On the Side II

by Mark R. Vogel

            Welcome to the second edition of “On the Side.”  The holidays are around the corner and everyone is starting to consider the menu for their Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.  As usual, the main course is a no-brainer.  Eons of hackneyed tradition have made that choice for you.  The quandary is what side dishes to make.  Although you may have a few favorites in your repertoire, people are usually on the lookout for novel ideas.  Maybe some of these will help.




1 small onion, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

Olive oil as needed

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 oz. white wine

1 cup lentils

1 pint chicken broth

2 bay leaves

Rosemary, chopped, to taste

Thyme, chopped to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

1 ham hock

Parsley, chopped, to taste


            Sauté the onion and celery in olive oil until soft.  Add the garlic and sauté one more minute.  Deglaze the pan with the wine.  Add the lentils, broth, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper and stir.  Place the ham hock in the center, cover, bring to a boil, and then simmer on low, covered, for 30 minutes or until the lentils are soft. Flip the ham hock halfway through and add more broth if necessary.  Finish with the parsley and extra salt and pepper if needed.


SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE                   


6 sweet potatoes

¾ cup white sugar

1 cup condensed milk

6 oz. melted butter, divided

1 egg

1 teaspoon orange zest

3 tablespoons orange juice

Salt and pepper, to taste

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, divided

¾ cup light brown sugar

1 cup chopped mixed nuts, (walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc.)

1/3 cup flour


            Pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork and bake in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes or until soft.  When cool remove the skins.  Increase the oven to 425.  Mash the potatoes, white sugar, condensed milk, half the melted butter, egg, orange zest and juice, salt and pepper and half the nutmeg with a potato masher in a large bowl.  Spoon into a greased 2 quart baking dish.  Mix the remaining half of the nutmeg, brown sugar, nuts, flour and remaining melted butter.  Sprinkle over the potatoes.  Bake for 30 minutes.  You may need to cover it for the last 15 minutes with aluminum foil to prevent the top from over-browning. 




3 tablespoons butter

4 large portobello mushrooms

Salt and pepper to taste

2 garlic cloves, chopped

3 tablespoons dry sherry

12 ounces of fresh brie cheese

Pesto sauce, as needed (recipe follows)


            Preheat the oven to broil.  Melt the butter in a non-stick sauté pan, and lightly sauté the mushrooms.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add the garlic and continue to sauté until the mushrooms are soft.  Deglaze the pan with the sherry.  Remove the mushrooms and place on a greased baking sheet.  Cut the brie into bite size pieces and place on top of the mushrooms.  Drizzle some pesto onto the top of each mushroom.  Place under broiler until the cheese melts, about one minute.




2 cups basil

¼ cup pine nuts

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

2 garlic cloves

Salt and pepper to taste

3/4 cup olive oil


            Place all of the ingredients except the oil in a food processor and briefly mix.  Then with the processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until incorporated. 




            For a yummy snack, take some of the leftover pesto sauce and mix it with the nuts of your choice.  Almonds and pecans work well.  Then spray a baking sheet, spread the pesto covered nuts on it and bake for 10-15 minutes at 350 or until toasted, stirring them every so often.  




This recipe comes from Simply Irresistible: Easy, Elegant, Fearless, Fussless Cooking by Sheilah Kaufman


¾ cup sugar
4 eggs, separated
3/4 cup grated carrots
½ cup finely ground almonds
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 ½ teaspoons sweet red wine

Butter as needed

Flour as needed


            Preheat your oven to 325.  Beat together sugar and egg yolks until thick and lemon colored, about 5 minutes.  Add the carrots, almonds, lemon zest and wine and mix well.  Beat the egg whites until stiff, and carefully fold into the pudding mixture.  Grease a 6 cup (or larger depending on how many "batches" you are making) casserole with butter and then coat with flour.  Pour pudding into casserole and bake for 65 minutes or until firm and well browned.







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