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Very Veggie Side Dishes

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Panzanella Salad

I always seem to be at a loss for good vegetable sides dishes.  Does this ever happen to you?  Not quite sure why I’m uninspired – it’s not like I dislike vegetables or anything, I just get in a rut and end up serving the same dishes time after time – you know, the usual suspects:  sautéed green beans, roasted asparagus, steamed broccoli, etcetera….  (big yawn)  Happily, the great deals on produce this week inspired me right out of my rut, and I’m excited to share two very (non-boring) veggie recipes with you today!

The first dish, a Panzanella Salad, is a favorite of mine that I crave all summer long.  It’s cool and crisp with fresh bell peppers, cucumbers, red onion and tomatoes; toasty French bread croutons add a savory crunch. The salad is finished with a simple, tangy vinaigrette, but if you’re short on time, you could easily swap in an Italian Vinaigrette (choose either Annie’s Naturals Dressing, or Kraft Salad Dressing, both on sale this week).   I swear, I could eat the entire bowl of this salad myself – actually, that might even happen today.  I can’t be trusted with this stuff hanging around – it is to die for!

Secondly, to make great use of this week’s extremely economically-priced zucchini, I whipped up a batch of delicious Zucchini Pancakes.  What a terrific little side dish these guys are – and no exaggeration, the recipe came together in about five minutes flat.  Serve them alongside a chilly bowl of gazpacho, and you’ll have a fabulous dinner on a warm summer night.

I’m pleased as punch to tell you that most of the main ingredients for these dishes are on sale for insanely low prices this week, and the rest are on the cheap as well.  So with that, my frugal friends, fill up on your veggies, and enjoy your weekend!

PANZANELLA SALAD
Serves:  12

Recipe Source:  Barefoot Contessa PARTIES!, by Ina Garten, pp. 102-103

  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 1 small loaf of French bread, cut in 1” cubes (about 6 cups)
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 large tomatoes, cubed
  • 1 English cucumber, seeded and sliced 1” thick
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced into 1” cubes
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced into 1” cubes
  • ½ red onion, julienned
  • 20 large basil leaves, chopped
  • 3 T. capers, drained

Dressing:

  • 1 t. minced garlic
  • ½ t. Dijon mustard
  • 3 T. champagne vinegar (champagne vinegar is great, but I use white wine, sherry vinegar, or whatever light vinegar I have on hand)
  • ½ c. olive oil
  • ½ t. kosher salt
  • ¼ t. ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan.  Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned.  Add more oil as needed.  (* note:  I make these in the oven sometimes; just toss the bread with the oil and salt, and spread the cubes on a cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 for 10 minutes, toss, and continue to bake until golden and toasty.)

For the dressing, place all the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake until well blended (* another note:  I also like to make this with my stick blender, which emulsifies dressings in a snap).

In a large bowl, mix all of the vegetables, the basil, and the capers.  Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour to blend the flavors.

ZUCCHINI PANCAKES

Makes about 10 Pancakes

Source:  Barefoot Contessa at Home, by Ina Garten.  pp. 136-137

  • 2 medium zucchini (about ¾ pound)
  • 2 T. grated red onion
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 6 to 8 T. flour
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Butter and olive oil

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Grate the zucchini into a bowl using the large grating side of a box grater.  Immediately stir in the onion and eggs.  Stir in 6 tablespoons of the flour, the baking powder, salt, and pepper.  If the batter gets too thin from the liquid in the zucchini, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour.

Heat a large (10-12 inch) sauté pan over medium heat and melt ½ tablespoon of butter and ½ tablespoon of oil together in the pan.  When the butter is hot but not smoking, lower the heat to medium-low and drop heaping spoonfuls of batter into the pan.  Cook the pancakes about 2 minutes on each side, until browned.  Place the pancakes on a sheet pan and keep warm in the oven.  Wipe out the pan with a dry paper towel, and add more butter and oil to the pan.  Continue to fry the pancakes until all the batter is used.  The pancakes can stay warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Serve hot.

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Leah Damron is an avid home cook who believes in using the freshest ingredients available, and she challenges herself weekly to create meals out of (mostly!) sale items. If Sendik's ever gave a title for "Biggest Fan", she believes she would win, hands down. Leah lives in greater Milwaukee with her husband, three children, and her big black lab, Daisy."

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