Archive for the ‘Side Dishes’ Category

Corn Bread with Cheese and Jalapeños.

So its been a pretty busy weekend in the kitchen and it’s time to kick back with a cold beer and share a few recipes. This is a great cornbread recipe that I like to serve alongside some low and slow smoked ribs or pork butt. If you don’t have either one of those, no worries, it’s even good by itself or alongside the food of your choice. Now when it comes to corn breads there are two schools of thought that continue to cause arguments. Sweet cake like cornbread like this one vs dry crumbly terrible corn breads. I think you can see which side of the argument I’m on. There may be a time and a place for the dry crumbly ones, just not in my kitchen. I recently took this cornbread to a BBQ and figured I’d get a picture of it once it was sliced on a plate. By the time I made it over to the table it was already wiped out and there were several requests for the recipe. This recipe can be cut in half and baked in a preheated cast iron skillet with melted butter for a crispy exterior or in a deep dish lasagna style pan like I used. Here is what you’ll need to make yourself happy. Inspired by Fine Cooking Magazine


10 ounces of yellow corn meal about a cup

9 ounces of unbleached flour

1 1/2  teaspoons of salt

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

2 Tablespoons of baking powder

2 eggs

4 Tablespoons of sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 1/2 cups buttermilk

2 Tablespoons of butter

2 cups fresh grated extra sharp Cheddar cheese

corn kernels cut from four fresh ears of corn

1 jalapeño pepper very fine dice (or more to your liking)

Directions: Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl mix cornmeal, flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. In a separate bowl whisk the egg, sugar, oil, and buttermilk.  Rub 2 tablespoons of butter on the bottom and sides of the deep dish 9 x 13 lasagna style pan (this may overflow a shallow pan when it expands as it cooks). Mix the ingredients from the two bowls together. Gently fold in the corn kernels, cheese, and chiles. Pour into the well buttered baking dish and cook for about 30 minutes or until the edges are brown and a toothpick inserted into the cornbread pulls clean.


Summer Squash Gratin

I was going through my vegetable drawers today and found that I had an overabundance of yellow summer squash. Between my CSA membership and gardeners at work sharing their bounty, I realized it was time to take action. This recipe came from an internet search which led to a blog called 101 cookbooks. You can view the original recipe at or just stay here since I pretty much only made a few minor changes. This was the first gratin I ever made that didn’t have some sort of cream base for the sauce. Don’t get excited thinking it is low-fat as you will see it is loaded with buttery goodness. While shopping for the few items that we didn’t have on hand we made a great discovery. The recipe called for Gruyère cheese and up to this point I thought all Gruyères were created equal. Boy was I wrong. We came across Antique Gruyère cheese at Busch’s market and decided to give it a shot. I can’t tell you how happy that decision made me. The only way I can explain it is that it is a bit drier and saltier leaning towards a mild Parmesan Reggiano but not quite. Anyway if you can find it give it a shot and you won’t be disappointed. OK, so here is what you will need.


Zest of one lemon

1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt

1 1/2 lbs of yellow summer squash

1/4 cup of fresh oregano

1/4 cup of Italian flat leaf parsley

1 large garlic clove pressed

1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt

Decent pinch or crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup of unsalted butter

2 cups of course homemade bread crumbs

1/2 pound of Yukon Gold potatoes

3/4 cup of Gruyère cheese (antique if you can find it)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice zucchini very thin making all of the slices as even as possible (I used a mandolin) to about 1/16 of an inch. Place zucchini slices in a colander and toss with the 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. Let drain in sink for 15 minutes. Rub olive oil in a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish. Slice the Yukon gold potatoes the same thickness so they cook evenly and set aside.

Make the sauce by pureeing the olive oil, garlic, 1/4tsp of salt, oregano, parsley and the red pepper flakes together and set aside.

Melt the butter in a sauce pan and lightly brown the bread crumbs and set aside.

Transfer the squash and potatoes to a large bowl and toss with 2/3 of the sauce, the cheese, lemon zest and half of the breadcrumbs. Add salt and pepper if desired.

Transfer the mixture to the oiled pan laying flat and top with the rest of the breadcrumbs. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes until the potatoes are soft covering loosely with foil if the breadcrumbs begin to brown too quickly.

When done remove from the oven and drizzle with the remaining sauce, let rest for a few minutes and serve.


Every year we receive garlic scapes from our CSA farm. If you have never tried garlic scapes they are the young of the year shoots from the top of the garlic. Garlic scapes are becoming more and more popular. Look for them at your local farm markets. If you find them unavailable I would use one small garlic clove pressed or fresh chives for this recipe. The following recipe was inspired by Martha Stewart.


1/2 of a 15oz can of beans rinsed and drained. (I had Pintos on hand but I think Cannellini would have been better)

8 ounces of fresh green beans cut in half or two-inch lengths

8 ounces of sugar snap peas cut in half

3 garlic scapes cut into small pieces (or listed options)

2 ears of corn husked

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons of champagne vinegar

1/4 cup of fresh tarragon chopped

kosher salt and black pepper

6 ounces of grape tomatoes cut in half

1 avocado cut into pieces


Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the green beans, sugar snap peas, garlic scapes, and corn for two minutes. Remove immediately and place into the ice water bath to stop the cooking. Cut the corn off of the cob and mix in a large bowl with the rest of the vegetables after draining well. Make the vinaigrette in a separate bowl by mixing the tarragon, oil, and champagne vinegar whisking well until emulsified. Add the vinaigrette, beans, tomatoes, and avocado and gently stir. Serve right away.

Grilled Vegetable Salad

I served this salad as a side dish tonight with a combination of vegetables that I received from friends and our CSA farm membership. As usual the picture just doesn’t tell the story. This dish was simple and delicious. The multiple colors of the vegetables along with the grill marks really made this salad visually appealing. The fresh flavors were that of only what a local farm or home garden can give. Make the feta cheese optional and you have a vegan dish that is still guaranteed to satisfy.


One small fennel bulb cut into quarters plus 1/4 cup of the fronds

One orange bell pepper seeded, stemmed and cut into four pieces

Three thick slices of red onion from a large onion or to taste

One medium zucchini cut lengthwise into four pieces

One medium yellow summer squash cut lengthwise into four pieces

Two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil plus more for brushing

Kosher salt

Three tablespoons of red wine vinegar

1 1/2 cups of grape tomatoes cut in half

Three tablespoons of fresh basil cut into chiffonade

Feta cheese optional.


Lay out all of the vegetables on a cookie sheet or cutting board. Lightly brush will olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Grill on all sides leaving long enough to get pronounced grill marks. Set aside to cool. When cool cut into pieces and place into a medium bowl. Add the two tablespoons of the olive oil and the three tablespoons of the red wine vinegar. Add the basil, the fennel fronds, and the grape tomatoes and toss well. Let marinate for 10 to 15 minutes for the flavors to blend. Add the feta cheese at the table and enjoy. Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine.

Sweet Potato Fries with Chipotle Mayo

A few weeks back my wife and I had dinner at Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor. They served their side dish of sweet potato fries with a semi spicy mayo. My wife loved them and was surprised how good they were. She made a comment that it was her first time ever having fries with mayo instead of ketchup. She went on an online quest and found this recipe on It’s not a Zingerman’s copycat but I think it may very well be the best sweet potato fries I have ever had. A big thanks to Chef Decadent1 on the site for sharing. At first glance of the recipe I thought that there would be way too much fennel in the rub. Boy was I wrong ,it was a perfect blend of flavors. I found no reason to change this recipe and make it my own. It is perfect as it stands.  We served this with vegetarian black bean burgers (recipe coming soon). It was also great as a burger topping. 

Ingredients for the fries

2 large sweet potatoes

olive oil

2 tablespoons of ground coriander powder

1 tablespoon of ground fennel powder

1 tablespoon ground oregano

3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons of salt

Cooks note: This makes enough for several batches of fries, do not use it all for one recipe.

Ingredients for the mayo

1/2 cup of mayo (I like Hellmans)

1 chipotle pepper en adobo with the sauce that sticks to it when removed from the jar

1 additional tablespoon of adobo sauce (Optional)  

2 shakes of tabasco sauce

1/2 teaspoon of cumin powder

Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine all of the seasonings for the fries in a bowl. Cut the sweet potatoes into desired size. Add the fries with 1 tablespoon of oil in a large zip lock bag. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of seasoning per potato. Place of a rimmed cookie sheet and cook for 30 to 40 minutes (depending how thick you cut them) turning half way through. Chop the chipotle on a cutting board until it resembles a thick paste. Mix well with all of the mayo ingredients and let sit for 15 minutes for the flavors to blend.

Black Bean Chipotle Dip

Just in time for the Superbowl. This hot bean dip is always a hit. This can be easily doubled for a larger gathering. However, don’t double the vinegar. Add vinegar to taste after the first three tablespoons or it will be a bit overpowering. 

Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine


olive oil

2 medium tomatoes seeded and chopped

2 teaspoons of kosher salt

1 large yellow onion chopped

3 cloves of minced garlic

1 tablespoon of chili powder

2 15 1/2 oz  cans of black beans rinsed and drained

2 canned chipotles en adobo minced (with the sauce that is attached)

3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 cups of fresh or frozen corn kernels (thawed)

6 ounces of grated sharp cheddar

6 ounces grated Monterey jack

3/4 cup of chopped cilantro

black pepper to taste

Directions: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 1 1/2 to 2 quart baking dish. Place chopped tomatoes in a colander and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt and let drain in the sink. Saute the onion in oil along with the other teaspoon of kosher salt until translucent. Add the garlic and chili powder and cook another minute. Add one can of the beans, chipotles, and 3/4 cup of water and bring to a boil until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove from heat and add vinegar. Mash the mixture with a potato masher or immersion blender until fairly smooth. Place in a large bowl. Add the rest of the beans, the tomatoes, corn and half of each of the cheeses. Add the cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to the greased baking dish and top with the remaining cheese. Bake for 15 minutes. This can be made in advance and refrigerated just bake a bit longer. Enjoy


“You don’t have to cook fancy or create masterpieces in your kitchen, just cook good food with fresh ingredients” Julia Childs.

 Fresh ingredients are what this guacamole is all about. I’m sure so far you have realized I’m a cook not a photographer. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t showcase the freshness of this dish. I’m starting to think it’s time to invest in a real camera. I do however promise you if you follow these simple directions and use fresh ingredients you wont be disappointed.

Cooks notes: The most important part of  guacamole is of course the avocado. Once you learn how to properly select one, your guacamole will be taken to new heights. You can get by in a pinch if some of the other ingredients aren’t perfect but not your avocados. Most stores go into a panic mode when they have a bin of overripe avocados and they immediately begin to stick big orange stickers on them that say RIPE. Trust me, by the time they put those stickers on they are generally way past their prime. The same goes for underripe  avocados, if they are too hard pass them up. I prefer shopping for them in the mercados in Southwest Detroit either the day before or the day I’m making this dish. The selections are great and you never have to guess if they will be overripe or underripe by the day you need them. I understand not everyone wants to make a road trip to Detroit for avocados so here is the next best thing you can do. Pick up the avocado and very gently squeeze it with your thumb and your first two fingers. If there is no give in the skin and flesh it is underripe. If there is too much give it is overripe. Once you get them home and realize you nailed it you will be an expert avocado selector from that day on. Skip the avocados in this recipe, cut back on the salt and you have a pretty good pico de gallo as well.  Here is what you will need.


4 small Mexican or 3 large Californian avocados

2 Roma style tomatoes chopped 

1/2 cup of chopped white onion

1 garlic clove pressed

1/2 jalapeno or serrano pepper seeded and membrane removed (unless you like more heat, this is very mild) very finely chopped

3 to 4 tablespoons of fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon of kosher salt

2 teaspoons of fresh squeezed lime juice (then add to taste)

Directions: Mix everything in a bowl except for the avocado and let sit for 5 minutes for the flavors to blend. Mix in the avocado breaking up with a large spoon until the consistency you like. Push a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole pushing out any air. Let sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes for the flavors to further blend. Remove the plastic, stir and enjoy.


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