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somethin’ on the side

It’s still warm(ish) outside, and sweet corn and colorful tomatoes persist at farmers’ markets. Let’s make the most of it:

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corn cobs, kernels removed
cherry or grape tomatoes, halved/quartered/left whole, depending on size
kalamata olives, diced
red onion, thinly sliced, soaked in water and then drained
evoo
s&p
burrata, torn

Again, no recipe, just an idea. Make a simple salad with all ingredients, minus the burrata, which is served on top.

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Since I have been given the responsibility of baking bread at work, I have become quite enamored by the process. From the smell of blooming yeast to the lugging of industrial-size mixing bowls to the feel of the dough as you roll and shape it–bread baking has become a welcome part of the day. This, coming from someone who abhorred scales and measuring cups, is quite the transformation. I realize that, though baking–especially breads–is a science, there is a lot more wiggle room and opportunity for creativity than I had always believed.

That being said, I made whole wheat focaccia using this recipe from Anne Burrell on Food Network. I followed it almost exactly, except I substituted one cup of whole wheat flour for one cup of all-purpose.

1 3/4 cups warm water
2 1/4 tsp (1 package) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for coating and drizzling
2 Tbsp fresh herbs, chopped (I used oregano, rosemary, and thyme)

Combine the warm water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Put the bowl in a warm place until the yeast is bubbling and aromatic, at least 15 minutes.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, 1/2 cup olive oil and the yeast mixture on low speed. Once the dough has come together, continue to knead for 5 to 6 minutes on a medium speed until it becomes smooth and soft.

Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly floured surface, then knead it by hand a few times.

Coat the inside of the mixer bowl lightly with olive oil and return the dough to the bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, at least 1 hour.

Coat a sheet pan with the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil.

Put the dough onto the sheet pan and press to fit the size of the pan. Turn the dough over to coat the other side with the olive oil. Continue to stretch the dough to fit the pan. As you are doing so, spread your fingers out and make finger holes all the way through the dough.

Put the dough in the warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. While the dough is rising a second time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Liberally sprinkle the top of the focaccia with flaky sea salt and lightly drizzle a little oil. Scatter herbs on top and bake the dough until the top of the loaf is golden brown, about 20-30 minutes. Remove the focaccia from the oven and let it cool before cutting and serving.

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Notes: this recipe actually made for better croutons than they did bread. Though it wasn’t bad, there was a lack of depth of flavor that I probably could have achieved had I let it ferment for longer (or used a different recipe). All in all, it was a fun weekend project, and I still have a bunch left over in the freezer for whenever the need for croutons arises.

Another dish that’s “just an idea” and follows no particular recipe. I should really work on that. But I promise: just throw this stuff together in any ratio you prefer and it will come out just as lovely as you are.

Tuscan kale, rough chop
Lemon juice
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pomegranate seeds
Almonds, toasted, chopped
Cauliflower, pickled

Massage the kale with lemon juice, oil, salt, and black pepper. Garnish with pomegranate, almonds, and cauliflower (I made my own, but feel free to purchase, or pick through jarred giardiniera). Great as a starter or side dish, but also enjoyed in copious amounts to qualify as an entree.

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I know, I know–I need to be focusing on recording ingredient quantities, but this one really doesn’t need much more than a list of ingredients. Crunchy raw vegetables are highlighted by a tart lemon vinaigrette, and the whole thing is soothed by creamy, gooey burrata. I love summer.

snap or snow peas, julienne
celery, thinly sliced on a bias
lemon vinaigrette (lemon juice, minced garlic or shallots, evoo, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper)
burrata
freshly ground black pepper

Toss the snap or snow peas and celery with the vinaigrette and plate. Tear burrata and arrange on top of the vegetables. Drizzle with more vinaigrette and garnish with black pepper. Consume ferociously and with fervor, either as a starter, a side, or main dish.

snap peas and celery with burrata

Born from a need to use whatever was in the fridge and to supplement a fabulous sausage hamburger (yup–you heard me), this relish is the perfect side dish for a barbecue.

10-oz bag frozen corn, thawed
1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced
4 scallions, thinly sliced on a bias
Juice of 1 lime
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste

Optional additions: blue cheese or avocado or jalapeño or feta, but it’s lovely on its own.

1. In a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, char the corn until dark golden brown in spots.
2. Combine corn with remaining ingredients.

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A rendition on one of my absolute favorites, Vegan Kitchen Sink Salad, which was originally inspired by the Abundant Harvest Salad I gorged on at Dandelion Communitea Cafe in Orlando, Florida. Make this huge salad at the beginning of the week and enjoy for quick lunches and last-minute dinners all week long. Not only is it vegan and chock full of vegetables and fiber, it is a great allergen-free dish. I usually make it with quinoa, but this time I experimented with millet, a gluten-free grain-like seed that is more commonly known as bird feed. Literally. We’re eating bird food. Feel skinny yet?

1 1/2 cups millet, prepared according to package’s directions, cooled
3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on a bias
3 celery stalks, thinly sliced in a bias
1 small head broccoli, cut into small florets
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
3 oz sprig mix, or other salad green
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
Lemon tahini dressing, for drizzling (though I made a bigger batch, 1/2 cup tahini and 1/2 cup water, to accommodate this bigger recipe)
Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, to garnish, toasted or raw

1. Combine cooked millet with carrots, celery, broccoli, chick peas, corn kernels, spring mix, and tomatoes.
2. Drizzle with tahini dressing and garnish with seeds. (Leave the salad undressed and drizzle just before serving.)

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With these 40- and 50-degree days, I am getting ready for spring. This salad takes advantage of crisp, raw asparagus, both shaved with a vegetable peeler and thinly sliced for both texture and presentation. Served alongside stewed chicken to lighten the fare.

1 bunch asparagus (the thicker the stalks, the better)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup pecorino, shaved (using a vegetable peeler)
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel and discard the rough, bottom inch or two of the asparagus stalks.
2. Peel half the asparagus stalks over a bowl. Do not peel the tips: leave them whole.
3. Thinly slice the other half of the asparagus on a bias, again, leaving the tips intact.
4. Add pine nuts (I left them raw out of sheer laziness, but feel free to toast), shaved pecorino, olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Gently toss to combine.

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