Why are Side Dishes the Orphans of Menu Planning? I Offer a Solution and a Spice That Brings It All Together.
Want to stop side-lining your side dishes and find a way to make them center-stage? Read on as I take the humble carrot and make it worthy of adulation in this exotic take on a roasted root vegetable. Using the dried grassiness of saffron, the heat and heady pop of cinnamon, and complexity of Madagascar Black Peppercorn Oil, this side becomes mystical and fiendishly fabulous.
I submit that side dishes have received a truly bum rap when it comes to their vital place in completing a delicious meal. Y’all should be working harder to imagine something better. Because a BLING meal deserves MORE than mushy mashed ‘taters or overcooked beans. As proof let’s review any common restaurant menu. Entrees receive carefully curated language elevating the main course to enchantment-status. The list of sides? Well, it’s like an afterthought! “Oh, yeah. SLAW . . . $4.95.” Even a place like Ruth’s Chris steakhouse makes you order a side to get one. Otherwise, it’s just the cow on the plate. Yeah, we can do better when nourishing those we love!
I don’t take any side for granted. They receive the same love and care from me as the protein or even the wine pairing. But the trick to elevating side dishes isn’t just preparation or technique. It is using the BEST ingredients and the most interesting FLAVORS. Even salt and pepper are pivotal! Salt is meant to remind you of what you’re eating. But pepper? It pushes against the ingredient. Challenging it and intensifying it! That’s why this month’s BLING meal uses Olive This! MADAGASCAR BLACK PEPPERCORN OIL as the secret to greatness. Do not stop reading. This stuff is extraordinary!
So why does pepper make such a fabulous difference?
Wikipedia can be counted on for a direct yet lackluster definition of anything. Take pepper for instance: “Black pepper is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, known as a peppercorn, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. The fruit is drupe, which is about 5 mm in diameter, dark red, and contains a stone which encloses a single pepper seed...”
Yawn . . . wait. What the heck is drupe? See, research can be fascinating. And peppercorns in particular are more than just that blackish grain in the container next to your salt. Ground finely or coarse, they are deep in purpose, romantic in the results they offer, and clearly push the mundane to nobility!
As you get reach for your carrot peeler and launch your new commitment to side-dish greatness, do not take the combination of these flavors lightly. They are world-class. Cinnamon and pepper and saffron are routinely used together in many parts of the world. The un-boring parts I proffer. And here’s the other fun fact. This recipe is ridiculously easy. I mean peel, cut, toss, roast. And the jalapeño yogurt? Crack in a bowl. I served it with a red pepper meat loaf placed atop red quinoa I tossed with radicchio and spring mix and a little lemon vinaigrette.
Recipe for the carrots and meat loaf below.
RECIPE: Madagascar Peppercorn, Saffron, and Cinnamon Roasted Carrots over Jalepeno Honey Yogurt.
Serves 4 | Click to download a printable PDF
5 large, long, uniform in girth carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
¼ t fine grade cinnamon (like Vietnamese)
2 T Olive This! Madagascar Peppercorn Oil + a little more to rub on the jalapeños
½ t kosher salt1/8 T pepper
Pinch of saffron
2 T finely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
3 ounces Greek yogurt
1 large jalepeno halved, roasted, seeded, and finely chopped
1 t honey
Preheat oven to 450-degree F. Halve the jalapeño lengthwise. Place on a small baking pan lined with foil and rubbed with a bit of the Olive This! oil. Roast for about 20 minutes or until charred and soft. Remove seeds, stalk, and pith, chop into small pieces, add to the yogurt and add the honey. Mix well and set aside.
Reheat oven to 375-degree F. Peel and prep the carrots making sure all the long stalks are cut to relatively the same width and size. Place in a bowl large enough to toss them and add the Olive This! Madagascar Peppercorn Oil, cinnamon, saffron, salt, and pepper. Toss well until everything is covered evenly. Place in a baking dish lined with parchment paper. Drizzle the rest of any remaining oil and spice mixture over the carrots. Roast in oven for 25-28 minutes or until tender. Add the parsley and toss while hot. Serve over the jalapeño honey yogurt sauce.
(Serve with red pepper meatloaf and red quinoa and warm spring greens warm salad.)
©Photo and Recipes by Copyright, Camine Pappas, 2014 - 2022
RECIPE: Red Pepper Meatloaf
Serves 4 - 6 | Click here to download printable PDF
1 ¼ lb 90% lean ground beef
¼ C finely chopped shallot
¼ C finely chopped red pepper
1 large egg
¼ C Progresso Italian Breadcrumbs
1 heaping t Penzey’s Roast Beef Seasoning
1 T cream
¼ C chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
½ t kosher salt + ¼ t black pepper
Preheat oven to 375-degree F. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Form into a log and place atop a foil lined baking sheet. Bake for 28 minutes.
©Photo and Recipes by Copyright, Camine Pappas, 2014 - 2022
How a Plum Vinegar Created the Perfect Sweet Cranberry Sauce. (Especially over this Stuffed Chicken!)
Colorful and packed with tongue-tingling flavor, your next “chicken night” meal is transformed with the addition of this very easy sauce. By pickling the oranges and cranberries with the intense flavors of the Olive This! Umeboshi Plum White Balsamic Vinegar you achieve the perfect tartness. A nice balance against the salted pistachio and creamy goat cheese stuffing which literally melts in your mouth. Serve this gorgeous entrée with a little jasmine rice and your favorite green vegetable for a memorable holiday meal.
One might assume being tasked with recipe development focused on elevating oils and vinegars might be limiting. On the contrary. These ingredients are the cornerstones of every good meal. Without them you’re lost.
For instance, vinegars. Why the fuss? Well, most of us grew up thinking in terms of savory and sweet and never the twain shall meet. You put salt and pepper on your steak, and sugar on your cookies. Acidity was something that came into play when mom used her vinegar to clean glass or lemon juice to bleach a stain. Or maybe create a nice salad dressing but by that time we were sure Kraft invented salads. Other than the aforementioned, the complexity of all these flavors being combined and crossed over together was a mystery and probably rule-breaking. But in the world of true cooking, one must be mindful that many different tastes are needed for a satisfying and truly memorable meal.
There are really 4 main elements to almost every cuisine in the world and they’re beautifully explained by Samin Nosrat in her book SALT, FAT, ACID, HEAT. In it she shares this seminal advice: “Season food with the proper amount of salt at the proper moment; choose the optimal medium of fat to convey the flavor of your ingredients; balance and animate those ingredients with acid; apply the right type and quantity of heat for the proper amount of time—do all this and you will turn out vibrant and beautiful food, with or without a recipe.”
Yeah, this is my kind of narrative. It talks about food as though it were alive. And in truth, it is. Animate ingredients with acid? Fabulous. Without a recipe? Now you’re cooking with your senses and that is the foundation of what makes Bling Cuisine work. And so it is that I present to you this delicious recipe that combines all these elements. It’s danged gorgeous, too!
My creation began the moment I dribbled a bit of this vinegar on my tongue and listened to it tell me where it wanted to go. Since you most likely are not tasting it while reading this, I will tell you it is sweet but carries a kind of maraschino cherry-ness. A bit of spice that is slightly like licorice hits you at the end. YUMMM. As usual, I describe a recipe as though we’re on a tasting-journey. Then as I took another nibble, the idea came: I will use the vinegar to pickle some cranberries and oranges perhaps adding a bit of honey at the end. I will use this acidic element to balance the peppery, crunchiness of pistachio and the smooth, creaminess of the lemon-infused goat cheese all rolled inside a chicken breast. And when it came together in real life? Well, each bite was amazing. It was festive and fresh. And as Samin states, vibrant and beautiful!
#blingcuisine #caminecooks #ifeellikecooking #blingrecipes #holidayrecipes
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Meet the Cook...
My name is Camine Pappas and I love to create beautiful and delicious food that anyone can make. My signature style centers around a love for combining things in a way you might not expect as I work to find a hidden combination of colors, textures and flavors from the things that are in my pantry and/or easy to obtain.