Quick & Simple Sides For Summer

My main goal in the summertime is to not use my oven. It's a gas oven and just using the top burners seems to heat up the half of the house that the kitchen is on no matter how cool the a/c is. This leaves me to shut the 2 doors to the kitchen in order to keep the rest of the house cool and steaming myself inside. This is the one and only time I'm envious of those with electric stoves. Fortunately the husband is a superb griller (I am not) and we end up grilling almost everything we can until October.

Here are a few of my favorite easy side dishes I've been loving lately. Most of these recipes serve 2, but they can easily be adjusted to serve more. I apologize in advance on the lack of exact measurements as I mainly add a handful of this or a sprinkle of that.

Tabbouleh Couscous

This is so ridiculously easy that it barely constitutes cooking. Make 1 box of couscous. I prefer Near East and mix with 1 container tabbouleh (I like Trader Joe's). This can be served hot or cold.

Here is my tabbouleh recipe (adapted from Martha Stewart) for when I have a little more time.

  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 4 plum tomatoes, finely chopped, with their juice
  • 1 3/4 cups finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (about 2 medium bunches)
  • 1/2 red onion chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, (about 2 lemons)
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Soak bulgur in cold water 10 minutes. Drain in a sieve lined with damp cloth; squeeze out all water. Transfer to a serving bowl; fluff with a fork.
  • Stir in tomatoes with juice, parsley, and onion. Add lemon juice, salt, and oil; season with pepper. Toss to coat. Just before serving, stir in mint.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallot

  • Halve about 1 lb of brussels sprouts (discarding bottoms). Coarsely chop 2-3 strips of ready made bacon.
  • Slice 1 large shallot.

      Add all of the above to a hot skillet with olive oil (2 turns of the pan). Saute on med-high 5 mins or until it all starts to brown. Add 2 tablespoons dry sherry (or any other white wine you've got on hand), turn heat to medium and cover for 2-3 mins. Take lid off and stir in 1 teaspoon sugar, some salt and cracked pepper (to taste). Stir in 1 Tablespoon butter and cook for another minute or two. You want the sprouts to be caramelized on the outside with a bit of crunch inside.

  • Pasta with Spinach
This is one of my go-to dishes. Simple to make and you can use any greens (spinach, arugula, mixed herbs) and pasta that you have on hand.

The core ingredients need to be 8oz pasta, greens, 1 egg, 1 shallot, 1/2 lemon and parmesan. Cook pasta according to pkg directions. Chop and saute the shallot in olive oil. Add to a mixing bowl: 1 lightly whipped egg, zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon, 2 cups greens-they always shrink and shallot. When pasta is almost done reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Drain pasta and add to the bowl. Let it sit for a minute. Then mix it all together. This will wilt the greens and cook the egg. If the pasta sticks together a bit, add some olive oil or reserved cooking water. Add salt, pepper or any seasonings of your choice (some of the salt-free Mrs Dash's work well here) and fresh grated parmesan.

Dijon Red Potatoes w/ Arugula

Quarter and steam about 10 small red potatoes until fork tender. Add potatoes to a small pot or skillet with 1 teaspoon butter, 2 teaspoons grainy dijon mustard, 2 handfuls chopped arugula and 1 tablespoon cream. Mix until heated through.

Here I used whatever mixed fresh herbs I hand on hand since
I was out of arugula. If not using arugula, add cracked black pepper to taste.

Herbed Corn
Soak 2 ears fresh corn in water for 30 mins. Grill in husks for 20 mins. Cut kernels off cob.

Add to med-high skillet: corn, 2 tablespoons mixed fresh herbs. Anything works, really, as long as it's fresh. (I like cilantro, thyme, oregano and basil) 1 tablespoon butter and 1 teaspoon smoked paprika. Heat 3-4 minutes. Salt or pepper to taste.

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