Archive for the 'side dishes' Category

the best butter and groovy grapes plus a recipe

Thursday, November 2nd, 2006

beurre d’isigny sainte-mère

I recently bought a tub of fancy French butter from the local high-falutin’ shop. It was on sale for three dollars, so I picked it up (kind of a bargain for fancy butter, and I couldn’t resist the cute wooden basket in which it was packaged). I hadn’t realized that butter can have its own AOC, but apparently it can in France. I took it home, intending to have a little schmear on a slice of sourdough. I ended up eating several schmears, and even tasting it plain. It’s that good. Naturally, the butter disappeared pretty quickly, as I used it on bread as well as in every meal I cooked until it was gone. There’s nothing quite so heavenly as spinach, chicken, anything at all cooked in really good butter.

where to get it: your local gourmet food shop, Todaro Bros., Wally’s, Amazon, Sainsbury’s (U.K.)

wine grapes

While shopping at Berkeley Bowl one day, I happened upon some pinot noir and cabernet grapes. These grapes are smaller, darker, and much more intensely flavored than ordinary table grapes. They also have seeds, which you may not mind eating as they have a slightly acidic taste that complements the natural sweetness of the fruit. Wine grapes have tremendous culinary potential. You could stuff a chicken with grapes and garlic cloves for a roast. You could use them with lamb in a tagine. You could dry them outdoors or in the oven for some really flavorful homemade raisins. Or you could just snack on them along with some almonds.

where to get it: If you live near an area featuring vineyards, you can look for wine grapes at the local farmer’s market or perhaps at the vintner’s.

broccoli with butter and grapes

This is more of a non-recipe, as it’s so easy to prepare. The butter and grapes really make the dish (and the garlic doesn’t hurt). You could substitute spinach, asparagus, or even artichoke hearts for the broccoli. Remember, the grapes do have seeds. You can discard them while eating or just eat them along with the fruit.

1-2 heads fresh broccoli or broccolini, chopped into longish florets
very good butter, copious amounts
wine grapes or ordinary grapes
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper to taste

  • Steam the broccoli until it’s nearly ready. It should almost turn bright green, but not quite.
  • Melt the butter in a heavy skillet on a medium to low flame. Toss the broccoli in the butter, allowing it to cook a little and absorb the butter.
  • Throw in as many grapes as you like.
  • Press the garlic clove over the broccoli and stir. Cook to slightly soften the grapes and mellow the garlic, about a minute or two.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve right away.

lazy mezze meal

Monday, September 25th, 2006

When I’m feeling lazy and the weather is warm, a light dinner of assorted mezze is very satisfying. Here are some ideas for small dishes, followed by a couple of recipes. Combine a few of these dishes with toasted country style or flat bread and cured meats and cheeses for a light supper or lunch.

  • Halved tomatoes, fried in olive oil with sliced garlic, sprinkled over with salt & pepper and a basil leaf
  • Zucchini blossoms lightly sauteed in olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • Steamed stinging nettles (or spinach), mixed with butter, sauteed garlic, seasoned with salt and pepper and garnished with grated parmesan

chickpea and fennel mezze

1/4 can chickpeas
1/4 large fennel, diced
1 clove garlic
juice of half a lemon
olive oil
salt and pepper

  • In a bowl, lightly mash the chickpeas. Toss in the fennel.
  • Press the garlic clove and squeeze the half lemon over the mixture.
  • Pour olive oil on the meze and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 2-3 (small, mezze style portions)

cucumber, yogurt, and blueberry mezze with lemon thyme

1 large Persian or other long cucumber, finely diced
2 tsp fresh lemon thyme, pounded in a mortar and pestle or finely chopped fresh mint
about 1 c natural, unflavored, full fat yogurt
about 1 TBS fresh lemon juice
1/4 c fresh blueberries
salt and pepper to taste

  • Put the diced cucumber and herbs in a medium bowl.
  • Pour over some of the yogurt, then squeeze in the lemon juice and toss. You want to balance the acidity of the lemon juice with the tartness of the yogurt, but you don’t want the mixture to be too runny. Add more yogurt as needed and taste as you go.
  • Add in the blueberries and toss carefully, so as not to smash the fruit.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 2 as part of a mezze style meal

P.S. Stay tuned for more reports on NYC and Stockholm…

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