Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The side dishes take main stage

Hey there! If you see September and October, tell them I said hi, OK?

Since last we spoke, I have been sick TWICE (mild cold, followed by hellacious cold, with lingering cough) and helped a family member through a major move, plus some personal travel, and that just about brings us to today. There has been a lot of takeout, as well as many very simple meals cooked and eaten on the couch in front of the TV because we were too tired to even sit at the table and talk to each other. You all know how it is.

But we did manage to have a nice Thanksgiving dinner at my sister's house. The star attraction was a delicious turkey pot pie with cheddar biscuit crust (which my sensitive nose saved from burning to a crisp, for which I am thankful) that my sister and brother-in-law made. It was a great twist on the whole roast turkey thing and, along with my vegetable contributions, left us all with room for an incredible sweet potato cake with cream cheese icing that she also whipped up.

The first side dish is rather ugly-looking, but tasted like southern comfort food: braised kale with bacon and balsamic.

I mean, hideous, right? Like Oscar the Grouch after a sauna. But so tasty!

The other veg dish is something I've been making for a couple of months and everyone always loves it, so I figured it might be welcome. It's a super-simple gratin of zucchini and grape tomatoes with garlic, olive oil and grana padano cheese that looks pretty and makes the house smell incredible:

I could eat this every day. Everyone loved it and most of us had seconds. I think I'll throw it on the Christmas menu too, for fun.

Both of these are out of my own imagination and are really more about technique than recipe, and are adaptable to many other vegetables. The kale could be swapped for chard, collards or beet greens; the zucchini for yellow summer squash, or those skinny Asian eggplants. Don't leave out the little tomatoes though - they give off less water than big ones and cook down to sweet garlicky candy.

All of us agreed that we felt awesome after this year's dinner and plan to cook a bit lighter at Christmas time as well, though there will definitely be a bird then. I'm not saying I'm anti-mashed potatoes and yams, oh no - but these are just as tasty and do leave you with room for dessert. Which is very important.

Back soon with pulled pork "poutine!"

Braised kale with bacon and balsamic

2 bunches curly kale, stems removed, torn into small pieces, washed
1/2 small onion, chopped fine
6 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
red pepper flakes and sugar, to taste

In a pot large enough to hold all the kale, cook the bacon pieces over medium heat until they render out their fat and start to crisp up at the edges. Add the onion and cook until lightly browned. Toss in all the kale and the stock, and bring to a boil, tossing to wilt the kale. Add the red pepper flakes and sugar, turn the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until kale is very tender, about 30 minutes. Add the balsamic, simmer 5 more minutes, taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot.

Zucchini-tomato gratin

6 medium green zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4" thick
2 pints grape tomatoes, washed and halved lengthwise
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup grated grana padano or other hard Italian aged cheese
pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, reserving half of the cheese. Toss to coat. Spread into a 9 x 13 baking dish. Top with remaining cheese. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes at 400F. Uncover and bake 15-20 more minutes until cheese is golden and bubbling.

1 comment:

Susan Larabie said...

I concur that dinner was a huge hit! Go Alison!