April – Cauliflower and Black Bean Tacos

April – Cauliflower and Black Bean Tacos

I am not a taco snob. What do I mean by that? If you or your family like those crisp shells from a box sold at the grocery store, I am not one to criticize. Go for it! That’s what some members of my family prefers. Now I wouldn’t order tacos that way in a restaurant. But at home, they are perfectly fine and save me a lot of trouble when I’m trying valiantly to get dinner on the table. I myself prefer a soft whole wheat or gluten free tortilla that I can roll into a big fat burrito; the bigger the better. I want to have to eat it with a knife and fork.

Tacos are great because you can put out the fixings on the counter and let everyone customize it to their own taste. That way of putting dinner on the table is also ideal if you have a mix of vegans, vegetarians, and meat lovers to feed. A taco bar is a lot of fun, you can let you imagination run wild (or not if it’s one of those days). All you need is a wrap of some kind, filling, salsa, cheese (vegan cheese  is not bad), and some sliced cabbage or lettuce. Anything else is icing on the taco so to speak. But do try the pickled onions, their sharpness is very welcome against the smooth and creamy black beans.

This version of a vegetarian filling came from the blog Smitten Kitchen.  I have increased the amount of seasonings, otherwise I followed the recipe fairly closely. It features one of my favorite vegetables, cauliflower. And it’s prepared in my favorite way, roasted until brown and charred in spots. It really is the most amazing vegetable and it’s good for you as well.

Roasted Cauliflower with Black Beans

Roasted Cauliflower with Black Beans

You add the drained black beans to the sheet pan when the cauliflower first comes from the oven, warming them and further flavoring the beans in the seasoning in the pan.

The pickled red onions are definitely addictive. I keep a jar of these in my fridge. They are wonderful on a grilled cheese sandwich (any kind of sandwich for that matter), quesadilla, salad or taco. You can pickle them for 30 minutes to several days, they get better and better.

Pickled red onion

Pickled red onion

Cauliflower and Black Bean Tacos

Pickled onions:

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (rice vinegar results in a milder pickle)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1/4 teaspoon of granulated sugar
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

Cauliflower and black beans:

  • 3 tablespoons of olive or other neutral oil
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, trimmed, broken and chopped small (they need to fit into the taco)
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of ground cumin
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lime, halved
  • 1 15-ox can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • tortillas
  • 1/2 to 1 avocado, thinly sliced
  • crumbled or shredded cheese
  • optional – salsa, hot sauce, chopped cilantro, pickled jalapeños, sour cream, thinly sliced cabbage or lettuce, sliced radishes, etc.

Method:

  1. Make the pickled onions by combining the vinegar, water, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a small bowl. Add the onion and toss to coat. Set aside or refrigerate until you are ready to eat.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  3. Line a sheet pan with baking or parchment paper.
  4. Put the cauliflower in a large bowl, toss to coat with the oil, cumin, salt, and red pepper to taste.
  5. Spread on the sheet pan and roast for a total of 25-30 minutes, turning them midway through.
  6. Remove from the oven and squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lime over the cauliflower. Add the black beans to the warm sheet pan. Taste and add more lime juice if you want.
  7. Heat whatever vehicle you want for eating, top with the cauliflower and beans, add avocado, pickles onions and whatever else your taste desires.
Roasted Cauliflower and Black Bean Tacos

Roasted Cauliflower and Black Bean Tacos

For us it was slim pickings that night, no avocado, no cabbage (I did have a lonely head of romaine), and no cheese. But the cauliflower and black bean filling was delicious and easy. We still counted this a wonderful dinner which was worth repeating.

And the leftover cauliflower and black beans were delicious tossed into a salad the next night, this time with crumbled tortilla chips, shredded cheese, avocado, pickled onions and cherry tomatoes. I would consider making a batch just for the leftovers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

June – Grilled Cauliflower with Sicilian Puttanesca Relish

June – Grilled Cauliflower with Sicilian Puttanesca Relish

Grilled Cauliflower with Sicilian Puttanesca

Grilled Cauliflower with Sicilian Puttanesca Relish

Did you know you can grill cauliflower? Well I didn’t until I recently saw a recipe for grilled and charred cauliflower. I should have thought of it really. Well, if broccoli can be grilled, cauliflower is not far behind. In the summer we grill a lot of vegetables on the BBQ (in the winter we roast), those two are our preferred ways to cook most vegetables. They develop a much deeper and often sweeter flavor as a result of the slight charring and caramelization.

This dish has a puttanesca relish with the Sicilian twist of dried fruit. Sweet and sour combinations are a classic for Sicily. The recipe is adapted from one in the New York Times for Grilled Broccoli with Apricot Puttanesca. Adapted because I only had cauliflower on hand the first time and no dried apricots. And what is puttanesca without anchovies!!! Heretical. But leave them out if you don’t like them or want to make a vegetarian option.

You need to cut the cauliflower and/or broccoli into largish chunks so it doesn’t fall though the grill. Spread the relish over it while it is still warm. We served this with a simple grilled chicken, it would be equally delicious with fish.

Note: The second time I made this I combined the cooked drained raisins, capers, olives, chiles, oregano and anchovies in the bowl of a small food processor. Processed until roughly chopped. Proceed with step 4 below.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of yellow raisins
  • 3/4 – 1 cup of unflavored rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of capers, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of marinated Calabrian chiles in oil, minced (or pickled hot cherry peppers or a good pinch of red pepper flakes)
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon – 1 tablespoon of minced anchovies (depending on your taste, and leave out if you are vegetarian)
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil, more as needed
  • 1/4 cup of pine nuts, briefly toasted in a dry skillet (optional)
  • Juice of 1/2 large lemon
  • 2 heads of cauliflower, cut into large pieces or an equivalent amount of broccoli or a combination
  • Kosher salt as needed
  • 1 small onion or shallot, thinly sliced (optional)
Sicilian Puttanesca Relish

Sicilian Puttanesca Relish

See the note above for an optional preparation method.

Grilled Cauliflower and Broccoli with Sicilian Puttanesca Relish

Grilled Cauliflower and Broccoli with Sicilian Puttanesca Relish

Method:

  1. Put the dried raisins in a small saucepan, add enough vinegar to cover. Slowly bring the mixture to a simmer. Immediately remove from the heat and strain the raisins, reserving the cooking liquid.
  2. Mix the raisins with the capers, olives, chilies, anchovies, and oregano. Set aside.
  3. If using, briefly toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet, pour them out onto a small plate to cool. Watch them carefully as they burn quickly.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk 1/8 cup of the reserved raisin cooking liquid and lemon juice with 1/2 cup of olive oil to make a dressing.
  5. Heat your grill to high (or oven to 425 degrees F). Toss the cauliflower (and/or broccoli) with olive oil to coat and lightly season with salt.
  6. Place the cauliflower (and/or broccoli) directly on the grill and cook until the outsides begin to char. Flip and cook a few more minutes or until tender. Alternately roast on a parchment paper lined baking sheet in the oven for 30-40 minutes until browned and cooked through.
  7. Remove from the grill and toss with the puttanesca and dressing until evenly coated. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the optional onion slices and pine nuts. Or, reserve and serve at room temperature later.
Grilled Cauliflower with Sicilian Puttanesca Relish

Grilled Cauliflower and Broccoli with Sicilian Puttanesca Relish

I think this recipe would be perfect for serving at your BBQ on the 4th of July. It can be made ahead and is delicious at room temperature.

I know this holiday will be quite strange for many of us. Here in Fort Bragg CA (there is much discussion about changing our name since General Bragg was a slave owning Confederate with a bad reputation) there will be no fireworks, no parade, no outdoor salmon feed, no craft show, and no beer or wine tasting tours of the town. It is indeed a very unsettling time to be an American.

We will celebrate with a BBQ for two out on the deck, toasting the holiday with an Aperol Spritz.

And I think the folks at Fiesta Friday will want to add this side dish to their party. It’s Fiesta Friday #335 hosted by Angie and cohosted this week by Petra @ Food Eat Love

Click on the Fiesta Friday link above to see all the treats and crafts other bloggers are bringing to the virtual party.

Stay safe, be well. Let me know how you will be celebrating this holiday.

 

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!

May – Roasted Cauliflower Hummus

May – Roasted Cauliflower Hummus

When is hummus not really hummus? For the sake of total accuracy, when should you no longer call it hummus?

Here is the official definition in the dictionary:

noun:
Middle Eastern Cookery. a paste or dip made of chickpeas mashed with oil, garlic, lemon juice, and tahini and usually eaten with pita.
Origin of hummus:
From the dialectal Arabic word ḥummuṣ, ḥəmmoṣ chickpeas
 
So, technically speaking, if it doesn’t contain chickpeas, it should not be called hummus. But recipes without chickpeas and still calling themselves hummus are everywhere. And they are delicious even though they are incorrectly named. I especially adore the ones made with roasted vegetables such as the one on the Chef Mimi Blog for Roasted Carrot Hummus or the delightful variety on the blog Foodbod by Elaine. Sometimes vegetables are also added to a regular hummus (made with chickpeas) to increase the nutritional value and flavor (I guess those can be officially called hummus). Including cooked mashed sweet potatoes or winter squash is a wonderful and colorful idea during the holidays. Keep a bowl of these vegetable spreads in your fridge for snacking or adding to sandwiches. A hummus and avocado sandwich with thinly sliced onion and cucumber on whole grain bread is a quick powerhouse lunch.
So, I am going to defy technical and other accuracies and call this rendition with roasted cauliflower hummus. After all, it is a wonderful dip for pita bread or raw veggies, and it looks like hummus. It contains all the other ingredients of hummus, but no chickpeas. Instead you use one of my favorite vegetables, roasted cauliflower. I recently served this at my bookclub when it was my turn to host, no one was able to identify the secret ingredient. The guessing game was great fun.

The recipe comes from the cookbook Dishing Up the Dirt by Andrea Bemis, the subtitle says it all, simple recipes for cooking through the seasons. This is a cookbook that will see regular use, becoming stained with grease spots and filled with notations. The book is filled with healthy and delicious recipes, simple but often with a clever twist. It is mostly vegetarian but not entirely. Ms. Bemis and her husband own and run tumblewood farm in Oregon and the book features seasonal produce from their fields. I found this book inspirational even for a “farm” that consists of a few raised beds. I wish I lived close enough to Portland to join their CSA group.

Roasted Cauliflower Hummus

Here is the recipe for the mystery ingredient.
Ingredients:
  • 1 medium-sized cauliflower head, broken into small florets
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, peels left on
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cumin, toasted if you have time (the recipe calls for 1/8 teaspoon but I love cumin)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Kosher or sea salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F (218 degrees C)
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment or baking paper. Toss the cauliflower and garlic cloves with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and spread out in one layer on the sheet.
  3. Roast until the cauliflower is tender and brown on the edges, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. Let the vegetables cool slightly, then gently squeeze the garlic from their skins into the bowl of a food processor.
  5. Into the same bowl, combine the cauliflower, remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, cumin, cayenne and the garlic cloves squeezed from the skin.
  6. Process until the mixture is smooth, stopping to scrape the sides and push the mixture back down as needed. Add warm tap water 1 tablespoon at a time to thin for a creamier texture.
  7. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper. Repulse to mix.

This will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days. It is nice to give it a few hours of chilling time for the flavors to mellow.

When I make it next time I will probably add a little more garlic and olive oil to the processor.

When chilled spread on crisp crackers or pita bread,

or my favorite, sliced cucumber.