Side Dishes

Spring has sprung … and so has asparagus! Time for a new twist on caprese. We’ve still got the colors of the Italian flag–red, white and green, y’know what I mean? I actually combined yellow and red tomatoes. But we’re roasting the vegetables here. And, though you can certainly add fresh basil, I didn’t. I figure one flavor of something green keeps it simple.

inspired by

1 pound asparagus, snap off woody ends
Extra-virgin olive oil to coat the vegetables
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 oz. ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
Your favorite balsamic vinegar to drizzle (I used Seven Barrels’ Prickly Pear)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Arrange asparagus spears on one half of a large, rimmed baking sheet. On the other half, spread out the tomatoes in an even layer. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, toss to coat. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Bake till asparagus is tender–about 20 minutes. To plate, arrange a portion of asparagus, and top with tomatoes. Add a layer of fresh mozzarella slices, then a few more tomatoes. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!

You don’t need me to tell you we can make pesto out of herbs other than basil. But I’m here to share because I like how this came out and, selfishly, I’d like to document it so I can do it again.

I bought a rather large container of baby arugula to use for other things earlier this week, so it seemed the right time to change up the pesto game. It’s so easy! Here we go.

2 cups arugula, loosely packed
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup pignoli (pine nuts), toasted
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
juice of one lemon
freshly ground pepper to taste

Add nuts to a small skillet over medium heat. Add nuts to pan; cook until lightly toasted, about 4 minutes or so, shaking the pan constantly. Set pan aside to cool a bit.

Add nuts and garlic to food processor; process till minced.

Add arugula, oil, salt and pepper; process until blended, scraping sides as needed. Add lemon and cheese; process until smooth.


Toss with pasta of your choice–we had gemelli. Be sure to save a bit of your pasta water (or don’t drain the pasta all the way) to blend with the pesto when you initially toss the pasta and pesto together to coat. What you see on top is pure pesto, though.


Oh, hey--since you’re already here, would you like a bonus round with this easy recipe? It’s called “what to do with a bag of spinach when you thought you were going to make stuffed mushrooms and only had four mushrooms left.” OOPS!

an accidental side dish

1 9-oz. bag fresh spinach
4 mushrooms sliced (more would have been better, then we could’ve stuffed them, but this isn’t science, so, by all means, use more if you have them!)
1 clove garlic, pressed
butter to coat the bottom of a large saute pan
1 oz. cream cheese
dash of salt

Melt butter in large saute pan over medium heat. Add sliced mushrooms. When those have cooked down and browned a bit, add the garlic and stir for just a minute. Add spinach. Cover so it steams down to the point you can stir it all together–this happens pretty quickly.

Add an ounce of cream cheese and a dash of salt. When the cream cheese has melted in to form a creamy sauce, it’s ready to serve.


Let’s hear it for Yankee ingenuity! And Yankee thrift, too, I suppose. Cheers to that!



Warmer weather calls for easy dishes that come together quickly and take advantage of what’s fresh and may be even growing outside your door. For a pasta salad that practically screams TAKE ME TO A PARTY! look no further than this easy recipe. 🙂 And for a simple summer supper at home, just halve the recipe and enjoy.


good handful of fresh parsley, chopped coarsely
2/3 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
zest of 2 lemons (and juice of 1 lemon)
Optional: a couple of thyme sprigs

Pasta Salad
1 pound pasta, cooked/drained (I used bite-size rigatoni; double elbows would be great, too)
2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 pound ciliegine (small, cherry-sized fresh mozzarella), halved
1/3 pound peppered salami, sliced about 1/4″ thick, then cubed–about two slices
1/4 cup basil (I used a combo of Genovese and lemon basil), chiffonade

Whisk together dressing ingredients to let the flavors meld. Just before I started cooking the pasta, I let the tomatoes hang out in the dressing a bit.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Right before you’re ready to add the pasta, combine dressing, tomatoes, mozzarella, salami and basil–mix well. Drain pasta, add to other ingredients, making sure everything is coated/combined. Serve warm. Leftovers go in the fridge, of course. GNAM GNAM GNAM. Mangia! Mangia!




Summertime and squash is everywhere! Let’s make the best of what’s bountiful with this simple side. It’s super-easy and a little cheesy with a nice, buttery crunch on top.


To cook the squash
4 heaping cups squash (I used 3 yellow squash and 2 zucchini), sliced
1 medium sweet onion, halved, then sliced thin
1.5 tablespoons butter

To add once the vegetables are cooked
1 cup shredded cheddar
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

For the topping
1 tablespoon melted butter
scant 2/3 cup panko
some extra shredded cheddar to sprinkle over the top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch square pan.

Melt butter in a saute pan. Add onions and squash.

squash saute
Cook till tender and the onions start to get a bit of color.

Remove from heat, then add cheese, mayo, egg, salt and pepper. Pour into buttered baking dish.

Combine one tablespoon of melted butter with panko. Sprinkle evenly over top, then sprinkle a bit of additional shredded cheddar over that.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

And in the wise words of Farmer Brown, ♫ For variety and vitamins and feeling rooty-toot, eat a veg-a-bread-a-milk-a-cheese-a-bean-a-meat-a-fruit–eat a variety every day! ♫ Live life in balance and be happy! 😀 My man!

brown sugar pork chops with salt lick baked potatoes

Some of my favorite dishes shouldn’t qualify as recipes as they’re so easy–so here are two for the price of one. They go quite nicely together. And they’re a quick and delicious meal to make during the week when you’re short on time.


For the chops
2 pork chops (ours were somewhere between 1/2″ and 3/4″ thick)
Penzeys Barbecue of the Americas
light brown sugar
olive oil

For the potatoes
2 russet potatoes, scrubbed
Kosher salt
butter at room temperature
sour cream (if you wish and I do!)
finely chopped scallions or chives (why not?)

Prep the potatoes first!
Preheat your oven to 475 degrees F. Scrub the potatoes, poke ’em with a fork all the way around.

While the potatoes are still wet, rub them with Kosher salt. Once the oven is up to temp, bake them for an hour and fifteen minutes (1:15). You can put them right on the oven rack, but if you prefer not to get salt all over your oven, simply set them in a pan.

Now would be a lovely time to make a salad or a tasty vegetable to go with. 🙂 But before you start, get the pork ready.

Pork chop prep
Sprinkle each side of both chops with Barbecue of the Americas and a bit of salt. Yes, the spice blend itself does contain salt, but you won’t go wrong with a bit more. Then take a good handful of light brown sugar and coat both sides. Press the sugar into the meat and let the chops come up to room temperature. They’ll take less than 10 minutes to cook–so think about kicking ’em off once your potatoes hit the hour mark.

When it’s time to cook the chops, coat a nonstick pan with olive oil and set it over medium heat. When the oil is heated and sizzles when the pork hits the pan, set a timer. It’ll only take about 3-4 minutes on each side–at least on my stove.

Et voilà–since you timed it right, it’s time for dinner! Grab those potatoes, be generous with the butter and sour cream and enjoy!


I woke up on Black Friday and decided to make cranberry sauce with vanilla. This is what happens when you’re supposed to be “as non-weight bearing as possible” and you go out for Thanksgiving dinner. You wake up the next day and realize there’s not enough cranberry sauce leftover. That’s gonna be a problem.

But I do have cranberries that I had bought to make muffins. And cranberry sauce is very easy to throw together. Sugar, some freshly squeezed orange juice or just plain water, vanilla. Wait. Bourbon has vanilla notes. Who needs just plain water? I have some lovely candied ginger in the house from Sundial Gardens, too. Problem solved.


½ cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar in the raw
¼ cup Maker’s Mark
12 oz. bag fresh or frozen cranberries
2 coins of crystallized (candied) ginger, minced fine
zest of one orange
¾ cup liquid (I squeezed 1/3 cup of juice from an orange, added enough water to make ¾ cup of liquid)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla (stir in at end)

The basic recipe is a cup of sugar, cup of water, a bag of cranberries. Where that road diverges in the wood and the path you take from there is completely up to you. 🙂

Combine the sugars and bourbon. Add all the remaining ingredients except the vanilla. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugars.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 15 minutes. The cranberries will burst and the sauce will begin to thicken. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract.

Your house will smell ah-MAYZ-ing! I love the smell of bourbon bubbling with brown sugar (and cranberries) in the morning!


And so will you. No more turkey at your house? Same here. Thankfully (HA, get it?) this tastes oh so good on its own, or might be nice spooned over a nice slice of pound cake, stirred into yogurt, baked with brie and puff pastry or crescent dough. So many possibilities–let me know what you decide.

Hope you’re having a warm and happy holiday weekend, amici!

The year is 1976. It’s the summer before my ninth birthday. There I am, smiling away (not much changes, right?) in Nanny and Poppy’s backyard on Silver Lane. In front of me is a freshly made batch of Nanny’s potato salad, still warm.


Dig our tablecloth on the picnic table, by the way. Is that a stylish touch or what? We weren’t wealthy, but we always had at least three things: each other, good food and a little bit of style.

My mom has that funny expression on her face. And that’s my uncle Greg on the other side of the table. It’s the first time I ever had Nanny’s potato salad. I remember liking it so much, we took some home. The next day, my mom dished out some out for me. Cold. “Aren’t you going to heat it up?” I asked.

So, that’s where it starts. Warm potato salad. It’s not just my childhood memory of how I think things should be. Thirty-seven years later, warm potato salad still sounds right to me.

I recently learned of Salad Olivier–a.k.a Insalata Russa or Russian Salad. How about that? Potatoes and carrots and peas and diced pickles! Doesn’t that sound good? Well, aren’t you going to heat it up? 🙂 It’s traditionally served cold, but it sure tastes great warm with the best wurst from Noack’s to go with! And, by now, you know the drill. Of course we’re gonna crinkle-cut those carrots.



2 pounds red potatoes, scrubbed, unpeeled, diced
2 cups frozen peas
3 carrots, peeled and crinkle-cut
1/3 of a large sweet onion, finely chopped (sauté in bacon grease or olive oil if you’re short on bacon)
about 1/4 cup of pickles, diced (I used Vlasic Stackers Zesty Dill—3 Stackers slices, very zesty indeed!)
black pepper to taste

1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 a fresh lemon, squeezed
¼ cup parsley, minced
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
2 teaspoons Penzey’s horseradish powder (yes, a random ingredient, but I like it–so add it if you have it!)

First, saute the onions. It’s handy if you’ve already made a trip to Noack’s. In addition to the best wurst, they also have killer bacon. Save the bacon drippings from breakfast and sizzle up the onions till nice and soft and golden. Set aside.

Now, may I suggest boiling the potatoes in a large stockpot of salted water? It’s really preferable to filling them to the brim of a pan that’s not quite big enough and watching them boil all over the stovetop. Oh, not like I know from personal experience or anything. Cook just till fork-tender and drain.

Meanwhile, same as the potatoes (badadas), boil the carrots till fork-tender. Add 2 cups frozen peas to the pan when the carrots are almost done—just throw ‘em in for about a minute or two.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a large bowl. Then fold the sauteed onions, warm potatoes, carrots and peas into the dressing. Don’t delay–serve right away with your favorite wurst. Or eat it cold if you must. Just heat up my portion, OK?


Let’s surry down to a stoned soul picnic with the family. ♫ Red yellow honey, sassafras and moonshine. ♫ I can only get there in my mind’s eye now, but if I could make it happen, I would definitely bring this potato salad. Warm. On a picnic table with a tablecloth, capisce? See you there!

Janey and Nanny

Janey and Nanny