Archive for the 'sides' Category


Fresh Corn Spoon Bread

Let me get this out of the way. This isn’t really bread.

It’s more or less a souffle with corn meal. It’s best eaten with a spoon. It’s very southern, very simple, and all about corn, which was the main appeal.

Summer is full of food like this.  In the Midwest, the farmers’ markets are bursting with possibilities. Right now sweet corn is one of them. In about a month corn will be about over. I came across this recipe Friday night and wanted to try it immediately.

Sweet corn reminds me of my childhood. Summertime was lightning bugs, swimming, and corn from my dad’s garden. He would pick a few ears as my mom heated the water. She’d shuck, boil and serve the corn minutes later. I’d smear some butter and a little salt, and eat it with mini-plastic corn cobs sticking out the sides.  There was nothing like it. Sadly, I can’t grow corn in our tiny garden. Farmers’ market corn is a close second. Supermarket corn doesn’t come close.

Spoon bread in some corners of the south is like clam chowder in New England. Everyone claims theirs is the best. They all have cornmeal and milk as a base, and eggs of course.  Don’t let the souffle comparison here scare you. Spoon bread is simple to make. It doesn’t take much time (about 30 minutes active time) and will impress the heck out of anyone who tastes it. The recipe here says serve immediately. Like a souffle, spoon bread will deflate. However, as long as it’s still warm, you should be OK. I made this as a side to some grilled fish Saturday night. Sunday morning, I took the leftovers out of the fridge, stuck part of the spoon bread in the microwave, and it was still moist and delicious.

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Cabbage Slaw with Asian Tahini Dressing

My first week back at work is over. I’m exhausted, relieved and happy to be home. I also wish I had some of this slaw left.

I made this a week ago but didn’t have time to write about it. I would arrive home at night, play with our delicious 9-month-old, eat dinner, and then crash. When I made this, it was another hot day. I still had cabbage left over from our Fair Shares box and hated to throw it out. So, I tackled this recipe in about 30 minutes one evening, even though it looked questionable. I wasn’t sure how radish and button mushrooms would perform together, but we already had tahini, soy sauce and a few other ingredients in our overcrowded fridge.

Before my first bite, I doubted I’d blog about this. Slaw has never been my thing. It’s usually soaked in mayonnaise, which repulses me. I rediscovered, though, that it’s often good to try something you’re not certain about. Jeff doesn’t normally like radish — another reason this was a risk. But he ate every slice of radish in this slaw. Mixing radish, mushrooms and cabbage with sesame, soy and lemon really works. There are three forms of sesame here: paste, oil and seeds. The slaw is crunchy and cool. It’s not at all overpowering. Yum. Very good things can be made with cabbage, I’ve discovered this summer. As for radish, so far this is my first success.

It’s worth noting that part of this can made ahead of time. The dressing will keep refrigerated up to five days. The cabbage, radish, etc., can be prepared, stored separately in the fridge, for about a day. Once the slaw is dressed, however, it must be eaten within a couple of hours.

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Indian Spiced Cauliflower (Bhunni Gobhi)

Of all the vegetables out there, cauliflower has to be one of the least exciting. It’s bland. It’s always left behind when there’s a broccoli-carrot-cauliflower veggie tray.

The dish you see pictured above turned me into a cauliflower lover. Sometime in my 20s, I began liking just about every vegetable I tried, but not cauliflower. I pushed it to the side of the plate when it appeared. It looked gross. The crunch was irritating. I didn’t care for the flavor. But like broccoli, it’s incredibly good for you. I wanted to like it. So, a couple of years ago, I told a few of my sources that I’d start eating cauliflower, as well as run a marathon, if Missouri and Illinois officials agreed on how to pay for a new Mississippi River bridge (Long story. I covered this for the paper. Officials bickered about it for years.). Anyway, the bridge is now under construction. I’ve run the marathon. And last summer, guess what I started eating?

I bought a snowy white head of it for the first time last June, from one of the Mennonite stands at the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market. I tried this recipe on a whim. I can’t remember what led me to it, but it blew me away. The following week I bought more and made it again. And tonight, we had a repeat performance.

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Bitter Greens with Tofu and Sesame

Surely I’m not alone when I say this, but I’d never had turnip greens. Until today.

I left our CSA pickup site this afternoon with a couple of bags filled with locally raised produce and meat. Among them:  grass-feed beef, bok choy,  strawberries and blueberry preserves. And turnip greens.

I learned to love greens 10 years ago while living in Little Rock. Collards, kale and mustard greens are prolific in the South. They’re sooooo amazingly nutritious. But delicious? Yes, they can be. This recipe isn’t pork-seasoned, like a traditional southern dish. It’s filled with Asian flavor. If you haven’t tried bitter greens, give this recipe a whirl. The combination of soy sauce, lime juice, ginger and garlic  eliminates the bitterness of the greens. The tofu is soaked with the flavor. The greens quickly cook down to almost nothing. Be sure to use a full two pounds of greens. Anything less will leave you wanting more.

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Braised Kale with Pancetta and Carmelized Onions

I have a thing for prehistoric-looking food. Kohlrabi, bitter melons, funky-looking winter squash are in this category. If it looks like it’s been cultivated for a few thousand years I want to try it.

I couldn’t resist buying a pound of Tuscan (lacinato) kale at the farmers market Saturday. It definitely fits the prehistoric bill.  Its leaves are green-black and crinkled, giving it the nickname dinosaur kale.  People have been growing it for more than 2,000 years. I stuck the gigantic bundle into my straw bag without a clue what I’d do with it.

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Shaved Asparagus with Parmesan Dressing

Yesterday in the CSA box was — hooray! — a bulging bag of beautiful asparagus. My attempt to grow spears in my backyard failed last summer, so I’m relying again on the box and the farmers markets to fill me with springtime. Last night Jeff and I tossed asparagus with goat cheese, lemon peel and pasta. It reminded me why I love cooking seasonally. It was divine. The grown-for-shipping varieties at the grocery store just don’t compare.

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