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Posts published in “Vegetables and Sides”

Caprese salad: The best way to say farewell to summer produce

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There's something to be said about having the right tools to get a job done. I think this goes for just about anything in life, even food.

When you have nice ingredients or tools, cooking is more of a joy. It could mean a splurge on a quality olive oil or an aged balsamic vinegar, a luxury like truffles or Kobe/Wagyu beef (for meat eaters - maybe not for me ;) ), or a nice quality knife or cutting block to work with as you prepare meals.

Sometimes, it doesn't have to be expensive at all: buying produce in season, for example, when it's abundant. You're already off to a good start of making something good when you're working with fresh food that's in-season. It speaks for itself. You can do so little to it and it's still delicious.

As ready as I am for the season to change as I sit here on my porch, on the cusp of my favorite time of the year — with cool wind blowing through the windows, anticipating the turning colors of the leaves that will start any time now — I'll always take time to savor the last of the wonderful summer produce that I've grown and harvested or purchased locally at markets.

And one ingredient I always miss the most as the season turns is the tomato.

Elotes (Mexican Street Corn)

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This is not a sponsored post or endorsement made in coordination with or paid by any of the brands mentioned here—only offering a few suggestions based on things my family and I have tried and enjoyed.

Elotes, otherwise known as Mexican street corn, is a hot food trend right now for good reason: it's really, really good.

The topping is a perfect, creamy addition to fresh, sweet, in-season corn that gets sprinkled generously with Mexican-style seasoning blend (make your own or use one from the grocery store that's pre-made; there is a chili-lime one that tastes really good, called tajin) and cotija cheese. Cotija is a firm cheese that typically comes wrapped in a small wheel and can be easily crumbled, similar to feta but much milder in flavor. If you can't find this in a store near you, substituting a shredded Mexican-style cheese blend or cheddar cheese blend works (but definitely try the cotija, if you have that option!)

The recipe makes enough topping for about 6-8 medium ears of corn. You can always cut the corn in half, too, to double the number of portions—this is a nice idea for a buffet when you have multiple side dishes that people can choose from. When corn is not in season, frozen, small ears of corn can also be used, such as Green Giant® brand Nibblers®.

Basic Italian Dressing

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I'm willing to bet that many of us have made an Italian dressing from a packaged seasoning mix. It's a staple in many American grocery stores and a convenience food, no doubt.

Add the powder dressing mix to oil and vinegar, and in some cases shake it up in a glass bottle that comes with the seasoning mix, and you get a yellow dressing that's flecked with various red, black and green herb and pepper bits.

Sounding familiar? Bringing back some memories of either loving (or loathing) salad in years past?

I thought so... and I know I've personally poured it over plenty bowls of green salads made with romaine or Iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and sometimes black olives growing up.

Pantry Raid: Tex-Mex Casserole

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It was a snowy week here in the Northeast and I'm not a cold weather-loving person. Looking at the snowfall is all well and good, but I prefer to stay inside and do that. It's not that I'm necessarily scared about driving in bad weather—been there, done that—but everything that goes with said weather adds up to be a royal pain.

Cleaning off the car and walking on ice both suck...

Letting the car windows defrost for what feels like an eternity before it is possible to see clearly to drive anywhere is annoying...

And don't get me started on what it feels like to be in wet clothes after getting caught in the snow or trudging through feet of it after it's drifted across the driveway.

Ugh, ugh, and ugh.

As far as I'm concerned, on an icky day nothing beats staying toasty in the house, crafting or playing board games with plenty of time for cooking or baking in between breaks. When nobody has to venture out to get anything for dinner, thanks to leftovers or a well-stocked pantry and freezer, it's even better.

This is a vegetarian main dish that includes pantry-staples like salsa, tomatoes, and beans, and takes advantage of the oven—which helps to warm up the house on a cold day, too. Feel free to add chicken or cooked ground meat to the vegetable mixture, if you want added protein, and season to a heat level of your liking. As a happy compromise when I'm cooking for most of my friends and family, I sautee jalapeños (seeds and ribs included) with the rest of the vegetables and serve more fresh ones served alongside as an option, since there are different heat preferences ranging from no heat at all to spicy as possible (with myself preferring something towards the upper end of the heat spectrum.)

Spiced Raita

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A creamy, spicy take on the traditional Indian cucumber salad to accompany Eggplant and Red Lentil Daal—or you could eat it plain with naan bread or pita chips, too.

I added just a pinch of some really, really spicy dried and ground Jamaican chocolate pepper chilies. Dave has had these probably a few years now and I sincerely doubt they have lost any of their potency. Just a little bit packs serious heat. Fortunately, dairy helps to cool off spicy things, and I find as it sits over time the flavor develops nicely. Certainly, you can omit it for a more traditional taste; use cayenne pepper, which is more readily available; or use a fresh, seeded and diced Serrano pepper.