Salute to sides

Minted pea mash

Perhaps the green plate wasn't the best choice for photographing peas.

Perhaps the green plate wasn’t the best choice for photographing peas.

Apple-parsnip mash

This photo was taken in our living room while watching the Olympics.  USA!

This photo was taken in our living room while watching the Olympics. USA!

I feel like a latecomer to side dishes.  I always kind of thought of them as something for a special occasion.  Perhaps not necessarily Thanksgiving, but probably at least dinner with company.  When I cook for just me and D, it’s usually just an entree.  Oftentimes, we’ll eat the kind of entrees that kind of have a built in side dish like something served on noodles.  But side dishes in the sense of a supporting player for an entree really aren’t part of my regular repertoire.  If the most difficult thing about this project is getting the writing done on time, then the second most difficult thing has to be making all of the sides.  So this project has forced me to consider side dishes as a part of a normal meal.  Sometimes I wish I hadn’t bothered.  These are two side dishes where I was glad that I bothered.  They added a lot to the meal.  They also showed me how side dishes can add more veggies to an otherwise carb and/or protein heavy meal.  This probably should have been obvious.  I’m learning, OK!!

The minted pea mash tastes lovely and couldn’t be easier.  You thaw some frozen peas, sautee them with butter, buzz them in the food processor with some mint leaves.  Hey, if you’re looking for a side for your Easter lamb, this has got to be it.  The recipe said it was good with roasted chicken, and we took that very literally.  D and I made a dish that has been a classic of our relationship since before we were married: Jamie Oliver’s Perfect Roast Chicken.  I cannot find an officially sanctioned recipe online, but some Epicurious user put this out there.  It’s an excellent recipe.  I will add that you can substitute a teaspoon of dried thyme for the fresh thyme and bacon for the prosciutto.  The minted pea mash was a nice burst of green and freshness on a plate that was otherwise full of chicken fat and potatoes.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The apple-parsnip mash played a similar supporting role.  I needed to make side from the January/February issue, but was all out of entrees in that issue.  That happens to us…a lot.  I made the Mexican Cod and Potato Stew from the April 2006 issue of Everyday Food.  Yes, even when faced with the possibility to make anything I like, I still make something from Everyday Food.  That was pretty tasty.  It had a good amount of spice to it.  So the apple-parsnip mash served to settle all that down.  It did a good job of that.  The stew already had potatoes in it, so maybe it was a bit of a starch fest, but I enjoyed it.  The mash itself is interesting.  It is almost eerily balanced between apples and parsnips.  Just when you’re getting ready to say “this just tastes like apples!” the parsnip flavor sneaks in.  It’s quite tasty.  I recommend it as a good side dish for when the entree is bold and doesn’t need anything that will compete.

Side dishes are good on the side.  Who knew?!

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Citrus desserts: better together

Mint-grapefruit granita

Candied Citrus peel

BFF's

BFF’s

This was a truly inspired, but possibly obvious pairing.  The granita calls for juice from three grapefruits.  The candied peel calls for two grapefruits.  Well, heck, might as well take the peel from a couple of the grapefruits, right?  Why would you buy two more grapefruits just to candy the peel or buy more grapefruits just for the juice? The two recipes are also quite tasty together.  The candied peel adds a little more sweetness to the sour granita.  I had a few servings of the granita, and I always liked it better with the candied peel as a topping.

How are they on their own?  Ok.  I thought the candied peel was tasty, but a whole lot of work for very few pieces of actual candy.  B is nodding her head vigorously right now.  She and her bear usually make fruitcakes every Christmas.  That sends them spiraling down into the depths of citrus peel candy madness.  She has told me tales of sore fingernails from peeling citrus for hours.  It does not sound glamorous.  The end product is tasty.  The recipe said you could save it in an air-tight container, but that didn’t quite work for me.  The little bit of humidity in the February air got to the peel and it got kind of gloppy.  It was never quite so chewy after the first day.  The sugar also soaked into the actual peel.  It was still tasty on the granita, though.

How was the granita?  Again, ok.  Needs peel.  I did not follow the directions on this one.  I make another granita recipe that has you stir the mixture with a fork periodically while it freezes.  I thought that sounded easier than taking a frozen hunk of juice out of a glass container, chipping it into a food processor, and having to clean all the food processor parts.  I would guess that the texture is better if you use a food processor, but I wasn’t feeling it.  The taste is nice.  It’s bright, citrussy, a little minty.  There’s nothing offensive about it.  D and I tried adding tequila to it.  It didn’t really help.  The peel seemed the best way to have this.  We would up throwing out a lot of granita.  I don’t think it helps that a dessert like this is not at all appealing in the middle of a cold snap.  C’mon Everyday Food!  Where’s the salute to warm brownies?

In the end, honestly, I’m not sure why the editors of Everyday Food didn’t suggest making these together.  Maybe they did in some introductory essay that I didn’t read.  Oh well.