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Simple Sides

THE STORY: My wife and I were having dinner at Blu, a really nice place on the Lake Michigan shore in Glen Arbor. When the server laid my rack of lamb in front of me, I was very, very happy. Beautiful lamb. Also on the plate, two slices of zucchini. Two little green poker chips. That’s fine dining. It was what it was. And it was delicious. Nothing like what I would have done at home, which is why you go out to eat. Right?

I am also accustomed to what you might call trattoria cooking, osteria cooking, served family style in Italy as it is served family style at home. The technical term in Italian–lotsa. Lotsa vegetables that sail to your table on a vassoio, a big platter. Shown above, the other way of presenting zucchini, cut into inch-long plugs, boiled, then cut in half and seasoned. I learned this treatment from the cook at Trattoria alla Rivetta in Venice, who serves people who like to eat.

Herewith, a simple approach to preparing simple food that is simply delicious.

NICHE: A side dish
PREP TIME: 15 minutes
COOK TIME: 15 minutes

5 zucchini, 5 small yukon gold potatoes, half a head of cauliflower
Olive oil, dill, garlic salt, pepper


Zucchini: wash them, slice them into plugs 1 to 1.5 inches long, boil them 10 minutes or so, until they still feel slightly firm when you stab them with a fork. Drain them and slice length-wise on a platter.

Potatoes: wash them boil them, drain and cool with cold water. Peel the skins off with thumb and forefinger. Sticky peels you can gently strip away with the back of a knife.

Cauliflower: Slice/break florets away from a head you’ve cut in half. Boil 10 minutes, drain, dump on platter.

Seasoning: Drizzle good olive oil. Dust the potatoes with dried or fresh dill, then salt. On the Lightly dust the zucchini and cauliflower with garlic salt and pepper.

You can prepare this side dish and set it aside while you do other stuff at the stove or grill. Serve the vegetables at room temperature.

Note: Leftovers are for lovers. Make a little too much so you have the makings for soup or omelet the next day. See Chickpea and Swiss Chard.

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