Archive for category Sides

Chicken Liver Pate

So, odds are if you’re reading this you have at least one holiday party or New Year’s Eve party to go to. If you’re lucky, this means small, intimate dinner parties with family or friends, the kind where everyone brings a dessert or a bottle of something in spite of the host’s protests that there’s already too much food. It’s the end of the year, and we’re all breaking out recipes that we’d never make without the holiday excuse, because they’re fancy or time consuming or expensive to make.


Pâté is neither time-consuming nor expensive, but jaws will drop every single time you tell anyone you made it at home. It can be added unobtrusively to the appetizers present at most parties, or you can keep it to yourself and use it to round out a simple lunch of a cheese plate and salad.

Ingredients (makes about 3 cups, which is more than anyone needs)


about 1 1/4 pounds chicken livers

2 T butter

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup wine or brandy

1/4 cup whipping cream

2 T apricot jam

1/2 t salt

1/4 t white pepper

mustard seeds to taste


Melt butter over medium-high heat.


Mince or press garlic and cook until translucent.


Add the chicken livers. Cook briefly–not more than 2-3 minutes per side.


You still want to see some pink when you chop the livers with your spatula.


Scoop the livers into the bowl of a food processor or blender.


Clean your pan and add the wine or brandy to it.


Bring to a boil and reduce the liquid by about 1/2. It is okay to estimate this.


Add the reduced wine, whipping cream, salt, spices, and jam to the bowl of the food processor.


Puree until smooth and creamy. This takes about 1 minute.


Scoop into ramekins or old mustard jars or whatever dish you plan to serve it out of.


It needs to chill before serving. Once it is cool, pour enough clarified butter to cover the surface over the top and return to the refrigerator. This serves the dual purpose of adding delicious fat and keeping the pâté from drying or discoloring.


Serve with salad, crackers, crudités, fruit, or a cheese plate.


Watch everyone marvel at your culinary genius, even though you and I both know it wasn’t hard at all.


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Spinach and Potato Quiche

The quiche is a dish that I always struggle with. Not because they’re difficult to make, but because I always want it to be something new and different and interesting. I’m happy to throw together a plain cheese quiche if I want to play with a good strong cheese, but since I have a bad habit of just snarfing down good strong cheeses with apple cider and maybe a few crackers, this is rarely an option.

Adding Indian spices and a great big heap of spinach, on the other hand, is always an option. As usual, I tailor the tart crust to the filling, so the dough is made with garam masala. Chile powder would be a nice addition as well.


For the crust:

1 1/4 cups flour

1 t salt

2 t garam masala

8 T (1 stick) cold butter

3 T ice water


For the filling:

1 large potato

2 cloves garlic

about 4 cups spinach leaves

3 eggs

3/4 cup milk

6 oz mozzarella cheese

1 T garam masala

2 t turmeric

1 t salt

1 T dried chiles (pequins, or chopped other peppers, optional)


For the crust:

Combine the flour, salt, and garam masala in the bowl of a food processor.

Pulse the dry ingredients briefly to combine. Add the butter in chunks.

Process the butter and flour mixture until it looks like damp sand. Add the water bit by bit and process just until the dough comes together in a ball.

Chill the dough for 30 minutes or so. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Roll out the dough and press it  into a buttered tart pan.

Bake, lined with foil and pie weights, for 15 minutes. Set aside.

For the filling:

Chop the potato into bite-sized pieces and boil them for 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat a heavy skillet (I love cast iron) over medium heat and cook the garlic until it is aromatic and toasty.

Add the spinach and spices and cook 5-7 minutes.

You’ll know it’s ready when it has cooked down thoroughly.

Add the potatoes and toss to coat with spices and add just a touch of crispiness to the edges. Set aside to cool.

In a separate bowl, combine eggs and milk.

Whisk to combine, and stir in the cheese and salt.

Add the potato and spinach, and peppers if using.

Stir to combine.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust.

Bake at 350°F for 40-45 minutes.

Serve immediately.

I know it’s not traditional to any cuisine. It’s fun and delicious. Mr. B slathers his with Sriracha and has cold leftovers for breakfast. I can’t stand a cold quiche (or pizza or anything else meant to be served hot) but apparently this is just a guy thing that I have to get used to.

In any case, this was a fantastic experiment. I’ll be making it again soon.

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Maple Pumpkin Cornbread

Thanksgiving is almost upon us. Normally this means a two-hour drive to see the in-laws, but we’ve moved now. I suppose if we were diligent young people we would make the drive this year as well, either back to Texas for his family or down to Florida for mine.

We are staying in New Orleans. The original plan was a low-key Thanksgiving dinner at home, just us corvids and our cats. But people are really nice here. A pair of our new friends discovered we were planning to spend Thanksgiving alone and invited us to join them.

Obviously we’re bringing food. Lime pie. Biscuits. And this corn bread.

The best thing about this is how moist the pumpkin makes the finished bread. I wasn’t even remotely tempted to add butter or more maple syrup to serve. It’s also unbelievably easy to put together, but don’t tell our new friends that. I want them to be impressed.

This recipe is adapted from the Comfort of Cooking.

Ingredients (makes two 9-inch round loaves. serves 12-16)

8 T butter

2/3 C sugar

3 T maple syrup

2 eggs

3/4 t baking soda

1/2 C milk

2/3 C pumpkin puree

1/2 t salt

1 C corn meal

1 C flour


Melt the butter.

Add sugar and maple syrup to the butter.

Whisk to combine.

Add milk and eggs.

Whisk again and add the pumpkin.

More whisking. Such a lovely shade of orange.

Add the dry ingredients.

Do not whisk. Fold the flour and corn meal and baking soda salt into the batter. Do not over-mix.

Scoop the batter into two buttered 9-inch cake pans.

Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes.

This is perfect unadorned. Mr. B likes to dunk his cornbread in milk. I like mine with a side of simmered greens. And of course it goes perfectly with Thanksgiving dinner.


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Every time I drive down to New Orleans proper, I regret leaving my camera at home. I’ll find myself pulling over to write down the intersection of a building whose cracks seem held together only by the lacing shut of climbing ivy, another house so splintered and broken it’s hard to imagine people once lived there. I have always been fond of broken things, and a great deal of the city is just that. In less broken places, I stare at trees. There’s so much green here. Combine the effects of general clumsiness (made worse by my petulant insistence on wearing heels), the crevasses and undulations of local sidewalks, and this new habit of staring up to follow whorls of bark and twists of branches, and there’s no doubt I’m going to end up falling rather horribly one of these days. But somehow, whenever I step out I think I’ll be too busy to take pictures; better leave the camera at home till next time.

Yeah. That needs to stop.


Succotash is a simple Southern dish. I like to pair it with black bean burgers, using the same spices for both and letting the sweetness of the corn balance the savory burgers.

Ingredients (serves 4 as a side)

2 T butter

1 cup frozen lima beans

1 cup frozen corn

2 T mustard

2 t paprika

juice of 1 lime

1/4 cup cream


This is so easy. Pop the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.

Melt it.

Add the lima beans and corn.

Then add mustard, paprika, and lime

Stir and cook for 5-7 minutes to ensure that the vegetables are no longer frozen. Add the cream and stir briefly.

Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until most of the liquid has reduced and the lima beans are tender through.

Serve with black bean burgers.

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Cauliflower Couscous

Cauliflower gets a bad rap. It really isn’t fair. It’s mild, succulent, and easy to prepare, yet I know far too many people who won’t consider eating it without first drowning it beyond recognition in an unholy sauce of Velveeta cheese. Don’t get me wrong here, I love cheese, but sometimes your vegetables deserve better.

Enter cauliflower couscous. During Passover, it takes the place of grains. The rest of the time, it’s simply a favorite accompaniment to salmon or a cheese plate or anything made of lamb.

I saw this recipe in a cookbook called the Breakaway Cook and for some reason failed to buy it. I probably changed the method drastically, and added greens because everything is better with greens. Add a good dose of citrus and a touch of olive oil and you’re good to go.


1 head of cauliflower

1/3 to 1/2 lb collard green chiffonade

1/4 cup yuzu, lime, or lemon juice (yuzu juice can be hard to find, but more than worth keeping an eye out for.)

2-3 T olive oil

salt, to taste


Chop the cauliflower into florets.

Place the florets in the bowl of a food processor and pulse in short bursts until the pieces mostly range between the size of peas and grains of rice. I find this easier in small batches, a handful at a time, but if your food processor is larger and less prone to let pieces of food surf above the blades than mine, feel free to do it all at once.

Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat and add the cauliflower. Drizzle the olive oil over it and sauté for about 10 minutes.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the yuzu (or lemon or lime) juice. Pop a lid over the pan and steam for another 10 minutes.

Crank the heat back up to high and add the greens. Cook, stirring constantly, another 3-5 minutes.

Add salt to taste and serve piping hot. This is an amazing accompaniment to honey-braised lamb shanks, but just as good as a main dish with a plate of olives and bocconcini. It’s simple enough to be worth making even when cooking for one, and good enough to bring out for company. It’s especially useful if, like most of us, you’re used to providing some kind of grain with dinner but are feeding someone who can’t eat gluten.

You could easily mix it up to complement a different palate–make it with peas and turmeric instead of greens with Indian food, or add some diced eggplant and apricots for a  Middle Eastern meal. Use orange juice and sliced olives one time, red wine and figs the next. I’ll always come back to greens, though; there’s nothing quite like greens in almost any savory dish you can think of.

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Saag Paneer

I’m not even going to pretend this is traditional or proper or in any other sense real Indian food. You see, aside from store-bought naan, I had not tried or eaten anything even resembling Indian food before last month.

I’d considered it. Mr. Blackbird loves Indian buffets to an almost frightening extent, and asked me to join him more than a few times. But two things stopped me. First, I had a misconception that all Indian food was so agonizingly spicy that you couldn’t feel your mouth after eating it. I like mild-to-moderate spice, but I have no interest in ever consuming, for instance, the bhut jolokia that we just transplanted to the outdoor pots with the grown-up plants. Second, buffets carry an ever-present risk of accidental tomato consumption, and while I do carry a shot of epinephrine with me whenever eating out, I do not want to have to use it.

What convinced me was, as usual, the greens. Cooked greens feature in at least a dozen of my favorite recipes, and here I was being confronted with one made almost entirely of greens and cheese. Yes, please! This recipe is adapted heavily from Goat, though I didn’t use goat milk for the paneer or in the final sauce. Goat milk is delightful, light, just a touch sour, and doesn’t make me feel sick after drinking a glass. It also costs more than $4 for a quart compared to cow milk at $1.19/gallon. This makes goat milk a sometimes food.

Ingredients (serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side)


1 1/2 to 2 cups (1 batch) paneer

1 1/2 to 2 lbs collards, mustard greens, or spinach

4 T butter, divided use

1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth

1/4 cup milk, cream, or yogurt

2 t garam masala (I used store bought and I can only identify some of the components [cinnamon, cumin, anise]. It’s delicious, though; I’ve been adding it to my matzoh brei all week)

1 t red pepper flakes, or cayenne or paprika if you prefer

1-2 cloves garlic

salt, to taste


Melt 2 T of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. I prefer cast iron. If you are not lazy, skim the solids off to clarify the butter. Milk solids are tasty, and I am lazy, so they stayed. Browned butter is best, but not required.

Cut the central ribs out of the greens (unless you’re using spinach) and tear them into palm-sized pieces before adding to the skillet.

Toss the greens until they are thoroughly wilted and release much of their liquid. This is very brief (<5 minutes) for spinach, 10-12 minutes for collards. Tongs are useful for flipping the greens without making a huge mess.

Add the broth and cook until the liquid reduced by about 1/2, or 5 more minutes.

Put the greens and the remaining liquid into the bowl of a food processor and pat the skillet dry.

Pulse the greens to your desired consistency. I did not want a puree, due to my distrust of liquid foods, so I left off after a few brief pulses.

Leave the greens aside for a moment while you heat the remaining 2 T of butter. Cut the paneer into cubes and add it to the skillet to fry.

Clarifying the butter this time would have been wise; this is insanely tasty but looks kind of gross.

Mix the garam masala, chili flakes, minced garlic, and milk. Add the greens back into the skillet, toss briefly, and pour the milk-and-spice mixture over them.

Salt and stir briefly before serving with naan.

Considering all the cheese and milk in there, this is surprisingly light. The spices are mild–too mild for Mr. B, who added a hefty dose of hot sauce to his plate–but incredibly flavorful. Now that our cilantro is finally thriving, I plan to add a few leaves at the end next time we make this.  On its own, it’s delicious. As a side for butter chicken, it’s a meal Mr. B asks me to make about every three days. So, though it’s likely nothing like actual Indian food, it’s still a winner around here!





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Olive Roasted Brussels Sprouts

So, I made these back in early December. Since the move, though, the camera has been safely nestled in a box and the computer has been safely ensconced in a different room from the X-Box, and I have Skyrim.

Basically, I’m telling you that I’d rather make cabbage stew in a video game than sign on here and talk about actual real food. I’m ready to be judged.

These sprouts are worth waiting for, though. I know sprouts have a bad reputation, and they even deserve it sometimes, but it isn’t their fault! See, Brussels sprouts are delicious, until you overcook them. Once you overcook them, they are sickening, mushy, sulfurous little beasties that just don’t deserve to be in the dining room. Roasted briefly–for 15 to 20 minutes, tops–they are crisp, fresh, smoky on the outside, and crunch a bit like broccoli stems crossed with cabbage in the middle. Add olives and you have a perfect side dish.

Ingredients (serves 2)

10-12 small Brussels sprouts

6 olives

1-2 T olive oil

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the sprouts in half lengthwise, put them in a bowl, and drizzle them with olive oil.

Slice the olives into half-moons. They’re not pretty, but they are tasty.

Toss the olive slices over the sprouts.

Grate on some Parmesan cheese and toss it all together.

Arrange the sprouts cut side down in an 8″ by 8″ baking pan. This will ensure that the cut edges get nice and browned. Add salt and pepper as desired.

Roast the sprouts for 15-20 minutes, until a fork slides in without violent stabbing but still meets some resistance.

Serve with drunken pasta and very crunchy bread.

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