Sides and Snacks

Baba Ganoush with Fresh Herbs and Scallions

Endlessly scoop-able, silky and smokey, baba ganoush is one of my favorite ways to eat eggplant (although there are so many ways to love eggplant!) What makes this one a family go to? First, it’s so easy; just score, season and roast the eggplant (no peeling required!) Second, your food processor makes it a cinch to create a creamy, lemony, nutty puree, perfect for dipping or spreading. I like to give it a hit of fresh flavor by adding whatever herbs I have in the garden or left over from other dishes, and there is no chopping required! Third, you can endlessly customize this as a snack, lunch or light dinner by adding pita bread or chips, fresh veggies, Mediterranean-style meatballs or grilled chicken skewers.

Baba Ganoush with Fresh Herbs and Scallions

Makes about 6 servings (about 2 cups)

Ingredients:

3 medium-sized eggplant

Olive oil to drizzle over eggplant, plus 3 tablespoons to add to the eggplant puree

Kosher or sea salt, freshly ground pepper to taste

2 garlic cloves, drizzled with olive oil and wrapped in aluminum foil

1/2 cup tahini

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more for serving

1/4 cup of fresh herbs such as parsley, cilantro, dill or basil

2 scallions, greens sliced, whites reserved for another use

1 teaspoon of toasted sesame seeds

Pita and veggies, for serving or serve spread on a platter with Mediterranean meatballs or grilled chicken skewers on top.

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit with a rack in the middle of the oven. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent the eggplant from sticking to the pan. Halve the eggplants lengthwise, and then score hash marks with the tip of a knife into the flesh. Drizzle olive oil over the cut side, and generously season with salt and pepper. Place them in the prepared pan with the halved sides down. Place the garlic foil packet on the baking sheet with the eggplant.

Roast the garlic until lightly brown and soft. Roast the eggplant until the interior is very tender throughout and the skin is collapsing, about 40 to 50 minutes (this might take longer if you are using larger eggplants). Set the eggplant aside to cool for a few minutes. Flip the eggplants over and scoop out the flesh, discarding any seed pods, with a large spoon, leaving the skin behind. The eggplant should have very little liquid because of the oven’s heat, but should it be watery, place the flesh in a strainer and shake away the liquid.

Place the eggplant flesh (discard the skin), roasted garlic, tahini, lemon juice, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and fresh herbs in a food processor. Season the mixture with a pinch of salt and a few cranks of pepper, and then pulse until smooth. Taste for additional seasoning and add more salt, pepper or lemon juice if needed. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with sliced scallions and sesame seeds. Serve with pita and veggies or grilled or roasted meats.

Roasted Broccoli with Charred Cherry Tomatoes and Fresh Basil

Packing in all of the summer goodness I can with my two favorite veggies that make perfect sense together: broccoli and cherry tomatoes. Throw in a bunch of basil and the tang of a good-quality Balsamic, and you’ve got an easy, and so tasty, summer side dish.

Roasted Broccoli with Charred Cherry Tomatoes and Fresh Basil

Serves 4 as a side dish

Ingredients:

1 head of broccoli, about 1 1/2 pounds, cut from the stem into florets

1 pint of cherry tomatoes, any variety

Olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar

8 large fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

Instructions:

Heat your oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Put the broccoli on one of the sheet pans, the cherry tomatoes on the other sheet pan, and then drizzle generously with olive oil, salt and pepper. Distribute the broccoli and cherry tomatoes evenly on the sheet pans. Cook the cherry tomatoes for about 30 minutes, until the tomatoes release their juice, shrink slightly and char on the outside, turning over at about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, place the broccoli in the oven, turning with a spatula occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the broccoli is tender and golden brown in places. When both of the vegetables are cooked and browned, remove them from the oven and mix together with the Balsamic vinegar. Transfer the broccoli and tomatoes to a serving platter and top with the freshly torn basil. Serve right away, or this dish can be served on a buffet at room temperature.  

Serve this up with a pasta dish, grilled chicken breasts or roasted salmon filets. You could make it a vegan main by adding pine nuts, white beans or a good quality vegan cheese.

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Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Summer Corn, Smoked Applewood Bacon and Thyme

This dish is perfect for my meat and potatoes loving family and supports my mission: veggies first! Simply roasted, tender fingerling potatoes, corn straight off the cob, top-quality smoked bacon and thyme create an end-of summer-almost-fall combo. We love this as a side dish to any grilled meat, foil wrapped fish or shrimp thrown on the grill, or roasted chicken thighs.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Summer Corn, Applewood Smoked Bacon and Thyme

Serves 4 as a side dish

Ingredients:

1 pound fingerling potatoes, cleaned and cut into halves

Olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

3 slices of applewood smoked bacon, cut into small pieces

2 ears of fresh corn, cut from the cob

1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves, chopped

Instructions:

Heat your oven to 375 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Distribute the potatoes on the sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil to coat (about 1 tablespoon), then season with salt and pepper to taste, about 1 teaspoon of salt and 4 cranks of pepper. Using a spatula, turn the potatoes until well coated with olive oil, salt and pepper, and then distribute evenly without crowding. Roast the potatoes for about 10 minutes, then turn with a spatula to brown on both sides. Cook the potatoes until they are golden brown and easily pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes total. Remove the potatoes from the oven.

While the potatoes are roasting, heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add the bacon, distributing evenly around the pan, and cook until the bacon’s fat has rendered and the bacon is golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Place a sheet of paper towel on a plate and remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon.

When the potatoes and bacon are cooked, mix them together with the corn and thyme on the warm baking sheet. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve immediately.  

Grilled Zucchini with Basil Pesto and Orzo Salad

@dannettemitchellphotography

In my farm box came tender new zucchini and a sweet little box of brightly colored heirloom cherry tomatoes. Discovering a dreamy bundle of basil, I decided to combine two of my favorites: grilled zucchini with basil pesto and and a riff on orzo salad. Mediterranean orzo salad is a staple in my house, we make so many versions of it, sometimes adding roasted peppers, grilled eggplant, lots of lemon and zest, great olive oil, kalamata olives, thyme, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese; whatever is in the fridge that can tie it all together. My lovely spring zucchini with an herby, nutty pesto topped with one of our favorite salads is a perfect vegetarian main or side dish.

Let me know how you enjoyed this recipe, how it turned out for you and any changes you made! Please be sure to find me on Instagram to see more recipes and stories!! Or find me on Facebook Live for Kids Cook Along Classes.

@danettemitchellphotography

Grilled Zucchini with Basil Pesto and Orzo Salad

Ingredients:

1 bunch of basil leaves

1/4 cup of nuts (pine nuts, pistachios, almonds, walnuts all do well here!)

1-2 garlic cloves

2-3 tablespoons of good quality olive oil, plus more for zucchini

4 whole zucchini, stems and bottoms trimmed, cut in half lengthwise

1 pint of cherry tomatoes, cut into halves

1 cup of cooked orzo (just follow package instructions, rinse and drain, then coat with a light drizzle of olive to keep from sticking)

1 lemon, zested, then juiced

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Freshly ground pepper & sea or kosher salt

Method:

In a small food processor or blender, combine the basil, nuts, garlic and olive oil, and blend until combined but still a little chunky. It should look like a paste, if it’s too dense, add a little more olive oil, and process more. Taste for seasoning and add pepper and salt as needed. Remember, we are adding in feta cheese at the finish, so don’t make it too salty.

Heat a grill or grill pan to medium high heat. Drizzle the zucchini with olive oil to coat, and season with pepper and salt. When grill is hot, place the zucchini on with tongs. Grill until grill marks form and zucchini is slightly softened, then flip and grill until marks show on the other side. Remove from grill and arrange on a platter. Drizzle the pesto over the grilled zucchini.

Mix together the orzo, cherry tomatoes, lemon zest and juice, and feta cheese with a drizzle of olive oil. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and salt, then dish out over the grilled zucchini to serve.

Farro with Mushrooms and Spinach

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Here in the beach cities, fall is late to show itself. We shake off the summer morning gloom for freakish, still, clear-skied heat. Sometimes we call it earthquake weather, sometimes we call it heaven. My apricot tree gets so confused it goes into bloom, as bare as its branches are. But I get my produce from a local farm that has thought ahead to what we would like to see on our plates for fall. Squash, Brussels sprouts, woody herbs, apples. Mushrooms, ((swoon)), mushrooms.

Suppose you were at a cocktail party, and you had to answer an ice-breaker question about what vegetable would be your boyfriend? Mine would be a mushroom. So down to earth, exotic, sensual…but back to topic:

Have you noticed all of this talk about vitamin D deficiency? It seems as though everyone is being prescribed a supplement, but when I had a conversation with my physician about it, I told her I get plenty of sunshine, no supplement, thank you. I learned an interesting thing: you have to have vitamin D in your body to for the sunshine to wake it up, your body doesn’t just naturally produce it. Good news is that mushrooms are one of the only items on the produce aisle rich in vitamin D. Great news for me and long walks on the sunny fall beach with my vegetable boyfriend.

Farro with Mushrooms and Spinach

Serves 4

Ingredients

8 ounces quick cooking farro

2 dried bay leaves

olive oil, salt & pepper

8 ounces brown cremini mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed, sliced

1 shallot, sliced

2 cloves garlic

2 ounces of baby spinach

2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

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Method

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Pour the farro and bay leaves into the boiling water, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When farro is cooked to al dente, drain in a colander. Place farro in a large mixing bowl, remove bay leaf, and put aside to cool.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and drizzle enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Add the mushrooms and cook, undisturbed, for about 3 minutes, until golden, then stir to turn and continue to cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, until juices release and mushrooms are completely brown. Season with salt and pepper and add to the farro. Drizzle a bit more olive oil in the pan and add the shallots and garlic. Cook for another few minutes, then add in the spinach and parsley, cooking just to wilt. Season with the vegetables with salt and pepper, then add the vegetables to the farro mixture. Stir everything together and taste for seasoning,  adding additional olive oil, salt and pepper if needed.

Serve farro warm, at room temperature or cold.

Summer Vegetable Succotash

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Summer in a pan. This succotash can be tweaked in so many ways, using whatever you have ready to pick from the garden, from the farmers market, or your CSA box. I like to serve it with roasted chicken, and for an even more effortless summer meal, why not just pick up one from the market? Or serve it up as a one dish Meatless Monday Main, adding edamame or lima beans to pump up the protein.

Summer Vegetable Succotash

Serves 6

Ingredients:

olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup diced bell pepper

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

2 cups summer squash, such as yellow crookneck, zucchini, or pattypan

1 bunch of kale, washed and dried, ribs removed, chopped

1 cup of fresh corn kernels

1 cup frozen edamame or Lima beans (optional)

1/2 cup good quality chicken stock or broth

Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

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Instructions:

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering over medium high heat. Add the onions and peppers to the pan, stirring, until the vegetables soften, about 1 minute. Add the garlic, thyme leaves and summer squash, stirring to incorporate, and cook until the squash starts to soften and the vegetables brown. Add the kale, corn and edamame or Lima beans, if desired, and stir together. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the kale wilts slightly, about 1 minute. Add the stock or broth, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until slightly reduced and vegetables are tender but crisp, about 3 minutes. Stir in the basil, season with additional salt and pepper if desired and serve.

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Curry Roasted Cauliflower with Golden Raisins, Almonds and Cilantro

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We have had a bounty of scrumptious cauliflower for months, and my recipe roster has been diverse: Cumin and Fennel Roasted Cauliflower and Potatoes, Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower with Parsley Pesto, Cauliflower and Gruyere Souffle, and Ginger Turmeric Cauliflower and Sweet Potatoes. But best of all, I’ve loved this Curry Roasted Cauliflower with Golden Raisins, Almonds and Cilantro.

The goal of curry dishes is not to punch with heat, but create a warm glow. The key to that is balance. Sweet raisins, toasted crunchy nuts, piquant cilantro all mellow the heat to a low simmer, and wed perfectly with the char of well-roasted cauliflower. Curry can be made in all different manners, but using a good-quality curry powder with coriander, turmeric, coriander, cumin, mustard, black pepper and cayenne makes this a quick dish with packed with flavor and warmth. It also gives a nutritional boost, with the benefits of fiber and vitamin C from the cauliflower, bumped up with turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities

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 Curry Roasted Cauliflower with Golden Raisins, Almonds and Cilantro

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets

1 tablespoon good-quality prepared curry powder

Olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup chopped toasted almonds

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Heat an oven to 375 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and pile cauliflower on it, seasoning with curry powder and generous olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss it all together, then roast in the oven, turning occasionally, until the cauliflower caramelizes and turns deep brown. Remove from oven when cauliflower is cooked through, tender and a rich golden brown. Toss with the almonds and raisins, then top with cilantro to serve.

Make your own curry powder: for the freshest, most authentic curry powder, make your own from whole spices. Toast 1 tablespoon each of whole cumin seeds, whole cardamom seeds, whole coriander seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat. Cool and put them into a spice blender, coffee grinder or bullet. Process the seeds until finely ground and add 2 tablespoons of ground turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon of ground mustard and 1/4 teaspoon (or more to taste if you like spicy) of cayenne pepper. Store in a sealed tight container for up to 3 months.

Root Vegetables

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carrots, red beets, white potatoes and parsley

When winter sets in, the best of the local farms, even those with extended growing seasons, will have a predominance of root vegetables to offer. No late tomatoes from the hoop house, no summer squash. In California, all of those crops have gone south to Mexico for the winter. Now we see these earthy, winter jewels in the farmer’s markets and CSA boxes: mature carrots and potatoes, beets of every color, sweet potatoes, parsnips, celery root.  Late winter can be monotonous, after you’ve received box after box of root vegetables, and options for cooking them seem to run out, but truthfully, there is one tried-and-true way to prepare the earth’s tubers: roast them.

Once you get started, the options become endless. The easy part is paring the skin with a vegetable peeler (though that combined with chopping them can be not-so-easy on wrists, power through, they are worth it), then cutting them into chunks of equal size. Douse them in sufficient olive oil and enough salt and pepper to appeal to the eye, then tuck them into a 350 degree oven, turning every 10 minutes or so. For the most part, they will tell you when they are done, with a slight brown edge and a pucker of flesh, but you can also pierce them with a fork or paring knife, or better yet, eat a chunk. Most vegetables take 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the cut.

Then come the options: Chopped herbs? Thick sliced shallots and garlic? A finish of vinaigrette at the end of cooking? A pesto rub before roasting? How about a honey or sugar glaze?

Use your imagination, go without a recipe, take some time to experiment with roasting, and enjoy the cozy comfort of these earthy winter gifts.

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chioggia beets, turnips and carrots with thyme

Cauliflower and Potatoes

Cauliflower Mashed PotatoesSubbing mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes is a novel trend, and for all of the right reasons: it has fewer carbohydrates, more fiber and is rich with vitamins C and K. But have you tried the swap on your kids? Not so popular at my dinner table, where I heard a hilarious conversation between my daughter and friend: “These mashed potatoes taste terrible!” “I think they’re that thing that parents do with the cauliflower instead of potatoes to make us eat cauliflower.” I was called out, a little ashamed that I was trying to pull one over, but the truth was, I liked it. In an attempt to meet in the middle, I made a half and half compromise, which won the whole family over. This mash is very light, using olive oil and chicken stock, but if you prefer a richer flavor, you can substitute butter and milk.

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

Serves 4

1 head cauliflower, stem removed, broken into florets

2 bay leaves

1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into equally-sized chunks

1/2 cup of homemade chicken stock, or a good quality, low sodium boxed broth

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Fill a large stock pot with water and a generous pinch of salt. Add the cauliflower and bay leaves, and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook the cauliflower until slightly tender, then add the potatoes in with the cauliflower, and cook until the potatoes are tender to the probe of a fork. Drain the cauliflower and potatoes in a colander, shaking off the excess water.

Pass the cauliflower potato mixture through a ricer or food mill, squeezing the mixture back into the hot stock pot to help steam away any excess moisture. Discard the bay leaves. Add the chicken stock and olive oil, then season with salt and pepper, tasting to adjust the seasoning.

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Zucchini, Maui Onion and Carrot

zucchini a scapeceFresh, zesty and deeply flavored, this side dish is your perfect summer side dish to meat, chicken and fish pulled off the grill.

Zucchini, Maui Onion and Carrot a Scapece
Serves 4

1/3 cup olive oil
1 large Maui onion, peeled and cut into wedges
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
10 medium carrots (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
5 large zucchini (about 2 pounds), cut into 1/2″ rounds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Heat 1/3 cup oil in a heavy large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until golden. Using a slotted spoon, remove the onions and garlic, then add the carrots, cooking until golden. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, then add the onions and garlic back in, along with the basil and mint leaves over. Drizzle the vinegar over the vegetable mixture and toss gently to coat, cooking for an addtional 3-5 minutes to glaze the vegetables. Serve immediately or chill overnight in the refridgerator, serving at room tempurature. Serve with grilled bread, meat, fish or chicken.