Last month when I asked Tim what new vegetable I should try to make, he was quick to respond: “I think you’d really like sugar snap peas.” I immediately set to work finding a recipe and decided on an Asian Sugar Snap Pea Appetizer. I was planning to whip up some spicy chicken and fried rice (a trusty favorite around here) and this seemed like a good side dish candidate.
The sugar snap peas were quick and easy to prepare, and they came out pretty delicious. The only thing I might do differently next time is toss them in the sauce before broiling them so the sesame seeds get nicely toasted. And there will definitely be a next time.
Lately, few things sound more delicious to me than stir-fried vegetables, so for extra credit I added a bunch of chopped peppers, zucchini, and yellow squash to my standard chicken recipe. Between the chicken-and-veggie stir fry and the yummy sugar snap peas, we had a veritable vegetable medley on our plates.
This new vegetable recipe was another success, and it turns out Tim was right (as usual): Apparently I do enjoy sugar snap peas quite a bit.
In my quest to try a new vegetable recipe each month, I made this baked zucchini recipe in February. Except there was no zucchini at the store, so I used yellow squash, following Tim’s logic that squash and zucchini are generally pretty interchangeable.
I’m pleased to say that February’s recipe was much more successful than January’s cucumber disaster. The Italian flavors of oregano and Parmesan complimented the sweet flavor of the squash nicely, and — let’s be honest — it’s pretty hard to go wrong with something tossed in olive oil and baked until golden brown.
I served these as a side dish for spaghetti and meatballs, which I’m going to go ahead and admit was genius. The little crispy squash slices were good on their own. But then one of them brushed up against some extra spaghetti sauce on the plate, and it was like the two were destined to be together. It was so good, I found myself wishing I’d made squash dipped in marinara sauce with spaghetti on the side. I couldn’t get enough.
At the end of next summer, when everyone’s gardens are overflowing with squash and zucchini, slice those suckers up and put them in the oven with olive oil, Parmesan, and oregano, then dip them in marinara sauce. Trust me — you’ll be glad you did.
One of my resolutions for the new year is to make one new vegetable-centered recipe each month. I know 12 new recipes in a year is not that impressive a number, but what you have to remember is I’ve never been a big vegetable eater. It’s not that I never eat vegetables — I’ve actually gotten much better at expanding my culinary tastes beyond meat, potatoes, and cheese in recent years — but I tend to eat the same vegetables (green beans, peppers, spinach) all the time. I’d like to work more vegetables into my diet, and it seems like the best way to do this is to start cooking with veggies more often. Knowing my general aversion to most vegetables and our usual grocery-shopping habits, one new recipe per month seemed like the best way to set myself up for success with this particular resolution.
This month’s vegetable pick was the cucumber. Cucumbers are kind of okay. I’ll eat them occasionally, but I tend to reach my cucumber threshold pretty quickly. But since I don’t hate cucumbers, I figured I could find a recipe with sufficient other yummy flavors to balance out the cucumber taste enough to make it enjoyable. Enter the California Roll Salad. This recipe has all sorts of things I enjoy — avocados, leafy green lettuce (used in place of iceberg, obvs.), soy sauce, salmon (in place of fake crab). Plus it’s one of the top-rated cucumber recipes on a usually trustworthy recipe site. Surely it could make cucumbers more enjoyable, right?
Yeah, not so much. There were probably some things I could have done differently. I could have chopped the cucumber into smaller pieces so every bite with cucumber in it wasn’t completely overpowered by cucumber. I could have spent an extra couple of bucks on fresh salmon instead of ignoring my firm no-canned-meat policy and buying pre-cooked, pre-shredded canned salmon. Oh, and I could have known better than to trust a group of reviewers who made Microwave Pickles the top-rated cucumber recipe on the site.
So, January’s recipe was a bust, and I still don’t love cucumbers. (Although, to be fair, even without the cucumbers I wouldn’t have enjoyed last night’s salad very much.) Here’s hoping February’s new vegetable recipe will be a bigger success.
About four years ago, when I graduated from college, my parents threw me a fantastic graduation party catered by my all-time favorite Ft. Collins Mexican restaurant, El Burrito. We ended up with lots of delicious leftovers, most of which Tim and I took with us when we moved down to Colorado Springs the next day. We stocked our freezer with tortillas, ground beef, green chile, and sopapillas (we had a lot of sopapillas since we kinda forgot to put them out until the party was almost over — oops!) and basically lived on El Burrito leftovers for the first month we lived here. I can’t even begin to tell you how delicious it was.
While we quickly ran out of tortillas, we had plenty of everything else those first tasty weeks in our house. So once burritos were no loner an option, I started making stuffed sopapillas on a regular basis. I’d just slice open a sopapilla, fill it with beef, cheese, and green chile, and smother the whole thing with more green chile (El Burrito has damn good green chile). It was far from healthy, but who cares? It was delicious, and that’s really all that matters.
That was four years ago. Two nights ago, while eating mediocre Mexican food at a local restaurant, the conversation turned to how much we enjoy El Burrito and how disappointing it is that we’ve yet to find a restaurant in the Springs that compares. We’d been to El Burrito over the weekend while celebrating Christmas in Ft. Collins with my family, and the bland food before us now was just not doing it for us. As we grew nostalgic for the days of a freezer full of burrito- and stuffed sopapilla-makings, when we could satisfy our El Burrito craving whenever the mood struck, Tim mentioned that back then he’d thought I’d invented the stuffed sopapilla. He’d never noticed that fairly common menu item at Mexican restaurants before and thought sopapillas were just delicious dessert pastries. But then we moved into this house and I kept coming out of the kitchen with plate after plate of this “dessert pastry” stuffed with meat and smothered in green chile and he couldn’t believe I’d come up with such a delicious flavor combination. It was genius!
I wish I had invented the stuffed sopapilla — man, what a great legacy to have to my name! — but of course I didn’t, as Tim eventually figured out. I just hope that when he finally noticed the dish on a restaurant menu for the first time there was a big pitcher of margaritas nearby to help him deal with the realization that he was not married to a genius culinary inventor after all
Did you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving? I did. Tim’s parents came to town and we had a very relaxing holiday filled with family, fun, and delicious food.
And now, there are leftovers. I think we can all agree that Thanksgiving leftovers are some of the best leftovers in the history of leftovers. Everyone has their favorite way of munching on leftover turkey and mashed potatoes, and today I’m going to share with you my favorite: The Thanksgiving Leftover Sandwich.
Start by gathering your ingredients, which in this case would be all the thanksgiving leftovers (minus dessert), bread, butter, and cheese (I prefer pepperjack).
Butter one side of a slice of bread and place it butter-side-down in a pan. Then start assembling your sandwich (or your two sandwiches, since there’s no way your husband is going to pass up an opportunity to have one of the best sandwiches he’ll eat all year):
Follow along, starting at the top left corner and working left-to-right, top-to-bottom.
- Start with a slice of cheese, to stick the filling to the bread.
- Then slather on some mashed potatoes.
- Plop a couple slices of turkey on there, and season with pepper if desired.
- Another slice of cheese, for adhesive purposes.
- Spoon on some green bean casserole. Mmmmmm….green bean casserole is my favorite.
- Then add a little stuffing (if you’re like me and like stuffing)…
- …and/or some cranberries (if you’re like Tim and like cranberries).
- One last layer of cheese.
- And another slice of buttered bread, butter-side-up.
Congratulations! Your sandwich is assembled! Now, that is one thick sandwich, and if you want to have any prayer of heating it all the way through without burning the bread, you’re going to need to grill it very slooowwwwlllyyyyyy on very low heat. I cannot emphasize this enough. You may even want to cover the pan with foil to make a little heat bubble and help the heat work its way through all those delicious layers of leftover goodness.
The other trick to this sandwich is flipping it. Since we are working with such a deliciously thick sandwich, we can’t just go flipping it all willy-nilly and expect it not to fall apart all over the place. To successfully flip The Thanksgiving Leftover Sandwich, you’re going to need a little technique I like to call The Two-Spatula Flip.
The secret of this technique is — you guessed it! — using two spatulas. Slide one under the sandwich as you normally would, then place the other, face-down, on top of the sandwich. Grasping the sandwich between the two spatulas, carefully turn it over and place it back on the pan, sliding what is now the bottom spatula out from underneath the sandwich. And there you have it — a beautifully flipped sandwich without a drop of filing spilled. It’s all about the Two-Spatula Flip, my friends.
Cover the pan with foil again and let the sandwich finish grilling. When it’s done, both sides will be a beautiful golden brown and the layers will have all melted together and combined into what promises to be a delicious mouthful of flavorful goodness.
When the sandwich is done, transfer it to a plate, slice it in half, and serve with a side of gravy for dipping.
Then eat, enjoy, and don’t be ashamed to go make yourself another because you just can’t get enough of that goodness in you.