Archive for the ‘Sides’ Category

I do, that’s who!

I liked rice. It was kind of like culinary elevator music: present, but overlooked. Growing up, we used Minute Rice, so there wasn’t much to get excited about. Believe it or not, the dining common at dear ol’ BobbyJ alerted me to decent rice, and I began enjoying it as much as good mashed taters.

At the grocery stores in Charlotte we were able to find  rice that we enjoyed, and I guess I figured that all rice brands were created equal.  Silly me.

After moving here to Nashville, we could not find our preferred brand and we just snatched up what was available. Oh blah! Sticky, gloppy, gummy. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Surely it was my technique?! I played with things. Rinsed the rice to get rid of extra starch. No appreciable difference. Tried oven-baking the rice. Ditto. Different rice/water ratios. Bad bad, all bad.

I finally emailed the headquarters of the our previous brand with this plaintive and exceedingly polite cry, “Is Blue Ribbon rice sold anywhere near Joelton, TN (37080)? We have used it before while living near Charlotte, NC, but cannot find it here. The rice we have had to buy is pretty nasty stuff, and we would like to use Blue Ribbon again!”

And I received this wonderful reply,

Hello David – Thanks for writing us.  You can find it @ the Dollar General stores.  stocks BR 1.5lb LG and 5lb BR Golden.

Have a great afternoon.

Mary !

So last night we had our Blue Ribbon rice back. Fluffy every time. Grains nicely separate. Buttery and ricey. Hurrah for Blue Ribbon Rice!!
And the other brand? Well, I won’t give you their name, but the initials are M.A.H.A.T.M.A. What is it good for? I guess, sushi. Or making snowballs in July.

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squash fritters

A neighbor gave us a dozen small summer squash the other day and they have been daring me to try something besides squash casserole. I love the casserole from the ol’ college days at BobbyJ, but can’t replicate the recipe yet, and who wants that in the summer time anyway? Some dishes are just a lot better in fall and winter.

As I meditated on this (have I mentioned how much I have learned about biblical meditation as I have meditated on my meditating about food? Probably best to save that for a different post.) I thought of eggplant patties that my mother-in-law makes. Lo and behold there are numerous recipes for squash fritters on the web, all of which helped with guidance, none of which were exactly what I wanted. So here is a delicious and easy recipe for squash fritters.

Squash fritters
4 or 5 medium yellow summer squash, 1 pound
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
½  cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
½  teaspoon ground black pepper
1 egg — beaten
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
oil for frying
1. Shred the squash into a colander. Chop onion and place in colander as well. Sprinkle with a teaspoon or two of salt and let it sit in sink or over a bowl. The salt will draw out a lot of moisture which is a really good thing.
2. Mix together the remaining dry ingredients.
3. After the squash and onion have released their moisture (30-60 min), squeeze out as much moisture as possible before mixing it into the dry ingredients. Mix in beaten egg.
4. Drop large spoonsful into hot oil, sprinkle with salt as they come out of the fry pan.
You must try these; they are delicious! The fritters have a depth and complexity that was unexpected from previous experiences.
They also beg for variations of cheeses, spices, and herbs. Gonna try basil next. A diced chile would be really good. Coriander would be an interesting spice. I think a dipping sauce would also be an interesting addition. Something like this from the Food Network  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/sweet-potato-fries-with-basil-salt-and-garlic-mayonnaise-recipe/index.html

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So you’re looking in the freezer for inspiration. Cauliflower fills the veggie void in the meal, but never inspires odes of praise. Or does it? Try this simple and really delightful side dish.

A few weeks ago Jill made a great suggestion while we were preparing dinner: “I wonder,” said she, “what it would taste like if we mashed the cauliflower like potatoes.” Saying “I wonder” to a culinary adventurer is a sure-fire way to get things done, so off we went down a new trail. Along the way we learned a few things that may be helpful to you.

First making the smashed cauliflower. I HATE soggy, boiled-to-tasteless-mush veggies. Steaming the veggetables so that they are hot and still crisp is the way to go. So we began by steaming a bag of frozen cauliflower and then added cream cheese (2oz) for body and sour cream (2 good-sized spoonfuls, probably 3 Tblsp), and 2-3 tsp salt.

The immersion blender (aka. hand blender, stick blender, wand blender, Emeril calls it the ‘boat motor’) breaks down the cauliflower okay, but it is not best suited for this heavy duty job. If you are doing a large batch the food pro would be much quicker, even if it would dirty up another bowl. Since our potato masher is packed away somewhere in storage, I haven’t a chance to try pure manual labor. I suppose a food mill would work and will try that sometime, but the blender and food pro allow for more variation in texture.

what we learned.

1. Use a lot of florets. The cauliflower produces a fair bit less mash than you would expect. A 14 oz bag feeds our family (2 adults & 3 youngsters), but in a few years, that won’t do it.

2. The mash needs a good bit of salt to pull out the cauliflower flavor. Add salt to taste.

3. This is a great canvass that welcomes added flavors. We have added shredded cheddar (excellent) and peas (also excellent). I think there are a variety of spices that would work well. Indian-style spices would be a good addition, I think.

4. This is a great way to get your kids to eat cauliflower if they don’t like it. We had friends over whose kids are not fans. We called it “Majik Potatoes” for them and they came back for seconds. Our kids like cauliflower, but devour this.

Give it a try; I think you will like it. I’m interested in your feedback: how did your kids like it? What variations have worked well…or not so much?

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