Pizza with Roasted Cauliflower, Calabrian Chilies and Green Olive Tapenade

I’ll get right to the point. The star of this pizza is the tapenade – a smashing combination of briny green olives, toasted almonds, the rich oily heat of Calabrian chili and magical umami-rich anchovies. Sprinkled over roasted cauliflower, fresh peppers and creamy mozzarella, this is one fresh and feisty pizza. The only problem with the tapenade is that it’s so good, you might find yourself gobbling spoonfuls straight from the bowl, smearing it on a piece of bread, or swiping the prepped cauliflower through it before you have a chance to assemble the pizza, so I recommend that you make a double or triple batch. This way, you can have your nibbles and eat your pizza, too.  Continue reading Pizza with Roasted Cauliflower and Green Olive Tapenade

Spaghetti with Cauliflower, Chile and Parsley Gremolata

Spaghetti with Cauliflower, Chile and Parsley Gremolata

~ Spaghetti, Cauliflower, Red Chile, Parsley, Garlic, Lemon, Breadcrumbs ~

It’s a wonder what a bare refrigerator can produce for dinner. I’ll be honest – the contents of my fridge looked bleak the other day. It was 6 pm, dinner hour was fast approaching, and we were 4 hungry people in the mood for good food – something warm, filling and tasty. I know I write and think about food for most of my day, every day, but sometimes all of that writing and thinking doesn’t materialize as a meal on our dinner plate. This happens, and there we were.

Upon urgent inspection of the refrigerator, I found half a head of cauliflower and a forlorn chile pepper in dire need of rejuvenation, amongst the usual staples including a hunk of cheese and fixings for an oh-so-simple green salad. It would be a pasta night, I knew then, and with these ingredients I made a riff on a gremolata topping. Gremolata is a condiment that traditionally includes parsley, garlic and lemon, served over meat and fish. In this case, I took the basic ingredients of a gremolata and tossed them with breadcrumbs and Pecorino cheese before tumbling the whole lot with finely chopped cauliflower, minced chile and garlic. It was a hit – and so were the groceries I purchased the next day to refill our refrigerator.

Spaghetti with Chile Cauliflower Gremolata

Taste the fresh minced chile for heat, and feel free to adjust the amount of chili flakes to your taste. Serves 4.

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley leaves
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 pound spaghetti
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 head medium cauliflower, chopped in 1/4 inch pieces, about 2 cups
1 red jalapeno or small Fresno chile, stemmed and seeded, finely diced

Heat panko, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a skillet over medium heat until breadcrumbs are golden, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. When cool, stir in cheese, parsley and lemon zest. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large bowl; toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
While the pasta is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper. Saute until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add cauliflower. Saute until cauliflower begins to soften, 3 minutes. Add chile and saute until cauliflower is tender but not mushy, about 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and toss with the spaghetti. Add half of the breadcrumbs and toss again. Divide pasta among serving plates. Sprinkle remaining breadcrumbs over the pasta. Serve warm.

Cauliflower Purée

Cauliflower Purée

~ Cauliflower, Celery Root, Garlic, Thyme ~

Looking for a simple side that’s light and fluffy but not mashed potatoes? This Cauliflower Purée is airy and delicate, a blend of cauliflower and celery root. One potato is added to the mix for a touch of heft and a little starch to prevent the purée from becoming a thick soup. The result is a refined side dish that is a wonderful accompaniment to fish, meat and winter stews.

Cauliflower Purée

The celery root, also known as celeriac, is mildly redolent of celery, and nicely balances the nutty and sweet notes of the cauliflower. Serves 6-8 as a side dish.

1 large head of cauliflower, chopped in 1 inch pieces
1 medium celery root, peeled, chopped in 1 inch pieces
1 large russet potato, peeled, chopped in 1 inch pices
Bouquet garni: 3 thyme sprigs and 1 bay leaf tied in cheesecloth
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut in large pieces
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Thyme sprigs as garnish

Combine cauliflower, celery root, potatoes and bouquet garni together in a large pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until all of the vegetables are very tender. Drain and discard bouquet garni. Transfer to a food processor. Add garlic and butter and purée until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and pulse to blend. Taste for seasoning. Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve warm, garnished with thyme.

Chicken and Vegetable Curry

~ Chicken and Vegetable Curry ~

At last the rains have come. This means that much-needed snow is finally falling in the mountains, and it also means that it’s perfect weather at home for a stew. January invites slow-cooking and one-pot meals. After the fancy food and hoopla of the holidays, the first month of the new year begets hearty and comforting meals without pretension. This curry is a perfect example. Brimming with vegetables and perfumed with curry, this stew is healthy and light. Its brightness and heat will warm and feed a crowd, while jump-starting any dormant taste buds suffering the winter doldrums.

Chicken and Vegetable Curry

For a richer curry, substitute the chicken stock with 1 – 14 ounce can of coconut milk. Serves 4 – 6.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons grated ginger, with juices
1 heaping tablespoon curry powder, or to taste
1 teaspoon salt
1 large carrot, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, cut in 1/4 inch julienne
1 half head of cauliflower, broken into small florets
1 – 15 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with juices
2 cups chicken stock, or more as necessary
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1-inch pieces
Fresh cilantro

Heat oil in a deep skillet or pot. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the curry powder and salt; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add the carrot, red pepper and cauliflower. Cook, stirring to coat the vegetables with the spices, 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes with juices and chicken stock. The vegetables should be just covered with liquid. If not, add a little more chicken stock. Bring to a simmer, breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon. Stir in the chicken. Simmer, partially covered, until chicken is thoroughly cooked through and the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning. If needed, add 1-2 teaspoons of brown sugar. Serve hot with basmati rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro.


Orecchiette with Roasted Cauliflower, Prosciutto and Peas

Orecchiette with Roasted Cauliflower, Prosciutto and Peas

~ Orecchiette, Roasted Cauliflower, Oven Dried Prosciutto, Peas, Parmigiano ~

This recipe might best be called the “Calm before the Storm.” Thanksgiving is looming with its promise of feasts, indulgences and lots of leftovers. In anticipation of the predictable holiday chaos and our subsequent food coma, I aim for a moment of zen and economy, creating simple and efficient meals, deliciously comforting while using lurkers in the refrigerator as inspiration and freeing up space for turkey-centric leftovers. In this case, I unearthed a head of cauliflower from the vegetable bin, patiently waiting (as crucifers are so inclined) to be put to use from last week’s farmers market splurge. A chunk of pancetta gamely joined in, skirting its banishment to the freezer, along with a bag of well frozen peas eager for a defrost. Suddenly, I had an easy and healthy dinner on hand with no whiff of leftovers, stuffing or cranberry sauce – that will come later.

Orecchiette with Roasted Cauliflower, Prosciutto and Peas
Serves 4.

1 medium head cauliflower, cut in 1 inch pieces
Olive oil
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto or pancetta
1 pound orecchiette pasta
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus extra for serving
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 375 F. Toss cauliflower with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt. Arrange in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake on lowest rack in oven until tender and bottoms are golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Transfer to top rack and broil 2-3 minutes until tops are tinged brown. Remove from oven.
While the cauliflower is roasting, arrange prosciutto in one layer on another baking sheet. Bake in same oven on middle rack until dry, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven. When cool enough to handle, break into shards.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, peas and 1 teaspoon salt; toss to warm the peas. Add cauliflower, prosciutto and 1/2 cup Parmigiano cheese, gently tossing to combine. Taste for seasoning. Serve immediately with freshly ground black pepper and additional cheese on the side.

Sriracha Baked Salmon and Cauliflower

Sriracha Baked Salmon and Cauliflower

Salmon, cauliflower, sriracha and a little parsley.

Salmon, cauliflower and sriracha come together beautifully in this easy
and healthy recipe. The heat of the sriracha is tamed by baking, while it amplifies the flavors of the salmon and cauliflower. It’s delicious as is, or serve it with a dollop of Roasted Pepper and Sriracha Sauce. Can you tell that I love sriracha?

Sriracha Salmon and Cauliflower
Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sriracha
1 salmon filet, 1 1/2 – 2 pounds
1 small cauliflower, trimmed, broken into florets
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh parsley for garnish

Roasted Pepper and Sriracha Sauce
1 large red bell pepper, roasted, skinned
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons sriracha
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk olive oil and sriracha together in a small bowl. Arrange salmon in a baking pan. Brush with the sriracha oil.
Slice cauliflower florets in 1/4 inch pieces and place in a bowl. Pour remaining oil over the cauliflower and toss to coat. Scatter the cauliflower around the salmon. Sprinkle salmon and cauliflower with salt and pepper.
Bake in oven until salmon is cooked through, about 30 minutes, depending on thickness of the fish. Garnish with parsley. Serve with Sriracha Roasted Pepper Sauce.

To make the sauce, combine all of the ingredients in a bowl of a food processor. Puree to form a smooth sauce.

Cauliflower au Gratin

Cauliflower au Gratin

Who can’t resist a Cauliflower Gratin? Perfect as a side dish or vegetarian course, these golden gratins are bubbling with cheesy goodness. I found yellow cauliflower at the market and mixed it with white cauliflower in this recipe. Don’t just experiment with color. Get creative with other veggies, such as  broccoli florets, chunks of celeriac or diced rutabaga for variety and flavor. So long as there’s lots of gratinéed cheese and bechamel, this gratin is a winner.

Cauliflower Gratin
Serves 4

1 large head of cauliflower, broken into florets
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, finely grated
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs, lightly toasted

Preheat oven to 375 F. (190 C.)  Butter a gratin dish or 4 individual ramekins.
Steam cauliflower until crisp tender. Transfer to a large bowl. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour, and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add milk in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Cook, stirring, until bechamel thickens. Whisk in salt, mustard, pepper and nutmeg. Add half of the Gruyere cheese, whisking until smooth. Pour the bechamel over the cauliflower. Toss to thoroughly coat. Pour into the gratin dish. Combine remaining Gruyere cheese, Parmesan and panko in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the top of the gratin. Bake until golden on top and bubbling, about 30 minutes.

Cauliflower and Celery Root Soup with Truffle Oil and Crispy Kale

I am a huge fan of cauliflower soup, yet it’s rare that I find a version that’s just right. Often the soup is grainy or bland, redolent of cauliflower yet missing an extra oomph that keeps me coming back for more. So, in my pursuit of the right stuff, I decided to team up cauliflower with a few of my favorite ingredients. First, I added my new best tuber friend – the celery root. Celery root, or celeriac, is mild with a softy nutty flavor. Combined with cauliflower, it smooths and mellows adding a hint of celery while permitting the cauliflower to shine through. I also added a chunk of Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese. As the soup simmers, the cheese dissolves into the stock, lending depth and an elusive umami flavor that begs for more tasting. The soup is puréed and dressed with a splash of cream, adding richness without overwhelming. The final flourish is  a drizzle of truffle oil which elevates this weeknight staple to a holiday standard. For a garnish, I scatter a few crispy kale leaves over the soup. The salty roasted leaves add lovely contrasting crunch to the creamy soup. You might find yourself ferreting through your bowl in search for more.

Cauliflower and Celery Root Soup with Truffle Oil and Crispy Kale

The crispy kale is an optional addition to this luxurious soup. The kale leaves may be roasted in advance and refrigerated in an air-tight container until use. Be sure to make extra; they are a delicious and healthy snack. Serves 4-6.

For the soup:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium celery root, peeled, cut in 1 inch cubes
1 medium cauliflower, cut in 1 inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups chicken stock
2 inch chunk  of Parmeggiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Truffle oil

For the crispy kale:
6 (or more) kale leaves, halved, tough stems removed
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the soup:
Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add celery root and cauliflower; sauté 3 minutes without browning. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add chicken stock and cheese. Cover and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes. Carefully transfer in batches to a food processor. Purée until smooth. Return soup to pot. Stir in cream, salt, pepper and additional chicken stock if necessary to achieve desired consistency. Simmer 5 minutes. Taste to adjust seasoning. Serve in bowls with a drizzle of truffle oil. Garnish with crispy kale leaves.

Prepare the kale:
Toss kale leaves with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a 350 F. oven until crisp without blackening, 25 minutes. Crumble a few leaves in the soup before serving. (Kale leaves may be prepared up to one day in advance.)

Roasted Cauliflower and Tomato Pasta with Crispy Prosciutto and Arugula

Cauliflower Penne

This recipe was inspired by the contents of my refrigerator. It was a weeknight, I hadn’t shopped, and I wanted to make an easy and satisfying one-dish dinner. Pasta is always useful in this situation. With a little digging in the refrigerator I unearthed a cauliflower, prosciutto and arugula, while the cheese drawer disclosed a couple hunks of Parmgiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheese.

Further inspired by a Cooking Light recipe as well as a similar recipe from Simply Recipes, I decided to roast the cauliflower and tomatoes and toss them with the pasta. The roasting process softens and chars the cauliflower, adding a nice depth to the dish, while shriveling and intensifying the flavor of the tomatoes. From there I digressed, improvising with my other ingredients. I baked the prosciutto in the oven until it crisped, and snapped the pieces into salty shards. Then I combined the cooked pasta with the cauliflower, tomatoes and prosciutto before tossing in the arugula and tumbling everything together so that the heat from the pasta would slightly wilt the peppery arugula leaves. Finally I scattered the dish wth a mix of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino cheese. The result was a healthy, satisfying weeknight meal which could be served warm or at room temperature. Digging in the refrigerator is fun, and I highly recommend it.

Roasted Cauliflower and Tomato Pasta with Crispy Prosciutto and Arugula
Serves 4

1 medium head of cauliflower, broken into 1″ florets
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
3 ounces sliced prosciutto
1 pound penne pasta
1 large garlic clove
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups arugula, washed and dried
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup Pecorino Romana cheese

Preheat oven to 400 F. (200 C.)
Arrange cauliflower and tomatoes in one layer on a baking sheet. Toss with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt. Roast in oven until cauliflower is tender and browned on the edges, about 20 minutes.
While the cauliflower is roasting, arrange prosciutto slices in one layer on another baking sheet. Place in same oven and bake for 20 minutes as well.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain. Combine pasta, cauliflower, tomatoes, garlic and black pepper in a large bowl. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Break prosciutto into shards. Scatter prosciutto and arugula over pasta and toss to combine. Combine the 2 cheeses in a small bowl. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese over pasta and toss. Taste to see if more cheese is needed. Serve pasta with remaining cheese on the side.

Kitchen Table Philosophy: Macaroni, Cauliflower and Cheese

Kitchen Table Philosophy:  Macaroni, Cauliflower and Cheese

Macaroni caul cheese

What do you do when you’ve had a bad day? We all have them, and today was my daughter’s turn: Difficult math test, monotonous swimming lesson, lots of homework, and a bumpy day with friends on the playground. All in all, a tough day for a ten year-old.

I had a busy day, too. I was researching sources for sustainably-raised meat and drove out to West Marin. I returned home with a list of sources as well as a cooler full of grass-fed meat from Marin Sun Farms for our freezer, including 4 beautiful lamb loin chops I planned to cook for dinner. I spent the afternoon busy at the computer writing and researching a new article and in a meeting.  All in all, a busy day for a grown-up.

Then my daughter arrived home, tired, overwhelmed and teary from her day.  Her first request was if I would make her favorite dish – Macaroni, Cauliflower and Cheese – for dinner.  My immediate response was negative; I had all this lamb, after all.  She then pulled a chair up to my desk and began to recount her day to me, while I continued typing at my computer, half listening to the news on the radio in the background and half listening to her experiences.

Suddenly, I had a moment of clarity:  Sometimes you have to stop all your busy-ness, let go of your preconceived plans and just sit down at the kitchen table, fully present. I wasn’t fully present anywhere at that moment. So, I shut down the computer, turned off the radio, and sat down at our kitchen table with my daughter.  Together, we prioritized her homework so the seemingly mountainous pile became approachable tasks; we worked out those fractions and  proofread her Spanish.  All the while, I fully listened to the news of her day, the dramas, frustrations and thoughts, remembering that at one point I was also there and and how the world felt to a 10 year-old after a long day.

And dinner?  The lamb will wait a day.  Tonight we are having Macaroni, Caulliflower and Cheese.

Macaroni Cauliflower Cheese

Macaroni, Cauliflower and Cheese
Serves 4-6

1 medium head of cauliflower, divided into 1″ florets

1 lb. (500 grams) penne

1 1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup bread crumbs (panko)


Preheat oven to 350 F.
Steam cauliflower until tender but firm. Remove from heat. Set aside.
Bring salted water to a boil in a large pot. Add pasta. Cook until just tender but still firm, about 5 minutes. Drain. Return to pot. Stir in cauliflower.
Combine cheese in a small bowl. Set aside.
Melt butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Stir in flour. Cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Whisk in milk. Cook, stirring, until thickened. Add 2/3 of the cheese. Stir until smooth. Add mustard, salt and pepper.  Combine cheese mixture with pasta and cauliflower. Pour into a buttered rectangular baking dish.
Toast breadcrumbs over medium-low heat in a dry skillet until golden. Remove from heat and toss with remaining cheese. Spread breadcrumb mixture over pasta.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Bake in oven until top is golden and crusty, about 40 minutes.

Try substituting broccoli for the cauliflower, or combining the two.
Alternatively, you can omit the pasta, and use only vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, rutabaga, parsnip) for a delicious gratin.