My Communal Table

Spicy Rice Cakes
September 20, 2010, 1:12 pm
Filed under: Appetizers, side dish | Tags: , , , ,

The neighbors have congregated on the back porch of our three flat while we chat and watch the kids run around the yard and alley… typical Saturday afternoon in Chicago. Beer and wine are a part of this meet up, but man, I could use a little bite of something and I have nothing. Wait, I always have something. Hmm, I have leftover rice. My mind started racing… I told the congregation to hold tight and I would be out with a quick bite in about ten minutes.

What I found in the fridge:

cooked rice
sofrito (blend of green pepper, garlic, onion, & cilantro)
fresh hot pepper
baking soda
Mexican melting cheese
bread crumbs
canola/vegetable oil

The amount of ingredients depends on how much leftover rice you have.

1. Place rice in bowl. Separate with hand.

2. Chop up hot peppers and add to rice. I like mine spicy, so I put almost a whole one in.

3. Grab the sofrito. I am lucky that I live close to nice size latin grocery store. I buy a nice amount of super fresh sofrito for about $2. I use it in a lot of things. From soups to chicken dishes. It works perfect here, but you can easily make up your own a batch to use yourself. This is my idea of a convenience good. Totally fresh. I add enough to add some color to the rice.

4. Add beaten eggs. Add one at a time until your rice is covered like mayo covers tuna for a tuna salad. Mix well.

5. Mix in grated Mexican melting cheese or any nice melting cheese through out the rice mixture.

6. Add about a tablespoon of baking soda. You will see a little bubbles forming. That is great. It is working at making things puffy. Salt and pepper to taste.

7. Scoop up a nice little patty of rice and then roll in bread crumbs.

8. Heat up a saute’ pan over medium high heat, then add oil. Let that get hot, then place patty in oil.

9. Brown both sides. Should not take long and you may have to turn your burner down to medium. Salt when you take them off the heat.

10. Serve immediately. I served mine with salsa verde. They would taste great wrapped in a little lettuce and cilantro as well. Yum.

This literally took ten minutes. I came back outside and was huge hit. Oh, I mean my spicy rice cakes were a huge hit. An ice-cold beer and good conversation were the perfect accompaniment to this amuse bouche on a Chicago Saturday afternoon.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth


Fresh Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes and Peas.
July 28, 2010, 12:39 pm
Filed under: side dish, Vegan | Tags: , , , , ,

This is recipe is about having the freshest, highest quality ingredients at hand and letting them do the talking. I love this dish. Super simple, but can only be had at this time of year. It is such a treat. I can still get fresh peas in the midwest and tomatoes are starting to reach perfection. I use the best butter that I can buy, a beautiful Chardonnay, and sea salt to make this perfect. I am putting down that this feeds 2 people, but I could eat the entire plate and a glass of Chardonnay and feel completely satisfied.

Serves 2

3 pads of sweet butter
1 cup fresh peas
1 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoon chives, finely chopped
1 splash Chardonnay
sea salt and cracked pepper, to taste.

1. In my favorite 10 inch skillet, I melt the butter over med-low heat.

2. Add peas, tomatoes, & chives. Cook, tossing occasionally for about 5 minutes.

3. Add splash of wine, s&p and cook until tomatoes start to crack open and peas are tender. About 5 minutes more.

4.Serve warm. So simple and good.

Super delicious does not mean complicated. Hope that you enjoy.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth

Roasting a Radish?
June 2, 2010, 3:02 pm
Filed under: Appetizers, side dish, Vegan | Tags: , ,

When I was in France, fresh radishes came with salt and butter to dip into. When I was in Mexico, almost every meal had radishes accompanying them. I love their sharp fresh taste, but I would never dream of roasting them until I read this article in The New York Times. Roasting radishes mellows them out in a really cool way. It takes the sharp bite out and leaves it quite luscious. Esthetically, the color and texture were another surprise. Beautiful. Some cool facts about radish is that it has as much potassium as bananas and is a member of both the mustard and broccoli family.

Flank steak with some mushrooms that had been sauteed with onions, garlic, fresh tarragon and a little cream was a perfect entree to have the roasted radishes with.

I had a couple of parsnips that I sliced in half and stuck on a baking sheet with radishes cut in half. No peeling necessary. Coated them with olive oil, a little salt, pepper, and thyme, then stuck them in a 375F oven for about 30-40 minutes. My meal took hardly anytime or effort, but was fresh and really hit the flavor sensation highway.

My offical taste tester, my six year old, loved the radishes roasted, but does not like them raw. I will definitely make them again. Try them out yourself. Let me know what you think? I envision lots of different ways to use this colorful healthy veggie.

Pull up a chair, Elizabeth

Sauteed Spinach with Kalamata Olives and Raisins
March 12, 2010, 9:42 am
Filed under: side dish | Tags: , , ,

This go-to side dish has saved me on more than one occasion. It is fast, but the flavors are complex. The bitter earthiness of the spinach compliments the saltiness of the olives and the sweetness of the raisins. Adding the pine nuts, give it yet another layer of texture and depth.

It takes about ten minutes to prep and make. No fooling. You will also be surprised how many things that it goes with. I have made it as a side dish at Thanksgiving. It goes well with other poultry, fish, pork and beef. It is really a life savor.

Make the recipe and let me know what you paired it with. It really is a taste explosion. You will have your guests pulling up a chair for more.

Am I the only one that had never heard of FRY SAUCE?
January 22, 2010, 3:41 pm
Filed under: sauces and condiments, side dish, Vegan | Tags: , , ,

I keep hearing about fry sauce lately. Have you? I bet I am the only one that doesn’t know about it. So I heard that it is ketchup and mayo mixed. So I decided to try it out. I mixed my ketchup and mayo, then tasted… thousand island dressing without the relish. I had no idea how you made that as well. I have not had thousand island dressing since I was a child and I would order a wedge of iceberg lettece with it smothered on top. That was the salad of my childhood.

Now the experiementing continued… enter the present day ingredient of the moment… Sriracha sauce. Love it! I mixed equal parts ketchup and mayo, then started squeezing in Sriracha sauce a little at a time, tasting as I go. When I found just the right heat, I stopped adding. Now that is going to taste good with my fries.

Then I tried mixing up a batch with vegan mayo instead of Hellman’s brand. My son, Gabriel, is allergic to dairy and eggs and thought he might like it. Okay, as far as vegan mayo goes. Yike. It tastes too much like Miracle Whip to me. Not a fan, but I thought Sriracha can cure a lot of ills. It still tasted like dodo to me. Maybe you Miracle Whip eaters would like it. I really did want it to taste great because the calories are so much lower in the Vegan mayo.

Just on a side note: Does anyone else find it a little ironic that there is a picture of a meat sandwich on the vegan mayo jar?

Now for the fries. These are good. Big taste and a much healthier version then most. Super simple. I also do this with sweet potatoes.

For 2 people:
Preheat oven 400F
Cut three small baking potatoes into strips. No need to peel.
1 T. olive oil
salt and pepper

Toss together and lay out on baking sheet. Place in oven and toss every ten minutes until done. About 30 minutes. Salt lightly when taking out of oven. Bravo.

Gabriel is a big part of this blog and told me that he thought the blog needed a lot more pictures of him. “I am the one that eats most of the food that you write about, Mom.” Gabriel loves burgers served on a thick cut baguette. Ketchup, no fry sauce. What a goof.

UPDATE: I tried the fry sauce with non-fat greek style yogurt, less ketchup and it was great. The best recipe yet. I made it with sweet potato fries this time. I get the great fry taste and I feel so decadent, but have relieved some of the guilt.

Carrot “Best side dish on the planet” Casserole
December 3, 2009, 9:22 pm
Filed under: side dish | Tags: , ,

What makes a side dish the best on the planet? It needs to be easy to prepare, compliments my main dish, and most of all, the taste is so memorable that I can not wait to have it again.

Carrot casserole is a family favorite and it now doesn’t seem like Thanksgiving without it, but it is one of those recipes that I pull out all year round. It goes with beef, pork, lamb, chicken, fish, and so many more. So I have just renamed it… the best side dish on the planet.


2 cups cooked mashed carrots
1 cup saltine crumbs (28 squares)
1 cup milk
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (Vermont sharp white cheddar is my fav!)
1/2 cup soft butter
1/4 cup grated white onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 eggs, slightly beaten

Preheat oven 350F

Combine all of the ingredients and place in greased casserole dish, ramekins, or Bundt pan. Bake dish until the sides are firm and the top is slightly browned.

I double the recipe if I use a 13×9 casserole dish. Bake about 40 minutes.

Sometimes I increase all the ingredients by half for a smaller casserole dish. Bundt pan and ramekins, approximently 20-30 minutes cooking time. The carrot ring when released from the Bundt is such a nice presentation on a buffet. I like to butter peas in the middle.

Now for one of the best parts of this recipe. You can make it ahead of time, up to two days, store it in the refrigerator. It is all ready to just pop in the oven and serve your guests. I have often made it a week ahead of time and put it in the freezer and then pulled it out a couple of hours before my party plans.

I am sure that if you make this recipe it will become your family’s favorite as well.