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Roasted Green Beans with Herbs and Scallions

Roasted Green Beans

I think of Thanksgiving dinner as existing in tiers of  necessity.  First, there must be a turkey.  That’s non-negotiable (unless you’re a vegetarian, of course, but we’re talking Norman Rockwell here).  Turkey is a core necessity.  Next tier:  gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pie.  Some variation is allowed there, giving allowance to individual preference (I MUST have sage stuffing, my husband MUST have pumpkin pie.)  After that some green vegetable (probably green beans or brussels sprouts), some orange vegetable (probably sweet potatoes).  Preparation can vary widely.  And finally, other assorted side dishes, where the variety is unlimited and depends on your family tradition – tomato aspic, cottage cheese jello “salad”, braised endives, parsnip gratin … the list is endless.

Our family is big enough that we get lots of variation in Thanksgiving dinner.  After the first couple tiers, we tend to go a little crazy with trying new recipes, and throwing weird vegetables into the mix.  Last year my mom brought this roasted green bean dish, and it was one of my favorite things on the table.  With all the richness on the Thanksgiving table – stuffings and gravies and gratins – a lighter, simpler vegetable dish can be a real relief.
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Sourdough Stuffing with Caramelized Onions and Chard

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Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that can be hidebound by tradition.  Even the most adventurous eater has certain holiday rules that make Thanksgiving dinner more than just a lot of food.  For some, jellied canned cranberry sauce is required.  For others, they have to have grandma’s sweet potato casserole.   My husband has to have pumpkin pie.  My parents once shared Thanksgiving dinner with otherwise reasonable people who insisted on green bean casserole with condensed cream of mushroom soup and canned fried onions (I actually love the stuff, but it’s not part of our family’s Thanksgiving tradition.  Which mostly involves making everything from scratch.)

I consider myself pretty open minded with regards to Thanksgiving.  Obviously – turkey.  And cranberry sauce in some form.  Some vegetables are nice. Some form of pie.  I don’t even need rolls.   There is one dish, however, without which Thanksgiving is just not worth celebrating – and that’s my dad’s old-fashioned fresh sage stuffing  (Coincidentally, today is my dad’s birthday. Happy birthday, dad. I miss you).  This is not that.
Chard Stuffing Ingredients
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Little Flower Cafe’s Breakfast Egg and Vegetable Terrine

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I live in the suburbiest of suburbia.  Green lawns, swimming pools, sprinklers.  People walk in my neighborhood – all the time – but they’re walking their dogs or taking a walk, rather than walking to something.

But even in the suburbiest of suburbia, we have our little neighborhood attractions.  An elementary school is in walking distance. So is the local branch of the library, and a small park.  But best of all, we have a cafe.  And not just any cafe.  The kind of cafe you wish were in your neighborhood.  The kind that makes amazing lattes, and has a menu of interesting salads and sandwiches, cute kitchen items for sale, jars of homemade caramels by the cash register,  art by local artists, and the most mouthwatering bakery case you ever will see.  Buttermilk pretzel rolls.  Honey lavender scones.  Kale and Gruyere croissants.  Tomato Tartines. Salted caramel sticky buns.

Is it any wonder that we’re in there for breakfast nearly every weekend?

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Broccoli Salad with Yogurt Dressing

Broccoli Salad

I have discovered that one of the keys to eating more vegetables is having more vegetables available. And by “available” I do not mean sitting, happily dirt-encrusted, at the Farmer’s Market. Or even in the depths of my crisper drawer. I mean washed, prepped and ready to eat.

Crudites are the obvious answer, but it gets boring eating crudites. I mean, carrot sticks, in addition to winning the lifetime achievement award for “the only vegetable kids will reliably eat” have the unfortunate connotations of “diet food.” And even ranch dressing doesn’t help, as I’ve found my tolerance for bottled salad dressing has waned as I’ve gotten older. (Was that an unbearably Paltrow-esque and precious thing to say? I’m clearly channeling my inner GOOP. It’s just, well, goopy). We could (and have) roasted large amounts of vegetables on the weekend for snacking on the rest of the week, but that takes quite a bit of foresight. Salads are clearly another great answer, but lettuce can be a wee bit delicate for the depths of my crisper drawer, and don’t even think about dressing it in advance.

Broccoli salad, now, there’s the ticket.  It has the advantages of sturdiness, and anything with broccoli imparts that aura of good health.  My kids will sometimes eat it (though the Nuni’s BFF complained that it was “spicy”.  Five year olds find currants to be “spicy.”  Be warned.)  I can make it one day and the leftovers are perfect for noshing the next day, and the next.
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Roasted Asparagus with Creamy Tomato Sauce

Asparagus
Nothing really sings of spring like Asparagus. The little stalks, poking up so proudly, and tasting so very green are the essence of all that is springtime. Asparagus was a seasonal vegetable before eating seasonally was cool – I remember eating lots of asparagus during my childhood, but only in the springtime. (Do not speak to me of the horror that is frozen asparagus or – shudder – CANNED asparagus. Part of the point of asparagus is its texture – that perfect balance between crisp and yielding with just a tiny snap as your teeth close on the stalk.

Raw Asparagus
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