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Comfort Food: Roast Cauliflower

If you’re looking for a simple but comforting meal that can warm you up on cold night, you really can’t go wrong with roasted cauliflower. Apart from breaking down the head into smaller pieces, which can get a bit fiddly what with little florets flying around, roasting cauliflower is one of the easier dinners I can think of. Which is probably why you can find endless variations of it, and it’s been widely noted that cauliflower, when roasted, is nutty and delicious. The interesting thing is what you toss it with, once you’ve reached the desired state of caramelized nutty crisp deliciousness. Pairing roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce is a classic by now (see the Washington Post’s featured recipe, which is where I first encountered the idea), but you might also consider almond oil.

Take one small to medium head of cauliflower (or about half of one if it’s just you), break it down into smaller florets and pieces, coat with about a tablespoon or so of olive oil, and roast at 375  to 400 degrees.

Toss the roasted cauliflower with almond oil (again about a tablespoon or so, to taste), some chopped garlic chives (or chives, or parsley), and a bit of lemon tahini dip such as this one from The Kitchn (a combo of sour cream, tahini, lemon, apple cider vinegar, tamari, garlic – I left off the za’atar spices – that makes for a very good partner to any roasted cauliflower). If you have them, toss in some roasted almond slivers too. I really think it was the almond oil that made this dish such a hit for me.

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Quick Hit: Fusilli and Peas (Secret Sauce)

Aka, how to make a quick, velvety pea sauce.

This is very easy, and I didn’t really measure anything. Take some frozen peas (about 1 cup), and gently heat them in a pan with a little pat of butter and a tablespoon or two of water, or chicken or veggie broth. Once the peas are defrosted, blend them with some crumbled feta. I used my stick/immersion blender but you could do this in a food processor too. Taste as you go so you get the right balance of sweet and salty – I think I used about 1/4 cup feta or less. I also added some sriracha to taste.

Use this sauce on fusilli or other ridged pasta (rigatoni or cavatappi perhaps). You can liven it up the next day for lunch by adding a few Sungold tomatoes (the little sweet orange ones), halved or whole, to the pan when you reheat the pasta and pea sauce.

Basic Bread Salad

Looking for a quick dinner and a good way to use up any slightly stale bread you have? The magic word is “Panzanella” – also known as bread salad. You can go basic on this and leave out the scallions and herbs if you don’t have those around. If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, try a bit of tomato sauce. Or leave it out entirely, and use a bit more olive oil.

I used about a quarter of a baguette-type bread loaf (it was a bit larger and softer than the classic French baguette), sliced. Continue reading

Summer Pesto Salad

This makes a nice dinner but also a good cold salad to take to potlucks, BBQs, and picnics.

For the pesto sauce:

  • A bunch of “cooking greens” – assorted leaves of kale, chard, etc.
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves (broken down into smaller pieces)
  • the green parts of 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup (about) grated Parmesan or Gran Padano
  • olive oil (good kind for salads, not for cooking)

Cut or tear the green leafy part off the stems (de-rib), and then into smaller pieces. Steam (or sauté quickly, if you prefer) the greens for about 5 minutes, until sightly limp. Chop up walnuts and garlic. Add greens, garlic, nuts, and scallions into food processor. Blend while adding olive oil until the mixture becomes smooth. Add in the grated cheese (unless using the pesto later), and mix together. Continue reading

Sunny Summer Pasta (Corn and Sungold Tomatoes)

Since the farm stands are still overflowing with lush summer produce, here is a meal that you can put together fairly quickly and that rewards you with the look and taste of full summer.

What you need:

  • about 6 – 8 oz (1/2 box/bag) Rigatoni, Penne, or similar pasta,
  • about 1/2 to 1 pint Sungold tomatoes (the small orange ones, sweet), halved,
  • 3 ears of sweet corn,
  • 1/4 cup ricotta (or maybe some fresh mozzarella),
  • some springs of fresh herbs like parsley, dill, or herb fennel aka sweet fennel (look that one up, it’s interesting);

This makes enough for 3-4 servings (next day lunch!).

What to do:
Cook the pasta, and once it’s done, be sure to save some of the pasta water; about 1/2 a cup or so. While the pasta is cooking, strip the kernels off the corn cobs. Then sauté the corn in some butter with the herbs (I used herb fennel here) for a few minutes – you want to start this only when the pasta is done, or almost so, so that you’ll have the pasta water on hand when you need it.

Now add about 1/4 cup pasta water (enough to cover) and some white wine or dry vermouth (optional) to the corn, and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the kernels are tender. Add the pasta, stir everything together, and add chopped parsley (if using). Stir in 1/4 cup or so of ricotta, and the tomatoes. Turn off the heat and let everything warm through for a bit. Salt and pepper to taste. Heap on a plate and eat on a balcony or patio, if possible. Or just open the window a bit, unless it’s one of those hot humid days. In that case, enjoy your fan or AC and bask in the plateful of summer from your cooking efforts.

Gold Zucchini Pasta

Here’s something to do with the zucchini/golden summer squash that should be piling up by now. You can throw  this together quickly – either a dish for two people or one person who likes leftovers (hello, lunch).

What you need:
1 medium golden zucchini, or it can be a regular green one too, shredded (by hand on your cheese grater or in a food processor if you have it)
About 1 cup dry fusili pasta (estimate)
About 1/2 tsp chopped rosemary (fresh)
1/2 cup or so of panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Manchego (more if you like)
1 Tbs olive oil

What to do: (Note: I did not measure when I made this, so this is all speculation based on memory.) Continue reading

Spring Fling: Cavatappi with Green Asparagus

After many months of winter squash, stored potatoes, and nothing green except kale and cabbage, I’m always particularly excited when the first spring produce appears at my farmer’s market (radishes! asparagus! scallions!). Since these portents of the new growing season also stick around into June, I don’t feel too bad for letting this entry sit around since early May. So even though it’s now almost summer, and we have the mugginess to prove it, here is a quick dinner to help you celebrate that first tender green asparagus. I’ve been making variations of this for a few weeks now.

Note: Cavatappi are a sort of corkscrew-looking pasta that look a bit like someone took a penne noodle, stretched and then twisted it. They hold all sorts of sauces well, and small lengths of asparagus can snuggle into their twists.

What’s involved: Continue reading