OUR GREEN TRIP TO COLORADO

As I mentioned last month, we took a short vacation break to relax in Silverthorne, Colorado.  What I did not tell you then, is that we did the trip on a zero-emissions way.  We drove our Tesla, stopping at superchargers along the way.  We got the Tesla last May and were anxious to see how it would behave on a long trip.  One word: awesome! But, before I share the details of this trip, let me say that we put a lot of thought in the acquisition of this car, and getting it was part of another “green move”,  the installation of solar panels to power our home. For a couple of months now, the energy of the sun is what fuels most of our appliances and our car.  At the moment, with the air-conditioning on most of the time, the solar panels cannot keep up with all our use, but that shall change later in the year, even considering days of less intense sunlight ahead.

compositePanels

A few interesting bits about the Tesla…

There is no engine. The car is basically a huge battery located underneath (shielded by a strong titanium plate), and computers to control everything. When you open the trunk, either the front or the back, what you see is a huge empty space. Storage galore… ;-)

luggage
At home, you charge the car in a drier type outlet, and a full charge will take you 8 to 10 hours.  Once the car is fully charged, it displays the potential number of miles you can drive. Ours usually says 262 miles.  That is a number you will never reach, calculated while driving on a flat terrain at a low-speed.  In general, one can count with 170 to 180 miles on a full charge.

Can you drive anywhere in the US? Not quite yet. Supercharger stations are popping up everywhere, but some routes do not have enough of them to cover the distance. For our trip to Silverthorne, we planned on four stops to recharge: Wichita & Goodland in Kansas, and Limon & Lone Tree in Colorado.  Silverthorne has a supercharger station in town, so we did not have to worry about finding an outlet in the hotel and charging the car overnight. For a map of available superchargers and predicted new stations within the next year, click here.   By the way, charging the car is free, doesn’t cost a penny. You park, plug, and drive away. Tesla is also building a battery swap station in California, where you will be able to drive in, get a new battery, and drive out, but it won’t be ready until 2015.  Once it’s functional, we intend to drive all the way there, should be a cool trip.

compositecharge

 

Charging stations were always empty. During our trip, only once we had another Tesla charging on the same station.  Of course, any long trip with a full-electric car cannot be rushed.  It takes at least 30 minutes to charge the battery, sometimes 45 minutes.  But, you don’t need to stick around waiting. A Tesla app on the cell phone shows exactly where the charging stands.  You can have a coffee, lunch, go for a walk, read a book, or even think about those great experiments waiting for you once vacation time is over…

PhoneTrack

 

We were worried about how the car would perform on the mountains. It did amazingly well. We knew that the Tesla has a feature called “regenerative braking“. When you drive with that mode on, every time you take the foot off the accelerator, the battery gets some charge back, as the car converts kinetic energy into chemical energy and sends it back to the battery.  If you like to know more about it, click here.   So, to give you an example, when we drove from Silverthorne to Vail, we covered 30 miles each way, and the battery use was of exactly 60 miles (in other words, 100% efficiency), even though we went way up the hills for part of the drive.  The recovery of charge driving downhill fully compensated the energy used for going up.  The control panel shows the energy efficiency in real-time. Here is a shot of the screen  at the end of our day trip to Vail and back. In other words, the car is a geek’s dream!

Efficiency
But, enough technicality. Colorado is such a wonderful place! Packed with people who love the outdoors, most with that gorgeous reddish tan of the mountains. If the temperature did not drop to obscene 40 F at night, I’d say I was a happy camper. We stayed at a hotel by Lake Dillon, it was perfect for us.  Well, almost perfect.  On the first morning we planned to go for a run around the lake, but that idea was bagged after a few steps. The altitude got us real bad.  Plan B was set in place, and we walked instead, every day at least one hour, often a lot more.  Still panting quite a bit on uphill paths, but who cares?

compositewalks

(click to enlarge)

The first thing we do on our trips is find a local coffee shop. Just a mile from our hotel, we stumbled on the perfect spot. Blue Moon Bakery: great cappuccinos, a huge collection of cakes, tarts, and muffins baked in place.  They have four bakers working full-time.  Take a look at some of the stuff available. It’s a good thing I don’t have a sweet tooth, otherwise I wouldn’t fit in my jeans on the trip back…

compositebakery
Our favorite dinner was at a small sushi spot called Kemosabi Sushi in Frisco, on the other side of Lake Dillon.  Great name, fusion sushi by definition, I suppose.  I went crazy for one of their rolls, the Curtis C: Tempura Anaheim Peppers, Avocado, Cream Cheese, topped with Yellowtail and Cilantro Oil (shown on the right of the photo below).  The place was full, so we sat outside on a slightly chilly evening, but as an unexpected bonus a band was playing at the restaurant next door, and we got to profit from it.  Don’t you love simple pleasures?

sushicomposite(click to enlarge)

In one of the days we drove to Vail, a place I’d heard a lot about, but had never visited. It’s beautiful, but I must say I much prefer the atmosphere and energy of Silverthorne.  Vail is a little too upscale, with endless arrays of expensive shops instead of a more laid-back environment, which I prefer.  Good to visit, and probably great to ski during winter, if you are into that sort of thing.  Brazilians do not particularly look forward to sliding their butts on snow, until they come to a full stop, cold and with no pride left (that summarizes the skiing attempts of my past).

Vailsomposite

Lunch at Vail on a beautiful sunny day…

After having lunch,  we sat on a bench and did some people-watching, one of my favorite activities. I can sit, watch and dream for hours.  Nearby, a big dog was tied to a pole, evidently waiting for his family having lunch somewhere.  The dog was super friendly, and we got along great.  Can you stand the sweetness of that paw?

Doggie
But, of course, no trip is perfect without some golf. We played two beautiful golf courses (Raven Club at Three Peaks, and Keystone Ranch), and I had two totally different experiences.  The first day, we were paired with another couple. They were members of that golf course and helped us a lot with tips and advice on how to handle the course. But, I played poorly, and was quite upset about it, feeling like the ugly duckling in the middle of three beautiful swans.  Next day I played so much better, but we were paired with two gentlemen, and I must say they were horrible to play with. Putting it mildly, they very unfriendly.  I guess I learned a big lesson – it’s not how well you play, but the overall experience.  If I had to repeat one of those outings, I would definitely go for the first, but would not let my pathetic performance bother me. Hopefully, the lesson will stick.

I leave you with two short videos of golf swings.  Even if you are not a golfer, I bet you will be able to appreciate them, each in its own unique way.  Phil is a great golfer, having learned the game at a very young age.  If you look at his swing, it’s smooth, his head doesn’t move forward, he keeps it down, and once the swing is over, he looks at the path ahead with that calm confidence of knowing the ball went exactly where he aimed.   Check it out here.

Now, take a look at yours truly, with a click here. Let’s say there’s room for improvement. Not much smoothness, not much transfer of weight from the back to the front foot. But the “best” part is my reaction after I hit, clearly trying to “help the ball” go where I wanted it to go. By the way, both Phil and I did not know we were being taped.  We do that sometimes to each other so that we can check our swing and make adjustments. I’ve been making adjustments for 17 years.  If you are a golfer, please keep your thoughts to yourself. Thank you so much.

SelfieVailSelfies, anyone?

All in all, it was a great trip, and we enjoyed each minute of it. However, Phil is trying to convince me to go back this winter. I thought he loved me. Evidently, I was wrong.

 ONE YEAR AGO: Ditalini Pasta Salad

TWO YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Thai Seafood Curry

THREE YEARS AGOPost-workout Breakfast

FOUR YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns

FIVE YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers

SCARY GOOD PORK BURGERS

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A few weeks ago I shared with you a recipe for light brioche burger buns, and promised a future blog on a pork burger that was a perfect match for those buns. The inspiration for this recipe was a show by Giada de Laurentiis on FoodTV, but I made enough modifications to call it my own. Pork and green apples make a nice pas de deux, and to give the patties a little more spice I added a small amount of chorizo, an ingredient I’ve been using a lot lately. It packs so much flavor, but its heat is not overpowering, especially if you use it sparingly. These burgers were scary good. Scary in the sense that they almost gave me a heart attack. Read on, my friends. This post proves what I suspected for a long time. In a previous life, I was a merciless serial killer.

PorkBurgers

PORK BURGERS WITH APPLES AND CHORIZO
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 pounds ground pork
1/2 link (about 1.5 oz) fresh pork chorizo (Mexican type)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and shredded
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 inch piece of ginger, grated
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.  Do not pack the mixture too tightly.

Form into 6 medium-size patties. The mixture will be soft.   Place the patties over parchment paper and refrigerate until it’s time to grill them.

Grill them about 5 minutes per side on grates lightly coated with oil.   If you want to add a slice of cheese, do so on the final couple of minutes of grilling, or as soon as you remove them from the grill, keeping them tented with foil. Serve with tomatoes, lettuce, or any other topping you like.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  I prepared these burgers at the end of an intense working day. I was doing experiments that require very precise timing, and once started, cannot be paused until the very end. Every reagent has to be in its spot, ready to be quickly grabbed and used. Once the prep work is all done, I take a deep breath, start the chronometer, and hope for the best.  It’s hard to have a totally flawless experiment, but that day the stars were perfectly aligned, and flawless it was. I drove home feeling on top of the world, ready to stretch the super-accurate timing to dinner preparation. Phil had to stay for another hour working in his office, so my plan was to welcome his arrival home with a nicely set dinner table, juicy pork burgers all ready.

patties

I made the patties, refrigerated them, worked on a couple of side dishes, and walked outside to light the grill.  Under one of those gorgeous Kansas sunsets,  I opened the knob of the gas tank, and lifted the lid of the grill to turn the flames on. The last thought that popped in my mind was “life is good”. And then, it quickly wasn’t anymore. Life had just gifted me a gargantuan mouse prancing over the grates. He froze when he saw me, and just as I let out a screech with the potential to wake up newborn babies in Tokyo, the creature jumped off passing one inch from my left arm, landed on the ground and disappeared into some bushes. Deja vu all over again. The worthless quadrupeds that I feed on a daily basis  went hiding inside their dog house.  Apparently they do not handle well hysterical screaming. I know, inconceivable. That marked the end of a perfectly timed meal. Instead of juicy burgers, Phil encountered a distraught wife who refused to step outside into the backyard to finish the dinner.

mouse1

Due to the profound psychological trauma this situation caused me, I was unable to use the grill for a couple of weeks. Now I go through a process of kicking the door that encloses the gas tank a couple of times, then banging on the grill lid four or five more times before opening it. I am sure the neighbors worry about my mental state in case they catch a glimpse of my routine. Granted, a foreigner can get away with a lot. For all they know, that might be a common pre-grilling performance back in Brazil.   That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Back to food. These burgers were pretty tasty. I made them a second time recently and grated the apples a little finer, not sure which version I liked best, though.  There’s some visual appeal to the bigger shreds of apple peeking at the surface to say hello.  No matter how you decide to treat the fruit, the combination of pork, green apple, chorizo, a touch of ginger was spot on.  No need to use egg as a binder if you refrigerate the patties and handle them gently.  If you are feeling tropical enough, do the Brazilian thing, and release your frustrations on the lid of the grill before you light it.  One never knows….   ;-)

ONE YEAR AGO: Review of exercise program Focus25

TWO YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Thai Seafood Curry

THREE YEARS AGO:  Post-workout Breakfast

FOUR YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns

FIVE YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers

STAR-SHAPED CHOCOLATE BRIOCHE BREAD

Every once in a while I fall in love with a recipe, and cannot wait to make it. Last week I logged into Facebook, and by pure chance there on the top of the Artisan Bread Bakers page I saw a gorgeous bread, worthy of the cover of a Breads Illustrated Swimsuit Issue – if there was such a thing. Except that, contrary to what seems to be the case for many supermodels, no Photoshop tweaking was involved. The bread was naturally stunning. I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it, as it involved a shaping technique I had never seen before. But, it all worked well. It’s bread after all, not cake.  ;-)

Star-Shaped Brioche1

STAR-SHAPED CHOCOLATE BRIOCHE BREAD
(from  Lindarose at Instructables)

for the dough:
500g all-purpose flour
2 eggs
60g sugar
180ml room temperature milk (3/4 cup)
80g room temperature butter
7g active dry yeast
8g salt
peel from one orange

for the chocolate cream:
35g cocoa powder
75g sugar
250g ricotta ( about 1 cup)
30g hazelnuts

Put the flour in the mixer and add the yeast, milk, sugar and eggs. Start mixing on low, as the ingredients start to incorporate, add the butter in small pieces, the salt, and the orange peel.  Keep mixing until very smooth (about 5 minutes on a Kitchen Aid type mixer). Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and finish kneading it by hand, to make sure all butter is uniformly distributed. The dough should be slightly tacky, resist the urge to add more flour. Form a ball, and let it rise in a bowl in a warm spot until double in size, about 2 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.

While you wait for your dough to rise, prepare the chocolate cream.

In a food processor, mix the sugar and hazelnuts together until you obtain a powder. It’s ok if there are still some big pieces in it. Transfer to a bowl, and sift the cocoa powder on top of it.   Add the ricotta and mix everything together with a hand mixer until your mixture becomes a cream.

Once your dough has risen, divide it in 4 equal pieces and make 4 separate balls. Make a disc with each of the 4 balls using a rolling-pin. The most important thing is that the discs are all the same size.

Place the first disc on a piece of parchment paper and spread some chocolate cream on it, making sure to leave about half an inch of free border all around. Lay the second disc on the first one and press the border with your fingers to join them together. Now spread some other chocolate cream on the second disc (always leaving a free border), add the third disc and close it with your fingers. Do the same on the third disc and close it with the last disc, but don’t spread the chocolate on it this time. The 4th disc is the top of the bread.

Using a knife, divide the dough in 4 with 4 cuts. It’s  crucial for the shaping that you don’t cut the center of the disc (see pictures). Now make other 4 cuts between the others, for a total of 8, always leaving the center free. Finally, make 8 cuts between the ones you already made, just like the others. You will have a total of 16 sections now.

Consider 2 sections that are next to each other: lift one with one hand and the other with the other hand and twist each of them towards the outside. This means that the piece you are holding with your right hand will be twisted to the right and the one you are holding with your left hand will be twisted to the left. Do this for all the sections. Your bread will look like a snowflake. Put it in the baking sheet with the help of the parchment paper (don’t remove it) and let it rest and rise for another hour. As the bread rises, turn your oven to 350 F.

Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 25 to 30 minutes. Let it cool on a rack.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

balls-checker

I woke up very early on Labor Day to bake this bread. Long before sunrise. Mixed the dough and went for a run with Phil, while the streets were still completely dark. Come to think of it, “with Phil” is not a correct statement. Let’s say we start together and within five minutes I am begging for mercy,  slow down my pace and see him move farther and farther ahead.  The sun started to rise midway through our run, in such a magical experience, the subtle change in light, slow and beautiful. By far my favorite kind of run. A day that started so perfectly had  to be a good baking day. And indeed it was.

hazelnutpowder

This dough is wonderful to work with.  As you can see in the instructions, the most important thing to keep in mind is dividing the dough in equal parts – use a scale, don’t just eye-ball it.  Once the dough is divided, it rolls out very nicely, use just a little bit of flour on top of the parchment paper so that you can release it easily. I rolled all four balls of dough, but if you prefer, roll one at a time, spread the chocolate cream, move to the next one. Before you cover the bread with the last disk of dough, wash your hands of any chocolate to keep the surface of the bread clean.

shaped

Slicing the dough in 16 sections and twisting the sections for the final shaping is not as hard as it may seem.  I have a lot of trouble with spacing things regularly, and was a bit nervous handling the knife, but even if my cutting was not perfectly uniform,  the bread turned out ok.  Maybe not worthy of the cover of Breads Illustrated, but not bad for a first time.

This star-shaped bread reminded me of the classic Chocolate Babka, which I’ve never made, but saw Peter Reinhart demonstrate in a lecture in Dallas many years ago. In fact, my friend Marilyn said this bread looked like “Babka’s wealthy cousin”.  I suppose that defines it quite well.

The filling can be anything you like. Some bakers from the Facebook group used pesto and cheese, others used cinnamon cream, or a mixture of different nuts with chocolate. Pretty much anything goes with the exact same dough and shaping.  Be creative and impress your friends and family, it is a show-stopper of a bread.

Sliced

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting event…

ONE YEAR AGO: Blueberry-Banana Bread 

TWO YEARS AGO: Into the Light Again

THREE YEARS AGO: Five Grain Sourdough Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Nano-Kitchen

FIVE YEARS AGO: Kaiser Rolls

SOUR CHERRY SORBET: A LABOR OF LOVE

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY MOM!

Far away in Brazil, today she celebrates her 91st Birthday!
We are not there for the occasion, but I share a photo taken one year ago.

 PSMomSee you in November…. countdown started!

 On my last In My Kitchen post, I mentioned we got to pick sour cherries from a friend’s tree. It was a first time for me, and I admit that it surprised me how much work was involved. Of course, picking the fruit requires that you climb up a ladder carrying a basket, and spend quite some time in a daze-inducing repetitive activity. Nothing wrong with that, except that all that Zen might make one less careful. It is tempting to stretch the body just a little more to reach that great looking cherry winking at you, maybe a tad too far.  Thankfully, it all had a happy ending, no falls, no broken bones. We went home with a load of fruit ready for the next step: sorting.  The basic goal is to get rid of the cherries that have worms inside. That information was not conveyed to me BEFORE we picked the fruit. I wasn’t thrilled, and made sure my beloved husband got the message loud and clear during our drive home. The thought that I had my hands on stuff potentially hiding slimy creatures was unbearable. Unfortunately, it was too late, I had already been exposed to danger. So how do you sort the cherries? You dump them all in a container with water. The ones that float very likely have worms. The ones that sink to the bottom better be worm-free because next comes pitting. Finding a worm together with the pit would be extremely no bueno. No bueno as the end of me.

IMG_4994(on the left, Apricot-Passion Fruit Sorbet; on the right, Sour Cherry)

SOUR CHERRY SORBET
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

4 cups worm-free, pitted sour cherries
1 ripe banana
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
3/4  cup sugar (you can add more)
1 cup water
2 Tablespoons vodka

Add the cherries, and the banana to the bowl of a food processor.  Process until smooth, cleaning the sides of the bowl a couple of times. Add the lemon juice, the sugar, and the water, and process everything together until fully smooth. Taste and adjust the sugar level, adding more if you like.  Add the vodka, give it a final mix.

Keep the base in the fridge overnight or for at least 4 hours to cool completely.

Place the mixture in your ice cream maker and churn it according to the instructions of the manufacturer.

Scoop into a freezer-safe container.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

PittingAdventure

Comments:  All credit for the sorbets featured in the blog in the past couple of years should go to Phil, even if he fooled me into handling worm-containing fruit. He comes up with all sorts of flavors, each and every one of his concoctions turns out great!  The only fruit he cooks down before churning is apricot, all others go in fresh.  He always includes a ripe banana, and in his latest versions a tablespoon or so of some type of alcohol, usually vodka or rum. They give the sorbet a creamier  consistency when frozen, and you will not taste any alcohol.

Once more I should add that we like our sorbets with very little sugar, you might find that our versions are too tart for your taste. Adjust accordingly, tasting the base before you churn it.

stored
As  you can see, it often takes me a little time to go from making a recipe to blogging about it, but better late than never, I wanted to get this post out before summer is over.  Summer and over is never a good combination. Oh, the pain, the incredible cruelty of what lays ahead for me…  Autumn first, then misery.

ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen – September 2013

TWO YEARS AGO: Raspberry Sorbet at Summer’s End

THREE YEARS AGO: When three is better than two 

FOUR YEARS AGO: Grating Tomatoes (and loving it!)

FIVE YEARS AGO: A Peachy Salad for a Sunny Day

DRUM ROLL PLEASE….. ONE MILLION PAGE VIEWS! IT’S GIVEAWAY TIME!

Today my Bewitching site hit a wonderful milestone: 1,000,000 page views How on Earth did I get there?  ;-)

onemillion

I am so excited about it, I will offer a small token of appreciation to my readers.  Ottolenghi is about to publish a new cookbook, PLENTY MORE, so if you would like to have it, leave a comment on this post.  The giveaway is open to the whole wide world, by the way…

The comments will be open until September 22nd, and I will announce the winner the following day. Of course, shipping the book will depend on its release, as soon as I get it, it ships.

plenty more

It’s been a ton of fun to keep this site going, and of course hitting this milestone gives me an extra boost of energy!

THE COUSCOUS THAT WASN’T

I am quite slow when it comes to following cooking trends. Chia seeds? Haven’t used them yet, although I do own a bag and lovingly glance at it from time to time. Then, there is cauliflower in its unexpected uses, like the super popular pizza crust and processed versions that mimic rice.  The only non-traditional preparation I embraced long ago was mashed cauliflower for a low-carb take on mashed potatoes. It turns out I am so fond of it, that the real thing almost never finds its way into our kitchen. It is a bit puzzling that I ignored all other “out-there” uses for cauliflower. Better late than never, I now profess my newest found love: cauli-couscous.  Please, if you haven’t tried it yet, do not twist your nose at it. The tiny bits of cauliflower end up with a texture very similar to its semolina cousin, and seem to absorb flavors even more efficiently.  A very versatile dish, you can take it in many different directions by changing the veggies, the spices, herbs, and the cooking liquid. Just as you would with… couscous!  ;-)

CauliCouscous
MEDITERRANEAN STYLE CAULIFLOWER COUSCOUS

(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by many sources)

1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
1 Tablespoon grapeseed oil + drizzle for chickpeas
1 can of chickpeas, drained and well rinsed
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided (1/4 + 1/2 tsp)
pinch of cayenne pepper
juice of 1 lemon mixed with 1/4 cup water
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 English cucumber, diced
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
fresh parsley, minced (to taste)

Prepare the chickpeas: Warm a dry skillet over medium-high heat and toss chickpeas in warmed skillet for about two minutes to remove any residual moisture. Be sure to shake the pan and/or stir the chickpeas. Sprinkle the chickpeas with cumin, salt, and cayenne pepper.  Drizzle a little grapeseed oil over the seasoned chickpeas and toss to combine. Keep stirring the chickpeas and adjust seasonings as desired. When the chickpeas are well saturated with flavor, remove from heat and reserve.

Place the cauliflower florets in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the cauliflower reaches the desired consistency, not too fine, not too coarse.  You will need to stop the processor a few times and move the large pieces around.  Transfer to a bowl, and marvel at how beautiful your fake couscous looks.

Heat 1 Tablespoon of grapeseed oil,  add the cauliflower, and saute until it starts to get some color. Add the water and lemon juice, cover the pan and simmer just for a few minutes.  Add the tomatoes, cucumber, almonds, adjust seasoning with salt. Add the reserved chickpeas, toss gently to combine using low heat. Remove from heat, add the fresh parsley, and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 I was surprised by the amount of “couscous” the single head of cauliflower produced. Isn’t that beautiful?

RicedCauliflower

Once more I used the skillet dried chickpeas “invented” by Kelly, from Inspired Edibles. I did not want them to get soggy, so they were added in the final moments of cooking, right before serving. Still, even next day after a brief torture in the microwave, the chickpeas were very tasty.  Maybe  a little less crunchy, but nothing to be disappointed at.

On a side note, whenever I say “invented” I think about one of Seinfeld’s classic episodes… Merlot? Never heard of it. Did they just invent it?”  ;-)

ingredients

I decided to call this recipe “Mediterranean” because it does have a lot of the usual suspects in that style of cooking. Plus, Mediterranean has a nice gastronomic reputation. Everybody loves it.  ;-)

Before I leave you, I’d like to share a list of very creative uses for cauliflower, some will surprise you, I am sure. Did you know you can use it for a fake bechamel-style sauce?  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…

For the basic crust: The Best Cauliflower Pizza Crust, from Lucky Penny Blog

For a gorgeous example of the cauli-pizza:  Roasted Pear and Caramelized Onion Pizza, from Inspired Edibles

Cauliflower Crust Calzone, from The Iron You

Cauliflower Crust Stromboli, from The Iron You

Paleo Moussaka, from The Iron You (Mike, aka Cauliflower Overlord, is a cauliflower magician, and in this post he uses it in a very interesting bechamel type sauce)

Cauliflower Fried Rice, from Skinnytaste

Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings”, from Inspired Edibles

Cauliflower Pancakes, from Healthy Recipes

Cauliflower Gnocchi, from The Food in my Beard

Ricotta and Cauliflower Gnocchi, from Divalicious Recipes in the City

Cauliflower Pesto, from Vintage Cooking Notes, tried and loved by yours truly

 and if you thought sweets are off-limits, think again 

Cauliflower and Chocolate Ice Lollies with Pistachio Dust, from Veggie Desserts

Cauliflower Chocolate Cake, from Divalicious Recipes in the City

Chocolate Chip Banana Cauliflower Muffin, from Once Upon a Gourmet Gin

 I hope I convinced  you to give cauliflower couscous a try, I am definitely in the mood for a cauliflower pizza crust, just for the fun of it…

ONE  YEAR AGO: Tlayuda, a Mexican Pizza

TWO YEARS AGO: Paradise Revisited

THREE YEARS AGO: Feijoada, the Ultimate Brazilian Feast

FOUR YEARS AGO: Vegetable Milhojas

FIVE YEARS AGO: Italian Bread

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: TACO SALAD

This is the last Monday of August.  We are about to say goodbye to Summer, and I cannot stand the thought of it.  Only Reveal Day of The Secret Recipe Club can bring me some joy under the circumstances. My assignment this month was Flying on Jess Fuel, and I had a blast stalking it and making a list of possibilities to blog about today.  Jess met her husband Nick at a Mexican restaurant, and apparently he went nuts over her jalapeno-eating skills. What a great way to fall in love! They lived in many different places while Nick went to flying school for the Navy, including Enid, a location quite close to Norman, our former home in Oklahoma.

For some reason, I usually pick sweets for my Secret Recipe assignments, but this time I took the road less traveled and went with her Taco Salad, considering that Mexican food would be a fun way to celebrate the way they met.  I find it amusing that some recipes that I order in restaurants on a regular basis are never part of my own cooking at home. Taco Salad is one of those.  For the most part, Tex-Mex restaurants offer dishes over-loaded with cheese, and served with a humongous portion of rice, beans, plus a few flour tortillas for good measure.  Taco Salad is my default request to avoid feeling like a bloated whale as I leave the restaurant.  I made just a few changes in her recipe, and decided to pump up the presentation by making my own tortilla bowls.  Now, that was a ton of fun, but some unexpected problems were encountered.  As I was frantically trying to figure out which cups would be appropriate to shape the tortillas, one of my custard cups fell from the cabinet and crashed on the granite (yes, glass flew everywhere), but not without first hitting my head. OUCH!  And, going on with my usual modus operandi in the kitchen, I burned myself not once, but twice baking those tortilla bowls.  Sometimes I even amaze myself… However, I can tell you it was all worth it!  This recipe rocks, my friends….

TacoSalad

JESS’ TACO SALAD
(slightly modified from Flying on Jess Fuel)

1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup yogurt
1/2 cup salsa
1 Tablespoon grapeseed oil
1 lb ground beef
2 tablespoons bulk taco seasoning mix (or 1 packet)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large head romaine, chopped
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped
Black kalamata olives, chopped (to taste)
Shredded Mexican blend cheese (to taste

To make the dressing, combine sour cream, yogurt and salsa in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat the oil on a skillet and cook the meat for a few minutes. Season with salt (in case your taco seasoning doesn’t have salt already), then add either a packet of store-bought taco seasoning or 2 Tbs of a bulk product such as Penzey’s. Cook for a couple of minutes, add the amount of water recommended by the mix, and cook further just to thicken it slightly. Add the beans to the pan in the last 2 minutes of cooking.

If serving cold, let the meat and bean mixture cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, place half the lettuce, half the tomatoes, half the scallions and half the olives. Top with half the dressing. Top with the meat and bean mixture (you can reserve a little bit for decorating the top, if you want to be fancy). Sprinkle half the cheese on top. Add the rest of the veggies, dressing, and cheese (and meat mix if you reserved some). You can also serve it warm, adding the cold ingredients to the hot meat/beans mixture.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Here you can see some photos of my burning adventure with tortilla cups. You can do this in several ways, but I recommend the muffin tin + custard cup combo.  Using the two custard cups nested together requires that they both fit just right not to tear the tortilla, and also makes it a lot harder to remove the top cup to brown the tortilla in the final moments of baking.

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MAKING TACO BOWLS:  Warm a corn tortilla very quickly over an open flame on your stove (I heard you can also use the microwave, but I haven’t tried it).  Spray both sides of the warm tortilla very lightly with canola or olive oil spray.  Immediately place in the muffin tin (or over a custard cup), and place another container on top to keep the shape.  Bake in a 375 F for about 15 minutes, removing the custard cup in the final 5 minutes. Let cool over a rack.

We loved this recipe!  Actually, Phil was raving about it non-stop, and begging me to make it again, and do it soon.  The tortilla cups make it very festive, but the taco stands on its own without any problem, it is fresh, bright, the dressing mixing sour cream and salsa was incredibly tasty!  I used a home-made salsa given to us by Mr. and Mrs. K (thank you, guys!), and it had just the right amount of heat.  Use any store-bought salsa you are fond of, or make your own if you have a chance.

Jess, I loved being assigned to your blog!  This has been one super busy month for us, but I made sure to compose this post within one week of getting the email notification. I fell in love with this recipe right away, and you can bet this will be in a regular rotation in our Bewitching Kitchen! 

To my readers: if you want to see what the other members of my group cooked up this month, poke the blue frog at the end of the post.

ONE YEAR AGO: Semolina Sourdough Boule 

TWO YEARS AGO: Forgive me, for I have sinned

THREE YEARS AGOCracked Wheat Sandwich Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO:  Au Revoir, my Bewitching Kitchen

FIVE YEARS AGO:  French Bread