Search This Blog

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Delicious Fresh Side Dishes

I once heard a friend's husband grumble, "I'm a meat and potatoes man!" when he was served a salad with his meal. I know, potatoes are vegetables, and the beef is grass-fed. Still, the vegetables aren't just to convey vitamins. They can be the balance to the meat and potatoes, in taste and texture as well as colour.

I'm not a fan of kitchen-sink salads, where everything is tossed in -- raw, cooked or pickled. It was a fad in American restaurants for a while, I think. One was presented with a huge wooden bowl overfilled with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, green onion, sliced radishes, pickled beets, boiled egg, three kinds of diced meat and two kinds of grated cheese. This was accompanied by a half cup or more of sweetish cream dressing. There might be olives or peperoncini or nuts in it, too. It was enough food for four people. It was the salad bar brought to you. I see salad bars are in decline. There is a lot of waste in a buffet of any kind, and spoilage. One dish of salmonella salad dressing, and the owner might as well close the doors.

I don't make big salads because my husband is not one to eat raw greens much. A salad big enough for the two of us fits in a small serving bowl. We are almost at the end of our lettuce season in the garden, and I pull what I need for that meal, drop it into a colander in a bowl of cold water, let is sit for a few minutes, take it out, give it a quick additional rinse, then dry it in a clean cotton tea towel. (I do this by laying out the leaves and rolling up the towel.) In addition, I add some of the softer herbs like basil and parsley fresh from the herb garden.

We don't have any tomatoes ripe yet, so for added flavour and texture contrast, I have been using radishes. We have lots of radishes. Radishes do not keep well, getting soft and unappealing in about 48 hours, so I take just what I want for the day. We sometimes eat the small ones whole.

A good light dressing is nothing more than olive oil with a little flavoured vinegar added, shaken together. I make rosemary vinegar by adding about two tablespoons of dried rosemary to a quart of cider vinegar, and letting it marinate for a couple of weeks. Strain, and keep in a jar in the cupboard for, oh, maybe a long time. It doesn't go bad.

I don't recommend making flavoured oils, even garlic. The herbs or ingredients sometimes cause the oil to go rancid faster. The oils, once an ingredient is introduced, need to be refrigerated.

Our peas were late this year and we haven't had many, but they have been really good. If I don't find enough for a meal, I pick some of the small green beans, or snap larger beans into smaller pieces and cook them with the peas. Rather than boiling them hard, I get a few big parsley leaves, wash those (lettuce will work, too), put the leaves in the bottom of the pot, add between 2 tablespoons and 1/4 cup of water, depending on how much vegetable I am cooking, start the beans simmering, and after a minute or two, add the shelled peas. As the peas are small and fresh, I bring this just up to a boil, take off the heat, and drain. It takes the raw edge off the peas but keeps all the bright green flavour.

Carrots, whether the wee new ones from thinning the patch, or larger ones pared and sliced, are delicious with a pat of butter, about a tablespoon or so of fresh grated gingerroot, and a teaspoon of honey. After cooking the carrots, put them back in the pan and add the butter, ginger and honey. They will melt together as you toss the carrots. Some people want to add parsley here, but I think it ruins the balance of honey and ginger.

For seasoning at the stove, if I am using salt at all, I use coarse sea salt on hot vegetables. It isn't as penetrative as iodized fine salt, coating the vegetables rather than inundating them with salt taste. Most of us get plenty of iodized salt every day in prepared foods to meet our requirement for iodine.

1 comment:

  1. Since hubby was raised on a sheep and cattle ranch, I would hear the same kind of remark. But from him it was, "Beef: it's what for dinner". Since we've been eating "cold suppers" to beat the NM heat, I've been making albacore tuna salad (or salmon salad) and either he'd have it as a sandwich on home baked bread, or on a lettuce leaf, with fresh cold, crisp celery & cuke spears, tomato slices, baby carrots and black olives. After a few months of that, we ordered a pizza about 3 times. Hubby said, "I've had it with the pizza for a while!". Voila! my "Beef: it's what's for dinner" man has been converted into liking veggies!