Summery Southwestern Sides

Sometimes I get into a rut when it comes to side dishes.

On the starch front, rice is the culprit, especially since my friend Laura gave me a rice cooker. It’s so easy to rely on for almost any meal.

In the vegetable department, I’m a bit more seasonal, switching things up from time to time... but the guiltiest party here is a bunch of asparagus. Pop it in the steamer and plop it down next to whatever is on the plate. Fancy, eh?

I do sometimes jüj up my asparagus a bit by slicing it thinly on the diagonal, adding some lemon zest and giving it a quick sauté in olive oil. But it’s still asparagus, and I’m still in a rut.

This week, when making my Cinnamon Chile Chocolate Pork Tenderloin, I decided that my sides needed more than a quick jüj. I needed to step up my game. I’ve often served it with this Quinoa and Black Bean Salad, which is quite wonderful… but, after several times, it feels a bit like a rut.

I decided my Southwestern-inspired pork deserved a more Southwestern side. I reached for my homemade Chipotle Chiles in Adobo and put some sweet potatoes on to boil. These creamy mashed chipotle sweets are the perfect backdrop - both flavor-wise and visually - for the pork. And I served it with the lovely Héritage Rosé from Château Barbebelle - you can read about it on the Provence WineZine.

I also found some I’itoi (ee’ee-toy) onions at the farmers market grown by Eunice and Larry from Larry's Veggies. These onions are named for the eponymous mountain where they were grown and harvested by the local Tohono O’odham Native Americans. Native Seeds S.E.A.R.C.H. says, “Botanical studies place the I’itoi onion among a very old line of clumping onions brought to the [United States] by Jesuit missionaries in the late 17th century, concluding that the onion is not necessarily a US native.” When grilled, they end up looking like a mess on the plate, but they are so incredibly sweet. If you can’t get I’itoi onions, you can use scallions.

When it comes to side dishes, it’s nice to be out of my rut. Don’t get me wrong - I still love rice and asparagus; I just might not be having them at every meal.

~ David

Creamy Mashed Chipotle Sweet Potatoes
3 large sweet potatoes, about 3 pounds
1/2 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons butter
1-2 tablespoons puréed chipotle chiles in adobo
milk or cream, if needed

Peel and cut potatoes into approximately 1-inch cubes. Place them in a large saucepan and cover with water by 2 inches. Add a couple of teaspoons salt, and bring to a boil. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until very soft when pierced with a fork.

Drain the potatoes and add the sour cream, butter, and chipotle chiles. Mash - I use an immersion blender - until smooth and creamy. You may need to add a little cream or milk to get your preferred consistency. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, if desired. (Remember, when cooking starches, they absorb their salt while cooking, not after. That is why it is important to salt the water when boiling them, and it’s also why we salt the water when cooking pasta or rice.)

Serves 6.

Grilled I’itoi Onions
3 bunches I’itoi onions or scallions
olive oil

Preheat your grill.

Cut off the root ends, and peel the papery skins off the onions; wash them thoroughly in cold running water. Drain, place in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt.

Grill the onions on low heat, turning often. The greens will burn, but the bulbs will soften and turn sweet.

Serves 6 as a garnish.

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