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Brussels Sprouts with Leeks, Lemon and Pasta

brussels sprouts with leeks, lemon and pasta

One of the great troubles I find in cooking is getting good side dishes to go with whatever else I’m serving. With few fresh vegetables available from local sources, you really don’t have a lot to choose from. But this one, you can serve either as a light main serving or as a side, depending on the situation, and the Brussels sprouts with leeks and pasta are very good in both cases.

I saw the first such recipe on a Bon Appetite site and after researching it, found several others that were similar, and decided to make my own version, with a little bit more pasta and a lot more lemon and garlic. You can play with this recipe a good bit without ruining it, and come up with your own version, if you like. It’s really that easy. And I love the nice brownness that really makes the Brussels sprouts come alive.

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Ham and Corn Risotto

Ham and Corn Risotto

So we all know risotto, that lovely rice dish, is definitely an Italian original. This ham and corn risotto (though I don’t know it’s heritage), is most likely something cooked up probably a good way from Italy. That said, there still is something about smoked ham and good corn that makes this risotto as good as it could ever come from Italy or anywhere else.

I should probably mention that under almost any circumstances, I’m good for risotto just about anytime you could bring it up. There is something about that Arborio rice and chicken broth that really gets me going. So when I came across the recipe from Southern Living, I had to try it and man, was it good. I did resort to making the risotto the traditional way, with lots of care in the execution, but apart from that, I really didn’t change a whole lot.

Give this a try. I think you’ll like it.

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Twice Baked Potatoes

twice baked potatoes

It’s one of those days when a great little side dish is needed and there isn’t much around the house except the usual kinds of things you might find in almost any house — OK, well my house, anyway. That’s where these twice baked potatoes come into play. You get a good, filling, side dish that you can dress up just about any way you like (within reason) and end up with something plain, fancy or maybe something in-between.

This recipe is pretty much a basic version, with a little bit of Italian to it. You’ll need a bit of Parmesan cheese, garlic, chives, butter, sour cream and milk and that’s about it. You could also do bacon-cheddar and a whole host of other possibilities. Your call. I think there is probably a limit to what you might do to each potato, but it still leaves a whole lot of room to play, if you’re willing.

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Corn with Thyme and a Little Garlic Butter

Corn with Thyme and Garlic Butter

There is nothing better than a great little side dish that adds just a hint of spice, and a bit of filling stuff without messing up that grand presentation you’ve got coming for the main dish. That’s where this little corn with thyme dish comes into play. I haven’t done a lot of side dishes here at Discovery Cooking, but this one, no matter how simple, is one you should always have around.

First off, the corn. When the late summer and early fall are on the line, good fresh corn right from the farmer’s market is definitely in order here. There is nothing quite like good fresh corn, and there is nothing quite like it. Trouble is, for most of us, that’s a pretty small window to hit. If your one of those lucky ones who have corn you’ve actually canned, that’s generally a good substitute. For the rest of us, high-quality frozen corn is often what we’re left with, but guess what? It’s often way better than some of the two and three-day old corn sold as fresh in the super markets. So there.

The second thing to remember is the thyme. If you can’t get fresh thyme, don’t even try this. The thyme is what gives this dish most of the flavor and there is nothing quite like that flavor.  Good news, if you’re growing some thyme in the backyard, but in most days, you can now get fresh thyme in most grocery stores. The main thing is to add the thyme a little bit at a time until you’ve got just the right amount, and that may vary from when and where you’ve got it.

Add in just a little garlic in the butter sauce and you’re on your way.

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Twice Fried Fries with Bacon and Cheese

twice fried fries

How do you make a great french fry? I’m gonna guess, despite the simplicity in frying potatoes, that there are plenty of answers to that question, but I’m gonna offer up my best guess — it’s twice fried fries. I know, probably about half of you out there already knew that, and the rest are using frozen fries (I’ll come back to those) or good old, once fried fries.

If you’re just trying to figure out why twice fried fries works, there’s a great piece at Serious Eats, which explains it pretty well. But I happen to like a story told to me by a French colleague, in which a chef on a train was trying to make some potatoes, somehow lost power and then had to restart them. What he found was that the new potatoes were more interesting and far more crunchy, which became the eventual story for french fries, as well. 

And then there are frozen fries, many — or some of them, anyway — have already been fried even before you get them. At least the good ones do that. 

The recipe below is for my twice fried fries done with a nice hot cheddar cheese and a pile of bacon bits. In the best world, I could just live on these things year round. They are very good and a perfect example of why twice fried fries really does work. They are just gooey with tons of bacon bits. I love them.

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Orzo and Rice Pilaf

orzo and rice pilaf

Here is a very good summer dish to help take care of those zucchini, which must now be about to take over your garden. It’s a simple orzo and rice pilaf, with lots of veggies and plenty of chicken broth (or vegetable broth), and with a finishing touch of zucchini at the end that just steams lightly and gives it a nice crunch.

I like the idea of using orzo with a rice pilaf, it make the whole dish a little more interesting and, I don’t know, adds a really nice pasta effect to the dish that smaller pasta just seems to miss. You can also make this a more or less vegetarian dish by using vegetable pasta. Personally, I use the chicken version because it adds a bit of (what I think is necessary) flavor, but if you had some really good vegetable sauce, by all means feel free to give it a try.

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Zucchini with Thai Sauce

Zucchini with Thai Sauce

I enjoy a lovely — and no cook — recipe for summer sides, and this zucchini with Thai sauce is just perfect. You can make the sauce well ahead of time and the zucchini and red peppers can be made just a little before hand. You really can’t beat it, especially on a very hot summer day. 

First the zucchini. That part is really very easy, since all you need is one of those little mandolin or one of those rope-making appliances that turn the veggies into, well, ropes. Honestly, the one I have cost me all of $10, and you can use them for a whole lot of other veggies and fruits, too. 

The Thai sauce — I have no idea why I call it that, except that it has some peanuts and chili — is extremely easy to make as well, but combines a dab of peanut butter with a number of other ingredients. If you want to just call it a peanut sauce, that works OK with with me. I believe this may have come from an older Gourmet or maybe from some other source, but we’ve been making it here at Discovery Cooking for many years and by now, I suspect, it has enough modifications to make it our own.

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