May – Broccoli Salad to Bridge the Seasons

May – Broccoli Salad to Bridge the Seasons

It’s spring, but the weather here does not exactly match the season. It’s cool and overcast most days. But it’s impossible to resist the call of the BBQ and eating outside. The question is what to serve, do you have some favorite BBQ sides? Fresh summer tomatoes are still months away. A salad that bridges the seasons is needed. This broccoli salad is perfect. Roasted riced broccoli, crisped on the edges, is the main component. Add in pine nuts, garlic, lemon, dates, red onion, and sheep’s milk feta for additional flavor and deliciousness. It’s briny, crunchy, sweet, and tart. All in a single bite! I find raw broccoli a chore to chew, roasting softens it a little. I found that roasting also adds an additional toasty element. The broccoli chars slightly and crisps at the edges of the sheet pan.

Broccoli Salad

Many groceries carry riced broccoli but I don’t recommend it for this recipe. The commercially available riced mixes contain a large percentage of stem. You want the florets only for this recipe. It only takes a minute to rice the heads in a food processor. Purchase a large head and save the stems for another recipe. Try this garbanzo bean free recipe for broccoli stem hummus. Doesn’t that sound interesting? And a wonderful alternative for anyone watching their carbs.

Riced Broccoli Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of broccoli, florets only, very finely chopped in the food processor
  • 1 cup raw pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive or avocado oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Zest of 1 lemon, organic if possible
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or shredded on microplane
  • 4 dates – pitted and chopped into raisin sized pieces
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 ox of feta cheese, crumbled or cut into small cubes
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 additional tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, 220 degrees C
  2. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper
  3. In a large bowl combine the broccoli, pine nuts, olive or avocado oil, zest of 1 lemon, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well with your hands and spread on the parchment lined sheet pan.
  4. Bake for about 15 minutes until the broccoli and pine nuts are starting to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.
  5. Add the broccoli to a large salad bowl. Toss with the lemon juice, wine vinegar and olive oil. Taste for salt and add as needed.
  6. Add the red onion, dates and feta. Mix again.

You can either serve this salad immediately or chill for up to 2 days. It’s a great do-ahead salad that won’t wilt once the weather warms. Also, without mayonnaise, it’s good for picnics.

Riced Broccoli Salad

 

 

 

May – Middle Eastern Herb and Cauliflower Salad

May – Middle Eastern Herb and Cauliflower Salad

What is that grain in the salad? Is it rice, is it cracked wheat, is it couscous? Nope, none of that. This salad is grain and gluten free. It’s my favorite substitution, cauliflower! And this salad is wonderfully delicious as well as healthy; it’s full of chopped herbs plus cherry tomatoes and toasted almonds with a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. It keeps well so you can make it ahead.

I can find already riced cauliflower in the grocery store, both Trader Joe’s and Safeway carry it. But it is easy to make at home in your food processor if you need to start from scratch (or have cauliflower growing in your garden…lucky you). I don’t recommend using the packaged already riced cauliflower if you are making mock mashed potatoes I think it has a high percentage of stem. It won’t result in a creamy rich amazing mashed potato substitute. You need to have mostly florets for that recipe. But, it is perfect for use in this recipe. The kernels hold their shape and crunch once cooked.

I roasted the cauliflower for extra flavor before mixing it with the other ingredients.

Middle Eastern Herb and Cauliflower Salad

If you are starting with a head of cauliflower, slice the head in half and remove the tough core. Roughly chop the florets. Working in batches, add the cauliflower to your food processor and pulse until the consistency of ‘rice’. Transfer to a large bowl.

Ingredients:

Cauliflower:

  • I head of cauliflower or a package of pre-riced cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons of fruity olive oil
  • Zest of 1 lemon, preferably organic
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Salad:

  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup of coarsely chopped flat leaved parsley
  • 1/2 cup of coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup of coarsely chopped mint
  • 4 scallions white and light green, chopped
  • 1-2 lemons, juiced to make about 1/4 cup of juice
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 3/4 cup of sliced almonds

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (204 degrees C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the riced cauliflower in a large bowl and add the olive oil, lemon zest and salt and pepper. Mix well.
  3. Spread the cauliflower on the baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes until tender and browning around the edges. You may need to leave it for a few additional minutes but check it so it doesn’t burn. Remove the sheet from the oven and let cool on the parchment paper.
  4. Spread the almonds on a small baking sheet and toast in the same oven for about 5 minutes, again check constantly as they will turn from nicely toasted to burnt in seconds. Remove and cool.
  5. While the cauliflower is cooking you can make the herb salad. Combine all the ingredients for the salad in a bowl and let the herbs and tomatoes marinate until the cauliflower is cool.
  6. Once cool, add the cauliflower to the bowl with the salad and mix well. The parchment paper works well as you can just lift it off the baking sheet. Taste to see if you need to add any additional lemon juice or salt or pepper.
  7. Chill until ready to serve, garnished with the toasted sliced almonds.

I found this salad kept well and was still good the next day for lunch.

You could turn this into an entire meal by adding some sliced feta or leftover chicken to the salad. It would be an excellent side with lamb chops or kebobs.

Middle Eastern Cauliflower and Herb Salad

I’m taking this to share with fellow bloggers at Fiesta Friday #274, over at Angie’s place (where she is feeling the need for spring cleaning). Please click over to meet other food, garden and craft bloggers. And guess what, I am co-hosting with Antonia @ Zoale.com

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

November – Dried Porcini, Fresh Mushroom and Whole Tomato Ragout

November – Dried Porcini, Fresh Mushroom and Whole Tomato Ragout

Dried Porcini, Fresh Mushroom, and Whole Tomato Ragout

Doesn’t that look delicious? Dried porcini mushrooms (or any other variety you have in your pantry), fresh mushrooms, roma-type tomatoes (canned are fine), with fresh herbs. Serve this as a main course for a vegan or vegetarian meal with crusty bread, sweet butter, and a chunk of flavorful cheese. Toma is my personal favorite right now. Or, as the recipe suggests, on top of cheesy polenta. Or as a low carb/low calorie side dish to some thinly sliced grilled steak (steak and mushrooms are a combination made in heaven). Be sure to include a few slices of crusty rustic bread to soak up the juices. It’s the perfect antidote to all the rich foods of last week.

The recipe came from the cookbook In My Kitchen by Deborah Madison.

In My Kitchen by Deborah Madison

Deborah calls for a tablespoon of fresh herbs in addition to parsley. Use whatever you have on hand, the season my dictate it. In my case it was some fresh marjoram but adding additional fresh parsley at the end would work as well. If you have access to wild mushrooms, use them as the fresh ones. But plain old grocery store varieties work just fine. Porcini mushrooms can be pricy, but you can substitute another variety. I have seen large bags of dried shiitake mushrooms at Asian grocery stores, at good prices. Recipes are only a starting point to your imagination. Make the substitution and let me know how you like it.

I was lucky to have stumbled upon a large bag of dried porcini while in Italy this past September. It was a tiny store on a back alley. I now wish I had brought back 2 bags. But that’s a long way to go for a bag of dried porcini.

Dried Porcini Mushrooms

It’s mushroom season up here on the coast but tomato season is over. I used good quality Italian canned roma tomatoes. One 28-oz can was just the right size. If you make this in summer, use fresh tomatoes. Slip them into boiling water for 30 seconds and they are easy to peel.

 

Dried Porcini and Tomato Ragout

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried porcini (or other) mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white or red wine
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound of fresh mushrooms, gills still closed if possible, cleaned and thickly sliced at odd angles
  • 8-12 peeled whole roma-type tomatoes
  • optional: 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs, any seasonal will do
  • For finishing – optional: Parmigiano-Reggisno cheese, grated and more fresh chopped herbs

Method:

  1. Cover the dried mushrooms with 1 1/2 cups of hot water and set aside while you assemble the rest of the ingredients, for at least 20 minutes. Drain, reserving the soaking liquid. If there is any soil or small grit in the water, pour it through a fine mesh strainer.
  2. Heat a wide skillet over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. When warm, add the onion and the drained porcini. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is golden (about 5 minutes). Then add half the parsley, all the other fresh herbs and the garlic. Work in the  tomato paste. Pour in the wine and cook until it is reduced to a syrupy consistency. Season with a pinch of salt and fresh pepper. Remove to a bowl.
  3. Return the skillet to the heat and add the other 2 tablespoons of olive oil, when it is hot, add the fresh mushrooms. Increase the heat to high and saute until they start to color, add a few pinches of salt and cook until they release and reabsorb their juices (about 6-8 minutes).
  4. Add the contents of the bowl to the skillet and pour in the mushroom soaking liquid. Nestle the tomatoes among the mushrooms. Reduce the heat and simmer until the mushrooms are cooked and the tomatoes are hot, at least 15 minutes.
  5. Add the remaining herbs and optional butter for more richness.
  6. Serve with a grating of Parmesan and a sprinkle of fresh herbs.

Simmering Mushrooms and TomatoesI am taking this recipe to Fiesta Friday #252 to share with Angie and the gang. This weeks co-hosts are Alex @ Turks Who Eat and Zeba @ Food For The Soul

Be sure to click on the link to read all the interesting posts for holiday food, gifts and crafts. And, add your own link to the party. If you want to be considered for “post of the week” be sure to credit Fiesta Friday, Alex, Zeba and Angie in your post.

I hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

May – Pickled Asparagus

May – Pickled Asparagus

I just can’t get enough of asparagus when it first comes into season! By the end of May I am looking for ways to preserve it for the rest of the year. Out of season asparagus is often shipped long distances and can be dry and lacking in that wonderful grassy flavor (not to mention enormously expensive and environmentally irresponsible). I want to take full advantage of the long spring season, there are so many ways of serving it. Have you ever thought of combining different cooking methods with the same vegetable? The combination of fresh asparagus and pickled ones in an inspiration. Think thinly sliced or finely chopped pickled spears combined with sour cream (or even better, creme fraiche) as a sauce for fresh asparagus cooked on the grill. You could add equal parts mayonnaise if you want. Serving it as a sauce elevates the vegetable to a new level. What about putting a poached egg on top, serving all on top of a slice of crisp toast? I could see a slice of crisped prosciutto somewhere in there as well or even a slice meaty bacon. Yum!

I am getting ahead of myself because a simple platter of grilled or roast asparagus with pickled asparagus sauce is delicious.

Roast Asparagus with Pickled Asparagus Sauce

But first you need the pickled asparagus. I have found jars in better grocery stores but they are the tiny grassy spears, and are quite costly. It is far easier to pickle your own when asparagus is in season.

For pickling you can use either thin or thicker spears, peel the ends of the thicker ones first. if you haven’t done this before you can find the tips here. I found large mouth quart canning jars so I could pickle the longest spears possible. But you can cut them into smaller pieces and use pint jars if that is all you have. Either way pack them with the tips up to preserve the shape as much as possible.

Start with 4 pounds of asparagus to ensure enough for 3 quarts. I purchased 3 large bunches, thinking it would be enough (it looked like an enormous amount) and was short a 1 quart container. You’ll need about 16 cups (hard to measure). At the end I had one unused sterile quart container and extra pickling solution…what to do? I found a head of celery in the fridge and remembered reading somewhere about the joys of pickled celery. Why not? Now I have a jar of pickled celery and will let you know how I like it.

Asparagus waiting to be pickled

If you have to buy your asparagus a day or two ahead, store them like flowers with the ends in cool water.

Pickled Asparagus

For 4 quarts:

Ingredients:

  • 6 1/2 cups of white wine or champagne vinegar
  • 3 1/2 cups of water
  • 3 tablespoons of kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 4 teaspoons of fennel seeds
  • 8 sprigs of fresh fennel fronds if available
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 16 cups of asparagus or 4 pounds

Method:

  1. First bring the water in your canning jar to a boil. I find this takes the longest and always start it at the very beginning of the canning process. You can use the water to scald 4 quart canning jars. Or, I find it easier to run them through the dishwasher, then place them open side down on a clean dishtowel until you are ready to fill them.
  2. In a dry small skillet, toast the fennel seeds on medium heat until they are turning golden brown and aromatic (about 1 minute). Remove and place on a plate to cool.
  3. Prepare the asparagus by measuring the length you will need for your jars, snap and peel the ends once the appropriate size. You really only need to peel the ends of medium or large asparagus stalks.
  4. Bring a large skillet of water to a boil. You will use this to blanch the asparagus. While it is coming to a boil, put a large bowl of ice water in the sink. Once it comes to a boil, add the asparagus in batches. Set a timer for 1 minute, then remove the stalks from the boiling water and drop them into the ice bath to cool quickly. Once cool, remove them to a clean dishtowel lined tray. Repeat as necessary until they are all blanched.
  5. In a pot bring the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar to a boil. This is your brine. Keep hot.
  6. In a small pot soak the lids in a pan of hot water to soften the seal.
  7. Now you are ready. Turn the jars right side up and add 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds, 1 bay leaf, and 2 garlic halves to each jar. Pack the asparagus in tightly, tips up.
  8. Carefully pour the hot brine over the asparagus in the jars. Leave about 1 inch of head space. Check for air pockets and add more liquid if needed. Wipe the rims, add the lids and screw on the bands until snug but not tight.
  9. Place the jars in the pot with the lid, add water to cover the jars (by about an inch if possible). Bring the water back to boil, cover, and process for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the jars for a few minutes. Remove the jars and let cool completely. Check to make sure the lid pops in, indicating proper canning.

And here is the lone jar of pickled celery.

Pickled Celery

The inspiration for this recipe came from The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant with Kate Leahy. It is probably one of my most used books on preserving.

I think I will take this as part of my recipe for asparagus with pickle sauce to the party at Fiesta Friday #226, it will be lovely as part of the buffet. You can find the link to Angie’s Fiesta Friday blog here. Follow the listed links at the bottom to any of the blogs that interest you. Angie’s cohost this week is Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

If you are a blogger yourself, please add your link to the list.

TGIF everyone!

 

 

May – Lentils and Roast Cauliflower with Almonds and Dates

May – Lentils and Roast Cauliflower with Almonds and Dates

This is a wonderful vegetarian or vegan main dish, or a side dish for a large party. It’s perfect when you have folks with different dietary needs, also being gluten and dairy free. And because it is served at room temperature, you can make it several hours ahead. It will only get more flavorful as the lentils absorb the tahini sauce. What more can you ask for? On one platter you have your greens, roasted vegetable and starch/protein. The dates add a sweet note while the almonds add crunch and even more protein.

I served this to a large gathering, the leftovers the next day were still yummy (and didn’t last long).

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Lentils with Roast Cauliflower, Chopped Dates, and Almonds

The original recipe came from Food and Wine, but it came to me about a year ago via one of the members of my book club. It’s been hanging out just waiting for the right time to make it.

I have given two measurements for the spices. The original recipe used the smaller amount but I found it was not sufficiently spiced for my taste. Cauliflower is quite mild and can absorb a lot of flavor.

This recipe serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup beluga or green lentils, rinsed and checked for small stones
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into 1 inch florets
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin, briefly toasted in a dry frying pan
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
  • 10 dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups loosely packed arugula or baby spinach

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the almonds on a pie plate or sheet pan and toast for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. When cool, coarsely chop.
  2. Increase the oven to 425 degrees F.
  3. Meanwhile heat 2 cups of water in a saucepan, bring to a boil and add the lentils. Simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and cool.
  4. Prepare the cauliflower. On a rimmed baking sheet toss the cauliflower florets with 1/4 cup of olive oil, the spices (cumin, cinnamon, ginger, salt, pepper. Roast until tender and slightly browned, about 20-25 minutes. When cooked to your liking, remove from the oven and cool.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk the tahini with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil until smooth. Add the lemon juice, honey or maple syrup, and 2 tablespoons of water.  Mix well.
  6. Add the lentils to the bowl and toss to coat.
  7. On a large platter lay a bed of the lentils, top with the roasted cauliflower, dates, almonds, and sliced onion. Sprinkle the arugula or baby spinach on top and serve.

 

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