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Pickled Vegetable Salad

A salad of pickled cucumbers, daikon radish, and carrots | mjskitchen.com

 

I don’t know about where you live, but here in New Mexico we went from cool spring temperatures to the heat of the summer overnight.  This week the temperatures have been in the triple digits, a real challenge for our swamp cooler.  As a result, meal criteria is now “easy to make, at least one cold dish, and any cooking is on the grill”.  Last night’s meal met this criteria to a T:  grilled soy-ginger chicken and this Pickled Vegetable Salad – two very complementary dishes.

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Asparagus with Orange and Kalamata

A simple asparagus with an orange and olive relish | mjskitchen.com

 

Asparagus with orange and kalamata is a light and delightful dish that I love making this time of year when there’s the overlap between good quality citrus and young shoots of fresh asparagus. This dish that can be served as a warm side or cold salad.  For a warm side steamed asparagus is immediately serve with the cold orange kalamata topping.  The contrast of the hot asparagus with the chilled orange is quite enjoyable.  For a cold salad the steamed asparagus and the orange kalamata topping are both chilled at least one hour or over night.  As a cold salad, this makes a mouth calming complement to a spicy entree.

This dish makes an excellent lunch or dinner salad as well as a dinner side for numerous entrees.

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Sweet Pepper Stew (aka Peperonata)

A peperonata stew with sweet peppers, tomatoes, capers | mjskitchen.com

 

Sweet Pepper Stew is a version of the Italian dish – Peperonata – that is normally made in the fall when there is an abundance of different colored sweet peppers. However, several years ago Bobby made this lovely dish for me for Valentine’s Day and it’s been our traditional Valentine’s Day dinner every since.

Buying organic fresh sweet peppers this time a year is not cheap, but this dish is well worth the price. To the peppers we add frozen tomatoes and basil from our summer garden, along with a few capers.  After resting in the refrigerator overnight, this sweet pepper stew becomes quite “juicy” from the tomatoes and flavorful from the melding of all of the wonderful ingredients.  You can eat it by itself, or serve it with a nice baguette or homemade bread.  It’s also quite good over creamy polenta.  Finish your meal off with a Coffee Scented Chocolate Pot for a delicious and memorable Valentine’s Day home dining experience.

What is your traditional Valentine’s Day meal?

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Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Mashed sweet potatoes with 3 ingredients in less than 20 minutes | mjskitchen.com

When you want a really quick and healthy side dish, reach for a couple of sweet potatoes.  Not only are sweet potatoes downright delicious, they are also full of vitamins A,  C and E, B6, iron, potassium, manganese, and fiber, as well as anti-inflammatory properties.  They cook up fast and don’t need a lot of other ingredients to make them taste good because they are so sweet and scrumptious on their own.  The sweet potatoes that I buy at my local market are as about as sweet as a potato can get and you can see how orange they are.  Once mashed, they almost become florescent.

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Black Bean Mole’

Black beans cooked with a deconstructed black mole | mjskitchen.com

 

The first time I tasted Oaxacan Black Molé (Molé Negro) was about 30 years ago when I had the privilege of eating Molé Negro Chicken made by a Oaxacan immigrant. Each bite produced a flavor sensation that I still relish to this day.  Years later I found a recipe for Oaxacan Black Molé in Diana Kennedy’s Book, The Art of Mexican Cooking and decided to give it a try. The result was heavenly but it took many hours of work and 2 days.  So when I decided that I wanted to make this Black Bean Molé dish I chose to make a deconstructed molé instead of making the sauce separately.  It saved quite a bit of time and simplified the process tremendously.

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A Collection of Kabocha Squash Recipes

A Collection of Kabocha Squash Recipes | mjskitchen.com

Kabocha Squash, also referred to as Japanese squash, is my favorite winter squash.  It is a touch sweeter than most winter squash, and to me, has a creamier texture, making it the perfect squash for a creamy winter soup.  It roasts beautifully, using the same method as you would a pumpkin or butternut squash, but it does have a couple of differences. First of all, it’s one hard squash to cut open.  You need a big knife and a strong arm.  Secondly, the peel is edible which, for some recipes, is a good thing since this a very difficult squash to peel.

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Review of Three Heirloom Tomatoes

Basket of heirloom tomatoes. mjskitchen.com

 

I can’t believe I’m actually writing about my garden.  Up until 10 years ago I had always had a very prolific garden, but then whoops – life got in the way.  Well, now my garden is back – thanks to Bobby.  Last year he built me two 4′ x 10′ raised beds and spent last fall and winter making the soil for one of the beds.  By April it was ready to plant.

As you can see below, I may have gotten a little carried away in my plantings. In this one bed, I have four heirloom tomatoes, four bell peppers, one cherry bomb pepper, two eggplants and four “bush” cucumbers plants which, I have discovered, that there is no such thing as “bush” cucumbers.  The peppers plants aren’t producing yet, because I had to replace them when the neighborhood racoons found my garden and used it as a playpen.  Several plants got broken, and even though I tried desperately to save them – the attempt was a no go.  But in spite of the racoons, the June heat, and the heavy thunderstorms, my little garden has survived and to date, has provided us with several tomatoes and cucumbers.  Eggplant and peppers are well on there way.

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Herbaceous Mushrooms

Mushrooms stewed in olive oil and butter with a variety of fresh herbs. mjskitchen.com

 

Herbaceous Mushrooms is a simple dish that celebrates the umami of mushrooms and complements it with the combined flavors of fresh herbs.  The fun part of making this dish is walking out to the herb garden and sniffing and clipping the herbs that you want in the dish.  You can choose two or three different herbs or as many as six or seven.  For this particular batch, I used a sprig of sage, tarragon, Thai basil, oregano, a few sprigs of thyme and lemon balm.  Some groceries sell little packets of  a mix of fresh herbs which are great for this dish. With all of the herbs and the fact that umami is also a flavor enhancer (due to the presence of glutamate), the amount of salt needed for this dish is minimal.  I add just a touch of salt before baking, and that’s usually all I need.

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Bok Choy with Pecans and Lemongrass

An easy side of bok choy, pecans and Asian spices. mjskitchen.com @MJsKitchen

The primary inspiration for this Bok Choy with Lemongrass recipe came from some spices that I Assortment of Asian spices from Season with Spice mjskitchen.combought a while back from one of my favorite online small businesses – Season with Spice (SwS), an Asian Spice Shop.  Being a lover of a variety of herbs and spices, I purchased quite a few new spices, some of which I had never heard of before. One of those spices was galangal powder, which comes from the fibrous rhizome galangal plant.  The flavor (to me) is earthy and peppery with a hint of ginger. I found it was a nice complementary spice with another of my favorites from SwS – lemongrass powder.

The following recipe uses SwS’s lemongrass powder, galangal powder and Sweet Ginger Sea Salt to make a very simple side dish of bok choy and pecans.  The idea of combining bok choy with pecans comes from a recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks – Great Greens by Georgeanne Brennan.

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