Tag Archives: side dish

Tomato Salad

This past spring I finally had the opportunity to join a CSA. For those of you not in the know yet, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It basically means at the beginning of the year (typically around March) you buy a share of a local farm and then each week you get to pick up your freshly grown produce. To be honest, the only downside I’ve found with being part of a CSA is that I don’t have a reason to visit the farmer’s market as often. I LOVE the farmer’s market. I actually remember the first time I visited the Saturday market here in CoMo. I was on the phone with my mom at the time and as I drove up and saw the market in all its glory I gave my mom the “I’ll call you back!” and hung up on her. I was that excited. Luckily, she doesn’t appear to have held it against me over the years.

Anyway, I have to plug the Root Cellar here. They were the only reason I was able to do it. I’ve wanted to join a CSA since about 2006 but could never fork up $400-$500 all at once to pay for a year’s worth of produce. Lucky for me, since the Root Cellar is a local grocer the put together their own CSAs from several local farms and are able to sell them on a weekly basis. This means that for $20 a week I get a TON of produce – all of which is local and most of which is organic. For example, this past week I got the largest eggplant I’ve ever seen, peaches, basil, greens, tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, summer squash and onions. Which leads me to the recipe…

…in a second. Lately I’ve been getting a lot of tomatoes and basil. Tomatoes are one of my favorite, favorite, favorite parts of summer. It’s like summer doesn’t really happen for me until I cut into the first truly red tomato of the year. I’ve been known to eat a pint of cherry tomatoes for lunch. Mmmmm. I digress. But even with that the tomatoes can pile up on me if I don’t eat them consistently. To help with that I’ve been making tomato salad as a way to use both them and the basil up. It’s super easy and I can use up leftovers in a lot of different ways. I’ll eat this on top of a bunch of greens as a salad, put it on top of a piece of fish or eggs, add in shrimp to make a quick lunch or mix in some pine nuts for a snack (what I was doing in the picture below). Here’s my recipe – though if you know me you know I don’t actually measure anything, which is why I don’t include any here. Sorry. You’ll live. And it will probably still taste good.


1-2 medium tomatoes, diced – I try to remove most of the seeds as well

1/2 small red onion very thinly sliced – or more considering your social situation

1-2 glugs olive oil – if you keep good olive oil in the house, now would be the time to use it

3-4 dashes (maybe 1 Tbsp) balsamic vinegar – fun fact:  it’s taken me at least 3 years to learn how to spell balsamic correctly

1-2 cloves garlic – or more considering your social situation

basil, chiffonade – lots! that stuff is GOOD!

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste – I don’t have anything to write here, I just wanted to be consistent


Put in bowl. Stir. Taste. Adjust. Eat. Repeat.

Other options:

  • jalapeño and cilantro instead of basil
  • add in mango
  • add in pine nuts
  • lime and avocado instead of balsamic and basil


Filed under Appetizers, Crazy Quick, Lunch/Dinner, Salads

Acorn Squash and Apple Risotto

This weekend I feel in looove (that’s love with 3 o’s – a 200% increase in warm n’ fuzzy hugs) with this recipe for Apple and Squash Compote by Kim Boyce thanks to a feature on my friend Emily’s site. If you haven’t come across Kim’s book Good to the Grain in bloggy-land yet well then it’s time to join the party. I mean, it’s a solid cookbook on the wonders of baking. Everything from bread to tarts to soft pretzels. Solid. And if you buy it and disagree, well then you should punish me for my poor review of it by sending me your copy. Because I share my copy with the library and there are somethings in life that…frankly…I don’t want to share.

Back to the subject at hand, I made the compote Saturday and have been on a squash food jag ever since. I really liked how crispy and caramelized the squash got just by pan searing it and I wanted to find a way to reuse the technique.  So when the snow started to fall and fall and fall last night it put me in the mood for a homey version of risotto. This is good comfort food:  warm, creamy, cheesy an unpretentious. Now, when some people hear risotto they think starched linen tablecloths and expensive wine lists but let’s be honest; it’s rice for goodness’ sake. Rice cooked with onion, oil and broth. Misconceptions re-conceived? Unpretentious…right?

Originally I was going to just sear the cubed squash, but as I was standing over the stove taste-testing I missed the sweetness the apples added in last time.  So in a last minute decision I added in one Granny Smith apple, which I think ended up being a good move. The squash needed a little liquid to soften up and though I could of added broth I was already adding plenty of that to the risotto. The apple covered the sugar, the liquid and a new flavor combo all in one go.

So you’ll notice the first few steps of the recipe are very similar to the apple and squash compote by Kim Boyce but just diverted to a different ending. You can use whichever winter squash you like with the exception of spaghetti squash.  I picked up an Acorn Squash this time, but I used Carnival for the compote this weekend and Butternut works in just about any situation. I’ll give the same advice as I always do when talking about risotto – go with your gut. Get the gist of the recipe below but do what you think is best when you cook it yourself – meaning how much salt, broth, cheese to add. Taste as you go, often. And lastly, I couldn’t help but think when I was eating this that it would probably taste awesome with fried chicken…

Acorn Squash and Apple Risotto


  • 1 small acorn squash, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 6 cups low sodium broth
  • Olive oil (~2 Tbsp)
  • 1 medium red onion sliced into 1/4″ wedges (aka julienned)
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced 1/4″ thick
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1 cup fresh romano cheese (parmesan would also work)
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Warm broth on medium heat in medium-sized pot on back burner.
  2. While broth is heating, melt butter in large skillet on medium-high heat then add squash and toss to coat in butter.  Cook the squash for 3 minutes without turning.  If your butter starts to burn/brown turn the heat down. After 3 minutes, toss the squash and cook, untouched, for another 3 minutes.  The edges of the squash should start to turn golden brown and crispy. Add the apple and toss until coated with butter.  Turn down the heat to medium-low and let cook, stirring occasionally for about 5-10 minutes or until the apples start to give off their juices and are reabsorbed by the squash.  Salt to taste and remove from heat when squash is fork-tender but not mushy.
  3. While you have the squash and apples finishing off, heat ~2 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep skillet. Add in onion, salt lightly and let saute, stirring occasionally until the onions start to caramelize and some of the ends become slightly crispy. Add in the mushroom, some more salt and let cook about 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and let cook for 30 seconds then add in rice and let cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute then add in wine. Continue to stir occasionally and once majority of wine is absorbed turn heat down to medium and add in 2 ladles full off broth from your reserves. Stir the risotto every minute or so, allowing it to absorb the broth. Once about 80% of the broth is absorbed add in another 2 ladles full of broth and stir. Turn up heat if necessary to keep rice at a simmer. Continue this process until the rice begins to look creamy. At this point start tasting your rice for texture and drop down to adding broth in 1 ladle-full at a time. When rice is close to being cooked through add in cheese and squash/apple mix*.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a side.  *You can also hold back the squash and serve the risotto platter style on top of the squash.

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Filed under Great Grains, Lunch/Dinner, Main Dish

This ain’t cho mamma’s Mac n’ Cheese

Boxed mac n’ cheese – the great orange equalizer of life.  Moms serve it to kids mixed with tuna and peas, college students eat it “Easy Mac” style, vegans are die hard about finding a cheese-free substitute, even the Barenaked Ladies said they’d continue to eat it as millionaires, they’d just eat more.  So I feel confident in saying that if you’re American, you’re likely a connoisseur of the macaroni cheesiness.

And if you are a connoisseur sometimes you want to take it to the hilt.  For Thanksgiving I was in search of just such a mac n’ cheese dish.  I found the original version of this recipe via Bon Appetit.  They call it “Mac and Cheese with Sourdough Breadcrumbs.”  I tweaked it a bit and have a list of names that I would choose to call it:Sourdough croutons

  • OMG with Cheese
  • $20 Macaroni
  • Heart Attack Mac

and…”This Ain’t Cho Mamma’s Mac n’ Cheese.”

If you have a discretionary grocery budget, a deep passion for cheese, well controlled cholesterol levels or a holiday dinner coming up, then enjoy!  In the recipe below you’ll see the adaptions I made to the recipe.  (I mean, I love comfort food but I’m still an RD.)  If you want to see the original you can check it out on Bon Appetit’s website.  Spoiler alert:  they post the calories, so you’ve been warned!

Either way, this goes great with a green salad with balsamic vinaigrette and a great glass of wine…like a Malbec.  Mmmmm…

P.S.  Dear Santa, all I want from Christmas is some natural light!

This Ain’t Cho Mamma’s Mac n’ Cheese

adapted from Bon Appetit’s Mac and Cheese with Sourdough Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumb topping


  • ~4 cups sourdough bread, torn into 1″ pieces
  • 5+ Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup shallots, diced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh marjoram (or rosemary or oregano)
  • Salt


**steps 1-3 can be done 1-2 days beforehand.  Just store croutons in airtight container**

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Toss bread pieces with ~3-4 Tbsp olive oil and spread across rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Bake until bread crusts and turns golden brown (20-25 minutes).
  4. In large skillet, heat remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil on med-high heat.  Add shallots and herbs and cook until shallots are translucent, then add croutons.  Toss together, remove from heat and set to the side.

Macaroni and Cheese


  • 1 lb cooked pasta (rotini, shells, macaroni or any other that will hold onto sauce well)
  • 1/4 cup AP flour
  • 3/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (3/4 tsp if you like an extra kick)
  • 6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) butter
  • 4 cups skim milk
  • 3 cups extra sharp Cheddar, grated (could probably get away with 2% Cheddar without sacrificing much flavor in this dish)
  • 3 cups Fontina cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup Romano cheese, grated (or fresh Parmesan)
  • Salt, freshly ground pepper and fresh ground nutmeg to taste
  • Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Directions **can be assembled day beforehand and kept covered in fridge**

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F and coat 9×13″ casserole dish with cooking spray.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions, making sure to salt the water.
  3. Meanwhile, sift together flour, nutmeg and cayenne pepper and melt butter in large pot over med-high heat.  Add in flour mixture; let cook 1 minute, stirring constantly to avoid burning.  Do not let roux brown.
  4. After 1 minute, slowly whisk in skim milk and hold at a simmer for 4-5 minutes.
  5. Whisk in only 2 cups Cheddar, 2 cups Fontina and 1/4 cup Romano cheeses, let melt and season with salt, pepper and additional nutmeg as needed.  Mix in cooked, drained pasta and remove from heat.
  6. Spread 1/2 of pasta mixture along bottom of casserole dish, top with remaining cheese and then other half of pasta mixture.  Lastly, top with breadcrumbs.
  7. Cover with foil and bake 25 minutes; sauce should bubble along sides of casserole.  Remove foil and bake an additional 7-12 minutes, or until top is golden brown.  Top with chopped parsley if desired.


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