Category Archives: Sides

What are Crowder Peas?

I have a problem. Among the piles of mini green peppers and the baskets of tennis ball-sized tomatoes at the market last week, there were a few quart bags packed to the Ziploc with little greenish yellow beans. “Crouch peas,” was what I thought the vendor said, and she told me how delicious they are simmered for hours with salt, pepper, some butter and maybe some smoked meat. Despite having a very-low paying job and an intercontinental trip coming up, I apparently also have very low resistance to buying new food. Five-dollar mystery beans for dinner, anyone?

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Christmas ’til King’s Day: Chesnuts and Brussels Sprouts

This year I found out that in Spain, Christmas isn’t as much a holiday as a two-week festivus. I like this plan, and pretended it was still Christmas until Jan. 6, the days the three kings supposedly came to offer their gifts to Jesus.

As last Friday was Epiphany, complete with King’s cake, I figured it was time to put the last of the roasted chesnuts to bed. If you’ve never had roasted chestnuts, they have a surprisingly sweet, meaty taste, and I didn’t want to just throw them into oatmeal or on salad.

I love when they look like hearts.

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Mark Bittman: Genius

I don’t own any Mark Bittman cookbooks, but every time I’ve used someone else’s, I am always confused by how easy the recipes are. Put salmon in a pan with butter and spices? Sounds too simple; turns out to be totally delicious.

I’d been running out of ideas and energy for veggies and salads when I came across an old Bittman article: Recipes for 101 Simple Salads for the Season.


Tonight I will give this bad boy a shot:

27. Cook whole, unpeeled eggplant in a dry, hot skillet or on a grill, turning occasionally, until completely collapsed and soft. Chop and toss with toasted pita, toasted pine nuts, cooked white beans and halved cherry tomatoes. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice and lots of black pepper. Or a (non-vegan) yogurt dressing is good, especially one laced with tahini.

Other salads I bookmarked for later:

Fall Favorites
16. Slice fennel and crisp apple about the same thickness (your choice). Combine, then dress with mustardy vinaigrette and chopped parsley. Come fall, this will be even better.

81. Soak sliced prune plums or figs in balsamic vinegar for a few minutes, then add olive oil, chopped celery and red onion, shreds of roasted or grilled chicken, chopped fresh marjoram or oregano and chopped almonds. Serve on top of or toss with greens. So good.

Combinations I Never Considered
92. Simmer a cup of bulgur and some roughly chopped cauliflower florets until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Toss with chopped tarragon, roughly chopped hazelnuts, minced garlic, Dijon mustard, olive oil and lemon juice.

I Love Avocado
21. Dice cucumbers (if they’re fat and old, peel and seed them first) and toss with cubes of avocado, a little mirin (or honey), rice vinegar and soy sauce. (You could mix in a little lump crab meat, even rice, and call it a California roll salad.)

44. Make a crisp grilled cheese sandwich, with good bread and not too much good cheese. Let it cool, then cut into croutons. Put them on anything, but especially tomato and basil salad. This you will do forever.

Lessons in Plaintains

A couple weeks ago I hosted a student from Lehigh’s Global Village program. The kitchens they usually use for their group dinner are under renovation, so I lent the L-shaped kitchen of my 1860s Bethlehem apartment to the cause. In return I got invited to gorge myself on cuisine from 26 countries, but that’s another story.

The student, Vanessa, made plantanos en tentacion, or Temptation Plantains. Easy, cheap, tasty!

We were discussing how plantains are are something like the potato of Latin America, so I’d have to compare this to sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving, but more hearty.

Plantain-choosing tip: For this dish you want the plantains to be very ripe. Yellow to black is best.

Fashion safety tip: Wash your hands after handling the plantains, or you could stain your clothes!

Plantanos en tentacion (serves 4 people)
Butter (at least 2 Tbsp)
3 or 4 ripe plantains
Dark brown sugar
Cinnamon sticks

Start by slicing the peel off the plantains by gently running a knife along the skin. Peel and chop the plantains into 3/4 inch pieces. Melt butter into a deep frying pan and add the plantain. Sprinkle brown sugar liberally on top, and cook at very low heat until they start to brown. Add water to cover plantains halfway and add 4 or 5 broken cinnamon sticks, allow to simmer for about a half an hour.

Plantains should be a brownish color and feel soft to the taste, a little bit mealy. Serve as a side dish with rice.