Archive for the ‘Side Dishes’ Category

Seriously using up the Asian condiments with this one!

Seriously using up the Asian condiments with this one!

AKA – a recipe to use up a TON of Asian condiments sitting neglected in your fridge.

Lately, I’ve had a thing for green beans. Not sure why. I mean, they are so average. Predictable. Every day. I think there is something about their crunch that is winning me over (yeah, I’m one of those people who BARELY cooks vegetables. “Crisp tender” is probably overcooked to me. “Crisp crisp” is more like it).

So enter Szechuan Green Beans. I will readily admit to never having had them at a restaurant. Supposedly, they are normally deep fried – which seems a sorry fate for my beloved green beans. Then you mix in some ground pork, sauces, a little heat and some chopped peanuts for more crunch. Um, what’s not to love here folks?


I came across a super flavorful recipe from Guy Fieri. But he deep fries them and I just can’t bring myself to doing it. Plus, he doesn’t include any pork. So that’s two strikes.

Then I came across a Cook’s Illustrated recipe and they just stir fry the little guys on high heat till they get nice and shriveled and burnt. I thought that would do nicely. But I like Guy’s sauce. A LOT. So that stays, but I use the method (and the pork!) in the Cooks Illustrated recipe.

Give it a try. It comes together fast (we are talking 20 minutes tops including prep) – so it’s perfect for weeknight cooking. I usually serve over rice to make a full meal.

Szechuan Green Beans

Adapted from Guy Fieri and Cook’s Illustrated

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 lb ground pork
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 ounce hot chili garlic sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon mirin or white wine
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 pound green beans, cleaned
2 tablespoons chopped peanuts
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves (optional – I usually forget this part)

1. Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add beans and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp-tender and skins are shriveled and blackened in spots, 5 to 8 minutes (reduce heat to medium-high if beans darken too quickly). Transfer beans to large plate.

2.Reduce heat to medium-high and add pork to now-empty skillet. Cook, breaking pork into small pieces, until no pink remains, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and ginger; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 15 to 20 seconds.

3. Quickly add soy sauce, chili sauce, rice wine vinegar, hoisin, mirin, sesame oil and cilantro. Return green beans to pan. Toss to combine.

4. Serve immediately. Garnish with chopped peanuts and parsley.

Ms. Pantry Raid

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Baked tomatoes with buttery breadcrumbs - perfect side for the end of summer!

Baked tomatoes with buttery breadcrumbs - perfect side for the end of summer!

Scalloped Potatoes I get. Scalloped Tomatoes? Never heard of it!

It is the height of tomato season, so what better time to try a new tomato dish? I adore tomatoes, but mostly I like them raw or just lightly cooked. I think that’s why I gravitated towards the recipe – it was something totally new for me.

The recipe comes from Edna Lewis, a chef who is well-known for her Southern style cooking. Good ingrediants, used at their peak of freshness and prepared simply was her forte. And that was mostly cause that was how it was done while she was growing up.

The key to this recipe is to use BUTTER. Do not, under any circumstances, think you can get by with olive oil. NO. YOU CANNOT. Got it? Use butter or don’t do it at all! I know this because I took one look at the recipe and freaked by how much butter it used and I cut it with olive oil (why olive oil is acceptible and butter is not…don’t ask). I did not know it at the time, but the butter is absolutely integral here – it creates the buttery breadcrumbs which punctuate the dish.

The other key here? Room temp is best. You can taste the flavors the most when the dish has cooled down a bit. So if you pull it from the oven and the rest of your meal isn’t quite ready, do not despair!

Oh and one final thing – I threw in some fresh thyme cause I just felt like it.

Edna Lewis’ Scalloped Tomatoes

6 large vine-ripe tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1 & 1/2 inch pieces
1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1 t salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
2 t sugar
4 slices crusty white bread, crusts removed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
7 T unsalted butter, melted
optional: I threw in maybe a teaspoon of fresh thyme

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Put the tomato pieces ad chopped onion into a large nonreactive bowl. Season with the salt, pepper, and sugar. Toss well to distribute the seasoning. Scatter the bread cubes on a baking pan, and drizzle 4 tblsp. of the butter over them so they are coated evenly. Toast them in the oven until they are golden brown, approximately 8-12 minutes (turning once to toast evenly).

3. Add the cubes of bread to the tomatoes and toss well. Taste the tomatoes and adjust the seasoning (salt, pepper, or sugar) as needed.

4. Turn everything into a buttered 9×13 nonreactive baking dish, and drizzle the remaining melted butter over it.

5. Place a piece of parchment paper directly over the tomatoes, and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 35 minutes, then uncover and bake for 10 minutes longer.

Ms. Pantry Raid

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I served my Maduros with short ribs roja and a sprinkle of cotija cheese. Drool...

I served my Maduros with short ribs roja and a sprinkle of cotija cheese. Drool...

Quick – name a food you could eat every day for the rest of your life.

Ok, I’ll go first since I’m here, and since I’m pretty sure you’ve already guessed my answer (ahem…plantains).

This past spring we took a trip to Costa Rica and our hotel served fried plantains every.damn.day. Yes, it was a buffet, but that’s even better! I could load my plate up and still go back for more.

Fried plantains = heaven

I mean really, what other dish can you describe as an appetizer, condiment, garnish, side dish AND dessert?

So what do you need to know? Ok, there are different outcomes for your fried plantains based on the ripeness of the fruit. You know how a banana starts to get dark and you immediately toss it in the freezer to save for banana bread? Yeah, you want the plantains to go FURTHER. All black if you can wait that long (tossing in a paper bag for a day or two supposedly speeds up the process, but that STILL is asking for a lot of patience IMO). Slice ’em up, fry them in oil and finish with a sprinkle of salt. Called Maduros, these are the kind of fried plantains I like.

For fried sweet plantains (Maduros), your plantains should look kinda like this

For fried sweet plantains (Maduros), your plantains should look kinda like this

You can also fry green plantains. Often called Tostones, they aren’t the sweet kind. Basically, you slice up your green or barely ripe plantain, fry it, flatten it and then fry it again. It’s crispy and used more for savory purposes – often accompanied by a garlic sauce. These, admitted, aren’t usually what I have in mind when I think fried plantains. But I’m sure in the right place at the right time…

I’m pretty sure this doesn’t warrant a recipe, does it? You’ll probably want to pick a neutral oil with a high smoke point for the frying part. I used a cast iron skillet. Tossed in an inch or so of oil. Waited for it to get good and hot. Threw in the plantains (no overcrowding please!) and fried them for maybe 3 minutes or so on each side.  Remove with slotted spoon and let drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and enjoy them HOT!


Ms. Pantry Raid

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Pomegranate glazed grilled chicken with Middle Eastern nut rice

Pomegranate glazed grilled chicken with Middle Eastern rice with toasted nuts and cinnamon

Let the grilling begin!

I have a bottle of pomegranate molasses in my refrigerator that is a bit past its prime.

Way, way past its prime…

I don’t know why I’ve kept it sitting around for so long – since it adds such an interesting flavor to food. But whatever, it’s been sitting there a long time.

In coming up with a way to use it up, I thought it would go great slathered over grilled chicken. Initially, I had planned on making a thick, sticky, sweet-sour lacquer for crispy chicken skin. A Middle Eastern barbecue sauce, if you will. In the end, I created a lighter, tangy basting sauce. Brushed lightly over grilled chicken, it imparts a fantastically tangy flavor. And neither mouth-puckeringly sour nor cloyingly sweet.

To pair with it…

What would go great with pomegranate glazed chicken? Why rice spiked with toasted nuts and cinnamon of course! A great side dish on its own – the cinnamon really makes it interesting. Sprinkle a little extra over the top when serving just to finish it off. A perfect match!

Pomegranate Glazed Grilled Chicken

Makes 3/4 cup or so of glaze – enough for 2-4 chicken breasts
1/4 cup white wine
2 T minced shallots
1/2 cup chicken broth
Juice of one orange
1 t honey
2 T pomegranate molasses
1 T butter
2 bone in, skin on, split chicken breasts

To make glaze:
1. Combine wine and shallots in small saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce until wine is mostly evaporated.

2. Add broth, orange juice, pomegranate molasses and honey. Bring to boil and reduce until 3/4 cup liquid is left.

3. Whisk in butter. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

To make chicken:
1. Start grill. We have a small gas grill that doesn’t have separate burners, so we just light it and let it get to about 450 degrees.

2. Oil grate. Place chicken skin side down on grate. Cover and cook 10 minutes.

3. Flip chicken over. Baste with glaze and cook additional 15 minutes – basting a couple of times..

4. Check temp of chicken. Might need turn it skin side down and cook an additional 3-5 minutes. Might not. Pull off when it is done to your degree of doneness (remember, it will raise maybe 10 degrees after you take it off the grill and let it rest. Give it one more coat of glaze before serving.

Middle Eastern Nut Rice with Cinnamon

Serves 4
1 T oil
1 small onion minced
1 1/2 cups basmati rice
2 cups chicken stock
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used a mix of pistachio and macadamia – cause I had them sitting around)
ground cinnamon

1. Toast nuts: place nuts on a baking sheet and toast at 400 degrees for 7 minutes or until fragrant (don’t let them burn). Take out and remove from baking sheet to stop them from cooking. Set aside.

2. In medium saucepan with a tight fitting lid, saute onions in oil over medium heat until soft – five minutes.

3. Add rice. Stir to coat in oil.

4. Add chicken broth and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil.

5. Put lid on saucepan. Turn heat down to low and let cook for 20 minutes.

6. Check for doneness. If done remove from heat, remove cinnamon stick and stir in toasted nuts. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately sprinkled with dash of ground cinnamon.


Ms. Pantry Raid

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No words. This was just really good

No words. This was just really good.

This week is all about excess. Fitting that I have chosen to start a diet this week too, no? Perhaps said diet will need to wait for next week since it’s all about heavy cream infused with butter this week. I can already hear my cellulite conspiring against me.


On our vacation last summer, I brought some vanilla beans back with me.  In case you are ready to report me to the authorities, I want to clearly state that I TRIED to report my ill-gotten booty, but the Customs Agent crumpled up my form and waived me through with my husband. Who am I to try and hassle with the authorities now, hmmm??? I felt it was kismet cause I really wanted those vanilla beans.

Types of vanilla beans

Just so we are all on the same playing field here, there are three types of beans: Bourbon (Madagascar), Mexican and Tahitian. All beans contain tons of tiny little seeds – which you will most likely scrape out into whatever it is you are flavoring. Bourbon beans accounts for 3/4 of all beans – and are most likely what you are purchasing. Mexican are the strongest in flavor, but are becoming more scarce. And Tahitian are long, slender, very floral tasting and somewhat milder than the other two. 

The vanilla beans we are talking about today are of the Tahitian variety. Sadly, those lovely vanilla beans of mine weren’t stored as properly as they should have been and weren’t exactly pliable anymore. So the question is…

Can you re-hydrate dried vanilla beans?

I tried a few methods of reviving them. First, I wrapped them in a damp paper towel for about half an hour. Result? Eh, not so much. Next, I tried wrapping them in a damp paper towel and zapping them in the microwave for 15 seconds. Result? Yep. That works. In case you ever find yourself in this predicament, give it a try. Also, try poaching it in the liquid you are trying to infuse flavor into, then scrape the beans. Whatever you do, don’t toss them out. And don’t think that dried out beans are relegated to making vanilla sugar.

The French influence on Tahitian cuisine is extensive throughout the islands. Fish with vanilla sauce was my favorite dish and I partook every chance I got. It’s only taken me, oh, 10 months to finally make this dish at home.  But more on that later. Right now we are making Vanilla Mashed Sweet Potatoes to go with our fish with vanilla sauce. Swoon!

Vanilla Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Serves four


1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes 

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons heavy cream

1 Tahitian vanilla bean (NOTE: since Tahitian beans are pretty mild, if you are using another type of bean, maybe 1/2 bean would do?)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

kosher salt and white pepper to taste


1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Put the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until tender, about 1 hour.

2. Remove from oven and let cool until warm enough to handle. Peel and discard the skin.

3. Put the potatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the butter.

4. Meanwhile, pour the cream into a saucepan, add the vanilla bean and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for five minutes.

5. Remove from heat. Use tongs to fish out the vanilla bean. Split the bean and scrape the seeds into the cream.

6. Pour the mixture over the potatoes in the processor.

7. Puree the potato mixture until smooth.

8. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep covered and warm until ready to serve. NOTE: Reheats beautifully in the microwave.


Ms. Pantry Raid

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Parsnips and potatoes pureed with a ton of dairy fat.

Parsnips and potatoes pureed with a ton of dairy fat.

 Haute cuisine circa 1998

Throughout our lives, there are moments we all remember when we were introduced to something new – something eye-opening. I remember one such moment from a visit to Cafe Boulud in NYC in the late ’90’s. I was maybe 18 at the time and just starting to realize that I loved food and everything about it. The two things I remember most about this meal were the super attentive waitstaff (mostly the table crumbing device) and the trio of pureed vegetables.

The dish was highly recommended by our waiter. Pureed carrots, parsnips and…oh, let’s be honest, I have no clue what the other puree was because of the other two. The carrots were memorable for their vibrant color and the parsnips for their wonderful taste. I had never had a parsnip before and as a normal, midwestern 17 year old, I was wary. I was so unbelievably surprised.  A little sweet, a bit gingery and silky smooth. We’ve all grown up with mashed potatoes, what took us so long to experiment with other vegetables? 

While this is no longer innovative cuisine, pureed parsnips are still tasty. I served it for Easter dinner with a grilled pork tenderloin and shredded brussels sprouts. Next time, I might try roasting them first.

Potato Parsnip Puree

Straight from epicurious. I halved the recipe cause there’s just two of us and there were tons of leftovers.

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Yes, I counted the whole bun in my costs. Topless sandwich is for pix sake only!

Yes, I counted the whole bun in my costs. Topless sandwich is for pix sake only!

Hobo Mondays

Thursdaynightsmackdown has a new once a month blogging event called Hobo Mondays: come up with a meal to feed 2 for under $5. Well, we are looking for ways to cut down our grocery bill over here at Pantry Raid, so I thought this was prime opportunity to get off my butt and actually DO something about it. 

As far as groceries go, I certainly have gotten better about using things up. We don’t have nearly the amount of food molding away in the back of our refrigerator that we used to. But I still don’t really do well on the low-cost meal front. I go to the store, I get excited, $16/lb imported Spanish chorizo gets purchased, you know the story. So anyway, here goes nothing!

I had a plan of what I wanted to make for my first Hobo Monday. But I got sucked into making something totally different cause pork country ribs were on sale this week. Count me IN. Menu be damned!

Coke Trafficking

So ok, now what? Pulled pork sandwiches sounds good. I’ve wanted to do rootbeer pulled pork forever. Then I  thought Coke pulled pork might be good too. AND since I live up the street from a Mexican market, I thought I could be super slick by using a can of Coke made with PURE sugar vs high fructose corn syrup. Somehow, Mexico gets the good stuff and in the States, we get HFCS. So I marched down to the store, grabbed the cool, retro, “Imported from Mexico” bottle, and headed to the checkout. Just to be sure, I checked the ingrediant list. HFCS! Dang it. Thwarted. Do tell why one would import Coke all the way from Mexico AND not have it be the kind with real sugar? Hmmm??? What’s the point? I plan on boycotting my little corner market in silent protest. Ok, I probably won’t, but right now I’m mad.

Mexican Street Corn (well, kinda sorta…)

Alright, pulled pork sandwiches. What goes with it? Corn sounds good. But plain corn is blah, so add some cheese, a little lime, maybe some cilantro and now we’re talkin’. We’ve got a great summertime meal. Never mind that it’s flipping April and it’s SNOWING outside. AGH!

How did I do?

Total meal cost? About $5 give or take. Here’s the breakdown:

$1.32 for pork (assuming 6 oz pp).
$0.94 2 rolls
$0.50 can of coke
$1.10 can of corn
$0.05 for half a lime (Mexican markets are CHEAP)
$0.05 sprinkle of cilantro (see above)
$1.00 worth of parmesan
a whole mess of pantry spices and a little bit of mayo

So $4.96. Just under the cutoff!

Coke Pulled Pork

Stolen verbatim from Chu This so just go there and, uh, follow the directions. The only changes I would make are to reduce the chicken stock to 1 cup (maybe less), add a little more sugar, and you really only need to reduce like a cup of the resulting liquid (otherwise you’ll be reducing the sauce for days).

Oh yeah – and those crispy things in the picture? Those are fried onions and they don’t count cause they were sitting, rotting away in my fridge from last week’s Pork Curry. Hey, just being frugal over here!

Parmesan Lime Corn

This is kind of a bastardized version of Elote – Mexican Street Corn. Usually served on the cob slathered with a mixture of cotija cheese, mayo, lime juice and cayenne pepper, I’ve chosen to make it off the cob and with parmesan instead of cotija cause, shoot, that’s what I had in my fridge. Oh, and I forgot the cayenne pepper. I sure am forgetful lately! 


11 oz can corn
2 T grated parmesan
1 T mayo
1 T cilantro
juice of half lime
salt to taste


1. Heat corn in small saucepan. 

2. Remove from heat and add in mayo and parmesan. Stir till thoroughly combined.

3. Add lime juice, cilantro and salt to taste. Stir to combine and serve immediately.



Ms. Pantry Raid

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potatogalette2Does this girl ever eat healthy?

It’s all about portion control, right?

Once again, this recipe is actually about being frugal – I had some potatoes that were starting to get wrinkly and needed to be used asap. I’ve always wanted to make a galette, so thought this would be a perfect opportunity and found a recipe that would also use up the gruyere in my fridge.

My only qualm with this recipe is that the potatoes – where they didn’t have cheese on top – were so sad and soggy looking. Maybe it needed to be baked longer. Maybe it’s because I used baking potatoes instead of Yukon Gold. Other than the visual appearance of the potatoes, the taste was great. My husband kept raving about it and pretty much finished it off (but you know, how can you go wrong with potatoes and cheese?).

Yukon Gold Gruyère Galette

From Fine Cooking


1/4 cup finely chopped shallots (from about 2 large shallots)
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil; plus 1/2 tsp. for the pan (or use olive-oil spray for the pan)
1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes (about 2 large or 3 medium), unpeeled and scrubbed
1 heaping tsp. very lightly chopped fresh thyme
Kosher salt
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about a 1-1/2-oz. piece, grated on a box grater’s small holes)
1 cup finely grated Gruyère (about 3-1/2 oz.)


Combine the shallots and 3 Tbs. of the oil in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce to a low simmer; cook the shallots until nicely softened (don’t let them brown), about 2 min. Remove from the heat and let cool completely (about 25 min. at room temperature; cool them more quickly in the refrigerator. if you like).

Heat the oven to 400°F. Rub the bottom and inside edge of a 7-1/2-inch tart pan with a removable bottom with the remaining 1/2 tsp. olive oil or spray with olive-oil spray. Put the tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil.

Slice the potatoes as thinly as possible (about 1/16 inch) with a chef’s knife. Tip: If the potato wobbles, slice a thin lengthwise sliver off the bottom to stabilize it; then continue slicing crosswise. Discard the ends. Put the potato slices in a mixing bowl, add the shallots and olive oil along with the herbs and toss well to thoroughly coat the potatoes (a small rubber spatula works well).

Cover the bottom of the tart pan with a layer of potato slices, overlapping them slightly. Start along the outside edge of the tart pan and, making slightly overlapping rings, move inward until the bottom is covered with one layer of potatoes. Sprinkle the potatoes with salt (a generous 1/8 tsp.) and then sprinkle about one-quarter of the Parmigiano and about one-quarter of the Gruyère over all. Arrange another layer of potatoes, season with salt, sprinkle with cheese, and repeat two more times, until you have four layers of potatoes. (This is a messy job; you’ll need a damp towel to wipe your hands between layers.) Top the last layer with more salt and any remaining cheese.

Bake the galette until the top is a reddish golden brown and the potatoes are tender in all places (a fork with thin tines should poke easily through all the layers), 45 to 50 min. The bottom will be crisp and the sides brown.

Let the galette cool for 10 or 15 min. in the pan. It will then be cool enough to handle but still plenty hot inside for serving. Have a cutting board nearby. Run a paring knife around the edge of the galette to loosen it and carefully remove the tart ring by gently pressing the tart bottom up. Slide a very thin spatula under and all around the bottom layer to free the galette from the tart bottom. Use the spatula to gently slide the galette onto a cutting board. Cut into four or six wedges, or as many as you like.

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