 1 tsp soy sauce
    • 1 tsp sesame oil
    • two servings of cooked rice if serving as a main course
    1. Chop the bell pepper into 1 inch pieces. Break off the asparagus at the root end (it will snap naturally-discard the root end or save it for asparagus soup). Break or cut off the tip of the asparagus, about 2-3 inches depending on the size of the asparagus. Cut the remaining asparagus stalks into 1 inch pieces. Cut off the root end of the spring garlic and discard. Like you would a green onion, chop the white part of the garlic, then make a separate pile of the thinner, greener parts. You can add the white parts into your red pepper pile and the green parts into your pile of asparagus tops. Chop off the root end of the bok choy (look for sand on the leaves you’re keeping-you may need to rinse again). For any large leaves, chop the white ends into 1 inch pieces and add to the pile with the asparagus stalks (not tops). Depending on the size of the leaves, you may want to chop them once or twice.
    2. Heat a wok or other skillet over medium high heat. When it is hot add the oil and give it a swirl. Throw in the red bell pepper and garlic ends. Cook for about a minute before adding the asparagus stalks, white parts of the bok choy, and red pepper flakes if using. While that cooks for about three minutes, mix together the remaining ingredients in a small dish. Toss or stir the stir-fry every minute or so. When the asparagus is starting to brighten (about 3 min.), add the asparagus tops and the bok choy leaves. Toss. Add the garlic greens. Toss. Cook about two more minutes, until the asparagus is tender and the bok choy wilted.
    3. Give the sauce a quick stir, then pour it over the stir-fry. Turn off heat. Toss the stir-fry to coat everything with sauce. Serve over rice if it’s a main course, or on the side of a meal.

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    Ginger and Mary Ann Soba Salad

    The tale of a salad inspired by a waffle.

    I was reading SimplyRecipes on Thursday while taking a break from my studies for a huge exam in Asian Religious Traditions the following morning. I saw this recipe, which I thought sounded pretty tasty. I needed a dish to bring to my department end-of-semester get together Friday evening, and I thought it might work pretty well. I already had the soba noodles…but when I started looking at the other ingredients (mango, lots of fresh herbs, peanuts), I could see the grocery bill mounting in my head.

    I liked the idea of a soba noodle salad with fruit in it, but what could I use that would be a little cheaper? Strawberries are in season! As for the rest of the flavors, you could at best call the original recipe Thai inspired, but I was thinking about the Japanese origin of those soba noodles (they’re buckwheat noodles-I get them at a great price from the Asian grocery down the street). My ruminations on the soba were particularly pertinent since we ended our class with religion in Japan, so really, it was like I was studying while coming up with this recipe, right? Studying…

    Studying would be exactly what I would be doing for the rest of that evening and again in the morning before my test at my favorite coffeeshop for studying, Fair Grounds. There, I would order my favorite waffle, the Ginger and Mary Ann, with pecans (for extra protein-and I’m from Texas!). This is a waffle with strawberries and fresh ginger in it, made on a normal waffle iron, not the stupid Belgian ones with the gigantic pockets in which all the toppings get stuck. I should admit that this is my favorite waffle, but I’ve only had one other kind there, the Apple and Sage (I think you can guess what’s in that). It was really good, but not as good as the Ginger and Mary Ann, with pecans.

    And thus I found my inspiration for the rest of this salad. Fresh ginger is a great Japanese flavor. I wanted to use yellow bell peppers instead of red, for the contrast, but alas, the co-op had neither yellow nor orange. Oh well.

    This recipe makes a massive amount of food, as I was bringing it to a potluck (for which I was inevitably late and thus had a lot of leftovers…). I would guess this would serve 12-16 as a side. You can divide this recipe in half pretty easily. Also, while I’m usually not a noodle-breaker, I intended to break these soba noodles in half before boiling them, since they were going in a salad. However, I forgot to break them. It was fine, but I think that would make it easier to eat.

    The salad was a big hit (with one exception, but I think he just doesn’t like soba). And the test went alright too. 🙂

    Fruity, tangy and fresh pasta salad

    Prep time: 1 hour, plus chilling time (I went almost directly to the party with this, but it would be fine made a day ahead I think)


    • 12-13 oz soba noodles (Japanese buckwheat noodles. Mine come in a package with portion sizes rolled together. I used four portion sizes.)
    • 1 quart ripe strawberries
    • 2 small red, orange or yellow bell peppers (should make a cup or so when chopped)
    • 1 tbsp fresh ginger (could use up to another whole tbsp, but that was all I had)
    • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
    • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
    • 2 tbsp sugar
    • 1/8 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
    • 1/4 tsp+ red pepper flakes
    • 1 tbsp lime juice
    • 1 tbsp sesame oil
    • 1/2 tbsp, plus 1 tbsp soy sauce, divided
    • 2-3 cups fresh spinach
    • 1 cup pecans
    1. Put water on to boil for the pasta. Fill a large bowl with cool water. Gently dump in the strawberries and swish them around with your hand. Rub their tops a little bit to loosen up any dirt around the tops. Then let them sit in the water for a few minutes. The dirt will fall to the bottom, and you can skim the strawberries off the top of the water (any that sink are bad). (This is the way my mom taught me to wash strawberries–thanks Mom!) Rinse off the peppers.
    2. Add the pasta to the water when it’s boiling. Soba does not take that long to cook, so be sure to test it after five minutes or so. Drain it when it is al dente. Rinse it with cold water (I do not usually rinse my pasta–my mom says that rinses off some of the vitamins–but Soba gets very sticky, and since you are trying to cool the pasta off for a salad anyways, it is necessary here). Put the noodles in the fridge until you need them.
    3. Cut the tops off the strawberries. Cut the rest of the fruit into 1 inch chunks, or whatever size you’d like for your salad.
    4. Put the vinegars, sugar and salt into a microwave safe bowl (I used my Pyrex measuring cup). Microwave on high for one minute. While that’s in the microwave, peel and dice the fresh ginger. Stir the vinegar mixture. Add the fresh ginger and red pepper flakes. Microwave again from 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, or until you can see it really bubbling in the microwave. Stir, then put in the fridge for a little while. Cut the bell peppers. Stir into the vinegar mixture the lime juice, 1/2 tbsp soy sauce, ground ginger and sesame oil. Taste the sauce and adjust any flavorings. (Don’t add too much soy sauce because the pecans will be salty, as are the noodles.)
    5. In a large mixing bowl, toss together the strawberries, peppers and sauce. Then add the noodles, a little at a time until well mixed. Cover and refrigerate.
    6. Meanwhile, heat your oven or toaster oven to 375. Line a small baking pan with foil. Chop or break up the pecans (not too small, into a quarter or eight size of the nut, depending on the size of your pecans). Toss with the 1 tbsp soy sauce. Toast for about five minutes. Watch carefully! You don’t want them to burn. While the nuts are toasting, roughly chop the spinach.
    7. If you are serving the salad soon, toss the spinach and a 1/4 of the nuts with the rest of the salad. Add the rest of the pecans to the top of the salad for presentation. If you are making this ahead, reserve the spinach and nuts until serving.

    I’m going to go eat leftovers now! Mmm…still good the next day. (Pic above is from the leftovers.)

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