Sunday, May 7, 2017

It's All About the Sides...About the Sides.....About the sides...Three Delicious Side Dishes!!!

Cuz It's All About the Sides, About the Sides.....

All of my posts since May 31, 2012, when I posted my very first recipe on this site, have been either a main protein or pasta of a meal, but I have never focused on sides much.  Today, this post is all about the sides.  Three of them, to be exact. First, pasta nests, next, new potato bacon-wrapped roses and finally, a fresh, zingy herb and tomato rotelle pasta salad. Let's just get to it, shall we? 

I first made pasta nests as a main dish, but I realized that this is quite a practical side dish and should be served with a protein, such as lamb, chicken or pork or a main vegetable.  I purchased linguine pasta nests at my local grocer.  I made a simple mix of onion, garlic and tomato medley (different small tomatoes I halved) and herbs. Now, when I first made this I tossed the aromatics and tomatoes with Italian sausage, garnished with crisped pancetta, shaved parmesan and herbs, but I realized then that this should be a delectable side dish without the sausage. It was great with it, but as a side dish, perfect as a sauceless pasta side. 

One pint fresh halved tomato medley, two cloves finely chopped garlic and half yellow onion, finely chopped; 4 rolled, chiffonade basil leaves, three fresh thyme sprigs and 3 fresh oregano sprigs, leaves stripped.

Bring a pot with about for quarts of water to a boil and liberally salt the water and stir.  Use tongs or a spider (kitchen tool) to gently add the nests to the water.  Let them be and do not tough them.  They should remain intact.  Let them boil untouched about eight minutes or however long your package says to cook them to al dente. Remove the nests when done and place the nests on a wire rack covered by a paper towel until to allow the extra water to drain. If you are not going to use them immediately, cover them with foil to keep the nests moist.  Try to use them immediately after they drain. 

Meanwhile, in a skillet with three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, saute the onion, garlic, flat leaf Italian parsley, salt and pepper until the onions are just translucent.  Add the tomatoes and a tab of butter. This will help add a sheen to the aromatics and tomatoes. Add the thyme leaves and half of the basil and stir.  This process should take no more than ten minutes, tops.  Next, plate the nest with the main protein and add a ladle of the saute over the top of the nest and garnish with some of the remaining basil and fresh shaved parmesan cheese. 

This is a photo of a nest with the saute including Italian sausage, crisped pancetta, aged balsamic drizzle, fresh shaved parmesan and chiffonade basil. Delicious as a main dish, fantastic and elegant as a side dish!

Now, on to the Rose Garden.....

While I certainly wish I could claim this as my own brilliant idea, I cannot.  I saw it on Facebook and decided to make it, myself.  Easy, flavorful and beautiful. Now, I did not follow the exact directions. I was under a time crunch and had to improvise a bit. This is what I did....

I took six round red new potatoes and washed them well.  I used a mandolin to slice the potatoes into thin discs.  My mistake was to shave them too thick. I had in my pantry a bottle of chimichurri sauce and poured a good cup of it into a bowl and retrieved a brush.  The original video recipe called for a fresh herb chimichurri with melted butter.  

On a cutting board used just for the rose process, I laid out six strips of hickory smoked bacon. I brushed each slice with the chimichurri and layered the potato discs like scales from one end of the bacon to the other and brushed them with the chimichurri and sprinkled with finely grated Fontina and parmesan cheeses. Before rolling, I preheated the oven to 350-degrees and sprayed a regular-sized muffin pan with non-stick extra virgin olive oil spray. 

I folded over the bacon and potato closest to me and tightly rolled it until the opposite end was met. Next, I took the rolled rose and placed it carefully into a sprayed muffin tin.  I repeated the process five more times until I had six roses.  Being my first time, they did not all turn out beautiful, but I was able to get a great photo or two. I had served these with my favorite ribeye steak. 

This one turned out beautifully. 

I baked the roses for twenty minutes until golden brown, but I have learned that thirty minutes is even better for crisping the bacon wrapper, depending on the calibration of your oven. Thirty for mine, for sure. 

In any event, allow the roses to rest a few minutes before removing from the muffin tin. Be careful when removing; use a narrow spatula to encircle the muffin tin and gently scoop out the rose and plate it. 

As I mentioned above, I served the roses with a seasoned and seared ribeye steak, my favorite steak. 

I love adding butter and fresh herbs to the skillet or cast iron skillet to baste and flavor the steak. 

***And Now, My Tangy Cool Pasta Salad***

I have had the pleasure - well, mostly - of tasting as well as making dozens of pasta salad recipes since the 1980's when I was a darn good griller.  I am, still, a good griller, but I had more time to grill back then.  I also had much more hair, an actual neck and a waistline, but it is all good and relative. 😏  This pasta salad took several years of trial and error, different ingredients, different pastas, different dressings.  My homemade vinaigrette dressing and fresh herbs and rotelle pasta have become my utter favorite. Let's get to it, shall we?

1 cucumber, partly peeled and sliced into small cubes
3 scallions w/greens, sliced at an angle
2 shallots, finely sliced into crescents
3-4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf Italian parsley 
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 cloves garlic, grated
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
1 pound rotelle or rotini pasta

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil or grape seed oil
3 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, grated
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt and pepper
1 rounded teaspoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
3 fresh basil leaves, rolled, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano
zest of one lemon and juice of half a lemon

The prep-work is the hard part and takes about twenty minutes. The rest is a breeze and when chilled and the vinaigrette allowed to marry with the pasta and the veg and herbs, the result is deliciousness on a grand scale. 

Once you have made the vinaigrette to your liking, reserve 1/4 cup of it.  Set aside in the frig. 

Bring four quarts of water to a roiling boil and liberally salt it.  Yes, you is your only chance to season the pasta.  Add one pound of the rotelle or your favorite pasta salad pasta and cook just beyond al dente by a minute or two.  Strain and set aside to begin cooling.  

After about four minutes, use a spoon to toss the pasta to keep it from sticking.  I chose rotelle (though any tightly spiral pasta, such as rotini, works great) because its spiral collects the sauce and herbs very well.  Add the fresh herbs and veggies to the vinaigrette and stir.  Little-by-little, add a cup of pasta to the vinaigrette and veg and toss to allow the vinaigrette to coat all the pasta evenly. 

The longer you can allow the pasta to marry with the vinaigrette, the better.  The salad should cool in the frig for at least two hours prior to serving, but chilling for several hours would be best.  Even overnight.  That is why I reserved some of the vinaigrette. I add it to the salad shortly prior to serving and toss it again to freshen it up a bit. Adding a drizzle of evoo is a delicious way to brighten up the salad, too!

I served this salad with a delectable, savory, cheesy burger. 

  I hope you enjoyed this rather rambling blog post, for which I am grateful for your attention and time!!! I hope you have formulated some ideas for sides and have been inspired by one or all of these recipes.  Make them your own and enjoy!  

Now, go cook something for someone you love!❤ 

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