Weekly Winner: A Healthy Hack and Veggie Fix Combined

buffalo cauliflowerFirst things first:  I am in no way saying that this recipe will trick you into thinking your tucking into a big basket of buffalo wings.  It won’t.  However, if like me, you are trying to lighten things and find more virtuous versions of your cold weather comfort foods, this does the trick.  At least it did for me.

I am a huge fan of cauliflower and all the ways you can transform it.  To me it’s a great “blank canvas” to take on different flavors and textures.  It can be pureed to thicken soups, it can be roasted to crunchy, golden deliciousness, and it can be minced up to mimic rice or couscous.  Now, apparently it can be “buffalo-ized” as well.  Buffalo Cauliflower Salad comes from Eating Well Magazine and has all the “requirements” of buffalo wings (OK, except for the actual “wing”).  It has the crunchy carrots and celery, the tangy blue cheese and the nice spicy kick of the buffalo sauce.  And you’re eating a salad!

Buffalo Cauliflower Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups 1-inch cauliflower florets (1 medium head)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, divided
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives and/or dill
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon hot sauce, such as Frank’s RedHot
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 8 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • ½ cup julienned carrots
  • ½ cup sliced celery
  • ¼ cup sliced red onion
  • ⅓ cup crumbled blue cheese

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Toss cauliflower with oil and ⅛ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast the cauliflower until it is starting to soften and brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk buttermilk, mayonnaise, herbs, garlic powder, pepper and the remaining ⅛ teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. Combine hot sauce, butter and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Add the roasted cauliflower and toss. Return the cauliflower to the baking sheet and drizzle with the sauce left in the bowl. Roast until the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes more. Stir to coat the cauliflower completely.
  5. Add lettuce, carrot, celery and onion to the dressing in the large bowl; toss to coat. Serve the salad topped with the Buffalo cauliflower and blue cheese.

Weekly Winner: Crushin’ on Crusted Cauliflower (in it’s entirety)

cauliflowerI realize there are a few people out there that dislike cauliflower.  Personally, I don’t get it.  I adore the stuff.  Anyway you make it I’m OK with it, with the exception of boiled.  Honestly, I don’t think you should boil any vegetable.  Boiled vegetables should be banned.  I’ve also always been intrigued with cooking a whole head of cauliflower.  I’ve done the cauliflower “steaks”, I’ve pureed, I’ve riced, I’ve smashed and I’ve cut into florets…. but whole?  Now there’s a show-stopper!  Cooking a whole cauliflower is not without its difficulties, however (or so I thought!)  Getting the entire thing cooked properly is complicated (or is it?)  I’ve ordered it out at restaurants on occasion and it seems the core and stalks are never quite as done as the florets.  This is no longer a concern of mine.  I have found the perfect, whole cauliflower recipe and man, is it good!

Everything Bagel Cauliflower with Herbed Cream Cheese comes from Cuisine at Home.  First of all, what’s the deal with the “everything bagel seasoning” lately??  It’s everywhere and on everything!  I guess it is this year’s “Za’atar” seasoning.  But anyway, I digress… here is the recipe.  Oh wait!  One more thing…. this recipe says it serves 12.  Twelve???  My husband and I devoured the entire head of cauliflower with a filet of salmon each.  I’m not proud…I’m just sayin’.

Everything Bagel Cauliflower with Herbed Cream Cheese

Serves 2, 4… or 12… whatever!

Ingredients:

Spice blend:

2 Tbsp each dried minced garlic and dried onion flakes

1 Tbsp each poppy seeds and toasted sesame seeds

1 tsp kosher salt

Cauliflower:

1/2 cup plain, full-fat Greek yogurt

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic

black pepper to taste

1 large head cauliflower

For the sauce:

4 oz plain cream cheese, softened

2 oz goat cheese, softened

3 Tbsp buttermilk

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic

1 Tbsp each minced fresh parsley and chives

1 tsp minced fresh dill

salt and pepper to taste

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Stir together all ingredients for the spice blend.
  3. Whisk together 2 Tbsp of the spice blend with the yogurt and olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic in a large bowl; season with pepper.
  4. Add the cauliflower to yogurt mixture and oat completely.  Transfer cauliflower to prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp of the spice blend.
  5. Roast cauliflower until golden brown and fork-tender, about 1 hour.  Let cauliflower rest 10 minutes then transfer to a serving platter.
  6. For the sauce, puree cream cheese, goat cheese, lemon juice, and fresh garlic in a mini food processor.  Add parsley, chives, and dill and pulse until combined; season with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve cauliflower with sauce

Weekly Winner: Keeping it Creamy and Dreamy with Cashew-Cauliflower Soup

soupSoups On!!  It is definitely soup weather and I couldn’t be happier about it.  While I’m a lover of all soups, stews, chilis, and chowders, I gotta admit that my all-time favorite type is a creamy, pureed soup.  And have I found a winner here with this beautiful Cashew-Cauliflower Soup.

The recipe comes from Real Simple and you know what?  It is!  But it is also, quick, vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free.  Not that I particularly care about any of that but a lot of my clients do.  If I can produce a soup this luscious and creamy without… well, cream… then I’m a happy camper!  It also freezes great, so I’ll be making vats of this to keep on hand for chilly autumn nights or time-crunched lunches.  Quick, tasty, healthy and of course, creamy and dreamy.  Definitely a weekly winner!

Cashew-Cauliflower Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3/4 cups raw cashews, divided

3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided

1 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for serving

1 yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 5 cups)

1 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves

1 1/4 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Place 1/2 cup each cashews and water in a microwave-safe bowl; cover and microwave on high for 3 minutes; let cool.  Transfer to a blender, add 1/2 cup broth, and blend until very smooth
  2. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add cauliflower and cook, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add beans, thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, and remaining 2-1/2 cups broth. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered for 10 minutes.
  4. Toast remaining 1/4 cup cashews on a baking sheet until golden, about 6 minutes; chop and set aside
  5. Add cauliflower mixture to blender and puree until smooth.  Serve soup topped with toasted cashews, a drizzle of oil and several grinds of pepper.

 

Weekly Winner:  Viva La Vinaigrette – Dressing up the Ordinary Midweek Meal

There is nothing new in the main components of last week’s salmon dinner.  I have made all of these things hundreds of times before — salmon, roasted veggies — many times they’ve even appeared on the same plate.  But this dinner was different…dare I say “snazzy”.

Much like the right accessory can liven up an old outfit, or a new throw pillow can add new life to your old living room, a different vinaigrette turned my ordinary “go to dinner” into an event meal.  I’m talking about Oven-Roasted Salmon with Cauliflower and Mushrooms.  See? Nothing new here.  But oh, wait…. that zippy-tangy-slightly-sweet vinaigrette drizzled over everything hooks you with the very first bite and stifles any yawns you were anticipating with the meal.

The recipe comes from Food Network Magazine and is neither complicated nor time-consuming.  You’re doing what you’ve done a million times, roasting fish and vegetables.  The only added work is whipping up the addictive dressing which actually takes about 7 minutes, tops.  I’ve just been sitting here thinking about what else I can use that stuff on!

Curtis Stone’s Oven-Roasted Salmon with Cauliflower and Mushrooms

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the vinaigrette:

1/2 cup dry red wine

1/4 cup dried currants

3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the vegetables:

1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into small florets

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

1 1/4 pounds assorted mushrooms (such as cremini, oyster and stemmed shiitakes), halved lengthwise if large

1/4 cup very finely chopped shallots

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh sage

Freshly ground pepper

For the salmon:

4 5-ounce salmon fillets

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup green pumpkin seeds, toasted (optional) – not really “optional” in my book!

Procedure:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Make the vinaigrette: In a small heavy saucepan, bring the wine, currants, shallots, vinegar and brown sugar to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently until the currants are plump and the liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a small bowl.

Prepare the vegetables: In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to coat. Season to taste with salt. Spread on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is tender and lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.

Meanwhile, heat a large ovenproof nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, then add the mushrooms and cook, without stirring, until golden on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Stir the mushrooms and cook until tender and well browned, about 4 minutes more.

Stir the roasted cauliflower, shallots and garlic into the mushrooms and cook until the shallots soften, about 1 minute. Stir in the sage. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Return the cauliflower mixture to the baking sheet and cover to keep warm. Wipe out the skillet.

Cook the salmon: Season with salt and pepper. Heat the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, then place the salmon skinned side up in the skillet and cook 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the salmon over; transfer the skillet to the oven and roast 3 to 5 minutes, or until the salmon is mostly opaque with a rosy center when flaked in the thickest part with the tip of a knife. Meanwhile, uncover the cauliflower mixture and rewarm in the oven if necessary.

Transfer the salmon to a platter or four dinner plates. Spoon the cauliflower mixture around the salmon and drizzle with some of the vinaigrette. Sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds, if using (and you should!). Serve the remaining vinaigrette on the side.

Weekly Winner:  Embracing the Beige – my continuing defense of beige food

Everyone says you eat with your eyes first and that to truly eat well, one must “eat the rainbow”.  Generally I agree with that, however I have discovered that occasionally, an extremely tasty and complex meal is….well….beige.  And while it may be bland to the eyes, that does not necessarily mean it’s bland to the taste buds.  Case in point, Cauliflower-Onion Linguine.

I know a lot of people who say they don’t like cauliflower. I believe them, but I certainly do not understand them.  I am a great big fan of the cruciferous vegetable.  What I discovered with this dish, is that if you add fried onions to the mix — oh my!  It’s that little added bit of decadence that catapults this healthy dish right over and lands it smack dab in the middle of Incredibly Tasty Goodness Land.

Cauliflower-Onion Linguine comes from Food Network Magazine and is super easy and incredibly quick, thanks to the store-bought fried onions.  You might just spend more time cutting up the cauliflower than you will making the rest of the dish.  Make this dish, set the table with your brightest, boldest linens if you must, but go ahead — embrace the beauty and enjoy the bounty of beige food.

Cauliflower-Onion Linguine

Serves 4

Ingredients:

12 ounces linguine

4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup panko

1/2 cup fried onions, chopped

4 cups cauliflower florets, roughly chopped

1/2-1 tsp red pepper flakes

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping

2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup pine nuts

Procedure:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as the label directs. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta. Return to the pot and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook about 30 seconds. Add the panko and fried onions and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate; wipe out the skillet.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower and cook until the edges brown, about 4 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and toast 30 seconds. Add the reserved pasta water and cook until the liquid is reduced by half and the cauliflower is crisp-tender, about 1 more minute.

Add the pasta, onion mixture and Parmesan to the skillet and toss. Season with salt. Top with the basil, pine nuts and more Parmesan.

Weekly Winner:  Moroccan Magic -All on one sheet pan!

I don’t mind complicated, time-consuming recipes. If I know that the end result is going to be a meal with wonderful, complex flavors and textures I will gladly tend to a dish for however long it takes.  Sometimes, cooking really is a labor of love and a definite time commitment.  Having said all that, if I can throw some meat in a marinade for a few hours and then dump an entire meal on a sheet pan and walk away for a while and come back and be blown away with the results — sign me up!!  That’s what happened last night when hubby and I were transported to Morocco after only investing about 20 minutes of active prep time in the kitchen.

Our magic carpet to Morocco was Curried Chicken Thighs with Cauliflower, Apricots and Olives compliments of Fine Cooking magazine.  This dish has a ton going on flavor-wise and is an absolute breeze to prepare.  The spices in the chicken give it a definite kick but the sweetness of the apricots and the briny punch of the olives brought the whole dish together.  As easy as it was to make — it’s even easier to clean up!    This will definitely find its way into heavy rotation here during the busy fall and winter months.  To be honest, the recipe does call for 1/3 cup of chopped cilantro to be sprinkled on the dish before serving, but seriously folks, you know me…. that is not happening!

Curried Chicken Thighs with Cauliflower, Apricots and Olives

Serves 4

Ingredients:

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 2 lbs total)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

4 tsp curry powder

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Kosher salt

1 large head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets

3/4 cup coarsely chopped dried apricots, soaked in hot water for 5 minutes and drained

1 cup pitted green olives, halved or quartered if large

1 large lemon, cut into 4 wedges

Procedure:

In a medium bowl, combine the chicken thighs with 2 Tbsp of the oil, the vinegar, 2 tsp of the curry powder, 1/2 tsp of the paprika, the cinnamon, cayenne, and 3/4 tsp salt, tossing to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or up to overnight.

Position rack in the center of oven and preheat oven to 450F degrees.  Line a large rimmed sheet pan with parchment.  On the pan, combine the cauliflower with the remaining 2 Tbsp oil, 2 tsp curry powder, 1/2 tsp paprika, and 3/4 tsp salt, tossing to coat.  Add the apricots and olives and spread in a single layer.

Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade, fold them back into their original shape, and place them on top of the cauliflower, spaced evenly apart. (Discard any remaining marinade). Roast, rotating the pan halfway through until the cauliflower browns and the chicken cooks through (165F), about 35 minutes.

Remove chicken from the pan and toss the cauliflower mixture with the pan drippings.  Serve with lemon wedges on the side.

Weekly Winner:  Just a Dang Good Salad that Satisfies

I guess I’ll have to come to terms with the fact that not all blog titles can be alliteratively clever.  Try as I might I could not come up with one for this salad.  But this salad does not need any gimmicks or clever nicknames.  Its fabulous all on its own.  It is pretty, it tastes good and it is surprisingly filling!  This is not the type of salad that you have for lunch and then an hour later feel like you need a snack — this one stays with you.  And the leftovers keep for a few days due to the hearty arugula and the relatively small amount of tangy, lemony dressing.   It’s also a salad that moves well into fall — thanks to the roasted cauliflower, it doesn’t feel too “summery” as the days start to (thankfully) cool off a bit.

I’m always amazed by people who can create these types of salad recipes.  Every component in the salad is vital and the dish would not be as good if you were to take out even one of the ingredients.  There’s really not much more to say about this dish except make it…soon.

I got the recipe from Fine Cooking.  Seriously, don’t change a thing!

Roasted Cauliflower and Arugula Salad with Sumac Dressing

Serves 4 as main course

Ingredients:

1 large head cauliflower (about 2-1/4 lb) trimmed and cut into 1-inch florets

5 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp ground cumin

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 small clove garlic, minced

2 tsp sumac

1 14.5 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

5 oz (5 cups) baby arugula

3 oz crumbled feta (1/2 cup)

1/3 cup dried currants

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Procedure:

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 450°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Toss the cauliflower with 2 Tbs. of the oil, the cumin, 3/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper on the baking sheet and spread in an even layer. Roast until browned on the edges, stirring once halfway through cooking, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the lemon juice, garlic, sumac, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper. Slowly whisk in the remaining 3 Tbs. oil. Add the cauliflower, chickpeas, arugula, feta, currants, and pine nuts and toss to combine.



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