It’s waaaay too hot in my tiny kitchen.
Company’s coming for dinner, and I’ve had the oven cranked up and burners aflame in preparation for the main course.
In a normal-size house, maybe the heat wouldn’t be such a big deal to overcome. But in my Barbie doll-size kitchen, where the table/workspace is literally just in front of the oven door, things can heat up pretty fast.
So, I need some side dishes that (1) are easy to prepare and (2) preferably use little to no heat. And they should be light and taste great.
Here are my three solutions:
Cucumber and shallot salad, a favorite of my father’s, is simply a couple of cucumbers (I’ve used an English hot house variety because you don’t have to peel and seed them) cut into quarter-inch slices and one whole medium-size shallot diced or minced (however tiny a cut you like). Throw the cukes and shallot (or a medium onion, if you prefer) into a large bowl and add salt to taste and about four tablespoons of rice wine vinegar. Toss and cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate. I find the rice wine vinegar to be less acidic and more refreshing than apple cider or white vinegars.
If you’re feeling a need for heat, in the past, I have added a chopped jalapeno pepper to the mix. Just remember to keep in mind the tolerance levels of the folks you’ll be serving.
Fresh fruit salad. I bought fresh peaches at the farmers market earlier in the week and wanted some way to highlight them in a side dish. Pairing them with some plums and melon and finishing off with some limoncello would be ideal. And easy.
I didn’t need a whole watermelon or cantaloupe for three people at dinner so I bought a pre-packaged mix from the grocery store.
Wash and rough cut three peaches and two plums and mix all of the fruit together in a large bowl. From my garden, I’ve added two sprigs of fresh mint, cut fine and tossed with the fruit.
Since my guests are adults, looking at my limited liquor cabinet (and this is an optional step), I found some limoncello. Grand Marnier or some other fruit-based liqueur will work as well. Just sprinkle about two tablespoons over the fruit, toss and cover and refrigerate until dinner.
Pan roasted new potatoes. OK, so this side dish needs some heat. But, it can be done on a stove-top burner rather than in the oven, so it’s not that bad. Besides, the new potatoes at the farmers market looked too good to pass up, and I needed an excuse to use some duck fat that I had in the fridge (purchased at Fresh Market).
Wash and towel dry one pound of potatoes, then dice them into about half-inch cubes. Heat the duck fat (or oil of your choice) in a large heavy skillet (I have cast iron). Add the potatoes and brown them over medium high heat. When they’re almost done, add three cloves minced garlic (about one tablespoon). You don’t want the garlic to burn because it will taste bitter, so add it late in the cooking process.
When the potatoes are nice and evenly browned, turn off the heat and add three sprigs of fresh thyme, toss and salt to taste.
I served these easy summer sides with toasted focaccia slices and two cheeses (a goat’s milk brie and a manchego).
The main course was – pork belly confit.
There were no leftovers.