February 26, 2017 Brussels Sprouts Salad with Lemon Caper Dressing and Asiago Cheese

The last two days have brought us very pleasant but unseasonable temperatures in the seventies. While opening a window to let some fresh air in I spotted two pansy “volunteers” that had sprung up close to the house but not in an area where we normally plant anything. On a walk down to the garden I spotted the first dandelion. An early spring? Looks like even though the temperatures are going back into the forties by this evening. A few days of warmth is not enough to show evidence of new life in the garden. There are some beet greens and radicchio under a cold frame and I will take it on Joe’s word that there is miners lettuce and some kale in the greenhouse. I did see a bit of green in the circle garden, the beginning of the rebirth of the Chinese chives. In a month or two we will be pulling them out by the bucketfuls but for now it’s nice to see that first poke of green, letting us know that spring isn’t that far off. Until then my produce is from the local supermarkets and club stores.

This Brussels sprouts salad is simple and delicious with a satisfying crunchy texture. The sprouts can be sliced in no time in the food processor, I used a 2 mm (thin) slicing disk or with a mandoline; trust me use the guard. If you want to work on your knife skills, slice them by hand. The dressing couldn’t be simpler, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and capers. If you always wondered what those little green things are, capers are the unopened flower buds of Capparis spinosa, a prickly perennial shrub like bush, native to the Mediterranean and some parts of Asia. The buds are harvested, dried in the sun and then pickled in vinegar, brine or salt. The size of a caper can be as small as a green peppercorn, and as large as a small olive. The largest ones are usually served as part of an antipasto platter, the small ones are referred to as non pareils (French for without equal), the size best suited for this recipe. Many recipes call for rinsing them first but I would say taste them and decide for yourself. Rough chop the capers and add them to the dressing. Shredded Asiago cheese compliments the salad with it’s creamy nutty flavor. Finish the salad off with toasted slivered almonds and garnish with thinly sliced scallions. Leftovers are even better the next day.

Brussels Sprouts Salad with Lemon Caper Dressing and Asiago Cheese

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts, core ends trimmed. damaged outer leaves removed
  • ½ c extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ c lemon juice
  • 1 t lemon zest
  • ¼ c capers, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • ¼ t kosher salt or more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2/3 c Asiago cheese
  • ½ c toasted slivered almonds
  • 2-3 scallions, sliced thinly on the diagonal

Directions

  1. Shred the Brussels sprouts using the slicing disc of a food processor.  You can also slice them by hand with a well sharpened knife or a mandoline slicer. Place shredded sprouts in a bowl large enough to toss them in.
  2. In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, capers, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour about two thirds of the dressing over the sprouts and toss. Add the toasted almonds and Asiago cheese and toss again. Taste and add more salt if needed and additional dressing if needed. Garnish with chopped scallions and serve immediately.
Add shredded Brussels sprouts to a large bowl and toss with dressing and other ingredients.

Pansies that came up in February.
The first new growth of garlic chives. My garnish for the next Brussels sprout salad.

February 23, 2017 Toasted Cauliflower Rice

 Toasted cauliflower rice takes plain cauliflower rice to the next dimension. If you are already making cauliflower rice, there’s not much more to do to give this “stand-in” a more rice like texture along with the nutty quality we love in regular rice. Make cauliflower rice either by pulsing it or using the shredding disc of the food processor. You can also go low-tech and grate the cauliflower on a box grater with the medium sized holes. I think it’s even more important to press out the additional liquid when you are making toasted cauliflower rice, so your rice will toast, not steam.

Put the cauliflower granules in a large enough bowl to mix it around, toss with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, a sprinkle of kosher salt and a grind of pepper (white pepper if you are fussy). Spread the riced cauliflower evenly over a lined baking sheet, foil works best here for easy clean up. A full head of cauliflower will probably take two baking sheets. Bake at 375°F convection heat for about twenty to twenty five minutes. I flipped the baking sheet from front to back and top to bottom at the halfway point and gave it several good stirs during the cooking time. The end product is toasty with an amazing rice like texture. Bake more than what you think you might need, it will shrink (after all cauliflower is 92% water) during the cooking process and yes, it is that good. Feel free to add any spices or add-ins to this dish. I served it with pesto chicken breasts to absorb the sauce but the possibilities are endless.

 Oven Toasted Cauliflower Rice

Serves 2-4

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 T olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Plain cauliflower rice before toasting.
Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
Spread out evenly on a foil lined baking sheet. A whole head may take two sheets.

Directions

  1. Preheat convection oven to 375°F. Cover two large, rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Break the cauliflower into florets, removing the stems. Place the florets in the food processor bowl and pulse until the cauliflower looks like rice. This takes about 10 to 15 one-second pulses. You may need to do this in two batches to avoid overcrowding.
  3. Place the cauliflower rice in a large bowl, add olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss until the rice is coated with the oil. Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet and roast until tender, rotating the baking sheets halfway during the baking time. The rice is done when it starts to look golden in spots.

October 26, 2016 Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

dsc_8213aInspiration for the recipes at Sue’s Seasonal Palate comes from many sources. Sometimes it’s a magazine article I’ve read, an intriguing recipe from the internet or a dish I’ve recently tried in a restaurant. The latter was the case for this recipe.

Last weekend we got together with some long time friends at a popular brewpub called The Vault. It’s located in a former bank built in 1889 in the historic borough of Yardley Pennsylvania. The owners of the Vault bring their own brand of sophistication to the brewpub concept and have turned it into an experience that is unique. No deafening pop or rock music or a bank of televisions tuned to the latest sports programs, they have chosen to feature live and recorded jazz that enhances the relaxed atmosphere and is more conducive to conversation. The beer is brewed on premises and the offerings from the kitchen are made in-house or sourced locally. Both the kitchen and the brewery are open to view. Though I am more of a wine drinker I really enjoyed the Sweet Potato Ale. The menu includes a nice selection of starters along with sandwiches, interesting salads and pizzas from their wood fired oven. The menu is definitely a cut above the average pub fare and one of their appetizers made me want to recreate it at home.

Our server suggested we start off with an appetizer of buffalo cauliflower to share for the table while we were pondering our other food choices. For a brief history of the buffalo wing we only need to go back to 1964 where they originated in, no surprise here, Buffalo, New York. The story has several versions but the most popular and my favorite, is that one evening, Teressa Bellissimo, co-owner of the Anchor Bar was challenged to whip up a late night snack for her son and his friends. “Mother Teressa” found some large chicken wings that had been deemed too meaty for the stockpot. Bellissimo chopped the wings into two sections, deep-fried them and tossed them with some hot sauce. She served them with celery that was part of the Anchor Bar’s antipasto and some of the house blue cheese dressing. The wings were reported to be an immediate local success and the first official Chicken Wing Day was celebrated on July 29, 1977. Over fifty years later they are a national favorite consumed everywhere from bars, to sporting venues to “competitive eating events” like the Philadelphia Wing Bowl and Buffalo’s annual National Buffalo Wing Festival.

It wasn’t enough for cauliflower to be a substitute for mashed potatoes, couscous and even pizza crust, the versatile vegetable takes the place of chicken wings in this recipe. The Vault’s buffalo cauliflower is described on the menu as buttermilk cauliflower, house buffalo sauce, chive sour cream and the real surprise, sweet pickled celery. The calorie count for six pieces of deep-fried chicken wings at one website I looked at was 616. Though I have nothing against traditional buffalo wings I also thought this recipe was worth the somewhat healthier do-over.

Start with a large head of cauliflower and break into chicken wing size florets. I was aiming for 1½ in by 2½ inches in length, you should have 5 to 6 cups of “wings” and probably more. Some recipes I found called for the cauliflower to be roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper. I wanted the florets to have a bit more substance so I coated the cauliflower with a simple batter of flour, milk and spices. Substitutions can be made here, almond milk for vegans, rice flour for a gluten-free diet. If you use rice flour as I did, you may need to thin the batter out a bit more.

I tried at first to dip the pieces by using the handle at the bottom of my cauliflower “wing”. This turned out to be a very messy approach., It is easier to use tongs to dip the individual pieces in the batter. Dip each piece thoroughly, lift out and allow the excess batter to drip back into the bowl. To minimize clean up, line the baking sheet with foil or parchment. Since several of the blogs I read mentioned excess batter clumping up and sticking to the baking sheet, I chose to place the florets on a wire rack thoroughly sprayed with Pam over the baking sheet. Preheat oven to 425°F, (convection heat) and bake for about twenty minutes or until golden. I flipped the pieces halfway through the baking process.

While the cauliflower is baking, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the hot sauce and stir to combine. In a medium bowl, combine the cooked cauliflower and sauce, toss gently to combine. Place the cauliflower back on the baking sheet and bake for another 10 minutes, until the cauliflower begins to crisp. Serve immediately with plain or sweet pickled celery and blue cheese dressing or sauce.

Cauliflower pieces shouldn't be too small.
Cauliflower pieces shouldn’t be too small.
A simple batter of flour, spices and milk.
Ingredients for the batter.
A simple batter of flour, spices and milk.
A simple batter of flour, spices and milk.
Dip cauliflower pieces in the batter. Place on a wire rack above the parchment lined baking tray for easy clean up.
Dip cauliflower pieces in the batter. Place on a wire rack above the parchment lined baking tray for easy clean up.
While the cauliflower is baking, stir together melted butter and hot sauce.
While the cauliflower is baking, stir together melted butter and hot sauce.
After the cauliflower has baked to a golden brown, mix with hot sauce and butter.
After the cauliflower has baked to a golden brown, mix with hot sauce and butter. Bake until crisp.
The final product served with blue cheese sauce and pickled celery.
The final product served with blue cheese sauce and pickled celery.

Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

Serves four or two very hungry  people

Ingredients

  • 1 c flour, can be all-purpose, whole wheat, brown rice etc.
  • 1 c milk, almond milk or water
  • 1 t  garlic powder
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 t smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ t ground paprika
  • 1 head cauliflower,cut into florets
  • ½ c hot sauce (I used Franks Original)
  • 3 T butter

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Spray a large wire rack with cooking spray to place over the baking sheet.
  2. Combine flour, water, spices, salt and pepper in a large bowl and stir until smooth. Using tongs, dip cauliflower pieces in the batter. Coat well, lift out and allow the excess to drip back into the bowl.
  3. Arrange cauliflower in a single layer on the wire rack that is on top of the baking sheet.  Bake 20 minutes or until golden.
  4. In a small saucepan, melt the butter, add the hot sauce and stir to combine. Pour evenly over cauliflower. Toss gently until cauliflower is evenly coated.
  5. Bake 10 minutes or until cauliflower begins to crisp, rearranging florets occasionally if needed. Serve with celery and blue cheese dressing.

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May 6, 2016 Cauliflower Pizza Crust

DSC_6789aConsider the amazing versatility of cauliflower. Tossed with olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper and roasted until it is golden brown, it’s addictive as popcorn. It’s a delicious gluten-free substitute for mashed potatoes and couscous and the secret ingredient in a healthier version of Alfredo sauce.

In this recipe, the vegetable master of disguise is the basis for a pizza crust. I began my research by reading through about 20 recipes for cauliflower pizza I found online. They were written by cookbook authors, celebrity chefs and food bloggers. No two recipes were exactly the same and some were quite vague in their instructions. I used these recipes to construct my own version of a crust that works every time.

Line a pizza pan or a baking sheet with parchment paper. I used a nonstick spray on the corners to make sure it stayed in place. Preheat your oven to 425°F.

Start with a head of cauliflower, chop it into four cups of smaller florets, you want uniform pieces that won’t overwhelm your food processor.
If you are using a hand grater leave the pieces larger and the stem attached so you don’t scrape your fingers. Save the stems for cauliflower mashed potatoes. Pulse the florets with the metal blade in the food processor until the cauliflower is the consistency of small grains of rice or couscous. Some writers referred to this as cauliflower “snow”. 4 cups of cauliflower florets yielded two and three-quarter cups of finely chopped cauliflower.

Cauliflower needs to be cooked to get rid of excess moisture. Some of the recipes I read called for sautéing the cauliflower on the stove top, others chose steaming and a few didn’t cook it at all. I am not a big fan of the microwave, but I feel it’s the easiest way to cook the cauliflower for this recipe and there is no need for additional water to be added. Place the cauliflower in a microwave safe container and cover with plastic. I cooked mine on the “fresh vegetable” setting for about six minutes. Let the cauliflower cool thoroughly before proceeding with the next step, if you don’t you could easily burn your fingers.

The next step is crucial to the success of this recipe. Dump the cauliflower into the center of a clean, cloth dish towel. Gather up the four corners and twist. Squeeze the bottom to extract as much liquid from the cauliflower as possible. When you think you’ve squeezed enough, squeeze one more time. Transfer the cauliflower pulp to a bowl, you should have about a scant cup. Add to this one lightly beaten large egg, a pinch of salt, three quarters of a cup of shredded mozzarella, half cup of shredded Parmesan cheese. Although not necessary you can add a half teaspoon each of dried oregano and basil. Mix first with a spatula to incorporate the ingredients, then mix with your hands for best results.

Form into a disk and place on the prepared baking sheet. Press out from the center evenly to make a 10 inch circle. Be sure that the crust is evenly pressed out, with no thin or thick spots. Some sources said to spray the surface of the parchment paper with nonstick spray but I didn’t and my results were fine. Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of your preheated oven. Bake until spotty brown, it took about 12 minutes in the convection oven, it may take you a little longer for a conventional oven.

Remove baking sheet from the oven and add your favorite toppings. I made a basic tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese pizza. I baked it in the oven for another 10 minutes, until the cheese was melted and bubbly. I was able to cut the pizza with a wheel and the slices held together nicely.  The possibilities for toppings are endless. In about a month or so I will be topping this crust with basil pesto and thinly sliced zucchini.

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Start with a large head of cauliflower, you won’t need it all.
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Separate into smaller florets.
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Add to the food processor with metal blade attached.
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Process finely until you get rice or couscous like granules.
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Now it is ready for the microwave.
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Place the cooked cauliflower in the middle of a cotton dishtowel.
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Squeeze to extract all the excess liquid.
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You will be left with cauliflower “pulp”.
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Mix in beaten egg, cheeses, salt and dried herbs.
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Form it into a ball.
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Flatten into a 10 inch round.
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Bake at 425 F for ten to fifteen minutes, until starting to brown in spots.
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Top with sauce.
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And mozzarella cheese.
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Bake for 10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly.
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Delicious!

Makes one 10″ round

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of cauliflower florets
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ¾ c shredded low fat mozzarella cheese
  • ½ freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ t dried oregano
  • ½ t dried basil

Directions

  1. Line a rimmed baking sheet or pizza pan with parchment paper and preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Chop cauliflower into 4 cups of smaller florets. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until the cauliflower is the consistency of rice or couscous, my finished product measured 2 ¾ cups. Alternately grate larger pieces on a box grater until you have 2 ¾ cups of finely grated cauliflower.
  3. Place in a large bowl and microwave on high for 6 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
  4. Dump the cauliflower into the center of a cotton dish towel, flour sack types are best. Draw up the corners and twist tightly. Squeeze the cauliflower in the dish towel to extract as much liquid as possible.
  5. Transfer the cauliflower “pulp” to a bowl. Next, add the beaten egg, cheeses and herbs. Combine with a rubber spatula and for best results, finish the mixing with your hands.
  6. Form into a disk and place on the prepared baking sheet or pan. Press out from the center to make an even 10″ round.
  7. Place baking sheet on the lower middle rack of the preheated oven. Bake until spotty brown, mine took about 12 minutes, the crust may be ready anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes.
  8. Remove crust from the oven and top with your favorite pizza combinations. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbly, another 10 minutes.

 

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.

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Assembled ingredients for the yogurt dressing.

 

Bar Tartine Cauliflower Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients

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!

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August 17, 2014 Tomato Gazpacho

DSC_8572aSummertime in a bowl, liquid salad, just two of the descriptive names for that summer favorite, gazpacho. Our tomatoes are finally starting to ripen along with a healthy crop of cucumbers. I think I read about fifty recipes and finally settled on my own combination of vegetables. I used some purchased tomato juice, but as the tomatoes from the garden become more plentiful, I will use them to make my own juice.
I skipped the traditional stale bread and went very easy on the olive oil. I did use my best Spanish sherry vinegar for this refreshing soup that originated in the Andalusian province of southern Spain. I didn’t blanch, peel or seed any of the vegetables. I did hand chop them for uniformity of size and blended just a little bit of them to enhance the tomato juice base. Flavorful vine ripened tomatoes are key to this recipe. It’s also a good time to use your not so perfect specimens that won’t make it in your tomato salad. The peppers in my gazpacho were purchased, but it won’t be long before I will be picking them from the garden. A jalapeno pepper is nice also to add a little extra heat.
Make gazpacho a day ahead if possible. The flavor only gets better from sitting overnight in the fridge.
Full of sun ripened flavor and packed with nutrients, this low fat chilled vegetable soup is the perfect refreshment for hot summer days.

Tomato Gazpacho

Serves six

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2c plum tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/4 inch dice
  • 1/2c finely chopped red onion, soaked in ice water for 15 minutes and drained
  • 2c cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 1/2c bell pepper cut into 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 small clove of garlic, chopped finely
  • 2c tomato juice
  • 1/4c sherry vinegar
  • 2T flavorful extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 dashes of green Tabasco sauce
  • 1T  Worcestershire sauce
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Directions

  1. Place tomatoes, onion, cucumber, pepper and garlic in a bowl
  2. Add the tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, Tabasco and Worcestertshire sauce. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
  3. Transfer two cups of the mixture to a blender or food processor and pulse the machine on and off to coarsely puree the contents. Return the pureed mixture to the bowl and stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least six hours or preferably overnight before serving.
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Vine ripened tomatoes either from the farmers market or your own garden make this a special treat.
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Ingredients, chopped and ready to go.

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June 27, 2014 Grilled Chicken with Chermoula Sauce

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As a lover of all things related to food and cooking, I am especially pleased when I discover something new, at least new to me. In the tradition of herb and olive oil based sauces like pesto and chimichurri, chermoula is a sauce that originates from Morocco and other North African countries. It is a tangy blend of fresh herbs and spices, lemon and olive oil.

It is traditionally used to season fish but pairs equally as well with chicken or grilled vegetables. It can be both a dry spice mixture or more commonly, an herb sauce. I used it both ways in this recipe. First, as the rub for the chicken and then as the sauce to serve with the chicken. If you like, preserved lemon peel or a pinch of saffron would be a welcome addition to the mix. If you don’t like cilantro, either change the proportions of cilantro and parsley or eliminate it altogther. Traditionally, like pesto, this was made in a mortar and pestle but a mini food processor makes quick work of the recipe. I cooked these indoors on a grill pan, if I were cooking on an outdoor grill I would prefer whole chicken pieces.  Friendly to many diets, chermoula is a sauce worth discovering.

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Chermoula Sauce

Serves four

Ingredients for marinated chicken
  • 4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 4 T fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 4T olive oil
  • 1t ground cumin
  • 1t ground coriander
  • 1t garlic powder
  • 1t sweet paprika

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Ingredients for the Chermoula Sauce

  • 2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  •  1/2 c coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 c coarsely chopped parsley (flat is my preference, but curly works too)
  • 1 T + 2 t freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 t sweet paprika
  • 1/2 t ground cumin
  • 1/4t cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/8t saffron threads (optional)
  • 4 -5 T olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1.  Trim all fat and sinew from chicken breasts. Place chicken breast between two pieces of plastic wrap and with the flat edge of a mallet, pound to an even thickness, season generously with kosher salt. Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil and spices to make the marinade. Put chicken pieces inside a Ziploc bag or plastic container with a snap-tight lid, pour marinade over and let chicken marinate in the refrigerator 4-6 hours, turning bag occasionally.
  2. To make the chermoula sauce, put chopped garlic, chopped cilantro, chopped parsley, lemon juice, sweet paprika, and ground cumin, cayenne and saffron (if using) in food processor and pulse to combine. Add the 4 T olive oil and pulse just enough to get it mixed in, then taste to see if you want the other tablespoon of oil and add it if you want a milder sauce. (Don’t over-process; the mixture is not supposed to be smooth.) Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. To cook the chicken in a grill pan, spray grill pan with nonstick grill spray or brush with oil and preheat grill pan to high (you can only hold your hand there for a few seconds at that heat.) Let chicken come to room temperature while the pan heats.
  4. To get criss-cross grill marks, lay the chicken top-side down at a diagonal across the grill pan and let it cook until well-defined grill marks are showing, about 3-4 minutes. It’s okay to lift a corner to check.  Turn the chicken so it’s going the opposite way at an angle to the grill grates and cook about 3-4 more minutes. Then turn chicken over and cook 4-5 minutes on the second side, or until chicken is firm but not hard to the touch.Serve chicken hot, with Charmoula Sauce spooned over.

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June 14, 2014 Quinoa, Cucumber, Radish and Turnip Salad

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You know that quinoa has become part of the mainstream vocabulary when it shows up in a beer commercial during a football broadcast on television. Sure, the guy eating the quinoa burger refers to it as “kwee-noh” and his friend who is looking on asks,”what is that, a loofah?” Enough people “get it” to make this a funny commercial.

Quinoa, pronounced “KEEN wah” is showing up these days in everything from whiskey, to chips, chocolate bars and yes, burgers. Quinoa is an edible seed or a pseudo-grain, because it is cooked and used in recipes like a grain.  It is closely related to beets, chard, spinach and even tumbleweeds. Quinoa is unique because it is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids and provides “good” fat along with fiber, potassium and iron. Since it is not a grain, quinoa is well suited for gluten free diets.
Even though most quinoa is sold prerinsed, it is a good idea to rinse it before proceeding with your recipe to remove any remaining saponin, a bitter coating that protects the plant from insects. Submerge the quinoa in a bowl of cold water, swish it around and drain it in your finest strainer. Like rice, the cooking ratio is 2:1 liquid to grain.

In this recipe from Fine Cooking magazine, nutty quinoa is combined with crisp summer vegetables, spicy arugula and a  slightly sweet miso vinaigrette. I used red quinoa in this recipe but white or black would be fine too. I used the radishes from our garden. They have peaked now with the onset of the warmer weather.  I also included Japanese turnips in the salad that we are harvesting now. Unlike the standard turnip, the Hakurei variety is pure white, very mild and sweet, even when raw. Don’t hesitate to add the pickled ginger, it brings just a little spiciness and acidity to the salad. This salad will be a welcome addition to picnics and potlucks all summer long.

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Because of it’s nutritional profile, quinoa has been called a “superfood”.

Quinoa, Cucumber, Radish and Turnip Salad with Miso Vinaigrette

Serves six

Ingredients

  • 2-3/4 cups plus 1/3 cup lower-salt vegetable or chicken broth
  • 3 Tbs. white miso
  • 3 T seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 T soy sauce, preferably reduced sodium
  • 1 T Asian sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup canola or other neutral vegetable oil
  • 2 T chopped sweet pickled sushi ginger
  • 1 1/2c red quinoa, any color will do
  • 1c Japanese baby turnips
  • 2c cucumbers, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2c radishes, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2  packed cups of arugula

Directions

  1. Put 1/3 cup of the broth and the miso, vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a blender; blend to combine. With the motor running, slowly add the canola oil to make a creamy dressing. Add the ginger and pulse a couple of times to very finely chop.
  2. In a 2- to 3-quart saucepan, bring the remaining 2-3/4 cups broth to a simmer over medium heat. Add the quinoa, cover, turn the heat down to medium low, and cook until the quinoa is tender and the liquid is absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 3 to 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork. Let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
  3. Toss the quinoa, turnips, cucumber, radishes, and greens together. Add 3/4 cup of the vinaigrette, toss, and serve, passing the remaining dressing at the table. (Save the remaining vinaigrette for other salads; it will keep for at least 3 days in the refrigerator.)
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The French breakfast radishes are literally popping out of the ground!
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The radish harvest along with a little Hakurei turnip.

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January 19, 2014 Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons

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The assignment was for a “pick-up” dessert for the wedding shower I was co-hosting with three other friends. Looking for something easy to handle, My mind went first to bar cookies; brownies, blondies, maybe something using a little dulce de leche. Then in the cookbooks and magazines I was looking at I saw it, macaroons, nothing fancy for certain, but a cookie I had been meaning to try.

Macaroons had their ancient roots in amaretti, traditional almond meringue cookies  made from almonds, egg whites and sugar. Possibly originating in an Italian monastery, the name is derived from the Italian “ammacare” meaning to crush or beat, referring to the main ingredient of amaretti, ground almonds.

Tradition says that macaroons arrived in France by way of two Benedictine nuns seeking asylum during the French Revolution. The nuns, referred to as the “Macaroon Sisters” paid for their housing, baking and selling the confection.

Since the leavening in these cookies comes from egg whites, not flour, they were adopted by Italian Jewish bakers as a Passover sweet. The move in later years to shredded coconut was either the product of adventurous bakers or possibly because the almond cookies were often too delicate to transport and coconut made for a sturdier cookie.

The French translation of macaroon is macaron. The macaron is an entirely different cookie with essentially the same basic ingredients. The macarons we have come to be familiar with in the last few years are the multicolored darlings of the Parisian pastry shop. They are an elegant cookie, with a crisp smooth meringue exterior and a filling sandwiched between the layers. Macarons can be filled with jam, fruit curd, ganache or any variation of buttercream.

This recipe is a very easy to make coconut macaroon. The sweetness of the shredded coconut is balanced with the slightly tart dried cranberries and almonds. Like most macaroons, they are gluten free. Though the recipe called for the cookies to be shaped into pyramids, I scooped them out into balls and flattened the bottom. I drizzled bittersweet chocolate over the top, I think they look like little berets. You could also dip the bottoms in chocolate for a neater presentation. The one problem I had with the recipe is a continuation of the ever shrinking package size. The recipe calls for 3 cups or 8 ounces of sweetened shredded coconut. The standard package of that size now is 7 ounce or 2 2/3rds cups. You can decide if you need to buy another bag, I didn’t.  Variations are endless. A tropical version using chopped dried papaya and macadamia nuts drizzled with white chocolate sounds like a delicious possibility to me.

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Cookies ready to bake on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons

Makes about two dozen medium sized macaroons

Ingredients

  • 3 c (lightly packed) sweetened shredded coconut
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 3/4 c egg whites (about 6 large)
  • 1/3c sweetened, dried cranberries, roughly chopped
  • 1/4c sliced almonds
  • 1 3/4 t vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t almond extract
  • 9 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 T heavy whipping cream

 

Directions

  1. Mix first 5 ingredients in heavy large saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture appears somewhat pasty, stirring constantly, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat.
  2. Mix in 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. Spread out coconut mixture on large baking sheet. Refrigerate until cold, about 45 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line another baking sheet with parchment. Press 1/4 cup coconut mixture into pyramid shape (about 1 1/2 inches high). Place on prepared sheet. Repeat with remaining coconut mixture. Bake cookies until golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer cookies to rack and cool.
  4. Set cookies on rack over rimmed baking sheet. Stir chocolate and cream in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Mix in remaining 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract. Spoon glaze over cookies, covering almost completely and allowing chocolate to drip down sides. Refrigerate until glaze sets, at least 2 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Transfer cookies to airtight container and keep refrigerated.)

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November 17, 2013 Eggplant “Pizzas”

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Joe’s not so little greenhouse set out in the garden extended our growing season for some vegetables to the latest date ever. When he brought in the last of the peppers and eggplants on Sunday I knew I needed to find a special way to use them to commemorate the end of their growing season. The peppers, for the most part were transformed into one of his favorites, stuffed peppers and for the eggplant I turned to a recipe from Julia Child.

In her 1975 cookbook, From Julia Child’s Kitchen, among personal anecdotes  and recipes for Caesar Salad (yes, Mr. Caesar Cardini actually made this tableside for a young Julia and her family), consommés, stews and apple charlotte is this gem. Tranches d’aubergine a l’italienne might put off the average cook, but eggplant pizzas, now that’s something we can all relate to. The recipe made a second appearance as miniature eggplant pizzas in her 1989 work and one of my favorite go-to cookbooks, The Way to Cook.

The classic pear shaped variety of eggplant like Black Beauty works best here. I began by cutting the eggplants crosswise into 3/4 inch planks, the skin was relatively thin so I left it on.Then I salted the slices on both sides to extract excess liquid. This is a step I would skip in the summer when the eggplants are at their freshest and not very seedy. I let the eggplants sit for about a half hour and started my sauce.

The day before I defrosted two quart bags of my roasted tomatoes, a 28 ounce can of plum tomatoes or a store bought sauce can substitute here. Step one for me is to pour off the liquid that accumulates in the bag, a little lagniappe for the chef. It’s definitely not the prettiest, but it is the best tasting tomato juice you will ever try. I sautéed one finely chopped onion and two chopped cloves of garlic until softened but not brown, about five minutes. Then the tomatoes and the rest of the liquid are added to the pan, breaking up the larger chunks of tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon. When the tomatoes have cooked down sufficiently, I put them through a food mill to strain out most of the seeds. This results in a smoother sauce.

The eggplant slices are patted dry and lightly brushed with olive oil. I baked the eggplant slices on a wire rack over a baking sheet so that both sides would cook evenly. As Julia says “not so long that the slices become mushy and lose their shape”. After twenty five minutes I removed the baking sheet from the oven and now set the oven to broil. I covered the slices with a generous coating of tomato sauce and sprinkled a combination of mozzarella and grated Parmesan. The “pizzas” are now returned to the oven until the cheese is melted and slightly browned. Julia suggests these as part of a vegetarian combination or arranged around a main event, be it an omelet, a steak or a roast lamb.

Eggplant pizzas would make a good snack or a light lunch with a salad. A recipe that’s vegetarian, low carb and gluten free, as always “Our Lady of the Ladle“, Julia was ahead of her time.

 

Julia Child’s Eggplant Pizzas

Ingredients

  • 2  large eggplants (about 1 lb. each)
  • 1T salt, for drawing water out of eggplant
  • 2T olive oil for brushing eggplant before roasting
  • 2 t Italian seasoning, for sprinkling on eggplant before roasting
  • 1/3 c freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/3 c finely grated low-fat mozzarella

Sauce Ingredients

  • 1T olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 1 28 oz. can of plum tomatoes (or use 3 cups peeled and diced fresh tomatoes)
  • 1/2 t Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 t dried oregano

Directions

  1. Cut eggplant into 3/4 inch thick slices. Place eggplant pieces on a double layer of paper towels and sprinkle both sides generously with salt. Let the eggplant sit with the salt on it for about 30 minutes to draw out the liquid. (After the eggplant sits for 15 minutes, turn on the oven to 375°F.
  2. Make the tomato sauce while the eggplant sits. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic just until it becomes softened and fragrant.   Add the diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning and oregano.
  3. Then let the sauce simmer on low until it’s thickened. Break up tomatoes with a fork while the sauce cooks. (You can add water as needed. Let sauce simmer until ready to put on eggplant slices.)
  4. After 30 minutes, pat the eggplant dry with paper towels. Brush both sides of the eggplant slices lightly with olive oil and sprinkle tops with Italian seasoning. Place eggplant slices on a wire rack over a baking sheet. Roast the eggplant about 25 minutes, but “not so long that the slices become mushy and lose their shape” as Julia says.
  5. While the eggplant roasts, combine Parmesan with mozzarella. After 25 minutes or when eggplant pieces are done, remove eggplant from the oven and turn oven setting to broil. Spread a few tablespoons of sauce on the top of each eggplant slice, sprinkle with thin basil slices and top with cheese blend. Put pizzas under the broiler until the cheese is melted and slightly browned.
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We are still harvesting salad greens, spinach and arugula from the greenhouse.
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Cooking down the roasted tomatoes.
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Putting the cooked tomato sauce through a food mill makes a smoother sauce and eliminates most seeds.
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Doesn’t look like the stuff in a bottle, but it is the best tasting tomato juice you will find.
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Served with a simple salad of baby greens and radishes from the garden, eggplant pizzas make a delicious light lunch.