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Category Archives: Side Dish

Crazy Brocco-Flower, a Cookie Sale, & the return of Coconut Peas

My blog has unfortunately been on a bit of a hiatus lately, but I had some things to share with you, so here goes.  On a bright note, now I know what my new year’s resolution will be: Blog more!


Romanesco: Silly Look, Serious Taste

Let’s start with the first.  If you have never seen a cauliflower or broccoli like the one here (sources seem to refer to it as both Roman cauliflower or Roman broccoli) then I would guess you are not alone.  This is the Romanesco variety and I think it is fabulous.  They do look more like something out of the Super Mario Brother’s garden than your local farmers field, but I think that is what makes them so much fun.

We recently had this for the first time while dining at Forequarter in Madison and I’ve had my eye out for it since.  These made an appearance at a local grocery store over the weekend, so I picked one up.

For my first try at cooking this, I divided this into florets and tossed them with olive oil, a grated garlic glove, some minced hot peppers, rosemary, and of course some salt and pepper.  I pan roasted these in an effort to save time, but would go with an oven roast at high heat for 20-30 minutes next time.  The conical shape made it difficult to char anything but the stems.  Despite being just a little underdone, I found the flavor to be delicious.  Of course, I had to finely grate on a little cheese before serving. I chose some Belavitano Gold for this and was very happy with that selection. I can’t wait to find another one of these so I can perfect the method.  Check out some shots from my romanesco cooking adventure.

Next item of business to share is information about the Milwaukee Foodies Bake Sale. If you are going to be in Milwaukee this weekend, you should check it out. Local bakers are donating cookies that will be sold to benefit the charity Cookies for Kids’ cancer. The sale is downtown at Best Place from 12p.m.-4p.m. Here is a link to more information:

You may remember my award-winning Chewy White Chocolate Chip Gingerbread Cookies. I will be donating some for the sale! If you know anyone who might be interested in attending this, please do share the blog or forward the link above.

Milwaukee's Best Cookie 2011

Milwaukee’s Best Cookie 2011

As promised, I had three things to share. The last must be prefaced with a quick childhood story. My signature dish from my childhood was what we called “Coconut Peas”. It was literally frozen peas and sweetened coconut. My family pretended to like it, but it is now something we joke about.  Well, tonight they made a reappearance of sorts.  I was trying out a green curry spice rub from World Market on a flat iron steak and needed a quick side dish.  With no fresh vegetables in sight, I grabbed some frozen peas and threw together the following in a saucepan.

The New Coconut Peas

The New Coconut Peas

  • Bulgur cooked in chicken broth
  • Peas
  • A little lemon juice and zest
  • Drizzle of garlic olive oil
  • Dash of half and half
  • Chopped Marcona Almonds
  • Flaked Unsweetened Coconut 
  • Salt and Pepper (of course)

The verdict: This was pretty tasty and paired great with the green curry beef. Maybe I was on to something back in the 80s…

Thanks for reading and hope this inspires you to cook something new or buy some cookies for a good cause.  Cheers!


The New Broccoli and Cheese

Growing up, I recall broccoli with cheese sauce being a very popular side dish.  I am sure it is still a favorite in some circles, but it’s not something I’ve had for ages.  I’ve been roasting my broccoli lately and I don’t think I will ever go back.  Today I am sharing a technique, not a recipe…and really just want everyone to know how wonderful a modest stalk of broccoli can be when it is given a little gourmet treatment.

Basic Roasted Broccoli

  • Broccoli
  • Good Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Some flair of your choice (some of my favorites below)
    Walnuts/Blue Cheese/Garlic (definitely my #1)
    Parmesan & a drizzle of truffle oil
    Red chile paste and lemon
    Bacon and Feta


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Rinse broccoli and dry well.  Cut into pieces (best described as two-bite sections).  The stalks can be tough, so if I have plenty or if this is for company, I will trim most of the stalk off.  But, when it’s just my husband and myself, a little chewiness doesn’t bother us.

Toss the broccoli with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.  Go with a light drizzle when you’re feeling healthy, but ramp it up a bit when you’re feeling like splurging. This works great with herb or garlic infused oils too.  Roast for ten minutes.  Flip the broccoli pieces and return to oven.  Roast for about ten minutes more.  Your florets should be starting to brown and crisp.  Remove from oven and toss with cheese, nuts, etc.  If I start with raw nuts, I usually just chop those and add them during the flipping step.

I know that roasting broccoli may not be new to many of you, but it is just sooooo good that I had to make sure all my followers are in the loop.  It takes a frugal vegetable and turns it into a foodie worthy side with little effort.  I will admit that my current obsession with roasted broccoli started with a fondness for roasted broccolini, but with plain old broccoli being much easier on the wallet, I’ve found myself making the latter much more often.

This is so versatile, I don’t think I need to make a protein recommendation, but here’s a shot of variation #1 with a lemon and caper topped pork tenderloin.  Cheers!

Chayote Squash…what do you do with this thing?

While checking out at the grocery, the cashier said “what’s this called again?”  I responded, “chayote squash.”  Then she said, “What do you do with these things?”  I told her I like to make a raw salad with it to serve with spicy foods, but that I know it’s often cooked as well.  I still haven’t tried any cooked preparations, but I really like this dish as one of those “something different” and healthy sides that really cuts the heat alongside a spicy main.  Raw, the cool and crunchy texture of this squash is somewhat similar to jicama with a very mild flavor.

Chayote Citrus Salad

  • half medium red onion: thinly sliced
  • one chayote squash: peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
  • one naval orange: peeled and segmented
  • one tablespoon (packed) chopped cilantro
  • juice from one lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • two teaspoons rice vinegar
  • one generous teaspoon honey
  • one tablespoon olive oil
Rinse red onion and pat dry.  Place into bowl.  Top with sliced squash, orange, and cilantro.  In a separate dish, combine lime, salt, vinegar, honey, and olive oil.  Pour dressing over salad ingredients.  Season additionally with salt and pepper as needed.  Let sit for about 30 minutes to allow flavors to develop, tossing occasionally.  Serve and enjoy.  As mentioned, I like to keep this mildly flavored as an accompaniment for something spicy, but it might be fun to add something with a little kick to the salad.

The New Cauliflower

Cauliflower.  What a misunderstood vegetable.  It’s most frequently served raw with dip or smothered with cheese sauce.  In fact, if that’s the only way you usually eat your cauliflower you may feel pretty indifferent about the vegetable.  I know I always did, until I discovered the beauty of roasted cauliflower.  This easy technique will help get you started, but the mild flavor of cauliflower make it a great canvas for creativity in the kitchen.

Basic Roasted Cauliflower
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Chop cauliflower coarsely or divide into florets (for a finer presentation).  Make sure to dry the florets well after rinsing.
Toss with olive oil (about 2 tablespoons for a full head of cauliflower) and season generously with salt and pepper.
Roast for about 30 minutes (stir halfway through) or until it has reached your desired level of caramelization.

Enjoy as is, or try one of these suggested toppings.
– Lightly sprinkle with Parmesan
– Toss in a bit of sriracha for a kick
– Drizzle lightly with black truffle oil
– Garnish with finely chopped fresh herbs

Asparagus with Blood Orange Syrup

The asparagus looked great and was on sale, so I had to pick some up.  While I like asparagus simply done, it is nice to spice things up now and again.  I happened to have a blood orange in the fridge, so I thought it would dress up my green vegetable a bit.  I had never bought a blood orange before, but I will be buying them again for sure.  What a striking fruit!  After slicing in and exposing the bright red flesh, I almost didn’t want to juice it and disturb its beauty.

Blood Orange Syrup


  • Juice from one blood orange (mine yielded about 3/4 cup)
  • Scant 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Scant 1/4 teaspoon turbinado (or other) sugar
  • 2 teaspoon  olive oil
  • A few turns of the pepper mill
  • Zest from orange
  • Place juice in small saucepan and let cook over medium for 5 minutes.  Add sugar and salt and let it dissolve.  Reduce heat to low and cook for another 5 minutes or until juice resembles a syrup.  Stir in olive oil and season with pepper to taste.  This will be salty…but you will not add any other salt so this will season the asparagus well.

Simple Indoor Grilled Asparagus

  • 1 lb. asparagus (cleaned, ends trimmed)
    Heat a lightly oiled grill pan over medium-high.  Cook for approximately 3-4 minutes on each side depending on size and preference.  I like mine to be flexible, but still crisp. 

    Drizzle syrup over asparagus and garnish with the zest.  I found the zest to be very mild, yet delicious–so feel free to garnish generously. I must admit I let my syrup reduce a little too much, so I had to move mine around to coat the spears.

    In review, this little spontaneous creation was tasty, easy…and something different, which was what I was going for.


  • Brussels Sprouts Perfection

    I love brussels sprouts.  Why this great little vegetable has gotten such a bad rap is beyond me.  Of course, as a fan I often want to try new recipes using the sprout…but I always come back to this easy preparation.

    This is more of a technique, than a recipe.

    Perfect Roasted Brussels Sprouts

    • Brussels Sprouts (cleaned, towel dried, and sliced in half)
    • Good Olive Oil
    • Salt and Pepper

    Before Roasting

    Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Brush foil with olive oil and lightly cover with salt and pepper.  Place sprouts cut side down onto sheet.  Brush top of sprouts with more oil and lightly sprinkle with more salt and pepper.

    Roast these for about 15 minutes.  The edges of the top leaves will be starting to brown.
    These were particular large and beautiful brussels sprouts and took a little longer than normal– 18 minutes on the dot.

    After Roasting

    Here’s a shot of the finished product.  I turned one over to show the comparison. The cut side will be perfectly caramelized.

    Keep in mind that these will brown up a bit more while sitting in the pan, so if you aren’t plating them all right away, you may want to transfer to another dish.

    These are great topped with some finely grated parmesan for an extra treat!