Archive for February, 2015

Crispy Cauliflower Couscous

crispy cauliflower couscous

As you may have read, I recently discovered cauliflower. This awakening has been akin to a religious or sexual one – I just can’t get enough. I want cauliflower all the time. I want to try new things with it, brag about it to my friends, and generally obsess over just how great it really is. I’ve seen the light, and there’s no going back.

(Don’t worry Brussels sprouts, you’ll always be my first veggie love – see below)

Much like when I thought Brussels sprouts couldn’t get any better – and then added bacon, I was sure I had mastered cauliflower with my rendition of Delfina’s crowd- pleasing side dish.

Enter the food processor. Chop away at some raw cauliflower florets and they magically turn into little couscous-like pieces. With a bit of oil and a lot of heat, this crumbly goodness becomes delicious “fried rice” in a heartbeat.

cauliflower rice

Since cauliflower is relatively mild in flavor, your brain might actually believe you’re feeding it carbs, when, in fact, you’re really giving it a healthy dose of vitamins and nutrients. Gottcha!

italian fried rice

You can use cauliflower couscous as a base for just about any dish (eggy fried rice is next on my list), but this kitchen experiment landed in the Italian category. Guess I’ve still got Delfina on the brain…

fried cauliflower rice

The cauliflower retains its general tenderness, while some bits get nice and crispy. The peppers and garlic heat things up, so season with caution. The spice level is cut by the sour capers, which crisp up a little if you add them to the pan early enough.

capers cauliflower rice

This dish would make a great side to grilled fish, beneath a scoop of ratatouille, or alongside chicken piccata. Or, if you’re me, you’ll eat it out of a bowl with some crispy cast iron skillet-ed Brussels sprouts. Some things never change…

carb free rice

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • Salt & pepper
  1. Cut cauliflower into small florets.
  2. In small batches, pulse cauliflower in a food processor until texture is consistent and rice-like.
  3. In a large heavy-bottomed skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Once oil is piping hot, add cauliflower. Stir often.
  4. Once cauliflower begins to brown, add minced garlic, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, capers, salt, and pepper.

 

Minestrone Soup For A Crowd

minestrone soup

My attitude toward cooking for a group is divided. On the one hand, there’s no greater feeling than that which is achieved by feeding someone. I’m a firm believer that food is love, so sharing a meal – a meal I created, no less – with a group of friends, is the ideal way for me to express that affection. The feeling of accomplishment associated with sitting down to a damn good meal you made yourself is escalated tenfold when you’re surrounded by smiling faces. And if your friends ask for seconds? Now you’ve really made it.

On the other hand, the stress associated with preparing enough food to feed a crowd is the most explicit expression of pressure I can imagine. If there’s not enough, if it’s ready too early, if it tastes just down right awful – the list of self deprecating circumstances goes on. You’ve been tasked with the job of nourishing a small army. If you screw this one up, they’ll perish in battle. Or worse, they won’t come back for another dinner party.

Such was my conundrum when it became my turn to cook dinner for my new roommates. I waffled between stews and pastas, stir fries and curries, finally landing, rather emphatically, on Minestrone Soup. I’d never made the stuff before, but it was a little cold outside and my throat had a slight tickle that could only be assuaged by the likes of hot, garlicky broth.

vegetable broth

After some basic research, a survey of the week’s CSA haul*, and a rather comprehensive discussion with my aunt about the benefits of Parmesan rind used in soup making, I took to the kitchen. This is the recipe I came up with and I think I speak for all my roommates when I say that it was as good as it gets.

With so many ingredients, it’s tough to find a bite of this soup that doesn’t offer something new. Each vegetable has a different texture and tenderness, but the earthy rosemary and silky garlic flavors weave throughout every spoonful. The broth is just thin enough to qualify as soup, yet thick enough to hold everything together.

crushed tomatoes trader joes

If you’re thrown off by the long and specific list of ingredients, fear not! All you really need to make good minestrone is rosemary, Parmesan rind, crushed tomatoes, soffrito, and beans.

soffrito

The rest is pretty much up for negotiation, though I will say that this combo of veggies has great texture variety. I particularly like the last minute addition of kale, since it stands to add a little crunch to each bite.

vegetarian minestrone soup

You can also replace the macaroni with barley, or keep things carb free altogether. Point is, this is a hearty soup that’s easy to make for a crowd and sure to please. Make it a day ahead of time or night of and divide any leftovers into mason jars for future lunches. I ate this soup every day for a week and I still can’t wait to make it and eat it again.

healthy lunch soup

Enjoy with a crusty baguette and good company. Expect requests for seconds.

*CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and is basically like a co-op for a farm. You pay a weekly, monthly, or seasonal fee to essentially own a portion of a farm’s harvest. We use Full Circle, which isn’t a CSA, per se, but sources organic produce from local farms for weekly deliveries. I highly recommend it!

Ingredients (serves 10)

  • 2 quarts low-sodium organic vegetable broth
  • 1 quart water
  • Parmesan rind
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 springs fresh rosemary
  • 1 russet potato, quartered
  • 2 large parsnips cut into thick pieces
  • 1 cup dried macaroni pasta
  • Olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 5 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 cups carrots, chopped
  • 1 28 oz can diced unsalted tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped into big pieces
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 15 oz cans white beans, rinsed
  • 1 large zucchini
  • Handful fresh parsley
  • 4 cups lacinato kale, cut into 2-inch pieces

 

  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat broth and water. Once warm, add Parmesan rind, bay leaves, and rosemary. Once broth is simmering, add potatoes and parsnips.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook macaroni according to instructions and set aside, once al dente.
  3. Heat a couple tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion, celery, and carrots and cook until onions become just barely translucent (about five minutes). This is called soffrito in Italian cooking!
  4. Add soffrito, diced tomatoes, and garlic to broth. According to taste, season with salt, pepper, oregano, and garlic powder. Let simmer for 20 minutes, tasting occasionally for seasoning preferences.
  5. Add beans, zucchini, parsley, and kale to the soup. Stir to combine. Soup is ready once kale is wilted.
  6. Discard Parmesan rind, rosemary stems, and bay leaves.
  7. Optional: Use a microplane zester to mince garlic in a small ramekin. Finely chop extra rosemary. Mix the two together and serve as a garnish.
  8. Either mix in macaroni or serve alongside the soup.

 

Creamy Squash & Kale Orecchiette (Hipster Pasta)

creamy squash and kale orrichiete

My friend Devin recently came over to check out my new digs. Upon surveying the territory, she announced, “You’re a good little hipster.” What makes a good hipster, you ask? Apparently, or at least according to Devin, a good hipster is one who does not try to fit the ‘hipster’ persona, they just do.

A few days later, my father sent me a Huffington Post article – The 22 Most Hipster Foods On The Planet. Among them were Brussels sprouts, Bacon, Kale, ‘Anything Served In A Mason Jar,’ Tacos, Foraged Anything, Green Juice, and Cauliflower. If there had been any doubt in my mind that Emerson hadn’t successfully transformed me into a hipster, good ol’ Huff Po took care of it.

organic butternut squash

I made this here pasta the other night with no hipster intentions, I swear. When I brought the leftovers to work the next day (not in a mason jar, thank you very much), my co-workers lovingly (they ate a lot of it) deemed it ‘Hipster Pasta.’ By this point, I wasn’t surprised that someone was yet again classifying my food choices as ‘hipster.’ Looking at the data though, they’re right. Pretty much every ingredient could have made it on Huff Po’s list. The Maldon Salt, with which I garnished the dish at lunch, was the icing on the artisanal GF bacon-flavored cake.

sauteed kale and squash

I don’t even care. And you shouldn’t, either. Whether you’re a good hipster, a bad hipster, or you hate hipsters, this pasta is damn good. It’s super simple, veggie friendly, easy enough to throw together, and makes for great leftovers.

goat cheese walnut pasta

It’s the kind of pasta you won’t feel bad for eating – though you should never feel bad about eating pasta. With no heavy sauce or fatty meats, you’re left with rich flavors that combine effortlessly to create a healthy, light, hipster-positive meal.

healthy pasta recipe

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • 5 leaves Lacinato kale
  • 2 cups orecchiette or gemelli pasta
  • ½ small log goat cheese
  • Handful walnuts pieces
  1. Preheat oven to 375º F.
  2. Peel the squash. Cut in half. Remove seeds. Cut squash into 1-inch cubes.
  3. Place squash in a medium-sized ovenproof dish and coat with a bit of olive oil and salt. Bake for 45 minutes or until tender.
  4. Boil a large pot of salted water. Cook pasta for 11 minutes, or until al dente.
  5. Remove stems from kale and slice leaves into small strips.
  6. Heat some olive oil in a large skillet. Add kale and sauté until soft.
  7. Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet. Add squash to skillet. Crumble in goat cheese and walnuts. Toss to combine. Add more goat cheese until desired creaminess is reached.
  8. Serve hot!

hipster pasta

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