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.



Weekly Winner:  Keeping My Cool with Crunchy Cauliflower and Chickpea Salad

Summer was very slow to arrive in Chicago, but once it did, it hit with a vengeance.  It has been brutally hot here this past week.  Hot enough that the idea of cooking anything for lunch, not to mention actually consuming something warm, was inconceivable!  I didn’t even want to boil water to cook pasta for a cold pasta salad.  My solution?  Sliced Cauliflower Salad with Chickpea Dressing.

I’ve had this recipe for quite a while, just floating in my “want to try” pile and this past week I finally got around to it.  I wish I had tried it earlier, just so I’d have had more opportunities to eat it.  It makes a lot, and was so good and unusual that I wound up eating it for two days straight!  For lunch the first day, as a side for dinner that night and then again as a snack the second day.  And I’m still not tired of it!  It’s bright, lemony, crunchy and has just the right amount of creaminess thanks to the puréed chickpeas in the dressing. A word of caution:  whatever you do, do not skip the diced, raw tomatillo on top!  It’s the perfect citrusy bit of crunch.  The recipe comes from Food and Wine Magazine.

Sliced Cauliflower Salad with Chickpea Dressing

Serves 6

Ingredients:

For Chickpea Dressing-

1/4 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed

1 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar

1 garlic clove, crushed

3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 Tbsp tahini

1/2 cup parsley leaves

1/2 cup mint leaves

1 cup canola oil

1/2 tsp sumac

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Kosher salt and pepper

For the Salad-

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into large florets and thinly sliced (4cups)

1 small head romaine chopped (about 6 cups)

1/2 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed

1/2 cup parsley leaves

1/2 cup mint leaves

kosher salt

1 medium tomatillo – husked, rinsed and cut into 1/4-inch dice

Procedure:

  1. Make the dressing. In a blender, combine the chickpeas, rice vinegar, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, parsley and mint.  With the machine on, slowly drizzle in the oil and blend until a smooth, thick dressing forms.  Add the sumac and red pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper.
  2. Make the salad. In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower, chickpeas, parsley and mint with the chickpea dressing. Season with salt and toss again. Transfer the salad to a platter and top with the tomatillo and serve.

Weekly Winner: My Continuing Courtship with Curry — and Cauliflower!

IMG_0645.JPGI have made no secret about my relatively new-found love of Indian food — and curry in particular. I still can’t handle the mind-numbing, sweat-inducing, super-hot curries that are out there –  but the more subtle, complex curries have definitely become an addiction. The topic of this week’s post, Indian-Spiced Chicken and Cauliflower, is an amazingly easy meal that basically cooks itself (thanks to the slow-cooker). What’s great is that while you are not doing anything, your house will begin to smell amazing and that, in turn, builds the anticipation of dinner. What can be better than that??

I got this recipe from Woman’s Day magazine and am sure it is going to go into regular rotation in this house.  And yes, the recipe calls for garnishing with a boatload of cilantro, but I think you know me better than that by now.  It’s not happening in this house.  What y’all do in yours is between you and your conscience.

Indian-Spiced Chicken and Cauliflower
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 Tbsp curry powder
Kosher salt and pepper
1-1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
1 small head cauliflower (about 1-1/4 lb) cored and cut into small florets
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 cup long grain white rice
Greek yogurt and lemon wedges, for serving

Procedure:
In a 5- to 6-qt slow cooker, whisk together the tomatoes, tomato paste, ginger, curry powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper

Add the chicken, cauliflower, onion and raisins to the slow cooker and stir to combine. Cook, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, 4 to 5 hours on high or 6 to 7 hours on low.

Twenty minutes before serving, cook the rice according to package directions. Spoon the chicken mixture over the rice. Serve with yogurt and lemon wedges.

 

Weekly Winner: An Oddly Alluring Salad

It snowed yesterday.  April 15 in Chicago…. snow and bitterly cold.  Today: windy, sunny but still way too cold for the date on the calendar.  It’s ridiculous, is what it is.  And I’m over it.  I’m also over cold weather lunches — soups, stews, anything hot.  I want a salad but I also still require something to warm me up.

Roasted Cauliflower SaladAwhile ago I found this salad recipe in Chile Pepper Magazine (of all places) and found it intriguing.  Cauliflower and swiss cheese?  Really?  Yes, really.  It is amazing.  I have no idea why it was in Chile Pepper Magazine as it does not offer a modicum of spice, but I now know exactly why it will remain in my salad recipe file.  It works.  There are just a few things I added.  The original recipe has just an olive oil, salt and pepper dressing.  I added a splash of balsamic and I think the sweetness from that adds a lot.  Also the original recipe calls for just a very small amount of spinach on the plate with the cauliflower, cheese, nut mixture on top.  I wanted to make it more of a true salad and added much more spinach and some romaine I had left over.

Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Walnuts and Swiss Cheese

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 4 Tbsps extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tsps kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 splash balsamic vinegar
  • 8 oz swiss cheese, cubed
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts
  • 4 cups baby spinach or any salad greens

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400. In a bowl, toss together the cauliflower, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Place cauliflower on baking sheet. Roast, tossing occasionally, until tender and golden, 30-35 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk the remaining olive oil with the remaining salt and pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

In a large bowl, toss the salad greens with the cheese, nuts and warm cauliflower. Pour the oil mixture over the salad and toss until well coated.