Next week I’ll be celebrating American Thanksgiving in Illinois with Joe’s family for the first time. Admittedly the above image is a little more “Christmas” than “turkey + stuffing”, but the sentiment is the same: gathering around a big table, feeling grateful for family and food.
Besides, Thanksgiving has already come and gone for my Canadian readers, so this can be a little holiday spirit in advance for you guys.
I’m the only vegetarian/pescatarian in the family, and Joe’s mom Sue is always super sweet about making sure there are lots of veggie options when we visit. Yesterday she emailed to ask if I had any suggestions for an extra side dish at Thanksgiving.
There was a time, a few years back, when the only side dish I knew how to make was my stepmom’s lemon and garlic roasted potatoes. They are crazy good, so back then I didn’t really mind not having other options in my repertoire. That was when I still worked in the restaurant industry, eating most of my dinners pre-shift, sitting at the bar at Il Terrazzo.
Times have changed. My meals are no longer cooked for me by a restaurant chef, and I have discovered cookbooks and food blogs. (I am useless without a recipe.) This is not to say I am now in any way great in the kitchen, only that I at least actually do things in the kitchen besides making coffee or grabbing a fork to dig into my Thai takeout.
There’s one food blog in particular I keep turning to… Dinner: A Love Story.
For me, dinner is the main meal. I could subsist on peanut butter toast (or avocado toast, with lime, salt, and chilli flakes) for breakfast for the rest of my days, as long as the weekend includes eggs. Working from home, lunch is pretty much whatever I piece together: leftovers (I’m heating up chilli as I write this); a snack plate with nuts, cheese, and fruit; sometimes soup. But dinner needs to be substantial. Dinner is discussed. Even if it’s simple (it usually is), the evening meal calls for inspiration.
And Dinner: A Love Story (DALS) has a lot of inspiration. It’s written by Jenny Rosenstrach and Andy Ward, a wife-and-husband duo who live in Westchester County, New York, have a couple middle-school age daughters, and love to cook and write. The posts and recipes have funny little stories and insights and are down to earth rather than overly “foodie”. They do other stuff on the blog, too, like recommend books and interview people. Most of all, it has a ton of awesome, doable dinners.
So when Sue asked me for a veggie side dish idea, instead of floundering around trying to come up with something; I went straight to DALS. (The writers are not vegetarian, in case you’re wondering. There are tons of meaty recipes that look really good, if you’re into that.)
Joe and I have made this Salmon and Brussels Sprouts with Ginger-Scallion Sauce a bunch of times now, and it’s always great. Even though it sounds fancy (well, it did to me), it’s SO easy, and is prepped, cooked, and on your plate in 30 minutes. So on Thanksgiving, I’m going to do the brussels and sauce as a side, without the salmon. Done.
The other side dish I suggested is from the DALS Top Ten Side Dishes post, though I haven’t tried it yet. Here’s the how-to:
Roast Cauliflower with Shallot Breadcrumbs
Toss 1 head cauliflower (broken into florets) with olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon, salt, and pepper, and a pinch of sugar. Roast in a 400°F degree oven until golden, approximately 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare breadcrumbs. Heat about 3 tablespoons olive oil in a saute pan set over medium heat. Add a clove of garlic (minced), 1 small shallot (diced) and 1/2 cup breadcrumbs. Cook for approximately 5 to 7 minutes until golden. Toss cauliflower with breadcrumbs and sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, sage, or thyme.
Sounds tasty, right? And again, EASY. I’m at the stage of my cooking life where I’m trying to just get really good at simple things, instead of making complicated stuff that turns out mediocre because I don’t know what I’m doing. A little confidence goes a long way for me in the kitchen.
What are you guys eating at home these days? Any food blogs you recommend? Have an amazing cooking tip?
I’d love to hear.