Friday, April 8, 2011

Birthday Dinner Side Dishes: Vegetable Saute with Orange and Balsamic and Root Beer Apples

Vegetable Saute with Orange and Balsamic

Fine Cooking magazine is my favorite cooking magazine! When I found this recipe in my April/May 2011 issue, I knew I wanted to make it for our birthday dinner. Because it was one of those "fix it and serve immediately" dishes,I did everything step that I could a couple hours before. I steamed the haricot verts and kept them chilled in the fridge. I had the shallots sliced and bell pepper cored and sliced.

Most everything was in place to have it perfect for the dinner. Everything was ready and we were ready to sit down as soon as we finished this dish. All was well... until.... my dear hubby....was slicing the orange for the fresh orange juice....and....sliced his finger instead of the orange. 

I digress for a moment: In our kitchen, we have two sets of knives:

HIS: Top-of-the-line Henckels, plus several more that don't fit in the knife block

HERS- Misc. (23) Paring and slicing knives- all under $10.00 each
Now believe me, we share everything in our house. But, when it comes to knives, HIS, which were actually a gift for me, they scare me! I mean I am very afraid of them. They are large, heavy and always very sharp! So, I deal with that by having my own knife drawer. This situation is why I keep my 23 cheap knives; I am afraid I will slice my finger of and not even know it!

Back to the birthday dinner: Just like this post, it came to a screeching halt! There was a LOT of blood, he almost cut his thumb off! Talking and sharp knives are not a great combination. For about 15 minutes we were all encouraging him to go get it stitched up, but no, he wrapped it up and in 15 minutes I was back to finishing this dish. I re-warmed it and put the glaze ingredients in, but, in the heat of the moment, I forgot to add the fresh baby spinach. It had a great flavor and textures, but would have been even better with the spinach. Such is life!

Vegetable saute sans baby spinach

Recipe from: Fine Cooking April/May 2011
Vegetable Saute with Orange and Balsamic recipe:

This healthful, brightly flavored side dish is perfect for a weeknight - (or a dinner party) it cooks in less than 10 minutes.
Yields 4 servings

1/2 lb haricots verts or thin green beans, trimmed
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium shallots, halved and thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 medium yellow bell pepper, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 tbsp fresh orange juice
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, I used white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
3 cups lightly packed fresh baby spinach leaves
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Steam the beans for about 2 minutes, transfer to a bowl and set aside. 
Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium high heat. 
Add the shallots and rosemary and cook, stirring until the shallots begin to brown, 1-2 minutes. 
Reduce the heat to medium, add the beans and peppers and cook, stirring until  the pepper begins to soften, about 2 minutes.
Stir in the orange juice, balsamic vinegar and orange zest.
Add the spinach and cook, stirring until just wilted, about 20 seconds.
Remove from heat, add salt and pepper to taste.

Root Beer Apples 

Fortunately, I had made the root beer apples earlier in the day! My vision for these apples was to recreate the apple side dish that the Blue Bayou restaurant in Disneyland served for years with their pork chop dinner. For many years we enjoyed eating dinner there on Friday evenings and I asked several times if they would share the recipe. Every time the waiter would return with a recipe card for their potato dish. They were very good also, but I really wanted that apple recipe.

The obvious option was to saute them in root beer until tender, but I don't add sugar to applesauce and I knew root beer would make the side dish too sweet. My new plan was to find a root beer extract and I was confident that would be the secret. And yes, I believe it was! The apples made a perfectly delicious side dish with the pork tenderloin! There is no recipe. All you have to do is peel and chop your apples, add a tablespoon of apple juice or apple cider if you want, it isn't necessary, cover them and simmer on the lowest temperature for around 20-30 minutes, stirring often, until they reach the texture you enjoy. I like them tender but chunky. I added the extract after they were cooked. I didn't measure but I just kept adding a little at a time until it had the flavor I wanted. They were really good! I plan to make them for another dinner party very soon.

Root beer apples
The good news is that my dear hubby's thumb is doing well without professional doctoring. Within 72 hours, he went and got that tetanus shot he had put off getting. The nurse looked at his thumb and was very impressed with the great job he did with the butterfly bandages to keep it together. In less than a week later, it was completely healed up with a barely a trace of a scar. I'm convinced that if he had gone and had it stitched up, he would have had a scar and it might not be completely healed up. I'm not suggesting that we self-doctor, but I'm saying sometimes you need to follow your own instincts.

Oh, and did I mention that while working on dinner that day, I was also laboring through a kidney stone?

We are not looking to repeat that eventful day any time soon!

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