Cauliflower Steak with Olive & Tomato Relish

Bon Appetit January 2012

Hard to believe that summer is upon us again, but the temperatures here have reached the triple digits and will no doubt stay there until October.  On the positive side, my appetite seems to decrease in proportion with the temperature increase, necessitating some creativity in the kitchen.  Where protein/carb/vegetable meals ruled in the winter, I’d be hard pressed to eat a full plate of food come dinner in the summer.  Cold quinoa or farro salads rule and this new Bon Apetit Cauliflower Steak recipe (below) I tested is a definite keeper.

I’ve printed the recipe exactly as it is in Bon Apetit, then noted my changes – which were made based on time, a surplus of basil in the garden and what I had in my refrigerator!

INGREDIENTS
1 large head of cauliflower
1/2c pitted oil-packed black olives, finely chopped
3 sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
3 1/2T olive oil, divided, plus more
2t chopped flat-leaf parsley
1t fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves
2 plum tomatoes, cored, quartered

PREPARATION

1.Remove leaves and trim stem end of cauliflower, leaving core intact. Place cauliflower core side down on a work surface. Using a large knife, slice cauliflower into four 1/2″ “steaks” from center of cauliflower (some florets will break loose; reserve). Finely chop enough loose florets to measure 1/2 cup. Transfer chopped florets to a small bowl and mix with olives, sun-dried tomatoes, 1 Tbsp. oil, parsley, and lemon juice. Season relish with salt and pepper.

2.Preheat oven to 400°. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large heavy ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, cook cauliflower steaks until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side, adding 1 Tbsp. oil to pan between batches. Transfer steaks to a large rimmed baking sheet. Reserve skillet. Roast cauliflower until tender, about 15 minutes.

3.Meanwhile, return skillet to medium-high heat and add garlic cloves and tomatoes, one cut side down. Cook until tomatoes are browned; turn tomatoes over and transfer skillet to oven with cauliflower. Roast garlic and tomatoes until tender, about 12 minutes.

4.Transfer garlic, tomatoes, and 1/2 Tbsp. oil to a blender; purée until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Divide tomato sauce among plates. Place 1 cauliflower steak on each plate; spoon relish over. Serve warm or at room temperature.

With regard to ingredients, I used the following and did not bother with measuring – use more of what you like, less of what you don’t!

1 large head cauliflower
black and green pitted olives (I don’t like mine packed in oil, I like the extra saltiness of brine)
chopped basil (slice using chiffonade technique)
lemon (for zest and juice)
toasted pine nuts
cherry/grape tomatoes, halved
Kosher salt fresh ground black pepper
olive oil
unsalted butter

And finally, for prep…

I made the relish first, adding the tomatoes, pine nuts, olives, and basil to a small mixing bowl.  I added the zest of one lemon and the juice of half that lemon.  A generous glug of olive oil should bring the mixture together, then season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

I prepared the cauliflower in a skillet on the stove top.  I heated the skillet to high, then reduced the heat to medium before adding the olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan) and dropping the cauliflower steaks in.  After browning both sides of the steak, I added 1T of butter and let it brown on/around the cauliflower.

I did not bother with the tomato & garlic puree, instead simply plating the steak with relish on top.  It was delicious and divinely simple!

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Cauliflower & Arugula Salad

A night with some girlfriends is a good occassion to try a recipe that would otherwise go

Cauliflower & Arugula Salad

unappreciated.  There’s no way my children or my husband would savor a dinner of cauliflower, arugula, bacon and pinenuts.  It’s pretty safe to say that ‘bacon’ is the only item on the menu that would be met with something other than moans and groans.

My friend was kind enough to give me free reign over her kitchen (and her gas range…ahhh! What a nice change from my electric nightmare of an stove!) and I did all the prep (which was minimal) at home, so within 30 minutes of walking into her home, I had dinner on the table!  If only every night could be so simple – and every meal be met with salivating dinner guests!! 

This recipe is so simple to execute and tastes so delicious, it’s now earned a spot in my regular ‘when my husband is out of town and I’m cooking for only myself’ rotation!  Here’s the recipe…

Cauliflower & Arugula Salad (adapted from Chuck Hughes recipe)

Fleurt Maple Bacon Butter
Cauliflower – trimmed into bite size pieces
Arugula
Thick cut bacon – 4 strips per head cauliflower, cubed
Pine nuts
Olive Oil
Red wine vinegar

1. In sautee pan, cook bacon until crispy.  Remove bacon from pan, set aside.  In bacon renderings, cook cauliflower until it starts to brown from the bacon fat.  Add 2T Fleurt Maple Bacon Butter per head of cauliflower used.  Stir to coat cauliflower.  Add 1T red wine vinegar (per head of cauliflower used).  Add pine nuts and remove from heat.

2. Toss arugula with 1T red wine vinegar, 2T olive oil, salt & black pepper.  When ready to serve, place arugula on plates, top with cauliflower, pine nuts and bacon.

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Holla for Challah!

Sweet, eggy, braided goodness.

After a less than perfect Saturday at home with the family, I decided to change the direction of my weekend.  Sunday morning arrived, my husband fled to the safety of the golf course, and the kids were left at my mercy.  Within an hour their bedrooms were sparkling and so were their scrubbed faces.  Hair was scraped back into ponytails, clean clothes were put on and we were off. 

A quick trip through the grocery store saw us emerge victorious – NO MELTDOWNS AND NO ROGUE ITEMS IN THE SHOPPING CART!  I am not above bribery if it means I get thing accomplished, so the girls were rewarded with a Starbucks run (no death wish here, I got the coffee, they got cake lollipops).

The whole point of this excursion was to make our way to Sur La Table, my Mecca.  Never before have I taken the girls with me to Sur La Table.  To say I was nervous was an understatement.  The potential for disaster was overwhelming and I’m not going to lie, I broke a sweat as we walked through the doors. 

Both girls were stunned into silence (a miracle!) before launching into a virtually non-stop dialogue about the oversize whisk on display, the colorful crockery, the zebra printed knives…ah! The knives!  Pulling them both with me to the much safer baking section, I handed Georgie measuring cups and spoons (plastic, phew) and Lily a baking pan and tongs.  Now that their hands were occupied I was left to breathe in the aroma of Nespresso coffee and the olive oil that was out for sampling…  Sounds like a questionable combo, but at 11:15 on a Sunday morning it was nothing short of refreshing. 

Purchases in hand we returned home to get the baking underway.  Rather, to feed the girls lunch, put them down for naps, clean up lunch and then get the baking underway.  Five hours, three rises and only a little stress later, I was proudly cradling two warm loaves of Challah, brought to life from a recipe a college friend (thanks, Brooke) shared with me.  Give it a try…it’s far easier than the final product would have you believe!

Challah 

½ C warm water
2 T dry yeast
1 T sugar

5 large eggs
¾ C sugar
¾ C vegetable oil
1 t salt
7 ½ C all-purpose flour
2/3 C warm water

1 egg yolk
1 T water

1.Combine 1/2 cup warm water, yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in measuring cup or bowl and stir until yeast dissolves. Let yeast mixture stand at room temperature until foamy, about 10 minutes.

2. In large bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat 5 eggs until blended. Add oil, salt and 3/4 cup sugar and beat until pale yellow and slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Beat in 2/3 cup warm water. Add yeast mixture and beat until blended.

3. Remove whisk and fit mixer with dough hook. Add enough flour 1 cup at a time to form smooth dough, beating well after each addition. Beat on medium speed until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes, adding flour by tablespoonfuls if sticky. Turn out onto floured surface and knead 2 minutes.

4. Lightly oil large bowl. Add dough, turning to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap, then with clean kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

5. Punch down dough. Cover with plastic and clean kitchen towel and let rise 30 minutes.

6. Grease 2 large baking sheets. Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Divide each portion into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into 9-inch-long rope. Braid 3 ropes together; pinch ends together to seal. Repeat with remaining dough pieces, forming 2 braids.

7.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Place each braid on baking sheet. Cover with towel. Let rise in warm area until almost doubled, about 30 minutes. I find that the stove top of a pre-heating oven is the perfect resting place for dough.

8. Whisk yolk with 1t warm water to blend.  Brush dough with egg wash.  Bake for 35 minutes, or until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.  If you are concerned with the top getting too brown, cover loosely with foil.

9. Transfer loaves to rack and cool completely.

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Tart & Sassy Cranberry Sauce

Just throwing this up (bad choice of words) in the off chance you need a quick recipe for cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving. Preparations have begun in our house…the pot of potatoes is bubbling away on the stove, turkey breasts are defrosting in the refrigerator, and the cranberry sauce is cooling on the kitchen counter. It’s a holiday all about food, love and appreciation…how awesome is that?

Cranberry Sauce

2 12oz bags fresh cranberries
3 oranges – zest & juice
1 1/2 C sugar
1/2 C water
1 T white pepper
1 t ginger
3/4 C Craisins

1. Throw all the ingredients in a pot. Whack heat onto high. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cranberries have popped.

2. Remove from heat. Add Craisins & stir. Cool to room temperature.

You can make this a week ahead of time, but seeing as it’s 2 days before Thanksgiving, just store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container until turkey day and enjoy!

Right off the stove, still steaming...

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Magazine & Wine Club: Recipe for a Delicious Night With the Girls

I would like to give credit where credit is due: the newly formed magazine and wine club,

Inspirational Magazine & Wine night in 'Bridesmaids'

of which I am part, was inspired by ‘Bridesmaids’.  A big thanks to Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph for making my friends and me feel like it’s okay to be part of something a little less taxing than a book club.  I really don’t have any brain cells left to spare these days; magazines are about all I can handle on a good day!

In all seriousness, there are few things more therapeutic than a glass of wine (or cider, as was my drink of choice last night), a coffee table full of magazines, great grazing food, and a group of women who just want to laze about in their slouchiest clothes with little or no makeup on.

By 7pm on a good day it’s all I can do to string a three word sentence together (i.e. “More wine please.”), but last night I managed to break out the big guns and natter away until well past 9pm.  There were no minutes taken, so you’ll have to bear with my fuzzy recollection of the conversation – I’ll focus on the highlights – and the food. 

I managed to get through 2 People magazines, and by ‘get through’ I mean I looked at all the pictures, read about 1 page (quadruple spaced) worth of words, and then rested my cider bottle on top.  While perusing the pics I gnoshed on some yummy treats, some of which I was responsible for.  My friend that hosted the group provided nibbles based on Fleurt recipes: Chipotle Meatballs and Maple Bacon Cornbread.  So fun to sample food made by other people, but from my recipes!  I brought a new butter flavor I’m trying out – Horseradish Blue Cheese – and some homemade pesto, along with the requisite crostini.  I also needed opinions about frosting/cookie combos that will be used for my daughter’s bday party next week.  I thought a group of women, at the end of the day, with a glass of wine in hand, would be the ideal taste testers!   And I wasn’t the only one sharing recipes…I’ve heard tell of a fabulous oatmeal bake (from Room on the Counter blogger Liz Brinkman) that I am anxious to get the recipe for and I’ve been promised a recipe for juicy, flavorful Thanksgiving turkey breasts!

Mind you, it wasn’t about the food.  The evening was more about sitting around, switching our brains off, and establishing a sense of comraderie…you know what I’m talking about.  The kind of BS that makes our husbands/boyfriends/men in general roll their eyes?  Yeah, all that.  There was no man bashing and surprisingly no gossiping.  Talk of preschool was coupled with conversation about establishing mutual respect with our children, a feat I have yet to master.

At one point a friend read an excerpt from a recent article in The Atlantic Magazine by Caitlin Flanagan (Dec. 2011) about Oprah.  It gave me pause to hear someone capture so perfectly in words what I think all women feel:

There are certain things about women that men will never understand, in part because they have no interest in understanding them. They will never know how deeply we care about our houses—what a large role they play in our dreams for ourselves, how unhappy their shortcomings make us. Men think they understand the way our physical beauty—or lack of it, or assaults on it from age or extra weight—preys on our minds, but they don’t fully grasp the significance these things have for us. Nor can they understand the way physical comforts or simple luxuries—the fresh towel or the fat new cake of soap—can lift our spirits. And they will never know how much our lives are shaped around the fear of bad men and the harm they can bring us if we’re not careful, if we’re not banded together, if we’re not telling each other what to watch out for, what we’ve learned. We need each other’s counsel, and oftentimes it comes when we’re talking about other things, when we seem not to have much important on our minds at all.

To read the full Atlantic Magazine article, click here.

Those few hours last night that I spent with friends gave my mind the temporary relief I needed in order to get through the rest of the week.  I left my friend’s house feeling like a whole person, not a fragmented version of my former self, unevenly divided between my children, my husband, my family and my friends, with only a little sliver left for me.  Last night made me feel like all those pieces merged together and for a little while, at least, I can simply be me and that is enough.

A little glitter always lifts my spirits!

Deep breath.  And now I’m back to my normal, sardonic self.  Ultimately the magazine and wine club turned into a sort of high school sleepover…minus the sleep, plus booze and good food.  Nails were painted (see pic for my favorite polish of the moment: Sally Hansen Hard As Nails Xtreme Wear In the Spotlight), hairstyles were discussed, and Ryan Gosling was drooled over.  The recipe for a perfect night with girlfriends!

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Fall In Love With Fall

It’s hard to get into the autumn state of mind when you live in the desert.  There are no leaves changing color and falling from the trees.  There is no smell of wood burning in fireplaces.  Instead the grass looks greener than it has all summer and Halloween decorations look like tinder.

I don’t think I’m alone in trying to make my surroundings as autumnal as possible; leading the charge would be the foods I prepare.  What better way to perfume your home and fool your brain into thinking that the early-arriving darkness brings with it a colder temperature that justifies slow-cooked meals?  Of course, the air conditioner humming away in the background doesn’t do much to preserve the artifice – other than keeping a chill in the air!

All this rambling brings me to my original intention for this post, writing about this past

My girls giving Patrick a little love.

Friday.  My girls and I were lucky enough to join my close friend, Jocelyn, on a visit to the stable where her horses have lived for years.  My daughter, Lily was so excited that she ran from the bus stop to the house, threw her backpack on the peg and asked what she needed to do in order for us to get out the door.  I picked my jaw up off the floor and headed out with the girls for a few hours of horses, carrots and endless chatter. 

It was very sweet to see the girls engage the horses; they took a particular liking to Patrick, a ginormous (there I go again, using those technical terms) Clydesdale.  It was quite a sight to behold…my two little dots chatting with, feeding and generally befriending Patrick.  I don’t know a lot about horses, and much of what I know I’ve learned in the last few months.  Jocelyn has been kind enough to share with me all that she’s experiencing as she works with and learns from horses around the country, which cast a different light on the interaction between Patrick and the girls.  If you visit her website, you will quickly understand more: fromhorseswithlove.com.

But this is a blog about food, so I suppose I’d better get to the meat (haha) of the story.  Jocelyn joined us back at our house for dinner, an event about which the girls were super excited – not because it meant a fancy meal, but because they could show Jocelyn (or Miss J, as they affectionately refer to her) how they play horse in the backyard. 

I’d spent the day in the kitchen, preparing what I hoped would be a delicious meal that would reflect the season and give everyone (especially the kids) nice full bellies for a good night’s sleep.  (Seriously, that part was really important to me…with my husband out of town and a multitude of activities planned for the weekend, I really needed the kids to sleep soundly.)  I used this opportunity to take a stab at preparing farro having heard so many wonderful things about this ancient super grain.
 
It was a little hard to track down; the local market didn’t have any so I schlepped to Whole Foods (a pleasant outing, if not a little out of the way) and grabbed a bag (note that I couldn’t find any in the bulk bins, which would have been preferable).  The rest of the ingredients were easy enough to source from the local market and the recipe is below.

I should mention that I completely failed in my mission to fill bellies…Georgie ate all of three bites and Lily picked her way through her meal.  I should add that I don’t think it was the taste they objected to, I think it was more that they were super excited to have Miss J at the table (at least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself)! And while I’m making disclosures of failure, I made the promised pumpkin muffins last week and they were an epic failure.  I’m going to need to do some serious re-working of that recipe and will post it once I am happy with the final product.

Farro With Roasted Butternut Squash

1.5C farro
4C water, vegetable, chicken or beef stock
1 large butternut squash
4 cloves garlic
4T olive oil
1T maple syrup
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
fresh sage leaves
1 white onion (finely grated, pour off liquid)
1/2C dried apricots, diced
1/4C sliced almonds, toasted
cinnamon
nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 400.  Peel and seed the butternut squash.  Cut into 1-inch cubes.  Place squash and 2 whole unpeeled garlic cloves in a bowl.  Toss with 2T olive oil, maple syrup, 1t kosher salt, 1/2t black pepper.  Spread in single layer on baking sheet.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, until squash begins to brown, turning squash halfway through cooking.

2. Add handful of fresh sage leaves and continue baking for another 20-30 minutes, until the squash and garlic are tender and caramelized.

3. In a medium saucepan sautee the onion until it just begins to brown.  Add 2 minced cloves of garlic.  Cook until the garlic just begins to brown.  Remove from the burner and cool slightly.

4. To the onions and garlic add 4C water (or stock of your choice) and farro.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the farro is alomst tender (20 mins).  Add 1.5t kosher salt and simmer until the farro is tender (10 mins longer).  Drain well and return to pan. 

5. To the farro add the apricots and butternut squash.  Toss gently and season to taste with salt, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg.   Top each portion with a sprinkling of almonds and enjoy!

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Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

It’s been a while since I last wrote. So much has happened!  I got my first training bra and my braces came off.  Johnny asked Suzie to go steady which really makes me mad because I’ve liked Johnny since 8th grade and he’s never even smiled at me.  Maybe if I take down that picture Eric Nies that I have hanging in my locker…

Kidding! I feel like this is what I should be writing, having yet again neglected this blog out of deference to daily life.  But now we have arrived at that glorious time of year when temps cool down and I have the urge to hunker down and prepare my family for hibernation.  I’m going to take the well-traveled route of squash dishes, slow-cooked meats, stews, generally anything super aromatic and warm.

Chipotle Chicken Soup

Yes, folks, I am a walking, talking cliche but there’s a reason the autumnal classics have become, well, classics. This week’s treat? A take on a Rachael Ray recipe…

Chipotle Chicken Soup

1 rotisserie chicken
3 chipotle peppers (diced) + 2T adobo
28oz fire roasted tomatoes
2T extra virgin olive oil
1 onion
5 cloves garlic
3C chicken stock (preferably homemade, but definitely low sodium)
2 bay leaves
2T dried oregano
2T cumin
Salt

1. Remove meat from chicken carcass.  Shred the meat – use white and/or dark meat.

2. Grate the onion (freeze onion for 20 mins prior to avoid crying).  Peel and mince garlic.

3. Heat olive oil in soup pot.  Add onion, stirring constantly until the onions are transparent.  Add garlic and stir until garlic turns light brown.

4. Add the chipotles, adobo, tomatoes, chicken, stock and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low.  Stir in oregano and cumin.  Simmer, covered, for 20 mins. Add salt to taste.

At this point I added a can of black beans (rinsed & drained) for a little extra fiber & protein.

I served the soup over rainbow couscous that I cooked in chicken stock.  A little shredded cheese, a dollop of Greek yogurt (which I prefer to sour cream), and a lime makes for a delicious meal.  You could also add corn to the soup and garnish with cilantro. Ooh, and serving the soup with Fleurt Chipotle cornbread on the side? C’est bon!

Next up this week? Pumpkin muffins.

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