Archive for the ‘ sides ’ Category


Another family staple in my house is bruschetta. You can’t go wrong with tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and some fresh bread. Throw some cheese on it, and you’ve got a pretty filling sandwich alternative.

The recipe I used to use for bruschetta is sadly no longer online… or if it is, I can’t find it….

I’m horrible at writing down quantities, I just kind of chuck everything into a pan until it tastes right, but here’s my best effort:


-1 baguette/focaccia bread

-4 cloves garlic (I always double this)

-1 /3 cup olive oil (extra virgin is best!)

-1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

-1 tbsp chopped fresh basil

-Salt and black pepper to taste

-700g roma tomatoes, chopped


1. Mince or crush the garlic and add it to the olive oil, set aside.

2. Slice the baguette into 1.5cm slices.

3. Brush the slices with some of the olive oil/garlic mixture. Make sure to reserve 1 tbsp.

4. Put the bread slices oil side up on the top rack of the oven, and broil until the bread browns a bit. This should take about 5 minutes, depending on the oven. You just want to dry the bread enough so that it’s not soggy when you put the tomatoes on it. Be careful not to burn the bread!

5. In the meantime, put the remaining olive oil and tomatoes, balsamic vinegar  into the pan on medium heat. Add in the balsamic vinegar and  basil, mixing the ingredients with a wooden spoon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook the tomatoes until they have softened a bit, no more than 5 minutes.

6. Spoon the tomato onto the bread slices and serve. Alternatively, you can put the bruschetta back in the oven after you’ve put the tomatoes on, and sprinkle it with some finely grated parmesan or some other low-moisture Italian cheese of choice.

These days I’m trying to stay away from bread, but I still love tomatoes, so I often prepare tomatoes bruschetta style to serve as a side dish. Here they are, and the next time I make proper bruschetta, I’ll add the pic.


Vietnamese Spring Rolls

I feel like I don’t even need to do a blog entry on these. Vietnamese/Thai/Southeast Asian raw spring rolls are one of those food items that I have started seeing everywhere, in random Asian fusion restaurants and at health food/vegetarian places. In any case, these ones are super easy. We got the guidelines for these rolls from the Australian delicious. mag, but basically just freestyled it. I’ll post the exact recipe when I’m reunited with it, but you can just Google ‘Vietnamese spring rolls’ if you’re dying to make it before then.

We used vermicelli, red peppers, cucumber, green onion, crushed peanut, mint and carrots to fill the rice paper. You can adjust the ingredients to suit your tastes, and add spiced ground pork if you want to make it a little more filling.

For dipping sauce I made nuoc cham, a basic dipping sauce for Vietnamese food. The toughest part of this recipe was dealing with the rice paper. Store your rice paper properly! If not they will end up with all kinds of cracks and tears, which make them a nightmare to work with.

Next to making deviled quail eggs, this was probably the most frustrating and annoying cooking experience I’ve had in a while. Don’t be put off though—like I said, if you treat your paper well, things will be alright. The spring rolls went over quite well—the vegetarians enjoyed them, and people who aren’t ‘into Asian food’ can easily handle the simple dish. Had the process not been so frustrating, I would’ve definitely made more!

Green beans…

I was looking for a simple but new way to cook green beans. We usually tend to just steam or boil them with some salt, or bake them into some kind of casserole. This recipe‘s pretty simple and healthy (and cheap), and is easy to pair with with many foods. We had this with pork steaks and rice.

Pan-Fried Potaters

I bought some biologische red potatoes the other day. Even though they looked the same on the outside as the potatoes I used to make the mashed potatoes a few weeks ago, they were quite different. On the inside, these potatoes were much yellower, and took about 12 minutes to soften even though they were sliced.

I decided to pan fry them in a mixture of butter and oil to make a tasty side for a simple barbecue dinner. I would prefer to use all butter, but the burning point for butter is much lower than oil, so when I plan on keeping potatoes in the pan for a while, I mix the two.

When it comes to fried potatoes, I love to cheat and use potato spice to season them, but since we didn’t have any at home, I sprinkled them with some Secret d’Aromes and paprika.

Caesar Salad Supreme

I’m sure many North American expats can agree on one thing: a good Caesar salad dressing is really hard to find in the rest of the world. Whether it’s too sweet, too flat, too oily, too watery or too much like Ranch, they all seem to taste pretty terrible.

Now when we lived in New Brunswick, Caesar salad meant some romaine lettuce (if we were lucky) tossed with Kraft Caesar dressing. Special occasions meant that maybe we’d get a salad kit with powdered, dandruffy parmesan, and bacon bits (facon, really, they’re made from soy). Caesar Cardini was far from our minds.

Fortunately for us, a good family friend of ours exposed us to the wonders of a home-made Caesar dressing. The only downside to her dressing was that it was the real deal (ha!)… meaning it had anchovies and raw egg in it. Try as I might, I don’t think I’ll ever become a fan of dried anchovies.

After moving to the Netherlands and suffering through brand after brand of crappy Caesar dressing (Remia and Calve), not to mention terrible house dressings in restaurants (I remember a particularly scarring experience in London), we gave up on Caesar salads completely for at least a year. It was a bleak time.

Then I found this recipe. Great stuff really–the use of mayo eliminated the need for raw egg, and even though it called for anchovies, the recipe still tasted good without it. Best of all, for those watching their waist lines, you can still indulge in a Caesar salad–just use light mayo, and go easy on the cheese and bacon, and skip the croutons.

This dressing’s been a family favourite for a few years now, because it’s so easy to throw together and tweak until it’s just right. 

Cookin’ freestyle….

So… as much as I love cooking, I still don’t have the confidence to cook without a recipe very often. The other day I was grilling mackerel (whole this time) and wanted some yummy quick way to do eggplant on the ‘q. I sliced them up, drizzled them with olive oil and seasoned them with salt and pepper, and this pre-packaged spice mix, called ‘Secret d’Aromes’ by Knorr, then I sliced up some tomato and grated a bit of romano and crumbled a bit of feta cheese.

I put the eggplant on the top grill at 350F or so, and cooked them for about 3 minutes,  then turned them over and threw on the feta, then the tomato and finally the romano. I love romano/gran padano as a substitute for parmesan cheese just because they have less moisture, making them easier to grate, and keep for a long time.

The eggplant turned out pretty good. The only thing I’d change next time is to spread the oil more evenly, and on both sides of the eggplant.