October – Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

October – Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

I am very partial to roasted vegetables of any type. Vegetables in the family Brassicaceae or Crucifereae are particularly delicious cooked that way. Roasting enhances the sweetness of cauliflower, cabbage, kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Did you know the family takes its alternative name from the shape of their flowers, whose four petals resemble a cross (Crusciferae is new latin for ‘cross-bearing’).

When roasted they only need a little olive oil and some salt for seasoning, that’s all I use most times. Last week I saw a recipe from Melissa Clark for Roasted Cauliflower With Pancetta, Olives and Crisp Parmesan in the NY Times cooking section. I happened to have a head of cauliflower in the crisper drawer that needed using, and most of the other ingredients were pantry staples.

This was a big hit, served with a swordfish steak cooked sous vide (I will be posting that recipe soon). This dish could easily be an entire meal with a salad on the side. The combination of bacon, cauliflower, olives and parmesan was a winner. You could adapt this recipe for Brussels sprouts or cabbage if that’s what you have on hand. The olives wouldn’t stand out color wise, but the flavor would still be there. Let me know if you try it.

Cauliflower is such an adaptable vegetable and it’s featured in so many recipes. Who would have ever thought of cauliflower rice or cauliflower pizza ten years ago? My grandmother’s favorite way of serving cauliflower was creamed cauliflower with a cheese sauce. That classic dish is still on many holiday menus as it can be made ahead and baked at the last minute. You could combine some of the same flavors of smoked pork (bacon, prosciutto or pancetta) and parmesan into a baked cauliflower dish with pasta I recently read on cookingwithauntjuju.com, Rigatoni with Cauliflower, Prosciutto and Parmesan Crust. As I said, cauliflower is a blank canvas for inventiveness.

Getting back to the recipe…

Melissa Clark’s recipe called for using a package of finely diced pancetta, not something I had on hand and I didn’t want to run to the store for a single ingredient. I did have a package of thick sliced smoked bacon which I diced and precooked to crispy deliciousness. If you have pancetta or even prosciutto available by all means use them.

Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into bite-sized florets
  • 1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup of green olives, crushed, pitted and chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, finely grated or minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more as needed
  • 4 ounces bacon, cut into 1/8 inch cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup of shredded (not ground) parmesan
  • Chopped parsley or other small greens for garnish (I had part of a package of micro greens)

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Place cauliflower on a rimmed backing sheet and toss with 1/4 cup of olive oil and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Roast for 15 minutes.
  2. While the cauliflower is roasting, pan fry the bacon until almost crisp and drain it on a paper towel.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the olives, garlic, red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt (I didn’t use too much salt because the bacon was salty). Drizzle in the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil, whisking to combine.
  4. After the cauliflower had roasted for 15 minutes, remove it from the oven. Add the bacon and cumin seeds to the pan and gently mix to combine. Sprinkle the parmesan on top. Roast for another 15 to 20 minutes until the cauliflower is tender and browning on the edges, and the parmesan is crisp.
  5. Spoon the contents of the sheet pan into a warmed serving dish and spoon the olive dressing over the top, tossing gently to combine. Add more salt, red pepper flakes or lemon juice as needed.
  6. Scatter the parsley or herbs on top.

 

Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

In My Garden – October 2020

In My Garden – October 2020

Back Garden in Fort Bragg

Back Garden in Fort Bragg

I’ve had a request from a reader to put the garden beds in context. Here is a view of the three garden beds often pictured individually, with the vegetable garden at the back of the right side.

And here is left of the picture above. The following pictures go from left to right, the vegetable garden is in the back on the far right.

left of back garden with Casey

Center of back garden

Center of back garden

Right of back garden

right of back garden – Fort Bragg CA

Veggie garden

veggie garden

The unwatered grass is brown. We don’t water the lawn (which consists mostly of dandelions) in the summer because here in N CA most of our grass is summer dormant. Even at the edges of the cultivated garden where it is watered, it only starts looking green this time of year.

And what about the front garden, do you wonder? There are not pictures posted. Well, it is mostly a wasteland. It’s where we toss the ball and frisbee of Casey and Quinn. It’s also the location of our septic system and is very sandy plus nutrient poor. We have plans to try and improve the soil this fall. I’ll write more on that once the rain starts but I don’t want to seed anything just yet. I don’t have high hopes but we read an interesting article about how they reclaimed Golden Gate Park in San Francisco from the sand dunes. We are going to attempt the same.

The dahlias are still blooming although I expect them to be finished soon. The pineapple sage (the red plants in large pots on the right side of the back garden) are attracting the attention of the hummingbirds. They love the color red.

Remember the summer squash and bush beans I planted in August? Well, success! I have been harvesting zucchini although the plants have attracted a bit of powdery mildew. The purple bush beans are showing tiny beans.

August planted summer squash

Purple bush beans

Purple bush beans

The lettuce, cilantro, basil and arugula are doing well. We’ve been having wonderful salads.

lettuce, cilantro, basil and arugula

lettuce, cilantro, basil and arugula

This past weekend I planted carrots, parsnips, radishes, lettuce and more arugula. The arugula is coming up after only three days.

As you can see from the large picture of the garden above, there are a few winter squashes almost ready to pick. I’m not sure if I will plant them again next year. The plants took up a lot of room and didn’t really produce well compared to the space they required.

A good friend has some cabbage starts for me in her greenhouse. This weekend I will prepare one of the empty beds for planting them when they are ready.

That’s it for this month. I am looking forward to the winter rains, they mark a quieter time in the garden. About this time of year I am ready to wrap it up, except for the vegetable garden of course.

Stay well everyone, and safe. The next few weeks promise to be interesting. We feel in a bit of a bubble up here on the coast in Fort Bragg, but politics is everywhere. There is no escaping although sometimes I wish I could put my head in the sand. The garden is a wonderful escape.

 

 

October – Butternut Hominy Chicken Stew

October – Butternut Hominy Chicken Stew

Butternut Hominy Chicken Stew

Butternut Hominy Chicken Stew

This is what we call at our house a ‘soup stew’. It could go either way depending on the amount of liquid you add and the number of days since you made it. After a day in the fridge the butternut squash melts into the stew, thickening it and making it creamy. It was delicious freshly made and leftover. It’s a substantial dish and only needs some fresh tortillas or bread plus something green to accompany it.

Butternut Hominy Chicken Stew

Butternut Hominy Chicken Stew – leftover

I garnished the reheated leftover soup/stew with avocado, sour cream and some crumbled tortilla chips for contrasting texture. It was almost better the second day for a filling lunch on a chilly afternoon.

Chicken in this dish is delicious but not required. Leave the chicken out and use a good vegetarian stock for a vegetarian or vegan version.

This warming soup is just the thing for the fall’s cooling days when butternut squash is plentiful. Make it ahead and reheat just before serving.

Butternut Hominy Chicken Stew

Butternut Hominy Chicken Stew

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion (red or yellow) – about 1 large
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon piment d’ville or piment d’espelette (a sweet, spicy red Basque chile)
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 lb. of boneless chicken thighs, cubed
  • 6-8 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 32 oz of chicken or vegetable stock – more if you want it soupy
  • 1 large (32 oz) can of hominy, drained and rinsed
  • Chopped cilantro to taste
  • Lime to taste
  • Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Lightly toast the cumin seeds in a dry skillet, remove to a plate to cool. Once cool, grind 2/3 of the seeds in a spice grinder or mortar and pesto to a powder. Remain the left over whole seeds for a garnish.
  2. In a heavy bottomed stock pot, heat the olive oil and saute the onion until slightly golden
  3. Add the garlic, chili powder, ground cumin, and Piment d’ville.
  4. Saute until mixed throughout and smelling wonderful, then add the chicken and butternut squash. Mix all until coated, then add the stock, the amount varying depending upon whether you want a thick-ish stew or a thinner soup.
  5. Add the hominy, and allow the stew to simmer until the squash is tender, chicken is cooked through, and the flavors have melded. About 25-30 minutes.
  6. Add salt, cilantro and lime juice to taste.
  7. Serve with tortillas, avocado garnish, more cilantro, lime wedges, a sprinkle of the remaining toasted cumin seeds and sour cream.
Butternut Hominy Chicken Stew

Butternut Hominy Chicken Stew

Garbanzo beans can be substituted for the hominy…also I could see a Moroccan or Spanish influenced dish if you change the spices.

I am taking this easy and delicious soup/stew to Fiesta Friday #350 sponsored by Angie. This week it is cohosted by Jhuls of the Not So Creative Cook. Come on by and read the delicious recipes, creative crafts, and decorating ideas.

 

In My Kitchen – October 2020

In My Kitchen – October 2020

In My Kitchen is a monthly gathering of food bloggers from around the world. I’ve learned a lot over the years about new ingredients, products and tools from reading the posts. Click the link above to visit this virtual party. Our host is Sherry from Sherry’s Pickings. Please consider adding your own post, I would love to read what’s new in your kitchen.

September and early October are often referred to as ‘Indian Summer’ here in California. Besides a heat spell which seems to come unexpectedly (but every year) in May, it’s usually the hottest weather of the summer. And, it’s fire season. I used to look forward to this time of year, now I dread it. The good news is that the weather is now cooling and there is a weak storm system on the horizon. Hopefully it will assist the firefighters still battling the August complex fire which has burned at least a million acres and is now considered a ‘gigafire’. It’s the largest fire in California history, started by an unusual lightening storm this past August. Smoke has made the air’s particle count dangerously high. Even here on the coast there have been days when we don’t go outside.

I did manage to find a day to harvest the potatoes out of one raised bed. I was absolutely shocked at the abundant harvest from this one bed! I got almost a bushel of potatoes, Russian Banana and Princess.

September Potato Harvest

Fort Bragg Potato Harvest – September 2020

They are all considered fingerlings.

Fingerling Potatoes

Russian Gold and Princess Fingerling Potatoes

They are thin skinned and creamy inside. So far we have had them roasted like baked French fries and cooked as Syracuse salt potatoes. Have you heard of Syracuse salt potatoes? I had not before I went looking on line for recipes. Salt potatoes are a regional specialty of Syracuse, New York, a.k.a. The Salt City. Salt potatoes date to the 1800s, invented by local salt mine workers who created a simple and inexpensive lunch by boiling small potatoes in brine. The potatoes are still very popular today with the Central New York crowd and I understand they are a regular food item at the State Fair.

When boiled in a heavy salt brine they take on almost a mosaic salt shell but stay deliciously tender and creamy inside.

Syracuse Potatoes

Syracuse Potatoes

See the salty crust on these? I garnished them with some melted butter and chopped fresh herbs.

I served them with cabbage wedges roasted with heavy cream and parmesan and a simple roast chicken.

I have made this in the past with cabbage slices, it’s a favorite way of cooking cabbage as the cream caramelizes and the cabbage itself turns sweet. The link above will take you to the original recipe.

The combination with the potatoes was delicious.

You can find many different recipes for roast chicken on my blog. This simple one is my favorite.

In my kitchen I have a new book, Whole Grain Sourdough at Home by Elaine Boddy. Elaine was one of the first bloggers I met, actually through In My Kitchen, when I first started. At that time it was hosted by Celia of the blog Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. 

Whole Grain Sourdough at Home

Whole Grain Sourdough at Home

I just fed my sourdough starter (it came originally from Celia’s Patricia – we always name our sourdough starter) and am looking forward to trying some of her recipes. Because of the pandemic’s early enthusiasm for sourdough baking, the stores were out of most flours for months. I think exhaustion has finally set in and the shelves are restocked.

Sourdough Starter - before

Sourdough Starter – It’s Alive!

My own starter is named Devon.

And then there is the occasional flop. Isn’t this salad beautiful? Well, it was not a success in our household. I can’t remember where I found the recipe, maybe in the NY Times. It was a combination of roasted cauliflower and grated or finely chopped raw cauliflower with nuts, herbs, and pomegranate seeds. Sounds interesting doesn’t it?

It could have originally been from “Jerusalem,” the beloved Middle Eastern cookbook from Yotam Ottolenghi.

This salad sounded perfect but the textures and combination of sweet with tart was off. Next time (if there is one) I will make it with raisins or dates instead of pomegranate seeds, add more chopped red onion, more parsley and cilantro, less mint and raw cauliflower. And maybe some chopped green olives…

Roast Cauliflower with herbs and Pomegranate Seeds

Roast Cauliflower with Herbs and Pomegranate

It just goes to show that you can’t always trust a beautiful picture to be a great recipe.

In my kitchen I have two beautiful ladies, just back from the groomers and decked out as harem beauties.

Casey and Quinn as Harem Beauties

Casey and Quinn as Harem Beauties

Actually this photo was taken just outside the kitchen door before they had time to rub off the decorations. They are great favorites at the grooming parlor.

I am excited at the turn of the season. I don’t think summer food is exceptionally post worthy. Just how many blog posts of grilled vegetables and meats do you want to read? Me, not so many. But there are some exciting recipes I am looking forward to sharing, stay tuned.

And, stay well and safe. November promises to be an interesting month…

In My Garden – September 2020

I haven’t been spending any more than essential time in the garden so far this month. The smoke from the fires in the eastern part of the county have drifted over the coast. It looks like fog (but isn’t) and the skies are orange, more like Venus than here on earth. The air isn’t healthy to breathe.

Image may contain: sky and outdoor, text that says 'Smoky skies hang over the Mendocino Coast... POINT CABRILL LIGHT STATION'

It was so dark yesterday that we had to put the lights on in the house, I thought it was still night at 7 am when I woke. Our dogs are going a little crazy (you know how active Aussies need to be) because we won’t let them out to play. White ash covers our cars and the decks.

Casey and Quinn

Won’t you let us out to play?

I’ve been keeping the bird feeders and bath full so that any fleeing birds can find shelter, food and water. Birds aren’t my only visitors. Our native grey squirrel, the reddish Douglas squirrel, and chipmunks all enjoy the sunflower seeds.

chipmunk

chipmunk

The hotels and inns on the coast are full of evacuees fleeing the flames. We desperately need early winter rains. Fire season has at least another six weeks to go.

So, what’s happening in the garden? Remember last month when I put in a very late row of bush beans and zucchini? Well, this morning I saw the first zucchini flowers.

August planted zucchini

August planted zucchini

The first picture was the bed in August, the second a few days ago in September (with Casey observing). So far they are doing well. We may actually have beans and zucchini in October.

I planted lettuce, spinach and cilantro in two of the raised beds covered in fabric to cool them and protect them from the sun. They are doing well and I should soon be able to harvest the greens.

I have planted sprouting broccoli in one raised bed.

Sprouting broccoli

Sprouting broccoli

The flower beds are reflecting the impending change of the seasons.

And the pollinator garden has…well, lots of pollinators.

Pollinator garden visitor

Pollinator garden visitor

And that’s certainly not all that’s going on in the garden. It’s a constantly changing environment. Sometimes I just sit and watch and listen. Hummingbirds arguing for territory, birds scratching and singing, bees buzzing, butterflies flitting…it’s a very busy place. But it calms me in these days of hectic news. The bees don’t bother the hummingbirds on the same flower even though they are different. My prayer is that we realize we are still part of the same world and honor each other.