Category Archives: On the side

Al Dente On The Side: Pureed Parsnips and Carrots

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I’m declaring this the year of root vegetables here at Al Dente HQ. Brussels sprouts had been the go-to veggie here, and while they will still get their due, you will see more parsnips, turnips, celery root, and carrots here. I could have done a puree with any of these as the root veggies at Saturday’s CNY Regional Market all looked good.

In the past, parsnips would be tossed with oil and other veggies, and go in the oven as a side. I was looking for a slightly different presentation to go with the short ribs I made on Saturday night.

Mashed potatoes would be the natural, traditional side here. Since parsnips mash and whip like a potato, going with a puree is an easy choice. A little dairy gives it some creaminess, but otherwise the veg does all of the work here. Continue reading Al Dente On The Side: Pureed Parsnips and Carrots


Al Dente On The Side: Parmesan Crisps

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I’ve been looking at these things for years and wondered how they were made. Apparently I’m an idiot, because parmesan crisps involved dumping grated cheese on a lined baking sheet and not letting them burn in the oven.

Silly, right?

Right. Continue reading Al Dente On The Side: Parmesan Crisps

Al Dente On The Side: BBQ Chicken Salad

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Macaroni salad is one of my favorite sides, but The Wife is not a big fan. On top of that, it is quite possibly the most boring of the summer salads. Pasta, celery, onion, mayo. Boring.

That said, I like a nice boring mac salad from time to time. But I was confronted with the challenge of how I would get The Wife to eat it. So, I took The Kitchn’s recipe out for a spin.

It was pretty good overall. I made a couple of changes along the way, as I could see myself brining chicken breasts for the purposes of a salad. In addition to making for a good side, this worked out well as lunch for a few days.

BBQ Chicken Salad
Adapted from The Kitchn

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, basted in barbecue sauce and cooked, then diced
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce (Kansas City-style)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 12 oz. elbow macaroni
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced

Bring a pan of water to boil over high heat. Add a liberal amount of salt then cook pasta per the directions on the package. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Set aside.

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In the meantime, combine veggies and chicken in a large mixing bowl and give it a quick toss with a spoon to combine. Add the mayo, barbecue sauce and vinegar. Mix until everything is well combined.

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Add the pasta to the chicken and veggies. Mix well, coating the pasta in the dressing. Refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

Al Dente On The Side: Tortellini Salad

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Tortellini salad ranks somewhere below fried smelt and French onion soup, but still within the top five on the list of holiday mainstays in the Paventi/Mancini family.

This was a latecomer to the race. As the faces at the table changed, so too did some of the dishes. In this case, I think it was a greater variety of pasta available at Wegmans, combined with some tinkering by The Father that led us to this summertime side dish. Continue reading Al Dente On The Side: Tortellini Salad

Al Dente On The Side: Caprese Stacks

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The Wife is a bit of a cheese fiend. It’s a food that she cannot control herself around, so we try not to keep a lot of it in the house. String cheese disappears quickly, as do those little Babybel cheeses that I no longer buy because the little net bag never lasts beyond Tuesday.

Not that I’m blameless here, but The Wife is the primary cheese culprit around here. She’s particularly fond of fresh mozzarella, which has to be guarded once the package is open. I can’t blame her. Fresh mozzarella is awesome. We once sat like dopey tourists at the Citarella in Bridgehampton and watched a guy make fresh mozzarella so we could buy and eat it immediately.

We’re weak people. Continue reading Al Dente On The Side: Caprese Stacks

Al Dente on the Side: Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Coleslaw

No children were injured during the preparation of this coleslaw
No children were injured during the preparation of this coleslaw

I made a righteous batch of coleslaw for The Kid’s birthday party last weekend. Annnnnnnnnnnnnd, I forgot to take a picture of it. I’m a dolt. However, the above photo of The Wife, The Kid and some of her friends during present opening time is much better than a bowl of shredded vegetables and dressing.

Coleslaw is a take it or leave it endeavor for me. Homemade coleslaw is usually good. I don’t like it if it’s too sweet, and I have never found a foodservice slaw that hits the mark. Most of the time, it’s served in a little 2 oz. plastic Solo-brand ramekin with a lid. And, I would imagine that 80 to 85 percent of the coleslaw served that way ends up in the trash. But, the slaw from Dinosaur is excellent, packing a good balance of acid and spice with a crispy cabbage and creaminess from the mayo.

I deviated slightly from John Stage’s original, but my adaptation honors the spirit of coleslaw as a necessary and required side for good barbecue.

UPON FURTHER REVIEW: I took one terrible photo of the finished product with my iPhone. This is what happens when you drink a lot of beer while cooking.

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Adapted from Dinosaur Bar-B-Que: An American Roadhouse by John Stage and Nancy Radke

  • 2 bags of cabbage shredded for coleslaw
  • 2 or 3 carrots, shredded, if the bagged cabbage does not have carrots
  • 16 oz. mayonnaise
  • 8 oz. cider vinegar
  • 4 oz. prepared bleu cheese dressing
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/4 large onion, grated
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. dill seed

Add all but the first two ingredients to a large mixing bowl and whisk until well combined. Adjust flavors with salt and pepper if necessary. Fold in the cabbage until everything is well coated in dressing. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving so that the dressing can soak into the veggies.

Al Dente on the Side: Creamy Dill Potato Salad

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So, my Wegmans (Wegmans Fairmount, for the record) used to carry fingerling potatoes. It used to have a solid produce department for its size, but now it seems like a challenge to find anything outside of the ordinary. Sure, the signs boast that there are now 100+ organically grown fruits and vegetables, but the thing that Wegmans used to do really well — a variety of produce — is lacking.

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I could drive to the Dewitt Wegmans. This produce department is a monster. I shopped there the other day for The Kid’s birthday party and counted 24 different types of potatoes in the produce department. Fairmount has half as many. Now, The Sister will tell me that her grocery stores on Long Island are lucky to have any potatoes in stock. Others may tell me to stop whining about potatoes. I know, this all seems silly and that I’m taking a very long way around to present a potato salad recipe by the genius J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. I’m just finding myself leaving the grocery store without a lot of things lately, because either my Wegmans doesn’t stock it (while other ones do) or the truck has not arrived yet (the convenient and oft repeated excuse when the shelves are empty).


So, because I couldn’t get fingerlings, I went with baby white potatoes. It’s the same basic flavor, but without the aesthetic of a purple potato here and there. I did, however, get a little crazy with the dill, which I would avoid in future versions of this salad.

Creamy Dill Potato Salad
Adapted from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s original at Serious Eats

  • 1 1/2 lbs. fingerling or baby white potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch disks
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar, divided
  • 1 tbsp. whole grain mustard
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. sour cream
  • 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp. minced fresh dill
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Add potatoes, 1 tbsp. salt, 1/2 tbsp. vinegar, and 3 cups of warm tap water to a medium saucepan. Set over high heat and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and simmer 15 to 18 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Drain and toss immediately with 1 tbsp. vinegar. Transfer bowl immediately to the refrigerator and let cool 10 minutes.

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In a second large bowl, whisk together mustard, sour cream, onions, scallions, dill and 1/2 tbsp. vinegar. Toss with the potatoes and adjust flavors with salt and pepper.

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Al Dente On The Side: Mexican Beans and Rice

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I made this as a side dish for Saturday’s boozy pork dish, but this is really a solid main dish perfect for Meatless Mondays. I would probably make this a couple of days in advance and reheat. I had it left over for lunch on the following Monday and found that the flavors had really developed into something special. Continue reading Al Dente On The Side: Mexican Beans and Rice