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Season's Eatings: Stunning Sides

by Alexandra Harcharek

Winter Salad with Apples and Caramelized Pecans
This hearty, tangy kale salad is perfect to break through a spread of rich dishes and desserts.

3 cups raw green kale
1 lemon
1/2 carrot, shredded
1 apple
Sharp white cheddar

For dressing:
2 tbsp. honey
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. vegetable broth (optional, adds richness)
Fresh tarragon
Salt and pepper

For pecans:
1/4 cup whole pecans
Ground cinnamon
Cayenne pepper

Marinate kale in juice of a whole lemon for 30 minutes. When prepped, thinly cut a crisp apple into very thin slices. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the block of cheddar. Add cheddar, apples and shredded carrot to kale leaves and toss. Next, make dressing by whisking together the honey, olive oil, vinegar, flax seeds, fresh tarragon leaves and mustard. Whisk vigorously until blended, then add the broth (if using) and salt and pepper to taste. The dressing should be slightly sweet and tangy. Pour over the kale. For the pecans, add 1 part sugar and 1 part water in a small saute pan and cook over medium heat until the sugar melts and bubbles to a dark brown. Add pecans to the sugar and stir with a rubber spatula until coated. Add a dash each of cinnamon and cayenne pepper, stir to coat. Remove from heat and tip out onto parchment paper. Let cool, then chop to separate any nuts that stuck together. Sprinkle caramelized pecans across the kale and toss with salad tongs. Serve.

Potato Latkes

1 lb. potatoes, peeled
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 cup olive oil

Using a box grater, coarsely grate all the potatoes into a colander with small holes. Push to drain out as much liquid as possible. Transfer to a large bowl and mix with onion, egg and salt. In a deep pan, heat 1/4 cup olive oil until shimmering. Working in small batches, drop 2 tbsp. of the batter into hot oil at a time, flattening with a fork as you cook. Cook each side until browned and crisp, about 5 minutes on each side. Use a slotted spoon to transfer cooked latkes to a paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle with a bit more salt if desired. Add more oil as needed to finish the whole batch. Serve latkes warm or room temperature with applesauce and/or sour cream.

Pumpkin Apple Soup

2 lbs fresh pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 large onion, peeled and sliced lengthwise
1 cup apples, peeled
1 tbsp. olive oil
5 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp. fresh sage
1/2 tbsp. fresh thyme
1 tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 375 F. Coat pumpkin or squash chunks, onion and apples in oil and roasted on a baking tray for 25-30 minutes, until soft and tender. Remove from oven and add to a large stock pot. Add broth and herbs and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Using an immersion blender (or small batches added to a food processor), puree until smooth. Add butter in small pieces for richness. To serve, drizzle with molasses if desired and top with toasted pumpkin seeds.

Orange Cranberry Sauce

2 cups fresh cranberries
2 cups sugar
Zest from 1/2 orange
2 tbsp. Campari (optional)

In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, combine cranberries and sugar. Bring to a boil. Add orange zest and Campari (if using). Boil for approximately 5 minutes until cranberries burst and sauce begins to thicken. Remove from heat and stir. Let set and serve warm or chilled.

Wild Rice Stuffing

1 1/2 cups wild rice blend
2 tbsp. butter
3 large celery stalks, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
3/4 cup whole pecans, toasted
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
3 scallions, greens and whites, thinly sliced on an angle
1/2 cup celery leaves, torn
Salt and pepper

Cook wild rice in a rice cooker, using your machine’s directions. In a frying pan, sauté two thirds of the chopped celery and all of the onion in butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant. Add garlic and cook an additional minute. Add in rice and stir until coated with butter and vegetables are mixed throughout. Stir in dried fruits and transfer to a large serving bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper. Fold in toasted pecans and reserved third of chopped celery. Garnish with scallions and serve.

Spinach Salad with Fruit

1 bag fresh baby spinach leaves, washed and spun dry
1/2 cup strawberries
1 small apple, cored and thinly sliced
1/4 cup red grapes
1/3 cup whole walnuts, toasted
3 oz. soft goat cheese

For dressing:
1/2 cup raspberry vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

In a blender, add all dressing ingredients together and whir until emulsified. Assemble salad by arranging spinach leaves in a serving bowl; top with thinly sliced strawberries, apple slices, grapes and toasted walnuts. Crumble soft goat cheese over top and season with a bit of freshly cracked pepper and salt. Drizzle dressing over salad and serve.

Zucchini and Feta Latkes

2 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup shredded potatoes
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tbsp. flour
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup vegetable or olive oil

Press as much moisture out of zucchini and potatoes as possible, patting with paper towels to soak up water. In a large bowl, add zucchini, potatoes and eggs and mix until combined. Fold in feta cheese gently. Add flour to thicken and soak up more moisture. Season with salt and pepper and stir again. In a large deep frying pan, heat 1/4 cup oil until shimmering. Fry spoonfuls of zucchini batter in small batches, pressing down with a fork to flatten each latke. Cook about 2-3 minutes on either side, until browned and crisp. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Serve with applesauce and sour cream.

Stuffed Peppers
Feeds four as a side dish.

2 large green bell peppers
1 cup cooked white rice
1/2 lb lean ground beef
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, shredded
1 tbsp. dried Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 F. Halve the peppers lengthwise; core and remove seeds. In a pan, cook ground beef, seasoning with Italian herbs, salt and pepper. Add cooked rice to pan and stir until well combined. Place peppers, cut side up, into a roasting tin. Stuff with rice and beef mixture. Top with shredded cheese and season with salt and pepper. Cook 10-15 minutes until peppers are tender and cheese is browned (you may broil for 1 minute once cooked, to achieve a beautifully browned top). Remove from oven and serve immediately. Peppers can also be stuffed ahead of time, refrigerated and cooked once guests arrive.

Leek Tart

1 pre-baked pastry shell (available in frozen food aisle)
1 stick unsalted butter
5-6 leeks, washed and slices
1/2 tbsp. flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 eggs
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup Swiss cheese, grated
1 tsp. English mustard

Melt butter in a large pan and add leeks. Cook, stirring often, over low heat for 20-25 minutes, until soft. Stir in flour and season with salt and pepper; cook for a 3 minutes, then add milk and cream. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring until smooth. Season well and let cool. Once cooled, beat in eggs and yolks and add cheese and mustard. Preheat oven to 375 F. Spoon leek mixture into the pastry shell and bake for 30 minutes, until fully set and golden on top. Remove from oven; let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Stuffing Balls
A simple stuffing mix remixed into something extraordinary.

1 box best-quality stuffing mix
1/2 onion, diced
1 can chicken broth
1/2 cup cooked sausage crumbles
1 cup celery, chopped
1/2 tbsp. Italian seasoning
Handful of fresh parsley, torn
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, mixing until well combined and moist. Shape stuffing into walnut-sized balls, packing with your hands. Arrange into a greased baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Bake 20-25 minutes until brown and crisp.

Braised Tarragon Carrots

1lb. carrots, washed and peeled
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tbsp sugar
½ cup chicken or vegetable broth
Fresh tarragon
Salt and pepper

Chop all carrots into even medallions, sliced on a diagonal for a more aesthetic look. In a large, deep frying pan over medium-high flame, melt butter and oil together. Once heated, add carrots and stir to coat. Add sugar to pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots start to brown and slightly caramelize. Reduce heat and add broth to pan, as well as a handful of fresh tarragon leaves, salt and pepper. Cook, covered, until carrots are tender but not mushy. Remove from heat and garnish with additional tarragon sprigs.

Green Bean Casserole

1 1/2 lbs fresh green beans, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
10 oz. white mushrooms, chopped (stems discarded)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp flour
3/4 cup vegetable broth
1 tbsp. dry sherry
3/4 cup milk

For topping:
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 tbsp. margarine
2 shallots, sliced into strips
Salt and Pepper

Cook the green beans in a pot of salted, boiling water for about six minutes, until just tender. Drain and set aside. In a large deep frying pan, sauté the chopped mushrooms in oil for 5 minutes. Add garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are very soft and exude their juices, then remove from heat. Add vegetable broth and sherry and whisk in flour until the mixture thickens. Add milk and simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. To make topping, sauté shallots in a bit of oil until brown and crispy. In a food processor, pulse breadcrumbs, margarine, salt and pepper until crumbly. Pour into a bowl and add the shallots. Stir to combine. To assemble, put the green beans into an oiled casserole dish, pour mushroom mixture over top and finish with the bread crumb topping. Bake at 425 F for 20 minutes, until browned and bubbly.

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 10 (December, 2011).
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