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Indian Fried Rice with Roast Cauliflower and Chickpeas

You can pull together a quick meal if you have brown rice (precooked and frozen), and the cauliflower already roasted. If you haven’t yet tried roasting cauliflower, what are you waiting for?

For this dish, take half a head of cauliflower, broken into smaller pieces, toss it with olive oil, salt, pepper and about 1 tsp tumeric, and then roast it on a baking sheet (or a casserole dish could work as well) at 375 or so for 20 minutes or until toasty brown. You can do this days before you make the fried rice dish and just keep the cauliflower in the fridge until some weeknight when you need dinner quickly. If you can keep from snacking on it until then.

Cook the brown rice as per your favorite method. I like Alton Brown’s Baked Brown Rice method but regular boiling is fine too. You can definitely do this ahead of time, and then pack and freeze the rice in handy portions for easy use later.

Now, once you have your rice and cauliflower prepped, you can pull together this dish very quickly. Which I did like so:

In a hot pan (a big one), melt some ghee (clarified butter; but if you can’t get that you could use coconut oil or some other, neutral oil), add a few fennel seeds and cumin seeds, let them roast for about 30 second, then add the (defrosted) rice, and stir well. Add the cooked cauliflower, and a big can of chickpeas (drained of course), and stir until heated through. Add in something green, like dandelion greens (yum) or maybe chard or spinach. Salt to taste. Serve with yogurt, or maybe some cheese, and naan or some other flat bread, if you have it.

Quick Hit: More Pesto Variations

Yes, by now we’re aware that pesto is a great way to use up bushels and bushels of basil – but what if your wallet balks at the price of pine nuts to go along with all that basil? And what if you’re also out of basil, having no garden of your own to be overrun with it? Well, there are other green leafy alternatives, as well as other nuts (actual nuts too). Experiment with what you have.

For example, try cress and cashews, plus walnut oil, garlic, and some chives (optional). Leave the cheese out until you plan to use the pesto (so you can freeze it if you want to), and try Pecorino instead of Parmesan. Great on pasta, or as a potato salad dressing or with peas, or on baguette or…

Or if you don’t have cress, try arugula instead. Maybe with walnuts instead of cashews. Really, the variations go on.

Quick Hit: Dip into Dressing a Cool Spring Dish

If you’ve ever found yourself with leftover pot luck contributions, like say, some goat cheese yogurt dip, you might consider this a useful idea: Take said dip and turn it into a dressing for your cool Spring salad in just one handy step (not counting prepping the veggies). Continue reading

Green Bean Salad Surprise

The surprise here being just how good this salad turned out to be, considering I was simply tossing a bunch of things together to have a quick picnic to take out to a Thursday-night Fort Reno Park show. This was the perfect meal for sitting out on the grass in the evening sunlight, watching the gathered crowd, the families, and the romping dogs, marveling how velvet summer air can be when the usual July humidity lifts its suffocating embrace, and listening to some great music.

The take-away here is that it really is useful to have some prepped ingredients on hand, like par-boiled green beans. I had prepped these fresh green beans a day or two before, snipping the ends and cutting the longer ones in half to get a more even size distribution. Then I boiled them in salted water for about five minutes, or until just tender. You could also steam them, in which case you might want to salt them to taste before putting them in the fridge for later use. Continue reading

Working with Leftovers: Savory Muffin Makeover

Not every recipe is a success. I’ve made beer-based quick breads before with good results but when I opted to bake a cheesy beer bread batter in muffin form, the savory muffins were a disappointment: too dry and bitter for my tastes. Loathe to throw out something that contained so much good cheese, I stuck the remaining four beer-cheese muffins into the freezer and ignored them for months.

The savory muffins reemerged from behind the frozen peas during a burst of cleaning frenzy, and once again I almost tossed them. The long wait in the freezer had not made them any more enticing (go figure). Because I really hate to waste food, I gave the muffins a defrosting grace period, hoping that would push me to find some way to use at least one or two of them.

The moment of revelation came thanks to serendipitous positioning: while defrosting in the fridge, the savory muffins sat next to a container of leftover black beans that had been seasoned in a pan with onions and garlic and oregano. The obvious answer to the unwanted muffin problem was staring me in the face. Continue reading

Dinner Improv: Home-Made “Nachos”

Dinner doesn’t have to be a complete meal. This is especially true if you’re cooking just for yourself. On certain nights, the right dinner is the snack/appetizer you put together just because.

Dinner improv project: Nachos.

Your materials: 4 small corn tortillas; a bunch of late summer tomatoes (about 1 qt); half an onion, diced; one garlic clove, finely diced; cheddar cheese. Continue reading

A Duo of Spaghetti Improvisations

Two pasta dishes demonstrate the divergent ways non-recipe, improv cooking can go; one night you produce a dinner fit for company and another time it’s a messy plate you’re glad not to share. Our contenders:

Spaghetti and Greens in Creamy Sauce vs Spaghetti with Sage Butter, Walnuts, Peas, Capers and Egg (also sherry)

Both have ingredients I like a lot, but the different results prove that execution and judicious application of great basics are what helps a dish transcend its individual parts, or it can turn even the best ingredients into an undistinguished blend of bland. Guess which one ended up less than the sum of its pieces. Continue reading

Big Pan of Vegetables

One possible dish to make while getting existential (see previous post): the big pan of late-summer vegetables. Think of it like Ratatouille, but less red. A symphony of green and orange and pale yellow. A way to use up some of the summer produce in danger of rotting away in your fridge (U.S. throws away 40% of food).

The dance steps (improvise as needed, this is a very loose rhythm): Sweat some chopped onion in olive oil, then let one small eggplant, cubed or sliced, join in, plus one small green chili (not a jalapeno but you could use one). Further add, a clove of garlic or more, if it suits you, and several smallish peppers – green mostly but also light green, and with a hint of red. Or use all red peppers if you like. The peppers should be chopped into small squares. Keep cooking everything over medium heat, salt as needed. Toss in some Carolina Gold tomatoes (2), basil (I had Thai basil to use up), or other herbs. For example, I added dried Herb de Provence later, so it’s up to you. Also, some sherry, to give you some liquid, along with the tomato juice. Keep cooking over medium heat or lower so that all veggies mellow together. Salt to taste and add crumbled goat cheese, generously. Serve over rice.

Cooking from the Pantry

Pasta with Mushroom Sauce

Some days you end up shopping from your own kitchen, striving to use everything still hiding in your cupboards. Like, for example, dried porcini (pricey) with an upcoming expiration date that have been languishing on the shelf for over 6 months. Continue reading

Making Flavors Work

Inspired by the Flavor Bible, a great guide to flavors, tastes, and how to combine different ingredients that I acquired not too long ago, I took another run at sage pasta. In the past, I’ve felt I haven’t gotten the full sage flavor I should get from the simple dish of pasta with sage and butter. The Flavor Bible reminded me what else works with sage, and so I built this dish. Continue reading