Because the best things in life are simple

Tag: side dish

Torta d’patata

Torta d’patata

(Above: Torta d’patata before putting it in the oven where it develops a light, brown, crust.)

This is a recipe from my grandmother Bruna’s kitchen. It’s a very thin and savory potato cake made with swiss chard.

Peeled potatoes in a colander.
Mashed potatoes is the starter for this dish.
Mashed potato mixture on a cookie sheet.
Spread the mashed potato mixture out onto a floured cookie sheet.

You basically make mashed potatoes and then add some savory ingredients before spreading it on a cookie sheet and baking it.

My grandmother was born in the hills of northern Tuscany, so I believe this recipe is very much a Tuscan specialty. I made this as part of the “Julia (Child) Meets Bruna” dinner party meal plan, and a version of it also showed up in the “Southern France Vegetarian” meal plan.

Here’s the recipe:

 

 

 

Torta d'Patata

October 15, 2018
: 1 hr 15 min
: Medium

By:

Ingredients
  • Potatoes, peeled, washed, and cut in half (about 4 pounds)
  • Onion, chopped fine (1 large)
  • Garlic (1 clove, smashed or split in two)
  • Fresh parsley, chopped (a small handful or about 1/4 cup)
  • Fresh sage, chopped (About 2-3 tablespoons)
  • Fresh mint, chopped (A small handful or about 1/4 cup)
  • Swiss chard, chopped (1 bunch, about 8 leaves with stems trimmed)
  • Chicken bullion cube (1/2 a cube)
  • Grated parmesan cheese (3/4 cup)
  • 2 Eggs
  • Butter (1-2 tablespoons)
Directions
  • Step 1 Put potatoes in boiling water and cook until very tender. Drain in a colander and then make mashed potatoes with them. (I put the potatoes through a ricer so there are no lumps.
  • Step 2 In a frying pan, saute the onions until translucent and then add the garlic, parsley, sage, and mint. Stir for about a minute and then add the swiss chard. Cover and cook until swiss chard shrinks and is ready to eat.
  • Step 3 Dissolve half a chicken bullion cube about 3/4 cup of hot water.
  • Step 4 Add all ingredients (from frying pan and the chicken stock you just created) to the mashed potatoes and stir.
  • Step 5 Add the grated cheese, the 2 eggs and the butter to the mashed potatoes and stir until the eggs and everything are well blended.
  • Step 6 Grease a cookie sheet with Crisco shortening. Sprinkle flour over it to cover the pan. Turn out excess flour.
  • Step 7 Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, spread mashed potato mixture evenly over cookie sheet.
  • Step 8 Place in a 350 oven until lightly golden brown (be careful not to let bottom burn). This should take about 20 minutes, give or take 5 minutes or so.
  • Step 9 Take from the oven and sprinkle salt over the top. Cut into large squares or rectangles.

 

 

Bok Choy With Raisins (A Winning Side Dish Is Born)

Bok Choy With Raisins (A Winning Side Dish Is Born)

The sweet blends perfectly with the sour in this tasty side dish.
The sweet blends perfectly with the sour in this tasty side dish.

This side dish is a definite keeper. I made it up yesterday, while trying to come up with a good green side dish to go with baked stuffed shrimp.

At first I was thinking of an arugula salad, but didn’t feel like driving three or four miles to a farm stand where I can get it at a good price: less than $2 for a good-size bag. And I wasn’t going to spend $6 or $7 for arugula at the Stop & Shop, just a few blocks from my home. So, I set my sites on the Asian supermarket, which is about a 1/4 mile from my house.

Super 88 doesn’t sell arugula, but they have an amazing selection of bok choy. And it’s cheap.

I thought about stir-frying it with some scallions and then a crazy idea hit me on how to offset the subtle bitterness of the greens with something sweet. Raisins! And just to keep things real, I decided to finish it off with a vinaigrette, a balsamic vinegar being a perfect match to bring out the flavor of the raisins.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Bok Choy. I used about 15 pieces of the baby bok choy and it was enough for three people. Washed and chopped into 2-inch pieces.
  • Scallions, about 6. Cut off with about 2-inches of green showing and then sliced into small wheels.
  • Peanut oil, about 1 tablespoon.
  • Garlic, one clove, crushed.
  • Raisins, about 1/2 cup. I used regular raisins, but I think golden raisins may work even better.
  • A balsamic vinaigrette, about 2 tablespoons. You could also use Italian dressing.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Procedure:

Heat the peanut oil in a wok, spreading it around to coat the sides.

Add the scallions and cook until translucent.

Add the garlic and the bok choy and stir to coat with the oil. Cook for a minute or two.

Add the raisins. Stir everything occasionally and cook until greens are wilted but the white parts of the bok choy remain crisp.

Add the vinaigrette and stir to coat. Put lid on wok and cook on low heat for a minute. Then turn heat off.

Serve with your favorite protein (chicken, beef, pork, fish, even eggs).

Find more recipes in the Recipe index.

Risotto (This time with mushrooms and eggplant)

Risotto (This time with mushrooms and eggplant)

(Above: This is a perfect dish to welcome fall in New England.)

You can add many things to risotto but mushrooms (especially porcini) are my favorite. I made this dish up last night with vegetables I had on hand: cremini mushrooms and eggplant. Feel free to omit the eggplant, it’s just as good.

Making risotto is not hard, but it is an art. The key is adding small amounts of hot liquid to the rice, only enough for it to be absorbed a minute or two at a time. This ensures the dish will be not only flavorful but will have the correct texture: think al dente (with a little bite); never soggy or water-logged.

And of course, the main thing you do, is stir it properly. Don’t stir it too much, just enough to keep it from burning on the bottom. Cook it on medium to low heat: just enough to maintain a medium simmer. (Tip: Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan while stirring and lower the heat if you think the liquid is evaporating too fast or if there is a danger of the rice burning.)

You can serve this as a main meal (serves four) with a side salad; or as a side dish. And if you’re out to impress, try serving it as a side-dish inside a parmesan basket.

Risotto With Mushrooms and Eggplant

September 24, 2012
: 1 hr 15 min

This dish takes about 45 minutes to make if you work fast. Add another 15-minutes to 30 minutes if you work at a leisurely pace.

By:

Ingredients
  • Arborio rice (1 pound). Accept no substitutes, this is what makes risotto, risotto.
  • Chicken broth (About 44 ounces). You can use home-made stock (the best), or canned broth, or some bullion cubes with water or a mixture of all. You can also use a little white wine. Last night I used a combination of canned broth, chicken bullion cube, and a porcini bullion cube with hot water. Whatever liquid you use, be sure to heat it up before you add it to the rice.
  • Onion (1 small or a 1/2 of a large onion
  • chopped)
  • Olive oil (About 1/4 cup
  • enough to cover the bottom of a medium-sized pot
  • plus more to coat the eggplant and mushrooms.)
  • Mushrooms (About 8 oz.
  • chopped)
  • Eggplant (1 small or 3/4 of a large eggplant, sliced thin)
  • Nepitella (About 1 tablespoon. A mixture of dried basil and mint will also work).
  • Parmesan cheese (About 1/2 cup, grated
  • or to taste)
  • Butter (About 1-2 tablespoons)
  • Pepper (Just a sprinkle, to taste)
Directions
  • Step 1 Heat olive oil in a medium-sized pot over low heat. Add diced onion and cook until translucent.
  • Step 2 Add rice and stir. Add more olive oil if needed, just enough to coat the rice. Cook for a minute or two, stirring occasionally.
  • Step 3 Ladle in the liquid, just enough to cover the rice and stir. When liquid is absorbed, add more liquid, just enough to cover and stir. Continue doing this until risotto is done (about 45 minutes).
  • Step 4 In between stirring the risotto, coat a cookie sheet with olive oil and salt (kosher is best). Put down a layer of eggplant and brush tops of eggplant slices with oil and salt. Bake in a 400-degree oven, turning over when bottom is brown. Do the same with the mushrooms. Add nepitella to the cooked mushrooms and set aside.
  • Step 5 When risotto is done. Stir in eggplant and mushrooms. Stir in butter and parmesan cheese. Add pepper to taste.

 

Patata Ball In Tomato Sauce

Patata Ball In Tomato Sauce

Here’s another recipe from our Southern France meal plan, courtesy of La Zucca Magica, an Italian vegetarian restaurant in Nice.

We were served this as our first course there and although I couldn’t find the exact recipe online I was able to recreate it perfectly: mainly because the potato mixture was very similar to a potato cake my grandmother used to make.

Mashed potato mixture on a cookie sheet.
Instead of spreading the mixture on a cookie sheet (shown above), put it in a greased oven-safe bowl and bake it.

It’s one of my favorite dishes. To make it just follow the Torta d’Patata recipe here, but omit the swiss chard and use a vegetable broth bullion cube instead of chicken broth bullion cube if you want to keep the dish vegetarian.

They don’t use swiss chard in this dish at La Zucca Magica, according to the chef there. And instead of spreading it out into a thin layer on a cookie sheet, put the potato mixture in a greased oven-safe bowl and bake at 350 degrees until the top is lightly golden (or about 20 minutes).

For the tomato sauce, follow the Quick Tomato Sauce recipe here.

To serve, scoop out a large ball of the potato mixture and place it in the center of a small plate or soup bowl. Put a ring of the tomato sauce around the potato ball. Serve warm.

Parmesan Basket With Risotto or Rice

Parmesan Basket With Risotto or Rice

This is a very special, yet very simple recipe, I got from my brother-in-law Billy Kelley, who spends several months each year in Florence, Italy. He isn’t a cook. He’s an artist who paints in his studio all day and then goes out to eat in some of that city’s best restaurants.

A few years ago he brought me back a small booklet from Trattoria del Carmine which contained several recipes including this one. They filled the parmesan cheese basket with a yellow squash risotto. Here I stuffed it with a plain risotto made with onions and celery. You could also use this risotto or use this recipe as a guide for your own risotto.

You could use a light rice dish too. Just be sensitive not to overpower the crisp tangy taste of the parmesan cup. Be creative. Use your imagination. What else could you fill this with?

Parmesan Basket With Risotto or Rice

March 21, 2012

By:

Ingredients
  • Imported parmesan cheese. Parmigiano-Reggiano is best. (Don’t skimp here. I once tried using the cheese they sell in a jar at the supermarket and it didn’t work. The cheese would not melt and it made me wonder if it was cheese at all.)
  • Equipment: A nonstick frying pan.
Directions
  • Step 1 Warm up the nonstick frying pan.
  • Step 2 Sprinkle a tablespoon or two of the cheese in a circle in the hot pan.
  • Step 3 Let the cheese melt until it becomes an intense yellow color.
  • Step 4 Detach the sheet of cheese with a spatula and place it flat over a small cup or 2-3-inch ramekin. Poke it down into the cup or ramekin with your index finger to give it a bowl shape.
  • Step 5 Once it cools, remove it from the cup or ramekin. Put it on a plate and fill it with risotto or whatever you decide will work.
Stuffed Artichokes

Stuffed Artichokes

(Above: The passing of the stuffed artichokes at the RootsLiving table on Easter Sunday.)

In the Three Stooges episode, “Sock-A-Bye-Baby,” Moe, Larry, and Curly feed a baby they find Limburger cheese, spaghetti and artichokes.

Curly calls an artichoke a smarty-choke, a party-smoke, an okey-doke, a feathered apple, and a barbed-wire pickle.

(Photo courtesy of “Insomnia Cured Here” on Flickr)

For some reason I think of this when cooking and eating them.

I recommend getting baby artichokes. They’re more tender than the bigger variety. And I always use the italian herb, nepitella. It grows wild on the RootsLiving estate, but is difficult to get outside of Italy. Instead, you could use a combination of dried basil and dried mint — or fresh for that matter, chopped up fine.

Nepitella growing wild along a fence
(Nepitella spreads quickly and will grow just about anywhere including along this fence.)

I never measure anything when making the stuffing either. Below are suggested measurements to stuff 12 artichokes. Just be sure to make enough to fill them all generously and be sure to follow the proportions below and you can’t go wrong.

Three artichokes

How to Eat an Artichoke

And if you’re like that Three Stooges’ baby and don’t know how to eat one of these babies, fret not. Here’s what you do:

  • Tear off an outer leaf. Hold the harder end between your thumb and forefinger and scrape the leaf with your front teeth. You’ll get a little bit of stuffing and a little bit of tender artichoke leaf coating too: a miraculous combination.
  • If the leaves are tough you can discard them after doing this on your plate. However, these baby artichokes are usually so tender you can eat them, whole leaf and all.

Stuffed Artichokes

April 7, 2010
: 12
: 40 min
: Medium

By:

Ingredients
  • Baby artichokes (12)
  • Lemon wedge (1)
  • Bread crumbs (1/2 cup)
  • Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
  • Nepitella (or dried basil and mint) (2-3 tbsp.)
  • Salt, pepper (to taste)
  • Olive oil (enough to drizzle over each artichoke)
Directions
  • Step 1 Cut off the stem of each artichoke with an even slice, so each artichoke can stand up on its own.
  • Step 2 Peel off the top 2-4 layers of the artichokes until you get to the tender leaves. (Throw away the tough leaves.)
  • Step 3 Cut off the top of each artichoke, about 1/4 of the way down. For the small artichokes, that’s probably about 1/2 an inch or so.
  • Step 4 Using your fingers, open up each artichoke like a flower so there’s room to spoon in the stuffing between the leaves. Take the lemon wedge and rub each artichoke with it. This prevents the artichoke from turning brown and also adds a little flavor.
  • Step 5 In a small bowl make the stuffing by combining the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and nepitella (or dried basil and mint), salt and pepper.
  • Step 6 Hold each artichoke over the stuffing bowl while you stuff it. Using a teaspoon, spoon in as much stuffing as you can between the leaves of each artichoke and set aside.
  • Step 7 In a small pot that can hold all of the artichokes standing up, pour in about 3/4 to 1-inch of water. Place the stuffed artichokes standing up in the pot. Drizzle a little olive oil over each artichoke.
  • Step 8 Cover the pot and cook for about 15-20 minutes over low heat. Be sure to continuously check the pot to make sure all of the water has not evaporated. Add a little water as needed while it cooks. (These are usually served hot, but taste great cold too — even leftovers right out of the fridge.)
A Gift: Smothered Escarole (Scarola Affogata)

A Gift: Smothered Escarole (Scarola Affogata)

This side dish marries well with drier foods, such as roasts and fried chicken.
This side dish marries well with drier foods, such as roasts and fried chicken.

I came home the other day and found a plastic bag filled with four heads of escarole tied to my back fence. There was no note: just the mystery lettuce left hanging there.

I didn’t bring it in right away. After all, I live in the city and who knows what crazy person with questionable hygiene might have left it there.

But soon the mystery was solved as I checked my answering machine. My neighbor, Nina (known as “Mama Nina” to her grandchildren), left a message saying her cousin brought her a box of escarole and she didn’t know what to do with all. She suggested I could use it in a variety of dishes, including a fine escarole soup.

Instead I headed to my cookbooks and found one for “Smothered Escarole,” in “La Cucina Di Lidia, Recipes and Memories from Italy’s Adriatic Coast” by Lidia Bastianich and Jay Jacobs. It sounded good, was simple, and she suggested it be served with drier foods such as roast beef or fried chicken.

It went well with the roast beef I made last night for dinner. It tasted a little bitter, a little savory sweet.

Ingredients/Shopping List:

  • Escarole (1 pound, about 2 medium heads)
  • Garlic (About 6 cloves, crushed)
  • Olive oil (About 3 tbsp.)
  • Salt (1/2 tsp.)
  • Hot red pepper flakes ( 1/4 tsp.)
  • Fresh black pepper (About 4 twists of the mill)
  • Bacon or sausage, cooked. (Optional; I used about 1/4 pound of bacon I had leftover in my refrigerator)

What I did:

Remove the outer leaves of escarole if damaged or discolored (Nina’s escarole was fresh and beautiful, without discoloration or wilted leaves). Cut off the bases and wash the leaves twice in abundant cold water and then drain.

In a large pot, saute the garlic in oil until golden, but not brown. Add the remaining ingredients, cover and cook over moderate heat for about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat. Discard the garlic and serve immediately.

(Note: Lidia writes that when she was a child, she would often eat this as a sandwich between two slices of thick Italian bread. And if you pack it for lunch, it tastes even better as the bread absorbs some of the vegetable juices.)

Find more recipes in the Food section.

(Note: If you’d like to print this recipe, click here or on the headline on this post and then use the print button at the bottom of the post. In other words, print from the “permalink” not from the homepage.