Sunday, April 24, 2011

Savory Side Dishes

I think side dishes often get overlooked when it comes to trying new recipes. I know I have a habit of looking for a great main dish recipe but I forget that a strong side dish can almost always be modified into a main dish.

I recently tried cooking a couple of side dishes that can be made any time of the year.  They both came from Food & Wine Magazine.  I'll talk about one of them in this blog entry.

But first I'll tell you how I found the recipes.  Whenever I find a recipe in a magazine, I take a picture of it with my phone and use that when I go grocery shopping. That way I don't have to worry about losing a piece of paper, but I can add it to a recipe card later if I like it. I started doing this when I found recipes in magazines in the break room at work.

The first side that I cooked was called Summer-Vegetable Casserole.  The ingredients are very simple, but it does take a while to complete.  You'll need the following ingredients:
  1. Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  2. 1/2 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  3. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  4. 1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  5. 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  6. 1 large garlic clove, minced
  7. 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  8. 1/2 pound plum tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  9. 2 small zucchini (1/2 pound), sliced on the diagonal 1/4 inch thick
  10. 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 
Instead of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, I used Parmesan cheese.  It wasn't until after college and started really cooking for myself that I realized that I could buy a block of hard cheese and grate it myself instead of buying it in a can.  I think it tastes much better too.

If you want to get really "fancy", buy a wedge of Pecorino Romano cheese.  It's kind of expensive, but it has a great flavor and is a nice change from other standard hard cheeses.  But for this recipe, I think your favorite hard cheese will do just fine.

Here are the recipe instructions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Coat a 9-inch baking dish with olive oil. Spread the potatoes in the dish in an even layer; drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. In a bowl, combine the bell pepper, onion, garlic and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Arrange two-thirds of the bell pepper mixture over the potatoes and drizzle with oil. Top with the tomatoes and the zucchini; drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover with the remaining bell pepper mixture and sprinkle with the cheese. 
  2.  Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 425°. Uncover the casserole and bake for about 20 minutes longer, until the vegetables are tender and glazed on top. Let stand for 10 minutes. Serve warm.
This dish would be really good with baked or grilled chicken or your other favorite meat.

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