Joys on the side

My personality is riddled with a virtual Encyclopedia Britannica of bad habits.

Ask anyone who knows me or has even spent a modest amount of time with me, and they will all agree, “Yup, that babe has numerous unique issues.”

My peccadillos concerning the culinary cover at least volumes C-L.  I eat way too fast.  I eat too much salt, sugar, and fat.   I’m terrible at sharing, especially candy.  I get hangry (hunger which morphs into snarky anger).


I don’t clean my oven often enough.  When I visit the supermarket hungry, I turn into the Tasmanian devil.  If my grocery list has less than five items, I always come home with at least ten. But one of my food faults usually ends up turning out well.

Shoe rainbow

When I go to the farmer’s market or a store with an interesting produce department, I go into shoe-shopping mode.  If it’s cute, colorful, or diminutive, I put it in my basket.  Doesn’t matter whether it’s on my list, or if I know what I’m going to do with it, or even if I’ve ever seen it before.  If it’s unbearably adorable, it’s going home with me.

Last week we had one meal with two of my ‘Precious’.

At the Durham farmer’s market, I picked up a pound of charming baby squash.  And then the next day I was at Lowes Foods (8100 Brier Creek Pkwy, Raleigh).  They have a pretty nifty little produce section.  One of the things that I love is their potatoes.  They have about eight different kinds, including a multi-colored selection of walnut-sized baby spuds. I chose some Lilliputian Peruvian potatoes, drenched a deep, inky purple.

During the same visit I scored some pork loin chops on sale for a dollar apiece.  I decided to do a homemade shake-n-bake, and have the squash and amethyst taters as sides.

Both side dishes and my pork all cook at the same temp, to reduce the crazy.

Brown butter roasted baby squash

1 pound baby yellow squash

4 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper

Blanch the squash: Cut tops and bottoms off squash, and cut in half long-way.  Fill saucepan with heavily salted water.  Bring to boil on high.  Lower heat to medium and gently drop in squash.  Cook for 3-5 minutes and remove to large bowl of ice water.  When completely cool, put in colander and pat dry with paper towel.

Pre-heat oven to 400. Melt butter in saucepan.  Watching it the entire time, cook until it has become caramel colored. Pour everything but 1 tablespoon of butter into the smallest casserole you have that all the squash will fit into in a single layer.  Place in squash, cut side down.  Brush squash tops with remaining butter.  Season with salt and pepper.

Bake for 20 minutes.  Serves 3-4.

They were pretty tasty, but thier color was a bit lost.

Purple Manchego au gratin

3 pounds purple potatoes, washed and left unpeeled, sliced into 1/4 inch slices

1 large or 2 small shallots, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 ¼ cup skim milk

1 cup whole milk

½ teaspoon dry mustard

1 cup finely shredded Manchego or Chapel Hill Creamery Hickory Grove

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper

Heat oven to 400, and butter an 8X8 casserole dish.

Melt butter in saucepan on medium.  Whisk in flour and cook a couple of minutes. Stir in milk, mustard, salt, and pepper.  Whisk continuously until it just comes to boil.  Pour in all the cheese and begin whisking.  Take off heat and whisk until the cheese is totally melted.  Taste and re-season if needed.

Place half the potatoes in dish.  Sprinkle on shallots in single layer.  Neatly lay the rest of the potatoes on top.  Pour sauce on top, spreading evenly. Cover with parchment paper, then foil.

Bake 30 minutes covered, then uncovered for 30 minutes more or until browned and bubbly. Remove from the oven and let sit 15-20 minutes before plating.  Serves 4.

Both dishes were nicely complimented by the lean, baked pork.

This time my foible paid off. It would be great if my propensity for singing loudly and badly along with the radio resulted in a Grammy someday.

You’d better look over your sholder, Queen B…I’m coming for you.

Thanks for your time.

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