Am I the only person who gets side-dish ennui? Every night, I face off with the inevitable question: rice, potatoes, or bread? Snooze.
The chicken and the salad give me the sad eyes, lonely on the dinner plate. They need a companion, a little jazz and snazz, something to punch up the interest level at the table. Because things are kind of dull around here, you know? Where’s the flair?*
Except rice, potatoes and bread aren’t really very interesting, are they? They’re filler. The brick foundation. Comforting lumps of solidity that keep your family from howling, one hour after dinner, that they’re starving to death. (actually, this does happen at my house, but only because my children’s eating patterns are eerily similar to locusts)
Sure, sure, I try to sexify the rice with some fresh herbs or maybe a sprinkling of toasted nuts. And the potatoes sometimes get a handful of chopped rosemary, and the bread takes a butter/garlic bath, but still, let’s face it, it’s not riveting stuff.
I am afflicted. I have full-blown side-dish ennui. Can you hear me yawning over here? Boredboredbored.
The other night, I just couldn’t bear the thought of another pile of pilaf. I had some lovely lamb chops marinating, some likable broccoli hanging around, and nothing else I felt like serving. Or eating, for that matter.
Then I remembered this recipe, which I’d spied a few months ago in Cooking Light magazine. Dinner was still an hour and a half away, so I had time to bake up some russet potatoes and give them the spinach/cheese treatment.
I tweaked the recipe just a bit, because I wanted things a little racier, and I was pleased with the results. If you’re feeling veg-head, you can even serve these up as a main course or lovely lunch. Feel free to amp up the spice count or the cheese ratio–I mean hey, nobody ever complained about extra cheese in a dish, right?
If you, too, are suffering from a case of the side-dish burnout, I encourage you to give these a try. And if you have a go-to side dish that doesn’t induce yawns, please (!) share your ideas with me. I need a jolt of inspiration.
adapted from Cooking Light Magazine
4 medium baking potatoes, scrubbed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
splash of balsamic vinegar
6 cups baby spinach leaves
1 shallot, minced
6 tablespoons crumbled feta or goat cheese
Preheat oven to 350. Prick potatoes with the tines of a fork and bake until done, 45-60 minutes, depending on size of potatoes. Remove from oven to cool slightly.
Heat olive oil in a non-stick large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and shallot and cook about 2 minutes or until softened. Add spinach; cook and stir 2 minutes or until wilted. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar; stir.
Split potatoes open, season with salt and pepper and top with spinach mixture and crumbled feta or goat cheese. I also doused mine with extra balsamic on top, because I’m an odd duck.
*Sorry about the Office Space reference. Actually, scratch that. I’m not sorry. That movie rocks.
**To answer your question, no. The girls did not eat these. The only green things those minxes eat are of the Skittle variety. They got plain old twice-baked spuds, with the American cheese blanket.
I’m creaking my way back in slowwwly this week, still awash in post-weekend laundry and unpacking. I hope you’ll pop in on May 5th, though, because there’s some mischief afoot!! And nope, I didn’t cavort with Wills and Kate, nor did I pull my wicked stealth moves on Bin Laden. But I could have, mind you. I have mad stealth. Mad.
Happy Monday, readers, and I hope you had a wonderful weekend!