Tag Archives: Side dish

World’s Best Corn on the Cob

Every summer, when the amazing fields in the area produce the most amazing vegetables, I imagine all sorts of delicious ways to devour them.  The recipes are in all of the popular magazines and newspaper food sections.  But then, year after year, I find that simply grilling the veggies and not adding anything beyond the occasional splash of balsamic is really the best.  No need to add cheese of this or that sort.  No desire to try the lovelies in casseroles.  Just grill the veggies lightly and let the natural flavors speak for themselves.  Mmmmm.

Until now.   This recipe may sound odd.    Ok, it does sound odd.  Mayo on corn?  But trust me on this one.  Your mouth will do the happy dance when you eat the world’s best corn on the cob concoction ever!

World’s Best Corn on the Cob

serves 8


  • 6 TBS mayonnaise
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup Cotija cheese, crumbled
  • 8 ears of fresh corn
  • 2 limes, quartered


Short version: mix first 4 ingredients, grill corn, schmear corn with mayo mix, roll in cotija cheese, serve with lime for squeezing on the corn.

Explicit version:

  1. Stir together mayonnaise, garic, salt and cayenne until well combined.  Crumble cheese onto a dinner plate.
  2. Preheat the grill to medium heat.  Carefully pull back the husks of the corn, remove the silks. and pull the husks back up.  Put the corn on the grill, turning every 10 minutes and moving the cobs on the grill so they each cook evenly.  When the corn is cooked, about 30 minutes, remove from the grill and set aside until just cool enough to handle.
  3. Pull back the husks so they create a handle for the corn cob, using a brush or your hands, cover each cob with a light coat of the mayonnaise mixture then roll in the crumbled cheese.
  4. Serve with lime to squeeze onto the cobs.
  • If you can get your hands on some Brentwood Sweet Corn, use that!
  • For this photo, the corn was grilled straight on the grill.  I do that whenever I need to cook quite a bit.
  • Photo taken at Farmers’ Daughter in Brentwood, California,  after delivering enough of this corn for their amazing staff.

Mini Chile Rellenos

So, you’re out at a restaurant, perusing the menu.  How do you decide what to order?  I abide by a pretty simple rule:  order something I don’t usually cook at home.  Sometimes this is because an ingredient is just not in my pantry, such as saffron or a mixture of wild mushrooms.  Other times there are ingredients just not available in the local stores such as goat or rabbit or a unique cheese.

But the absolute king of all reasons to order out and not cook a dish at home is that the preparation will make my kitchen look like Armageddon arrived, twice.  For that last reason, chile rellenos are a total favorite to order at restaurants.  At home, I’ve made some darned good versions, but gawd, the mess makes me crazy!  Those tempting casserole versions have been given a test drive, but they just didn’t satisfy the craving for the real deal.  Here is a nice compromise – no deep frying, but all of the roasted poblano and cheese love.  These mini chile rellenos have all of the love of  roasted peppers and cheese without completely trashing the kitchen.  Bueno!

Mini Chile Rellenos

adapted from the Chile Rellenos de San Joaquin recipe on AllRecipes.com


  • 5 poblano peppers, halved lengthwise, stems and seeds removed
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 can diced petite tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 6 ounces cotija cheese


  1. Slice chiles in half lengthwise and remove stems and seeds.  Place chiles skin side up on a baking sheet, and broil until skins blister, about 6 minutes. Be careful not to let them burn. Remove chiles from the oven and return to the plastic bag, seal and set aside for 10 minutes.  Remove and discard the skins.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  3. Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Stir in sliced onions, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with the liquid and cook until onions and tomatoes achieve a sauce-like consistency, about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Season with cumin.
  4. To assemble the chiles rellenos: Slice cheese into 10 long rectangles (or sticks) 1/4-inch thick and approximately as long as the chiles. Roll each cheese rectangle into a chile half. Place rolled chiles into a baking dish and top with the tomato sauce. Crumble any extra cheese on top of the sauce. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the sauce is bubbly.


  • The cojita cheese holds together nicely, so these make great sides without falling apart in the pan.
  • The cojita can easily be replaced with jack or a mixture or whatever light cheeses you need to use up.  I figure that once you have the amazing taste of roasted poblanos, its tough to go wrong.
  • Best chile relleno ever?  The Chilaca at the totally amazing Blue Agave.  Best food combined with the worst web site ever. 

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

Tax day has come and gone, meaning it is time for the annual Feast.  We have a lovely barter deal with  our friendly CPA to prepare and file our taxes.  She gives us a nifty planner to fill out each year, we add the required forms and documents, hand it to her and she does all the rest.  While she certainly is honest in the preparation, she also knows how to get us every single deduction possible no matter how seemingly insignificant.  Gotta love that.  And in return, I make her family a feast for dinner just after tax season ends.  Talk about a win-win situation!

Each year I ask her what she would like, and each year she gives that awful response that cooks hate, “oh anything since everything you make is great.”  Sigh, no direction there to point the way.  Fortunately, her teenage son was home while I dropped off the paperwork this year, so I asked him.  Bingo!  He had an answer.  The beef skewers with peanut sauce were a hit with him last year, so this year the meal was built around that along with shrimp and vegetable skewers.  This Mediterranean orzo salad, loaded with veggies, was the perfect accompaniment.  It was simple and delicious, with clear flavors that don’t overwhelm the main dish.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

inspired by this recipe at My Recipes


  • 1 cup uncooked orzo
  • 3 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 3 TBS red onion, chopped
  • 3 TBS kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1  jar marinated artichoke hearts
  • 3 oz feta cheese, crumbled, divided


  1. Cook the orzo according to the package directions, omitting salt and oil.  Drain and rinse with cold water.
  2. In a large bowl, combine orzo, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, olives, salt and pepper.
  3. Prepare artichokes and vinaigrette by removing the artichokes from the jar, leaving the oil behind.  Chop artichokes and add to orzo mixture.  Add 1/2 of the feta cheese to the oil in the jar, put the lid back on the jar and shake to mix.
  4. Finish salad by adding feta vinaigrette to the orzo salad and tossing gently.  Sprinkle with remaining feta.


  • May be served cold or at room temperature.  
  • This was easy to double by just using a larger jar of marinated artichoke hearts.
  • Check your grocery store’s olive bar for kalamatas so you don’t have to splurge for a whole jar.  Unless they are a staple in your pantry, of course.
  • This recipe was originally printed in Cooking Light magazine in 2005.
  • The full menu: beef, shrimp and vegetable skewers, peanut dipping sauce, Joe’s Stone Crab sauce, Caribbean Cocktail sauce, grilled asparagus, Mediterranean Orzo salad, lemon pound cake with fresh strawberries.

Garlicky 3 Bean Salad

Sometimes we want a dish that is just like we had as a child.  Aunt so and so’s fried chicken, mom’s famous dip, a neighbor’s lasagna.  The tricky part is that our tastes change over time as do cooking styles.  We really cannot recreate that moment from the past.

Three bean salad is one of those classic side dishes that draw real preferences.  But, I don’t even remembering having it as a child.  Just a few years back I started using fresh blue lake beans in the standard salad (yum, crispy and fresh) with the sweetened oil and vinegar dressing.  To most people, this is the familiar flavor.  It just felt weird to me.  Sugar on green beans?  Really?  So, here’s my newest, favoritest version of 3 bean salad.  Enjoy!

Blue lake beans from Smith Family Farms, garlic and onion from Chan’s berry stand

Three Bean Salad

loosely based on the Three Bean Salad from Bon Appetite, 1998


2 or 3 handfuls of blue lake beans

1 can garbanzo beans, drained

1 can kidney beans, drained

1/4 red onion, sliced

3 TBS red wine vinegar

3 TBS olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp dried basil

salt and pepper


1.  Rinse the green beans, cut into 2 inch segments, and add to boiling water for 1 minute.  Rinse the green beans with cold water in a colander to stop the cooking process and drain well.

2.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar and olive oil.  Add the garlic, dried basil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Add the green beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, and sliced red onion.  Mix to coat the vegetables with the dressing.

3.  Refrigerate for at least one hour.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.


  • In high school, the mom of someone in our youth group really would make home made lasagna for us at events.  This was some seriously spectacular lasagna!  I had no idea in the world what all was involved until I made my own years later.  She surely must have loved us to make lasagna for us so many times!  (Thanks again, Pat.)
  • I’ve learned to like fresh blue lake beans, and have come to crave kidney beans, but those garbanzos are in there just for color and texture.
  • If you can let this soak for a few hours, the onions start to pickle and get quite tasty!

The Potato Salad

new potato salad

Oh Easter!  While ham is the traditional center piece of the traditional family meal, we take the opportunity to pig out in our own way.  See, at this house, warm weather, a celebratory day, and some time for lingering and hanging out lake side means just one thing:  ribs!  These are not your boil then bake ribs, nor your grill and add some bottled sauce at the end ribs.  Oh no.  These are the gently prepped and rubbed with secret spices the day before, then smoked low and slow on the smoker for at least 4 hours with the patience of Job, while gently misting mop sauce on the works of art.  Yes, those ribs.  And I was to make the sides.

Unlike Thanksgiving, which is all about the sides, this was all about the ribs.  Potato salad is a must, but while I go for anything but the traditional style, the rest of my clan, and most importantly for this day the BBQer himself, likes that regular stuff.

Side story:  Lately, I’ve become a big follower of the More Than Burnt Toast blog where it feels like a conversation with a wonderful, grounded friend.  Nice. The most recent post was for the Barefoot Bloggers group who make and share recipes by or based on Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa.  These folk really share the love and admiration for her work.  So, trusting the blogosphere once again, I went to Ina for the perfect recipe.  And yes … Bingo!


  • Potatoes from Arata Fruits
  • Dill from Chan’s

New Potato Salad


3 pounds small red potatoes

Kosher salt

1 cup good mayonnaise

1/4 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion


1.  Place the potatoes and 2 tablespoons of salt in a large pot of water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then place the colander with the potatoes over the empty pot and cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel. Allow the potatoes to steam for 15 to 20 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, Dijon mustard, whole-grain mustard, dill, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Set aside.

3.  When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them into quarters or halves, depending on their size. Place half of the the cut potatoes in a large bowl. While the potatoes are still warm, pour enough dressing over them to moisten. Transfer to a plate.  Repeat with remaining potatoes, and again, transfer to the plate. (Doing this in batches prevents the potatoes from losing their shape.)

4.  Put the plate of lightly dressed potatoes in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until cooled.   Add the celery and red onion, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. (As the salad sits, you may need to add more dressing.)  Toss well, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. Serve cold or at room temperature.


* The steaming technique worked like a charm!

*  Actually, I used smallish red potatoes because that was what I found at Arata farm stand.

*  It took everything in me not to muck this up by adding a bit of dill pickle, some hard boiled egg, then just keep the additions going with some red bell  pepper and anything else that seemed to fit at the moment.  But, this turned out perfect … all about the potatoes and nothing else to distract it.

*  Naturally, a nice green salad would accompany this.  My “go to” vinagrette is a bit sweet to serve with ribs, so I tried another Barefoot Contessa recipe and its a true keeper,  simple enough to let the mixed greens shine.

3 Strikes Artichoke Dip

3 strikes artichoke dip

Warning! This is all about the story and not about the recipe. Story … you never knew an artichoke dip with so much story!

Let me preface this by saying that I know artichokes. My parents raised them in the back yard. Even split our 6 or so plants to create even more. And we ate Every Single One of Them. Nothing wasted at that home. After I moved out and my parents could embark on their well earned travel, I tended said plants. Thats where I learned that artichokes go dormant for a few months every year. No matter how much you water them to keep them green, dormant they will go.

So, we’re looking for some kind of green veg to accompany our Sopranos Sunday Dinner, and preferably something that can be made before hand. Found a lovely recipe for artichokes stuffed with mozzarella and breadcrumbs and other yummy stuff. There’s nothing like winter time for breaking out those recipes where you start with a perfectly healthy vegetable and add lots of cheese, breadcrumbs and the like!

Long story short … I used the cookbook with the beautiful photos and lousy recipes. It instructed me to clean out the choke from each artichoke (before cooking? are you kidding me? these things are tough as weeds!), stuff with lovely mozzarella breadcrumb goodies, set in a pan with water, and bake for 45 minutes. Huh? No way that could work in my many years of experience with these fine thistles, but I’m always ready to learn a new trick. Strike one.

The dinner party is nearing and I figure I can cook a stinking artichoke. Cute small little artichokes are purchased and steamed lightly, left to set with stuffing all ready to go. Small, did I mention small? I cannot use a spoon to scoop out the middle of the adorably cute, perfectly portioned artichokes because they are too small and the leaves overlap too tightly in the middle. Determined, I make enough of them workable. Not a happy camper. Strike two.

Stuff the darned things and set in the oven with a bit of water to keep them from drying out. Dinner party starts, Sunday Gravy is set, Italian sausages are simmering perfectly, artichokes are alright. Main course comes around (our part as hosts of the gathering) and the artichokes literally fall apart in my hands! Ugh! Ready to toss the whole shebang, my friend J says that my bad experience looks like the makings of a lovely dip. Gotta love a good friend!

Long story short, we salvaged enough artichokes to get a bit of green on our meat and pasts laden plates. Everything that fell apart was tossed into a bowl, chopped the next day, mixed with the extra stuffing and tossed into the oven to bake. With that much artichoke in the dish, it was pretty green, but boy oh boy was it good!

If you are into stuffed artichokes, you’ll love this mixture. If not, just be glad you weren’t trying to present this to a party of 10. Let’s all just sit back and have a little laugh together with a bite of very green, very artichokey dip!

Stuffing ingredients:

5 oz fresh mozzarella, diced or shredded

1 lemon, juiced

4 TBS parmesan cheese, freshly grated

4 TBS fresh breadcrumbs

2 eggs, beaten

salt and pepper to taste

Spicy Bean Salad

spicy bean saladKaleidoscope dinner time again. Hmmmm, cooking dinner for a large family, not much time of my own for anything fancy, need to find something that can last in their fridge or freezer just in case of a family emergency. Enchiladas! One pan of cheese and one of chicken will give them some alternatives. Check. Rice. Check. Beans? This is where the plan fell apart. Personally, I’m soooooo tired of re-fried beans. If it was just for myself, I’d do a little black bean and tart queso fresco number. Perhaps my favorite “hearty” summer chip dip? It was time to try something new.

After perusing my favorite online haunts, I narrowed in on one that sounded like a winner both for taste and time. The original came from Karen Castle at www.allrecipes.com and is titled Mexican Bean Salad. Naturally, I altered it based on what was readily available (avocados on sale … yes!) and just my own personal preferences. But believe you me, that dressing is a total winner! It can best be described as a collision between a 3 bean salad dressing and your favorite Mexican spices that make you want to jump up and dance. Oh yeah, like that.

Without further adieu, here we go …


  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 pimento pepper, chopped (optional)
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 3 avocados, diced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 dash hot pepper sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder


  1. In a large bowl, combine beans, bell peppers, and red onion.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, lime juice, lemon juice, sugar, salt, garlic, cilantro, cumin, and black pepper. Season to taste with hot sauce and chili powder.
  3. Pour olive oil dressing over vegetables; mix well. Gently fold in avocado. Chill thoroughly, and serve cold.


  • Do give this dish some time to chill. Chill is better than no chill. And, the density of the dish (geek alert!) means that the salad likes to retain its heat.
  • Make enough for left overs. A healthy snack like this is perfect to stash in the fridge for snacking families.
  • Those pimento peppers? Those are part of the local angle  cuz I had just picked some up from the vegetable stand and love them, but are not worth a trip to a specialty store just for this dish.
  • Did you catch that? Yes, vegetable stand in December. That’s why we pay the big prices to live in California!