Every main event needs supporting cast

Published 6:55 am Sunday, June 4, 2017

It is fine to have the most beautiful, delicious entrée one might imagine, but if left all alone on a dinner plate, it’s not enough. Every entrée needs a touch of something. That “something” we usually call a “side” or “side dish.” It may be a splendid green salad to accompany a great steak or spaghetti with meat sauce. But a side is always called for, unless you’re serving soup (and then the appropriate “side” is cornbread).
Speaking of steak, a recipe recently given me by Terry Holland would be a delightful accompaniment to a tender piece of sirloin or T-bone steak. Few foods go with steak as well as mushrooms, and this recipe for Stuffed Mushrooms takes them to a new level. Of course, stuffed or twice-baked potatoes also go well with steak, but they are full of calories, while the mushroom is only high-calorie when stuffed with — well, some of the things this recipe finds a mushroom stuffed with! Still, it’s a reasonably low-calorie side, and delicious besides.
Another good side that I prepared recently is Broccoli Salad. It had been a while since I prepared it, and I had forgotten how much bacon and mayonnaise the recipe called for. I cut the amounts in half, and it was just as good. It was part of a picnic luncheon that Carey and Marshall Wooten (my daughter and son-in-law) prepared for his Burgamy relatives, who also brought salads and desserts. It was quite a spread and included — from one of the relatives — the familiar pineapple casserole that I love, and will feature another time. Suffice it to say that the broccoli went well with fried chicken, potato salad and deviled eggs. (There was even a green bean casserole, which some folks love. I will not feature it here, I think.)
Another side dish that I have gotten from Terry Holland is actually quite healthy — and it’s delicious besides. It’s a Marinated Zucchini Salad, and is an easy way to use up those zucchini  that are overflowing in your gardens right now. The only fat in it is a little bleu cheese, and everybody needs a tiny bit of fat now and then.
For those of us who live close to farmers’ markets, which will soon be opening, “side” dishes will become the main event when we prepare a meal that includes black-eyed peas, butterbeans, cream-style corn, fried okra, sliced tomatoes and cornbread. No meat — no entrée — is necessary; in fact, it would be in the way — when the fresh vegetables are put before you and there’s enough cornbread to absorb all the wonderful pot likker from the peas and beans. I can hardly wait. In the meantime, try one or all three of these recipes, by adding them to your entrée. You’ll find they are quite satisfactory “side” dishes.
Stuffed Mushrooms
15 large fresh mushrooms; remove stems for stuffing
10 dried tomato halves, softened and minced
4 tablespoons butter or olive oil
6 tablespoons onion, finely minced
3 tablespoons bread crumbs
½ cup grated cheeses (combine parmesan, Swiss, cheddar, etc.)
¼ cup parsley, minced
½ teaspoon tarragon
2 tablespoons cream
4 tablespoons dry white wine or sherry
Coat mushroom caps with oil or butter and set in baking pan. Saute onion in remaining oil or butter until soft. Add minced mushroom stems and cook till lightly browned, stirring often. Add minced tomatoes and wine; boil rapidly until liquid almost evaporates. Remove from heat. Mix in bread crumbs, half of cheese and seasonings. Add cream to moisten. Fill each cap with heaping spoonful. Add a dot of butter and sprinkle remaining cheeses on top. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 20 minutes.
Marinated Zucchini Salad
1 16 oz.-can whole carrots or 1 lb. carrots, cooked
2 medium zucchini, sliced thin
1 14 oz.-can artichoke hearts, drained and halved, or 2 small jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained
½ cup sliced black olives
2/3 cup vegetable oil
¼ cup tarragon vinegar
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon dry mustard
Dash freshly ground black pepper
Bibb lettuce leaves
2 oz. bleu cheese, crumbled
Drain and slice carrots. Combine carrots, zucchini and artichokes in a shallow dish. Combine oil, vinegar, garlic, sugar, salt, mustard and pepper in a screw-top jar. Shake well. Pour over vegetables. Chill several hours or overnight. To serve, drain off marinade, arrange vegetables on lettuce leaves and sprinkle with the crumbled bleu cheese. Serves 8.
Broccoli Salad
1 bunch broccoli, chopped so that you have mini florets
1 cup golden raisins
½ lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 purple onion, finely chopped
1 cup walnuts or pecans, finely chopped
Prepare the ingredients and place in a bowl large enough to stir well.
½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Mix dressing well with a whisk. Pour over the salad ingredients and stir well to coat. Refrigerate overnight. Will last up to a week in the refrigerator.

Note: A guest at the Sunday lunch asked if I had a recipe for syrup candy. I do not. Does anyone out there have such a recipe?
Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net.