We’ve expanded our main course repertoire during lockdown – now it’s time to give the sides some love. Molly Baz’s flavoursome veg-based dishes are simple yet effective.
If you’ll happily spend evenings slaving over a main dish, only to realise at the last minute that all you have to serve with it is a slightly wilted ball of iceberg, we hard relate. As we get reacquainted with the prospect of cooking for *other people*, it’s time to position side dishes front and centre.
Cook This Book, the new cookbook by US food writer Molly Baz, celebrates sides with recipes that combine classic techniques and deliciously bold flavours. A senior editor at American culinary magazine Bon Appétit, Baz has an online fanbase almost as dedicated as she is to her jar of flaky sea salt – and her new book pairs all the inside jokes and chef-y tips of her digital content with accessible recipes that are perfect for any level of home cook.
Baz resigned from Bon Appétit’s buzzy YouTube channel last year as a show of support for her colleagues, amid controversy over the publication’s treatment of its BIPOC members of staff. But her career isn’t quite camera-free – Cook This Book includes QR codes that lead you to exclusive video clips.
Below, Baz shares three recipes from her new cookbook. If you’re into strong flavours, try the “Caesar-ish” potato salad. Intensely-flavoured potatoes might seem like an oxymoron, but Baz’s recipe riffs off the classic by adding a piquant dressing featuring spicy dijon mustard, briny anchovies and lots of freshly ground black pepper. It uses shop-bought mayo as a base – no overworked arms from whisking the homemade stuff – and makes the perfect addition to any al fresco picnic spread.
After something a little more veg-centric? Baz’s grilled sweetcorn is the simple yet decidedly flavoursome accompaniment you’ve been waiting for. She toasts corn on the cob until it’s satisfyingly blackened, and tosses it in a punchy sambal-sesame butter. The coating combines sesame oil and sambal oelek (an Indonesian chilli sauce) with lime juice for a concoction you’ll want to spread over everything else you eat this week.
Finally, for something heartier, try the marinated lentils. They’ve got ‘WFH lunch’ written all over them, as Baz says they develop magnificently in flavour if left in the fridge for a few days after assembly. A tasty combination of black lentils, walnuts and basil (with feta that can easily be left out for a vegan version), this side dish is as delicious as it is simple to make. Better than round 785 of boiled broccoli, right?
Caesar-ish potato salad with radishes and dill
- 1kg baby potatoes, any variety
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 lemon
- 6 radishes
- 25g dill leaves, plus more for finishing
- coarse sea salt
- 3 oil-packed anchovy fillets
- 80g mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Cook the potatoes: place 1kg potatoes and 250g salt in a large pot and cover with 2.5 litres water. [Molly’s note: “If 250g seems like a lot, you are not wrong but this recipe has been tested, tasted and approved, so rest assured your potatoes won’t turn out salty. Their density inhibits them from taking on too much salt, and most of it gets tossed out when you drain them anyway.”] Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
Once the water reaches a simmer, adjust the heat to medium to maintain a simmer and cook until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork or paring knife. This should take roughly 8 to 10 minutes after the water comes to a simmer, but timing will vary greatly by the size of potato, so focus on the doneness rather than the minutes.
While the potatoes cook, make your dressing: firmly smash and peel 1 garlic clove. Add a pinch of salt to the garlic and, using the side of your knife, mash the garlic to a paste.
Finely chop 3 anchovy fillets and then, using the side of your knife, mash them into a homogeneous paste. Combine the anchovy paste with the garlic paste and mash a few more times to combine.
Add the paste to a large bowl along with 80g mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon dijon mustard and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Whisk well to combine.
Slowly stream in 2 tablespoons olive oil, whisking as you go.
Cut a lemon in half and squeeze the juice of both halves into the dressing; whisk to combine. Season the dressing to taste with salt.
Assemble the salad and serve: once the potatoes are cooked, drain them and let cool just until they can be handled. Smash each potato against the chopping board lightly with your palm so they are just crushed and their skins have broken to expose their flesh, but not totally crumbly. Add them to the dressing, tossing to evenly coat.
Thinly slice 6 radishes crosswise into coins. Finely chop 25g dill leaves. Add the radishes and dill to the potatoes and toss to coat.
Taste and add more salt and black pepper as needed. Top with more dill leaves and serve immediately.
Grilled corn with sambal-sesame butter
- 4 whole sweetcorns
- 1 lime
- 100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 4 tbsp sambal oelek
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- flaky sea salt
- toasted sesame seeds
Heat a 30cm cast-iron pan over medium-high heat until it’s very hot, about 4 minutes.
Prep and char the corn: shuck 4 whole cobs of corn, discarding the husks and corn silk that stick to the corn. If there are still a few stragglers hanging on, they’ll loosen themselves as the corn cooks.
Using tongs, arrange the cobs in the pan and cook, rotating slightly every 4 to 5 minutes, until the kernels on all sides are sporadically charred, 15 to 20 minutes total. Set aside.
Meanwhile, make the sambal-sesame butter: using a fork, mash together 100g room-temperature butter, 4 tablespoons sambal oelek, and 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a medium bowl until well combined.
Finely grate the zest of 1 lime into the butter and stir to incorporate. Cut the lime into 4 wedges for serving.
Serve: cut each sweetcorn cob in half crosswise, if you wish. I find they’re easier to handle this way, and it helps avoid schmearing butter all over your face as you eat.
While still warm, slather each cob generously with sambal-sesame butter and season on all sides with flaky sea salt.
Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve with more sambal-sambal-sesame butter and the lime wedges alongside.
Marinated lentils with spiced walnuts and lotsa basil
- 3 garlic cloves
- 40g packed basil leaves
- 1 (100g) block feta cheese
- coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 300g black beluga lentils or puy lentils (a.k.a. lentilles du puy)
- 120g raw walnuts, almonds, or pecans
- 125ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1½ tsp ground coriander
- 50g golden raisins
- 80ml red or white wine vinegar
Cook the lentils: bring a medium saucepan filled with 2 litres water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil. Add 300g black beluga lentils, give them a good stir, and return the water to a simmer, adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain a simmer while they cook.
Simmer until they are cooked through and no longer toothsome but not mushy, 15 to 35 minutes, depending on what type of lentils you have and how old they are. Taste them periodically to evaluate their doneness before draining them.
Drain the lentils in a sieve and let them cool in the sieve while you prepare the walnut dressing. Reserve the saucepan.
Make the spiced walnut oil: coarsely chop 120g walnuts. In the reserved saucepan, combine 125ml olive oil and the chopped walnuts and cook over medium-low heat, swirling the pan often so that they cook evenly, until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Keep an eye on them, as they can turn from toasty to burnt pretty quickly. Remove from the heat.
Add 1 tablespoon cumin seeds and 1½ teaspoons ground coriander and stir to combine. Using a Microplane, immediately grate 3 garlic cloves into the still-hot oil; stir to combine. Stir in 50g golden raisins, 80ml red wine vinegar, and 1 teaspoon salt.
Dress the lentils: add the drained lentils back to the medium saucepan with the walnut mixture and gently stir everything to combine.
Thinly slice 1 (100g) block of feta into large 5mm-thick planks. Tear 40g basil leaves in half, or into small pieces if large, and toss them through the lentils. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.
Divide the lentils among 4 serving bowls. Top each with a few feta planks and black pepper and drizzle with more olive oil.
Cook This Book: Techniques That Teach And Recipes To Repeat by Molly Baz (£26, Robinson, Little, Brown) is out now
Copyright © 2021 Molly Baz. Photography: © 2021 PEDEN+MUNK