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
Life. Revelation. Expectation. Disappointment. Fulfillment. Tears. Inspiration. Reality. Peace. Torture. Clarity. Love. These are some of the words I think of. I find they go hand in hand with each moment that fills the days we are given. They are alive, rhythmically shifting beneath a cover of organization, planning, and perceived control. The kind of control we all believe we have. And yet every bit of life is fragile beyond comprehension.
That's why memories and the moment are so profound. What will we make of life and the time we have left?
I was once asked if I had a “sense” of how many years I would live. Whether it is naïve or not, I have always believed it would be at least 100 years. It is a reasonable assumption since the life span of dozens on my ancestors has been well over the age of 90 over the last 300 hundred years. So after turning 60 this year, I can expect 40 more years of “life.”
What can I do to make it what I want it?
These 3 salads + 9 more recipes below = twelve mouth-watering downloads!
Ask a physicist about control. It is the most false claim of all. Called the “Observer Effect.” In physics, the observer effect is the theory that simply observing a situation or phenomenon necessarily changes that phenomenon.
Let me explain using a food metaphor: I want to see how my cake is faring during a bake. I open the oven door and … boom! I have changed the environment. So to discover what the cake was at the time I was curious is impossible, since I opened the oven door and shifted everything. But then, that's part of the dance, yes?
I have always said that food and your interaction with it is THE metaphor for life. Like a successful soufflé, you only know elation the second you take it out of the oven. And you only get to enjoy the show for about 5 minutes. Then, all of that work begins to deflate into a cavern of lost excitement leaving only the exquisiteness of the memory. So you better enjoy the moment.
I find that the way I cook changes from day to day, month to month, and circumstance to circumstance. We have moved twice since I started this blog. So my comfort zone of oven, lighting, and surroundings has changed drastically. The size of my kitchen has changed. My health has changed. And my countertop space has shrunken. This last year I have done more recipe development but less posting. More refining of technique but less concentration on hashtags or followers.
But that doesn’t matter. I still have a passion for all of it. I still feel like I can answer all of life’s questions during cooking. And I have been able to have so many, many, many more new friends around my table to nourish. And that makes life perfect for me.
Philosophy lesson is over. Now it is time to browse through and enjoy TWELVE, yes that is TWELVE new recipes. Lots of comfort food with my twist, a tasty side dish, several salads, and one terrific dessert.
#1 RECIPE: Slow Cooker Citrus Carnitas Burritos
My husbands' eyes always light up when he smells the pork slowly simmering in the crock pot since he knows his favorite burritos are on their way. The addition of lime and orange provide the perfect backdrop for cheese, and enchilada sauce, along with a cold margarita!
3 lbs. pork shoulder roast trimmed and cut into large chunks about 3” around
About 3 C organic apple cider*
2 clementines (can use small oranges) quartered
1 lime quartered
1 lime sliced for garnish
1/3 c large diced sweet onion
4 medium cloves garlic rough chopped
2 t kosher salt
1 t black pepper
1/2 t coriander
1/2 t good paprika
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t cayenne pepper
2-3 T oil
1 small can Old El Paso Enchilada Sauce
1 C cheddar cheese grated
Handful fresh chopped cilantro
6 small flour tortillas slightly warmed
Place meat, onion, citrus, and seasonings in slow cooker (Crock Pot). Toss all with a little oil to cover.
Cover with organic apple cider up to a level just below ingredients but not totally covering. Cook on low 7 hours. When done remove citrus, take out meat reserving juice and shred meat with fork. Put shredded meat back in juices. Heat small can of Old El Paso red enchilada sauce.
To assemble place large amount of shredded meat in center of tortilla. (Use tongs to remove meat and let it drip so meat isn’t full of juice. Ladle several T of heated red sauce on top of meat. Roll up. Put more enchilada sauce on top, then top with extra sharp cheddar cheese. Put under broiler until bubbly. Serve with a slice of lime and cilantro.
#2 RECIPE: Baked Pineapple Chicken Meatballs
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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.