Category Archives: Side Dish

Foodie for Two: Top Ten Posts of 2011

My last blog post briefly mentioned a few stats in closing and today I thought it would be fun to take a closer look at Foodie for Two’s most popular posts in 2011.  Starting at ten and counting down to one, here are the top ten most viewed posts from last year.  
Eat well and share the love! 

10. Book Club: Gluten-free Quinoa Salad
Inspired by Good Earth’s Chicken Marco Polo with broccoli, raisins, walnuts, onions and a walnut Dijon vinaigrette.

9. New England Clam Chowder
Well tested and simplified for the home kitchen with rich and deep flavor.

8. Fisheries…Wild-caught… Farm-raised… Sustainability…Huh?
The only informational piece I posted, reviews the basic fish facts with reputable resources

 7. Vegetable Shots at the Bergman’s
Featured in several blogs last year, it’s only fitting the Bergman’s are in the top ten; inspired by an appetizer that Holly served at my belated birthday dinner.

6. Memorial Day BBQ: Buttermilk & Sage Brined Chicken 
Here’s an easy recipe for grilling chicken; the overnight brining keeps the meat juicy and moist.

5. Passover Traditions: Adele’s Matzo Ball Soup 
What an honor that the recipe from my late mother-in-law, Adele, is one of the five most popular!

4. Memorial Day: Grilled Corn with Honey Jalapeño Butter 
Grilling is a great way to get lots of caramelized flavor, and corn on the cob is no exception.

3. Cinco de Mayo: Slow-cooked Carne Seca
Our favorite regional dish from Tucson; London broil is slow cooked, shredded and mixed with sautéed onions, Poblano peppers and tomatoes.

2. Easy Weeknight Meal: Gourmet Tuna Melts 
I have to admit that I was surprised by the popularity of this one!  Inspired from a simple idea for a fabulous lunch.

1. Memorial Day Dessert: Strawberry Granita with Whipped Cream
Considering my love of sweets, I am very pleased that a dessert made the number one spot.  When you combine whipped cream and strawberry granita it tastes just like ice cream, a rich and decadent treat.

I look forward to sharing many more in 2012! 


Book Club: Gluten-free Quinoa Salad

Last night we had our monthly book club outside on Teri’s deck.  We are a group of amazing, strong, intelligent and accomplished women who discuss current issues and books, laugh a lot, readily offer each other support and have thought-provoking discussions.  We also enjoy a glass (or two) of wine and eat really good food.  My time was short so I decided to make a quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) salad and only use ingredients that were in the house, while still making it gluten-free for someone in the group.  I had slim pickings with frozen broccoli being the only vegetable available; it all came together with a quick walnut Dijon vinaigrette for Quinoa Marco Polo (keep reading for why I chose that name).  We discussed “The Last Chinese Chef”, a foodie novel by Nicole Mones (author of Lost in Translation).  Yes, it was my recommendation last month and I enjoyed the discussions about the book – it’s been a while since food was the main topic of our book selection.  This recipe was simple to pull together with minimal ingredients.  My pantry is typically stocked with quinoa because it’s a versatile whole grain that can be served as a side salad, main dish or used to stuff vegetables.

I buy Eden Foods Organic Quinoa (uncooked grains shown at right), available at my local grocery store in the rice aisle.  This whole grain has a nutty flavor, is rich in fiber, ready in less than 20 minutes and easy to cook.  According to their package, quinoa is grown in the Andes at over 11,000 feet in elevation and called the “chisaya mama”, mother of all grain.  When cooked, the grain puffs up and the outer shell has a light give – they have a great texture.  I like to mix in some of the walnut Dijon dressing with the quinoa while it is still hot so it absorbs more of the flavors.   

Why call this recipe Quinoa Marco Polo?  With broccoli as the main vegetable and having the other ingredients on hand, I thought it would be fun to pay homage to the long-ago restaurant, The Good Earth.  They made an unforgettable, delicious entrée called Chicken Marco Polo that had a cooked grain, chicken, broccoli, walnuts, onions, raisins, water chestnuts, a creamy mustard sauce and topped off with melted cheddar cheese.  There isn’t any chicken or cheese in this recipe but the walnut Dijon vinaigrette dressing gives it a great zing of flavor.  It’s perfect for the nutty, light quinoa along with the mixture of red onions, broccoli, toasted walnuts and sweet raisins. 

This is one of my favorite books; the vivid and descriptive writing transported me to the kitchen where the character created delectable, tradition-filled dishes.  I also developed a new respect for the Chinese history and culinary traditions.  Here is an excerpt from Nicole Mones’ website: “You may know Chinese food; you may even love it. But The Last Chinese Chef will take you into a world of Chinese food you never even knew existed. Here is the hidden universe of one of the world’s great cuisines. Its philosophy, its concepts, and its artistic ambitions are all illuminated in a story that’s entertaining, emotionally satisfying, and erudite…… This is a novel of food, friendship, and falling in love, one that will forever change the way you look at Chinese food.”

If you haven’t tried quinoa, you should give it taste – it’s perfect for a pot luck or picnic.  Eat well and share the love!

Quinoa Marco Polo
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies
Total Cooking Time: 20 minutes          Total Prep Time: 10 minutes

Walnut Dijon Vinaigrette
4 tablespoons walnut oil
1 teaspoon good white vinegar (white balsamic or Pinot Grigio)
1 ½ teaspoons stone ground mustard

¼ teaspoon honey or agave nectar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8  teaspoon pepper
1 cup Quinoa grains (yields about 2 cups cooked)
1 ¼ cups water
Vegetable Mixture
½ cup thinly sliced red onions, cut into thirds
6 to 7 broccoli florettes, sliced (fresh or frozen)
3 tablespoons raisins
½ cup walnuts (toasted), broken into pieces
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Walnut Dijon Vinaigrette
Add all ingredients to a small blender and pulse a few times until well emulsified.  If you have it, use your immersion blender with the small blender attachment to make the dressing.

Bring water to boil and add stir in the quinoa.  Cover, reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Turn heat off and let sit for 5 minutes and fluff with a fork.  Add 1 tablespoon of the Walnut Dijon vinaigrette and stir well to coat all the grains.

Vegetable mixture
While the quinoa is cooking, start the vegetables.  In a medium skillet over medium heat, add 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil.  Add the sliced onions, ¼ teaspoon salt, a pinch of pepper and sauté until onions are translucent, about 7 minutes.  Add the broccoli, raisins and walnuts along with a good drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Stir well and sauté for 5 minutes.

Add the cooked quinoa to the vegetable mixture along with 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette and stir well.  Transfer to a serving bowl and let cool.  Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the salad and serve.

  • If using fresh broccoli, blanch the florettes in salted boiling water for 1 ½ minutes.  Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking.  Cut into slices.
  • Quinoa Marco Polo can be served hot or cold.  Can be made one day ahead – cover and refrigerate; reserve remaining vinaigrette and add before serving.

Memorial Day: Grilled Corn with Honey Jalapeño Butter

One of my favorite ways to enjoy corn on the cob is to grill it with the husks on.  This technique has been around for a long while and is nothing new, but it deserves to be resurrected.  The husks act like a steamer and impart a slightly nutty and smoky flavor to this classic summertime vegetable.  And when the corn is ready to eat, the husks do double duty as a handle.   Succulent grilled corn with a sweet and spicy butter is just the ticket for a Memorial Day Weekend Barbecue because it’s easy to make and such a treat to eat. 

The trick to grilling corn with the husks on is to soak them (husk and all) in water for a few hours before grilling.  Just like soaking wooden grilling skewers, the water helps keep the husks from burning too quickly.  I use my large Rondeau pot to soak the corn cobs – if they float just put a heavy plate on top.  Before grilling the corn, I remove all the silk (the thin strands between the husk and corn) so you don’t have to fuss with it when the corn is hot.  Most of the silk comes out in large pieces but there always seems to be stragglers.  Here’s a clever trick I learned in the catering world to remove them: dampen a clean kitchen towel and run it down the cob – it works wonders to capture those little guys.  The corn gets a light brushing of the honey jalapeño butter and then the husks are pulled back up to cover the corn and tied with strips made from a few husk leaves.  They get grilled over a low heat for about 30 minutes, turning every few minutes.

With corn on the cob, you must have butter (lots of it, please!).  I like to change it up and make a sweet and spicy butter to flavor the corn kernels.  It is super easy to make and only takes five minutes to whip together, including melting the butter.  I decided to make one of my favorites, honey jalapeño butter: unsalted butter, wildflower honey, jalapeño, lime zest, salt and pepper.  This butter would also be great on shrimp, on biscuits or to flavor bread for homemade croutons.   I love a spicy kick with the sweetness of the corn – another favorite is to slather the hot corn with butter, add some salt and pepper and a few dashes of a hot wings buffalo sauce.  Fabulous! 

Look for my post later this week when I share my recipe for brined barbecued chicken to round out the Memorial Day weekend meal.

Grilled Corn in the Husks with Honey Jalapeño Butter
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two    
Serves two foodies (4 corn on the cob)
Prep Time: 2 1/2 hours (soaking and de-silking)
Cooking Time: 30 to 35 minutes

Honey Jalapeño Butter
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¼ teaspoon honey
Half of a jalapeño, finely diced
1/8 teaspoon lime zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch of pepper

Corn in the Husk:
4 corn on the cob
Large pot of cold water (to soak the corn on
the cob before grilling)

Honey Jalapeño Butter:
Add the melted butter to a small bowl along the remaining ingredients and stir together until well-combined.  Let sit for 30 minutes or more to allow flavors to blend.  (Butter mixture can be made up to one day ahead, store covered in refrigerator.)

Corn in the Husk:
Soak corn in water (completely submerged) with the husks on for two hours.  Before grilling, remove the silk strands: Grasp the top of the corn with both hands using your thumbs and two fingertips, and pull either side of the husk down gently in two pieces to expose the whole cob.  Remove the silk strands with your hands and discard. Use a damp, clean kitchen towel to remove any remaining silk strands by grasping the top of the cop and dragging the towel down, from the top to the bottom.  Season with a light brushing of honey jalapeño butter and carefully pull the husks back up over the corn cob.  Secure with a few strips of husks (take off a few long husk leaves and cut lengthwise into strips with knife or kitchen shears) to prepare for grilling.

Heat grill to low heat and grill corn for 30 to 35 minutes, until outside husk leaves are a bit charred and corn is tender.  Turn corn every few minutes. 

To serve, peel the husks down, keeping the leaves intact at the bottom.  Brush liberally with honey jalapeño butter, season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper and serve hot.

Weeknight Meal: Cheeseburgers and Crispy Oven Fries

Yes, you can make mouth-watering burgers at home for a weeknight meal!  After a busy and crazy day there are times when I just crave a good burger to end the day and transition out of work.  We made burgers this weekend and was reminded how easy it was to pull off at home.  In fact, you can have lip-smacking hamburgers plus crispy oven-roasted fries within 30 minutes of putting the fries in the oven.  The burgers taste so much better because they are homemade with love and use fresh ingredients.   I like burgers cooked to medium that have flavorful meat, with some seasoning you can taste on the outside.   For the texture, I love a bit of a crunch on the outside and tender meat on the inside that isn’t too chewy.  The sharp cheddar cheese that melts down the sides of the burger makes it irresistible.  With the exception of the buns, I usually have all the ingredients in my pantry or freezer.  Give it a shot, here’s how.

The burger is the centerpiece of the creation and I found the grade of meat you use matters in terms of flavor, juiciness and texture.  For these burgers I used Angus Ground Chuck with 20% fat content.  We usually buy organic ground meat with 5 to 10% fat content, so the 20% fat was a stretch for me.  The grill masters have always recommended meat with higher fat content and now I see why.  There was a huge flavor and texture difference compared to the ground meat I usually buy.  I am somewhat of a seasoning purist and only use kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper, onion powder and garlic powder to season the meat, with a citrus pepper dusting on top of the burger.  It’s up to you – there are so many different ways to season a burger and you can make awesome ones at home.

I think I have mentioned several times (thanks for letting me repeat myself) that I swoon for anything fried.  French fries are one of my favorites.  You have probably seen countless recipes for fries roasted in the oven; I think oven-roasting is one of the best cooking techniques for vegetables – it makes you look like a pro with very little effort.   Roasting gives the potatoes a golden crispy crust with a soft and fluffy inside.  The prep work takes about 5 minutes, and while they are cooking you can get the burgers and garnishes going.

So far we have talked about the meat for the hamburger and oven-roasting the fries, but what about the supporting cast of the bun and condiments?  My favorite grocery store buns are premium sesame seed buns.  If I’m near a bakery, I’ll pick up some artisan rolls but I wanted to stick with more accessible items for this post.  I went all out for this photo shoot and lightly buttered the buns before I grilled them – fantastic!  That detail really pulled it all together for me.  The condiments, or all the good stuff around the burger, are what gives you those layers of flavors.  I love sharp cheddar cheese, but choose your favorite.  As a time saver, I buy the cheese pre-grated but slices are better to use for burgers.  I am a huge mayonnaise fan (Hellman’s!) and have to have it on my burger along with red onion slices, tomato, sliced pickles and butter lettuce.  David goes for a bacon cheeseburger with mustard, mayo, lettuce, onions and pickles.

What is your favorite burger?  I would love to hear what burger combination makes your mouth water!  Hopefully you are inspired to re-create this classic at home more often, with ease and very little planning.

Cheeseburgers with Crispy Oven-Fries        
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies
Prep: 12 minutes         Cooking Time: 30 minutes total

2 medium russet potatoes, skins on and washed well
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
¾ to 1 pound of ground beef (chuck or sirloin: 20%
   to 30% fat content)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon citrus pepper for top (or favorite seasoning salt)
2 slices sharp cheddar cheese
Yellow mustard
4 slices red onion
4 slices tomato
6 to 8 slices dill pickles
2 whole pieces butter lettuce (or romaine or iceberg)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat oven to 375 degrees F (convection if available) and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.  Cut potatoes in thirds width-wise and then into wedges or strips – try to make all similar in size for even cooking.  Place on sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Toss potato pieces with your hands and level out to a single layer.  Place in middle rack of oven and cook for 15 minutes.  Turn fries over with a spatula and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown.  If needed, season with more salt.

Serve immediately with cheeseburgers.

Cheeseburgers  (heat grill 15 to 20 minutes before fries are done, start cooking burgers when fries have 10 minutes cooking time left):
Heat grill to medium high.  Melt one tablespoon butter in ramekin in microwave (three to four 10 second intervals) and grab a pastry brush – for the buns.

In a medium glass bowl, add ground meat, salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.  Gently mix with hands until the seasonings are incorporated into meat; one trick to tender burgers is to handle the meat as little as possible.

Form two, one-half inch thick burgers and season top with citrus pepper or seasoning salt.  Place on hot grill and lightly smash down burger.  For a medium burger, cook for 4 minutes and turn over; lightly smash burger down again with spatula and cook for another 4 minutes (for well done burgers, cook on second side for 6 minutes).   A few minutes before the burgers are done cooking, toast the buns: brush the top and insides of the buns with butter and grill about one minute each side.  Place a cheese slice on each burger and transfer burgers to top rack of grill while buns finish toasting. 

Dress buns with mayonnaise or mustard; build burger on bottom bun starting with lettuce, cheeseburger, pinch of salt and pepper, onions, tomatoes, pickles and top bun.   Enjoy!

  • Can substitute sweet potatoes for russet potatoes