Spicy Roasted Cauliflower


Ingredients
1 head of cauliflower
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Preparation

Cut or tear off all of the green leaves on the head of cauliflower.

With a narrow, sharp knife, begin cutting (at the stems) the florets off into bite size pieces. Try to keep as many of the florets whole as possible. Cut off big chunky stems.

On a foil-lined cookie sheet, scatter florets and toss with olive oil. Sprinkle sea salt and red pepper flakes and toss again. Make sure florets are not piled on one another, but spread evenly across one pan (one whole head usually fills a standard cookie sheet).

Ready to Cook?

Place in a 375 degree, pre-heated oven on the very top shelf (or use broiler). Roast for 15-20 minutes until fork-tender and you can see the floret edges just beginning to brown.

Serve warm. Can be re-heated in microwave for 30 seconds.

The Perfect Bite

Is warm. Right out of the oven. For some reason, cauliflower gets cold, fast. But as I mentioned above, it is easily reheated.

The Perfect Pairing

Cauliflower is a perfect pair with any and all Indian-inspired dishes (try adding a little curry powder to it was well!).  And a perfect beverage with this would be a rosé. Try Grandin Brut Rose… a french rosé that obtains its brilliant pink color a longer pressing of the grapes. The juice then undergoes alcoholic fermentation in stainless steel tanks before being put in bottles to form its bubbles through the methode traditionnelle. It is aged for a minimum of 9 months.

The Perfect Health

There are4 main nutritional health benefits of cauliflower. Antioxidants (because it’s a good source of vitamin C and manganese); Anti-inflammation (from vitamin K and omega-3 fatty acids); Cardiovascular; Digestive (1 cup delivers 3.35 g of digestive fibers!). Cauliflower also contains vitamins B1(thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 niacin, B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine) and B9 (folic acid). It serves as a good source of proteins, phosphorus and potassium.

Toasted and Roasted Vegetable Israeli Couscous



So I’ve had this jar of tri-color Israeli couscous in my cupboard for awhile now. Wasn’t sure what to do with it. But after a little research I decided roasting and toasting stuff to go in it was my best bet. Sometimes great things happen by accident. I just started throwing stuff in there and voila…. the result was pretty darn awesome. Savory, nutty, spicy… and that mysterious “umami” taste everyone’s talking about. Technically, the term is borrowed from the Japanese, meaning “savory taste”. But we use it meaning “beyond savory”… that something extra that makes you say, “wow!”

Anyway, the beauty of this dish is that you can swap out ingredients (like the veggies) for your favorites. Just be sure to prepare them the same way. Be sure to think about the type of vegetable you’re using to make sure it will go well with the spices used.

It’s a little labor intensive, but makes a huge batch you can eat on for days. Trust me, it’s worth it. Also, there are a few unique ingredients that if purchased in the grocery store, can be pretty pricey. Find a local International Market in your area (you’ll be surprised how many are out there!)… you will pay 1/3 of the price there and get twice as much. That’s where I purchased the turmeric, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, saffron and even the sliced almonds (1/2 lb bag for $4!).

Ingredients
2 cups of Israeli couscous (tri-colored optional. Sometimes called “pearl” couscous)
3 cups low-sodium veggie stock
1 cup water
1 cup fresh broccoli florettes
1 cup fresh cauliflower
1 whole red bell pepper (stemmed, seeded and julienned)
1/2 cup asparagus tips *and 2″long each)
1 cup chopped tomatoes (I used canned, drained and rinsed because that’s all I had)
1 16oz can chickpeas – rinsed
1/2 a medium sweet onion – diced
1 tblspn minced garlic
3 sprigs green onion – diced
1/2 cup sliced almonds (use less if desired – I love almonds!)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp whole mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp saffron
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Preparation
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

This is a perfect opportunity to organize your mise en place.

Dice sweet onion, mince garlic, cut asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, bell pepper and green onion according to ingredients above. Toss cut asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower and bell pepper lightly in olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Spread out on a cookie sheet into one even layer. You may need to do this in two batches.

Ready To Cook?
Place cookie sheet of veggies on top rack of oven (or use broiler). Rack should be roughly two inches from the top. Cook for 15 minutes or until broccoli and cauliflower edges start to get brown and crispy. You can smell when they’re done – yum! While that’s cooking,  drizzle olive oil and heat in  a large soup pot or dutch oven, over medium flame. Add sweet onion, garlic, saffron, turmeric powder and a pinch or two of sea salt. Saute until onions are translucent.

Once garlic and sweet onion are softened, add couscous to the pot and stir consistently. This will toast the couscous and will keep it from becoming mushy. Toast for 2-3 minutes… couscous will start to turn a slight color. Add chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil. Add another pinch of salt and pepper.

While that is boiling, drizzle a tiny amount of olive oil on a saute pan. Once hot, toss in mustard seeds and cumin seeds. They will sputter and splatter so be careful. This only takes a minute – so don’t burn them! You’ll suddenly smell the aromatic seeds and they are ready to throw in the pot of couscous. Reduce pot to simmer. Add roasted veggies, almonds, green onion, chickpeas, tomatoes and red pepper flakes. Stir until well mixed. Remove from heat when all liquid is absorbed. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm or cold!

The Perfect Bite
If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know I’m about to tell you to stack your fork with a little bit of everything! However, there are so many ingredients in this – that might be impossible. So, take a few bites… you’ll be amazed how each bite will taste like a different dish! I love getting a taste of the earthy mustard or cumin seeds… then heat from pepper flakes, or smoky from the roasted vegetables. You’ll never get bored, bit after bite.

The Perfect Pairing
There are so many flavors happening here you want an uncomplicated wine. Try Cline Cellers 2010 Viognier. Cline’s Viognier offers rich and distinctive aromas of peaches, apricots, orange blossoms and honeysuckle which will compliment the smoky, earthiness of the spices in this dish.

The Perfect Health
I’ve heard so many people say that couscous is a grain. But, um, no. It is pasta. Believe it or not, it’s made from semolina. Often hand rolled and sprinkled with wheat flour to keep separated. Israeli couscous is toasted, rather than dried, which gives it a nutter flavor.

So is couscous healthy? Not necessarily. But it is a healthier option than most pastas. Especially since it’s generally paired with vegetables and not cheese. But it is a little “carby”. Read more HERE about the health pros and cons of our beloved couscous.

Orzo with Vegan Feta, Tomato and Haricot Verts


A friend of mine made me something similar to this dish a few years ago and I have continually thought about it over time – which means it must be pretty darn good! This is my version of it – I think I got pretty close.

If you are on a “no pasta” diet (which is just unthinkable in my book) you can substitute the orzo with couscous. But don’t get me started on the fact that couscous really is pasta – cuz… it is. It’s basically semolina rolled into tiny dry pellets. But people keep calling it a grain. Okay, now you got me started. Anyway,  try Israeli couscous for something a little heartier, if you must substitute.

Ingredients
1 lb haricot verts (thin French green beans – fresh)
2 cups orzo
1 medium sweet onion
4 garlic cloves – minced
4 medium vine-ripened tomatoes (I used red and yellow – but red is fine)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
2 cups crumbled Vegan feta
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation
Get your mise en place ready. Fill a 4 quart pot with salted water for both the orzo and the green beans.

Finely chop onion and mince garlic. Quarter and seed tomatoes. Chop into 1 inch pieces. Trim the ends of the beans and cut in half. You can leave them whole or cut them smaller – it’s all preference here.

Have a bowl of ice and cold water standing by for the blanching of the green beans.

Ready To Cook?
In a large skillet saute onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat, until translucent. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring continually until softened – about 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat.

In the boiling salted water blanch beans for 1 minute. With a slotted spoon or spider transfer beans to the ice water so they will stop cooking. This process will keep your beans bright green and they will retain a crunch. If you put them in the dish raw – they will be a rather bitter – but blanching brings out their sweetness. Drain beans well and pat dry.

Add beans to the tomato mixture and return water in the pot to a boil. Boil orzo until al dente (it will continue cooking when added to mixture – so you don’t want to overcook it in the boiling process). Drain orzo and add to mixture. Add the white wine vinegar, parsley, feta and salt and pepper to taste. BE SURE TO TASTE! The feta is pretty salty – so don’t over do it. Toss to combine well.

This is great warm or cold!

The Perfect Bite
Here’s where I love to stack my fork to get a good complex flavor bite. Be sure to get some orzo, tomato, a haricot vert and feta together on your fork or in your spoon. Sweet, salty, creamy and crunchy! It’s truely a perfect bite…

The Perfect Pairing
And try pairing it with a sweet yet oak-y Chardonnay like Fat Bastard. (sorry mom, but it’s French!) Smooth in the mouth with light aromas and a long, toasty finish. It’s  a perfect pairing with a creamy pasta dressed in olive oil and tangy feta.

Zucchini Flutes Piped with Basil-Ricotta Mousse


This delicious side dish has morphed over the last few times I’ve made it… trial and error play a big part in creating dishes…. at least, when I’m creating dishes. But I believe this one has finally become what just might be something close to perfection. Well close… anyway.

One of the beautiful things about zucchini is the range of sizes they come in… the ones I chose for this recipe were roughly 4-5 inches in length… with the intention of using them as a compliment to an entrée. But, as you will see *later in the recipe… with a few modifications, they can be used as a main dish. Just go to your local Farmer’s Market and grab a few of the big daddies… they can grow to be a full foot long and 2-3 inches in diameter.

Ingredients
(this recipe serves 4 as a **side dish)
2 medium Zucchini
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves – torn
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 1/2 cup ricotta (use my ricotta recipe for the freshest taste!)
4 tablespoons of shredded Parmesan cheese (divided)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Preparations
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Zucchini:
Cut stem tips of zucchinis off and discard. Slice lengthwise into two pieces. Take a teaspoon and hollow out each half… scraping away seeds and core until smooth. Be sure to leave about 1/4 inch of flesh or the flute will be too weak. Set on baking tray.

Mousse:
Put the ricotta, basil, garlic, and half of the shredded Parmesan cheese into a food processor and blend until creamy. If too thick… add just a dab of olive oil. But not too much as you need the mousse to stand firm in the zucchini flutes. Once you reach the desired consistency – scoop the mousse out of processor into a zip lock baggie or pastry bag. If using a baggie, snip off about 1/4″ of the corner and squeeze baggie to pipe out mousse into the hollowed section of the zucchini. Stop short of the end by about 1/2″, as the ricotta will expand when baking. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan cheese along the top of flutes.

Ready To Cook?
Put tray of mousse-filled flutes on middle rack of oven, baking for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. Remove when zucchini is tender to a fork and the cheese has browned slightly. Once flutes are removed from the oven, sprinkle a few ricotta crumbles across the top and lightly drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately.

*If you would like to make a large Zucchini Flute your main dish… just add crumbles of cooked sweet Italian Turkey Sausage (for a healthier option than pork) into your mousse puree. Or keep it vegetarian and add your leftover zucchini scrapings to the puree.

**Zucchini Flutes are shown here with an entrée of Bucatoni noodles, marinara and sweet Italian turkey sausage.


The Perfect Bite
These flutes are so tasty on their own, just slice off a bite and enjoy. Be sure to have some extra fresh basil leaves to tear and add to your dish. If serving with pasta and sausage as I did hear… mix it up and stack your fork with it all!

The Perfect Pairing
One of my new favorite (and inexpensive) reds is the Cycles Gladiator Syrah. It’s earthy and bold and has just the kind of aromas that bring out the best in Italian foods.

Did You Know?
One cup of zucchini has about 35 calories and it contains about 340 milligrams of potassium. Zucchini is a good source of fiber with 4 grams per cup. Be sure to include the peel to get all the fiber.

Warm Red Potato Salad with Horseradish-Dijon Sauce


One of my favorite summer side dishes… is this Warm Red Potato Salad. Usually, potato salad calls for the standard mayo & mustard mix. But while playing with an idea for a spread for a German burger idea I’m also working on… I thought this might be quite tasty mixed into a red potato salad, as well. And… I was right!

Ingredients
(serves 10 people)
Salad:
3-4 lbs Red Potatoes
5 hard-boiled eggs
1 bunch green onions
5-6 stalks of celery
Salt & Pepper to taste
Sauce:
2 tablespoons Horseradish
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup Mayonnaise (for a healthier option, I use Hellman’s With Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 pinch powdered Cayenne pepper

Preparation
Wash & dice potatoes into small 1/2 inch pieces. Do not peel. Red potato skins are not as grainy as russet and you’re adding about 2 grams of fiber per serving if you leave the skins on. Plus, they add color and texture to your dish.
Dice potatoes into 1/4″-1/2″ pieces. Boil until tender and drain. Roughly 15-20 minutes on medium heat.
Wash green onions, chop off ends and discard. Slice remaining stalks finely.
Wash and trim celery stalks. Save leafy pieces for garnishing later. Slice each stalk length-wise into 3-4 strips, then dice.
Chop boiled eggs (including yolks) into 1/2 inch pieces.
While potatoes and eggs are still warm, add all above ingredients to a large mixing bowl.

To make sauce get a small mixing bowl and add the mayo, horseradish, sour cream, mustard, salt & pepper. Mix well until completely blended.

Pour about half the sauce over your bowl of potato mixture and stir until well covered. Continue to add sauce until completely covered. If you have any remaining sauce, be sure to save it! You’ll be amazed at all the things it can be used for…

Final step: Use leafy pieces from celery to garnish edge of bowl or plate. The leftover ends from scallions work well, too. Enjoy!

The Perfect Bite
Of course, you know what I’m going to say… stack your fork with a bite of potato, egg, and a little onion. And there you have it… the Perfect Bite.

The Perfect Pairing
Since this is a side dish… I want to suggest a perfect main dish pairing, as well as a beverage pairing. The subtle tangy-ness of this salad beautifully compliments a hearty meat course like polska kilbasa or bratwurst on the grill. You can even the sausages to the salad and turn it into a main course. Just butterfly the links and throw them on the grill.

The perfect beverage to go with this salad is a wheaty summer brew like Yazoo’s Hefeweizen. Yazoo is a local Nashville Brewery with some of my favorite beers (and one of my favorite photography sites). If you’re in the Nashville area, be sure to stop by for a tasting and pick up a half-gallon “growler” of your favorite ale!

Did You Know?
Horseradish contains significant amounts of glucosinolates, compounds that have been shown to increase the liver’s ability to detoxify carcinogens and may suppress the growth of cancerous tumors. Horseradish is also said to aid digestion and it also contains compounds known to fight against pathogens in food, such as listeria, E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus.