Comfort Cooking for a Pandemic Winter: Part 5 — Sides/Vegetables

As you can see from the brevity of this post, side dishes aren’t a big favorite in our household, probably because we frequently eat what others would consider a side dish (Leek and Tomato Bake, Crusty Baked Eggplant) as the main meal.

Classic Holiday Green Bean Casserole 
2 cans cut green beans, drained (1 lb cans)
3/4 cup milk
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 can (2.8 oz) French fried onions
Combine all but 1/2 can of onions in casserole. Bake uncovered at 350 F for 30 min. Top with remaining onions and bake 5 min. Make six servings.
If you’ve ever eaten at Thanksgiving meal in the US, you’ve almost certainly had this dish. I got my copy for the recipe from Mom, but it’s a standard. The most difficult part about it is not eating all the onions before they make it into the casserole. I don’t make it because we try to stay away from heavily processed foods, but if I see it at a potluck (if potlucks ever become a thing again), I’ll definitely dig in!

Crusty Baked Eggplant
1 med to large eggplant
Salt
1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 grated parmesan cheese (I use the pre-grated kind, best available not the stuff in the green can in the pasta aisle.)
Mayo 
Preheat oven to 425 F. Peel and slice eggplant into 1/4” slices. Sprinkle each side with salt and lay between paper towels for 15 min to draw out water. Meanwhile, combine bread crumbs, parmesan. When the eggplant is done sweating, spread a thin coat of mayo on each side, then dredge in bread crumb mixture. Place on cookie sheet and bake, 10 min per side or until golden brown. May serve as an appetizer or side dish. Might be good with warmed marinara for dipping, but I like them plain. These also freeze well. Just place on a cookie sheet at 350-375 F until brown and crispy, but not burnt. 
I like to make these when eggplant is in season and freeze in small portions to reheat later. 

Irish Colcannon 
6 med potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup butter
1/2-3/4 cup milk
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tbsp parsley
1 tsp horseradish (optional)
Cook potatoes in water until tender, then drain. Cook cabbage and onion together in a small amount of boiling water for 15 min. Drain. Mash potatoes (best with electric mixer). Beat in butter and enough milk to make fluffy. Add salt and pepper. Stir in cabbage/onion mixture and top with parsley to serve. 
This one is courtesy of my good friend Mary. Her notes: “This is a traditional winter Irish veggie and a favorite when we’d visit Granny Gormley in Pittsburgh. She added the teaspoon of horseradish for those who would like a little more spice.” I like this dish but don’t make it because The Engineer is not a fan. 😦

Leek and Tomato Bake
Click through to this recent addition to my recipe files. I’d purchased some leeks from the local farmer who runs the CSA we belong to, and she threw in some tomatoes. I used the finished product to make a bruschetta with a loaf of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. We ate it as a main dish, but it would be a nice appetizer. 

Sweet Potato Casserole
Base
3 cups mashed sweet potatoes (not canned)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup milk
dash salt
1 stick of butter
2 eggs 

Topping
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
1 cup pecan pieces
1 cup coconut (optional)
Boil potatoes with skins on. Peel and mash. Mix in rest of base ingredients. Place in casserole. 
Mix topping ingredients and spread over potato mixture. Bake at 350 for 3 min. 
A coworker at the library used to make this. It’s very, very(!) sweet, so of course, it was very popular. I was tempted to put the recipe in the dessert category.

Vegetable Pakoras
2-1/2 cups chickpea flour (Besan if in an Indian grocery, also more generally available now, sometimes in gluten-free section of stores.)
2 cups finely sliced onions
2 cups finely chopped potatoes (2 med)
1/2 cup finely chopped cauliflower
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp crushed coriander seeds
1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 tsp salt (to taste)
2 tsp red chili powder (Indian, I sub cayenne.)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup water
Vegetable oil for deep frying
All vegetables should be finely chopped because they are being cooked in a batter. 
Mix all ingredients except water. Slowly add water to make a batter that holds vegetables together. If it gets too thin, add more flour. Heat oil for frying. It’s hot enough when a test piece floats to the top. Drop about 1 tbsp at a time into hot oil with hand or spoon. Use a slotted spoon to turn. Fry on med high until done (golden brown). May be served with tamarind chutney. 
Variations:
Use only onions for Onion Bhajis.
Use just spinach and onion.
Sub zucchini, carrots, spinach for other vegetables. 
Use batter as a dip for whole vegetables, then fry. 
Can keep batter in fridge for a little while but Pakoras aren’t very good reheated.
This is another Farzana recipe from my foray into Indian cooking and is probably not the healthiest way to get your veggies. There were no leftovers to take home when we made them in class.

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