October 25, 2014 Cauliflower Salad

DSC_9433a“Gifted” with another box of Brassicas this week, I was looking for a way to use cauliflower in a fall salad. A new cookbook, Bar Tartine : Techniques and Recipes, gave me the salad I was looking for.

Opened in 2005, Bar Tartine, located in the Mission District of San Francisco is an offshoot of the highly praised San Francisco bakery, Tartine. In addition to doing their own curing, preserving and in-house fermenting, the food draws influences from countries as diverse as Norway, Japan and Hungary.

The cauliflower is broken down into tiny florets, save the rest to make cauliflower “mashed potatoes”. In a bowl with the yogurt dressing, combine the florets with cucumbers, chickpeas and mushrooms. Our garden provided me with the radishes and serrano peppers needed for this salad. I was hesitant to use the two serranos as suggested, ours get quite hot so I went with just one. The yogurt dressing tamed the chiles heat quite a bit.
Resist the urge to roast or blanch the cauliflower before adding it to the salad, if you normally dislike it raw.  Marinating small florets in the dressing softens them up considerably without making them mushy. The yogurt dressing is especially good and would work well with other salad combinations.

Assembled ingredients for the yogurt dressing.


Bar Tartine Cauliflower Salad

Serves 6


For the dressing

  • 1 c Greek style yogurt, regular or low fat
  • 5T sunflower oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1T red wine vinegar
  • 1T honey
  • 1 1/2t fine grain sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions for the dressing

  1. In a bowl large enough to hold all the salad components, whisk together the yogurt, sunflower oil, garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper to taste. If not using immediately, store dressing in an airtight container. Dressing can be made several days ahead.

Ingredients for the salad

  • 6-8 c cauliflower, trimmed into tiny florets
  • 2 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded if necessary, cut into small dice
  • 4-5 scallions, cut into 1/4″ rounds
  • 1c cooked chickpeas, fresh is best but rinsed well and drained thoroughy if canned.
  • 8oz mushrooms, button or shiitake, quartered
  • 6-8 radishes, ends trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 or 2 green serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1/4c sunflower seeds, lightly toasted
  • 1/4c each chopped fresh flat leafed parsley, dill and tarragon

Directions for the salad

  1. Add the cauliflower, cucumbers, scallions, chickpeas, mushrooms, radishes, chilies, sunflower seeds and herbs to the bowl toss lightly and let stand for 15 minutes.
  2. During this time the vegetables will begin to exude some liquid the cauliflower will soften. Toss again and transfer salad to a bowl. Leftovers should keep for several days, if you can keep them around that long!


October 20, 2014 Cauliflower Tabbouleh

DSC_9376aCauliflower is a master of disguises. Toss cauliflower with olive oil, salt, freshly ground pepper and herbs of your choice and roast it. The florets carmelize and develop a nutty quality, reminiscent of popcorn. Because that’s how you will consume it, like popcorn. Or simmer it until very tender, mash it up with milk and butter (or your reasonable substitute of choice) and you have a side as flavorful as any bowl of mashed potatoes.

This time cauliflower takes the place of coarsely ground bulgur in a mock tabbouleh. Taboulleh is a Lebanese herb salad with bulgur, as food historian Clifford A. Wright points out in his book, Little Foods of the Mediterranean, not a bulgur salad with herbs. The advantage of using cauliflower is that, unlike bulgur, it will not continue to expand as the dish sits. By the nature of the vegetables in it, the mock tabbouleh will exude more liquid, so be judicious in the amount of dressing you use. If you have any leftover the next day, drain any excess liquid off before serving.

This was an opportunity for me to use a new acquision in my battery of herbs and spices, sumac. Not related to the poisonous variety, it is extracted from the berries of a bush that grows wild in Mediteranean regions. The berries or drupes are ground into a reddish powder that adds an astringent lemony taste to salads or meat dishes. Combined with dried thyme and sesame seeds, it’s also part of a seasoning blend from the Middle East called z’atar.

Other additions to the salad could include chickpeas or some finely chopped bell pepper. For an “authentic” presentation, serve with romaine lettuce leaves to scoop up the tabbouleh. This is a recipe that got a big thumbs up from my hubby, who thought it tasted even better the second day.


Use quick on and off pulses to chop the cauliflower florets finely to resemble medium grain bulgur.

Cauliflower Tabboulleh

Serves 6-8

Ingredients for the Dressing

  • 1T finely grated lemon zest
  • 3T fresh lemon juice
  • 1T red wine vinegar
  • 1/3-1/2c safflower or avocado oil
  • 1/2t  ground cumin
  • 1/2t  ground sumac
  • 1t kosher salt
  • 1/4t freshly ground black pepper

Directions for the dressing

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon zest, lemon juice,vinegar, oil, cumin, sumac, salt and pepper. Set aside

Ingredients for the tabboulleh

  • 6-8 c cauliflower florets, use the stem part to make cauliflower “mashed potatoes”
  • 1c chopped cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1/2″ dice
  • 1c chopped tomato
  • 1 1/2c fresh flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1/2c dill leaves, chopped
  • 1/4-1/2c mint leaves, chopped
  • 3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves finely minced garlic

Directions for the tabboulleh

  1. Chop cauliflower florets in a very fine dice, either with a box grater, by hand or in a food processor with short, quick pulses.  Do not overcrowd the processor, you may have to do this in batches. The final product should resemble medium bulgur grains. Transfer the chopped cauliflower to a large bowl. Add the chopped cucumber and tomato.
  2. Add chopped parsley, dill, mint, green onion and garlic to workbowl to chop more finely. Transfer to the bowl with the cauliflower. Gently mix to combine, add dressing and mix again. Taste for seasoning and serve.



October 15, 2014 Baked Chiles Rellenos

DSC_9331aMy first exposure to Mexican cuisine didn’t occur until I was in college and that was limited to ketchupy salsa and salty tortilla chips. A few years later, I experienced the contrast of good Mexican food produced in a hole in the wall, mom and pop restaurant with a mediocre chain restaurant (remember Chi Chi’s anyone?)

As it was with other foreign cuisines I was unfamiliar with, I gained knowledge of the food by reading cookbooks. The cookbooks of Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless introduced me to Mexican cuisine that varies from state to state, much the same as it does in the United States.  I bought a press and set out to make my own tortillas using a product I never heard of before, masa harina. My well-intentioned attempts were less than perfect for certain but I developed an appreciation for how it was done.

Then, there were the many varieties of peppers, used both fresh and dried I was unfamiliar with, their heat measured on the Scoville scale.  Some were hot, like the jalapeno and serrano, others very hot,  Habanero and Scotch bonnet, others with only mild heat, like poblanos and pasillas. The herbs, not readily available thirty years ago in markets like cilantro and Mexican oregano, were accessible to us as gardeners. There is always a small patch of cilantro in the garden in the warmer months, and we have a large Mexican oregano plant that Joe dries at the end of the season. We use hot peppers in their fresh, frozen and dried states. It has always surprised me that dried peppers, several years old are still as hot as a fresh one.
This year we have had a bumper crop of peppers, both sweet and hot. The peppers that are supposed to be hot, are hot. We learned last year, after a disappointing crop of rather mild jalapenos, the plants need to be stressed, as in, no special watering or fertilizing to produce hot peppers. I guess there is a life lesson there, but we can leave that for another time.
Another reason for the excellent pepper crop were the plant supports. When a plant starts producing peppers, it can weigh down the plant and many of the peppers touch the ground, making them susceptible to damage from pests and rotting. The delicate pepper plants stand tall with the supports and the peppers have room to grow.

We had the largest crop ever of poblano chiles. Poblanos have a dark green skin and left to ripen further on the vine will turn red. They are somewhat heart-shaped, 3-6 inches long and 2-3 inches wide. Which brings me to another pet peeve of mine. Our seed packet identified the pepper as an ancho and it was in actuality, a poblano. Poblano is the raw or cooked form of the pepper, it is only referred to as an ancho in its dried form. I had enough poblano peppers this season to dry some and to use some fresh.

Feeling ambitious, I decided to make my own interpretation of chiles rellenos. I will not lie to you and say this is an easy, quick, weeknight meal. The Mexican version of stuffed peppers, the translation of chiles rellenos, does take considerable time. The peppers were picked, sorted, with the wrinklier ones assigned to the drying pile. The chiles were roasted over the gas flame on the stove over the asador. Once charred on all sides I placed them in a large paper grocery bag to steam the peppers, loosening the skins even further and making them easier to peel. Remove the skin by running your hands down the chile, use a damp towel to remove any skin that won’t easily come off. Once peeled, the pepper is slit on the side so that you can remove the seed sac (Diana Kennedy refers to this as the placenta) and any large ribs.

Now it’s time to fill your peppers. I used about 1/3 to 1/2 cup filling per pepper. Some recipes instruct you to close the peppers up with toothpicks but I found the peeled pepper skin adheres nicely to itself. Most recipes call for dipping the peppers, first in flour, then in an egg and flour batter and fried in hot oil. I wanted to attempt something a bit simpler, so I dipped the peppers in an egg wash and rolled them in panko crumbs and baked them. I served them with an easy sauce of roasted tomatoes, cooked with onion, chipotle chile and some of the adobo sauce that the chipotles are packed in.

Poblano pepper on the vine.

Baked Chiles Rellenos

Make one dozen stuffed chiles


  • 12 Poblano peppers, fresh, red or green with smooth, not wrinkly sides if possible


  1. For a gas stove, arrange the chiles over a lit burner (you can fit two to three per burner). For an electric stove, arrange all chiles on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and position it 4 inches below a hot broiler. As each side blackens and blisters, turn the chiles with tongs until they’re blistered all over.
  2. Immediately put the chiles in a large bowl, cover, and let steam for 15 minutes. Remove the skin with your fingers or a paper towel. (It’s OK if you can’t remove all of it.)
  3. Slit the chiles lengthwise, starting about 1/2 inch from the stem and ending about 1/2 inch from the point. Remove the seed core, being careful not to damage the stem.

Recipe for the filling and finishing the chiles


  • 1/2 c low-fat or regular ricotta cheese
  • ¼ c crumbled feta
  • ½ c shredded jack or cheddar cheese
  • ¾ c well-drained chopped spinach or chard (I used chard)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 c panko crumbs (more or less)

Directions for the filling and finishing the chiles

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Combine the first four ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix well and season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
  2. Spoon about 1/2 cup of the filling into each chile and then press the cut edges together. (If the chiles tear, press the torn edges together.) Arrange the chiles on a tray or baking sheet.
  3. Whisk egg with 1/2 cup water in bowl. Spread panko crumbs on a small plate.
  4. Dip chiles in egg wash. Coat with breadcrumbs. Place on baking sheet, and bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden.

Ingredients for the sauce

  • ½ c finely chopped onion
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes
  • 1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce, drained

Directions for sauce

  1.  Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, chili powder, and cumin, and cook 4 to 5 minutes, or until onion is soft and spices are fragrant.
  2. Add tomatoes, and simmer 10 minutes, breaking up tomatoes with spatula or wooden spoon. Transfer to blender, add chipotle chile, and blend until sauce is smooth.
  3. Serve chiles rellenos in sauce.


I like to roast pepper on an asador, an open grated grill over the gas flame.



October 9, 2014 Broccoli Soup

DSC_9270aOne day last week I received several phone calls and a text message from my husband at his office in a very short period of time. I wasn’t sure what was up since I had just been there, so I had to find out what was so urgent. “Are you near by? he asked, “A patient came in and brought me some of the biggest broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage I’ve ever seen.”  I wasn’t, nearby that is, so he planned to bring them home that evening.

When he came in that evening, something was missing, the vegetables. Joe left them in the computer room on his way out and since computer rooms can get a little warm, we promptly hopped back into the car and back to the office to rescue the Brassicas and the computer room from smelling like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage!

With the advent of autumn and cooler temperatures  a new harvest of Brassicas are arriving at local farmers markets.Brassicas are a genus of plant in the mustard family. They are less frequently referred to these days, as cruciferous vegetables, giving note to the crosslike shape of plant’s flowers. The usual suspects we think of most are broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts but they also include all types of radishes, turnips and even watercress. Brassicas are counted as some of the healthiest vegetables around containing high amounts of vitamin A caretonoids, vitamin C, folic acid and fiber.

With these huge veggies staring me down every time I opened the refrigerator door, the obvious question came, how was I going to use them? Cauliflower was an easy start, I like to toss the florets with olive oil, kosher salt and Aleppo and chipotle pepper. Roasted until it was a warm golden brown, we devoured the whole tray, before we even sat down to dinner one night.

Broccoli soup has always been a cooler weather favorite of ours. Previous recipes I have made were heavy in the cream, butter and cheese department. My rich broccoli cheddar soup was a yearly birthday request from one of my co workers many years ago. This time I wanted to try something a little lighter. The recipe I chose this time showcases the sweet and flavorful broccoli, accented by just a little bit of fresh herbs. Don’t forget to use the broccoli stalks as well, especially when you have very fresh broccoli, they have as much flavor as the florets. Half and half is optional, I thought the soup had a creamy texture without it.
This is a healthy soothing soup that would pair well with a salad for lunch but is elegant enough to serve as a first course when you are entertaining. Now it’s back to the kitchen for me to find creative ways to use cabbage!

A very healthy head of broccoli.
Ingredients, ready to go.


Broccoli Soup

Serves four


  • 1T butter
  • 1T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery chopped
  • 1t each of fresh parsley and thyme
  • 8c chopped broccoli (use both the stems and florets)
  • 6c reduced sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1/2c half and half (optional)
  • Freshly ground pepper and kosher salt to taste


  1. Heat butter and oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat until the butter melts. Add onion and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes.
  2. Add garlic, thyme and parsley; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Stir in broccoli. Add broth; bring to simmer over high heat and reduce heat to maintain the simmer. Cook until the broccoli is very tender, about 8 minutes.
  4. Puree the soup in batches in a blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in half and half if desired.


October 2, 2014 Imam Bayildi

DSC_9143aImam bayildi translates roughly,”the priest fainted”. But why, was it because the eggplant dish was so delicious, did he eat too much at one sitting or was he just in shock at the amount of expensive olive oil used to make it?

One account in Turkish lore tells the story of an imam or priest, well known for his love of good food. One day the Imam announced his engagement to the daughter of a wealthy olive oil merchant. Part of her dowry included huge casks of olive oil, the size of a man, twelve in all. After the couple were married, the new bride proved to be an amazing cook. One dish in particular, eggplant cooked in olive oil, proved to be the imam’s favorite. In fact he requested the exact same dish twelve nights in a row. But the thirteenth night his favorite dish was missing from his evening meal. When asked why she didn’t make it, she told him the enormous supply from her dowry was used up. The news so shocked him that…..the priest fainted.

No matter what the story, Imam bayildi is a very well known Turkish meze, not really an appetizer but comparable to the small plate tapas dishes of Spain. Traditionally the dish is an eggplant cut down the middle, stuffed with garlic, onion, tomatoes and aromatic spices and simmered in olive oil to cover.

My goal in making this recipe was to cut back on the copious amount of olive oil but still make a flavorful dish. Rather than cook the eggplant whole in olive oil, I cut the eggplants in half, brushed the cut side with olive oil and baked it until the flesh was easy to scoop out. I combined the chopped eggplant with sauteed onion, garlic and tomato and currants. The addition of the aromatic spices, cinnamon and allspice will make your kitchen smell heavenly. I could also see the addition of feta cheese, pine nuts, even ground beef or the more traditional lamb. Serve warm or at room temperature along with a green salad for a delicious luncheon entree.

Imam Bayildi or Baked Stuffed Eggplant to Make a Priest Faint

Serves four


  • 4 medium eggplants
  • 6 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium onion, very thinly sliced (I used a mandoline)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/4c chopped tomatoes
  • 5T chopped flat leafed parsley
  • 1/2t dried oregano
  • 1/4c currants
  • 1/4t ground allspice
  • 1/4t ground cinnamon
  • 2T fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Cut several lengthwise slits in the eggplant halves. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake, cut side down for about 1/2hr, until the flesh is soft and easy to scoop out. Keep oven on at same temperature.
  2. While eggplant is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Cook the onions over low heat, stirring occasionally, until very soft, 20 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, 4 tablespoons of the parsley and the oregano and simmer until almost dry, about another 5 minutes. Add the currants, allspice and cinnamon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set this mixture aside.
  3. Scoop out the eggplant flesh with a spoon, leaving the skin and 1/4 inch of the lining intact. Finely chop the pulp and add it to the onion and tomato mixture. Mix well and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Place the eggplant shells in a baking dish just large enough to hold them. Fill them with the tomato onion mixture. Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice. Cover and bake the eggplants for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes.
  5. Serve warm or cool at room temperature.
Ingredients, ready to go!
Cut the eggplants in half, brush with olive oil and place cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. This variety is an “Italian pink” called Dancer.


The shells are now filled with the eggplant, onion, tomato and aromatic spice mixture and baked.