Surely everybody has a 'go-to' side dish or an appetizer that can be practically prepared with one's eyes closed. I have a friend who makes a scrumptious cashew cheese that is devoured within minutes of her guests' arrival. (There is a long line of us waiting for the opportunity to buy this on a regular basis.) In the past, my 'go-to' in a pinch was whipping up my grandmother's crab rangoon dip. Honestly, this recipe is such a cinch. The dish calls for cream cheese, a dash of Worcestershire, sour cream, and your favorite shredded cheese for the topping, although we use nuts instead. Serve with a side of crudité and a variety of your favorite crackers, and I promise your guests will be asking for more.
In all honesty, I used to patiently wait for each holiday to roll around, so I could indulge in this dip. Little did I know, it wasn't just my grandmother's 'famous recipe', but it could be found in the Better Homes & Gardens Traditional Cookbook. That's right, the book that has been present in a majority of housewives' kitchens for the better part of a century! This book was THE go-to book at the time it was released in 1930. It has been said that there had never been a cookbook like it before, as over a million copies were sold by 1938 alone. Fortunately for us in 2020, a quick click of the mouse, a Google search, and voilà! The recipe can be found here: https://www.bhg.com/recipe/crab-rangoon-dip/
While appetizers are not necessarily my forte, side salads are. You might recall a blog post from July that highlighted our favorite summer salads. Watermelon and sweet corn played a big part. You also might recall that a few weekends back we stocked up on an array of fall fruits, such as apples, pomegranates, and citrus. We hosted some friends for dinner in our home last Saturday and served those very apples and pomegranates in a Brussels sprouts salad. It was an instant hit. Time and time again, this dish never gets old. There is something about the crunch in the apple, the tartness in the pomegranate, and the bite in the apple cider vinegar that gets us each time. (Scroll to the bottom of the page for the full recipe).
Another favorite, and a new one, is our fall citrus salad. When serving a heavy main course, such as the butternut squash risotto (featured in last week's blog post that can be found here https://www.backcountrymercantile.com/post/autumnal-delights), this salad served as a light and refreshing balance. The colors could not scream 'autumn' more. Top this salad with seasoned arugula, and violà! You now have your second side dish in a pinch. Alternatively, this dish could also be served as a healthy dessert. A bonus of stocking up on so much citrus in advance is that it adds a nice splash of color while displaying on the countertop. (Scroll to the bottom of the page for the full recipe).
Because it is not November yet, we are saving the sharing of our famous potato purée and chestnut stuffing for a few more weeks. However, we do have a few more side dish recipes that we'd like you to see. The vegetables here still remain the main focus. Our garlic 'smashed potatoes' that were featured in a previous blog post, are a perfect compliment to any main dish. You can find the recipe here: https://www.backcountrymercantile.com/post/winner-winner-chicken-dinner. Sea salt and extra virgin olive oil are your best friends while preparing them. Surely, the same can be said for the 'simply roasted' butternut squash, the mushroom medley, and the leeks. Charred broccoli and cauliflower need no more than a pinch of that same sea salt and a dash of EVOO. As if brussels sprouts one way wasn't enough, we prepared them 'simply sauteed' as well.
If you are able to purchase butternut squash already spiraled into the shape of spaghetti, then go for it! (This vegetable is usually a win with the children.) Otherwise, if you are brave enough to make your own, we shared a video on how to cut the butternut squash in our last blog post, which can also be found here: https://www.backcountrymercantile.com/post/autumnal-delights. The below link takes you to a suggested safe mandoline for spiraling the squash. It allows you to hold the device in an upright position, so you don't chance losing a finger! https://www.qvc.com/Geoffrey-Zakarian-Safe-Slice-Upright-Mandoline.product.K48986.html This mandolin is so safe that even the children can use it. Another popular version of the butternut squash with the children is preparing them as 'fries'. The versatality of the mandolin offers a zig-zag cut for preparing 'fries'.
Placing a bit of green garnish atop your vegetables can add interest to each dish. Parsley on the potatoes, sage on the butternut squash, and even pistachios on top of the Brussels sprouts salad add delightful decorations.
The trend is quite clear. While we love to indulge in a simply roasted butternut squash, our garlic 'smashed potatoes', and a seasonal risotto, we do love the balance of healthy sides to accompany such rich and heavy dishes. Nothing is worse than allowing your guests to leave the dinner table feeling overly full. Finding a balance is key, and then your guests won't be afraid to take second (or third) helpings.
Fall Brussels Sprouts Salad
Serves 4-6 people
1 lb. Brussels Sprouts
1 Red Delicious Apple
1/4 C of Pine Nuts
Seeds from 1/2 Pomegranate
1/2 C of Grated Parmesan
For the Apple Cider Vinaigrette:
1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
3 Tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
9 Tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Prep the Ingredients
- Wash the Brussels sprouts. Remove and discard the outer layers.
- Shave the brussels sprouts. You can slice with a knife by sticking a fork in the sprout to hold it steady, or you may use a mandolin to create a very fine shave. We like this instructional link by The Culinary Compass. https://www.theculinarycompass.com/how-to-shave-brussels-sprouts/
- Peel the apple and cut it into little cubes or 'bâtonnets'. *It is important to keep the apple pieces large enough so they maintain their crunchy consistency, so do not cut them too thin.
- Deseed the pomegranate, or skip that step entirely and buy one already deseeded. The fastest way to deseed a pomegranate is to cut it in half, dip the halves into a bath of water, and pick out the seeds with a spoon until they separate entirely from the flesh. You can cover and keep them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.
- Ciselée the chives. (Ciselée is a 'knife cut' and a common French word likely used in culinary school). It really just means to 'chop' or to 'chisel'.)
- Toast the pine nuts in the oven by roasting them lightly until golden brown.
- Grate the Parmesan very thinly or buy it already thinly grated. (Save a few 'copeaux' of Parmesan to place on top of the salad).
2. Prepare the Vinaigrette
- Combine the Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, and salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix until smooth.
- Slowly add the olive oil, while whisking at the same time, to create an emulsion.
3. Combine the Salad
- Combine the shaved brussels sprouts, apple, lemon, pepper, salt and 6 teaspoons of the dressing.
- Mix until the contents of the salad are evenly coated.
- Add the Parmesan, 2/3 of the pomegranate, 2/3 of the chives, and 2/3 of the pine nuts.
- Taste and add dressing as needed.
- Place the salad into a bowl.
- Use 1/3 of the pine nuts, pomegranate, chives and shaved Parmesan to garnish the top of the salad. This will additionally not only add color, but showcase the ingredients.
This salad can be prepared up to two days in advance. Save the nut garnish until serving.
Fall Citrus Salad
Serves 4-6 people
2 Blood Oranges
For the Dressing:
Salt & Pepper
1. Peel the Fruits.
- Remove all of the white pulp carefully in order to ensure that none of its bitter taste remains on the fruit.
- Slice the segments of the grapefruit, so that any further bitterness is limited.
- Cut the slices of the oranges and blood oranges, removing as much pulp as possible.
- Remove all seeds.
2. Prepare the Arugula Salad
- Into a bowl, place a handful of arugula, add 1/4 of the cisielée shallots, salt and pepper, 2 teaspoons of Champagne vinegar, 2 Tablespoons of EVOO.
- Combine lightly. (*The overall seasoning should be limited here.)
3. Plate the Salad
- Arrange the fruit segments in a random fashion. Season the citrus with salt flakes and black pepper.
- Place the arugula on top of the fruit.
- Add toasted pistachios (optional) if you would like to add texture and another layer of flavor.
The vintage glassware featured in the first two photos is vintage 'Moon & Stars' in both the amber and amethyst colors. The ceramic ware is designed by Backcountry Mercantile and handpainted by FIMA Deruta in Italy. The mini turkey figurines are made by Mosser Glass in Cambridge, Ohio. The beige hemstitched napkins are made by Mode Living. What we love about them, is that they are not only made of high-quality linen, and elegant in their own design, but they are specially coated to prevent wine or other liquid stains. To shop the linens, click here: https://www.mode-living.com/products/hemstitch-napkins.
The floral in the first photograph was hand-selected by Macardle's Florist in Greenwich, CT. The cake is a gluten-free version of chocolate mousse by Black Forest Pastry Shop in Greenwich, CT.
The centerpiece in the second photo (and seen above) was curated by dispersing pumpkins from a yard display, snipping fall foliage from tree branches outside, and then finally by placing faux berries and a few simple votive candle holders alongside the display. It is a perfect example of an effortless-chic, not to mention affordable, tabletop presentation. For more inspiration, visit our gallery at https://www.backcountrymercantile.com/gallery.
To shop for the above looks, you may explore our full autumn collection. You will find our handmade ceramic ware as well as our love for melding vintage glassware in all we have to offer. https://www.backcountrymercantile.com/shop-1