CAULIFLOWER FOR COMPANY? YES, PLEASE!

Let’s imagine for a moment that dinner parties are still “a thing.”  Those days feel like a lifetime away, but I know they will come back at some point. When? I have no idea. But when they do, allow me to offer a recipe for mashed cauliflower as your side dish. I promise you, this one will please every single one of your guests, even those who twist the nose at anything low-carb. The secret is topping the mash with roasted grape tomatoes (you can use yellow or a mixture).  It turns into a luscious, satisfying, flavorful side dish that will go well with pretty much any protein you are featuring as the star of your show.

MASHED CAULIFLOWER WITH ROASTED GRAPE TOMATOES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 large head of cauliflower
squirt of lemon juice
salt to taste
1/3 cup yogurt (low-fat is ok)
drizzle of olive oil
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast (or grated parmigiano-reggiano to taste)
smoked paprika to taste
grape tomatoes (yellow or red)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
drizzle of balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Start by roasting the tomatoes. Place them as a single layer on a baking dish covered with aluminum foil. Drizzle the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 F until they start to get golden brown and release some juices. Reserve.

Cut the cauliflower in florets and cook in slightly salted boiling water with a bit of lemon juice until fork-tender.  Add to a food processor (ok if a bit of water goes with it), and add the yogurt, nutritional yeast, olive oil, and spices. Process until smooth, taste and adjust seasoning, or even a bit more lemon juice if you like. Transfer to a baking dish. Top with the roasted tomatoes, but don’t add too much of the tomato liquid, just a little bit.

Place in the 400 F oven for about 10 minutes to warm everything together. If the mashed cauliflower is looking more on the dry side, you can warm up covered with foil. If it seems a bit loose, warm it with no foil on top.

Serve right away with the main dish of your choice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This was one delicious meal! The pork tenderloin is very similar to the one I shared recently, made in our smoker, with a bit less pepper. A little avocado and orange on the side, and we were ready to dig in. Felt like a dinner party…

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SMOKED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH ROASTED PARSNIPS

You know those dinners you think might turn out pretty tasty and they go on to blow your mind in the deliciousness department? This was it. I had never smoked a pork tenderloin, but it sounded like a simple, new way to enjoy one of our favorite cuts of meat. Parsnips are the classical example of under-rated root veggie, but paired with maple syrup and harissa? Yes, please. Great dinner, and thanks to social isolation quite doable any day of the week.

SMOKED PORK TENDERLOIN
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 pork tenderloin, silverskin removed
olive oil to rub, about 2 Tablespoons
coarsely crushed peppercorns, about 1 Tablespoon
1 Tablespoon turbinado sugar
salt to taste
applewood for smoking

Mix the peppercorns and sugar in a small bowl. Dry the meat well. Rub with olive oil, then coat with a small amount of the spice mixture. Season with salt to taste.

Place in smoker set at 225 F with a small amount of applewood chips. Smoke for 3 hours.

Let it sit for 10 minutes, tented with foil. Slice the meat and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

ROASTED PARSNIPS WITH MAPLE AND HARISSA
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

Parsnips, peeled and cut in steak-fries style
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 tsp Rosey Harissa (or substitute smoked paprika + harissa or other seasoning of your choice)
Salt to taste
(asparagus are optional)

Heat oven to 425F. Make a spice mixture with the olive oil, maple and Rosey Harissa or another seasoning of your choice.

Coat the pieces of parsnips with the mixture. Add to a roasting pan covered with aluminum foil, season with salt. Add a splash of water to the pan, cover with aluminum foil and roast for 20 minutes. Remove foil, add asparagus (if using), mix well and roast for 20 minutes more, until veggies are nicely browned.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The Rosey Harissa spice has been on my list of things to try for a long time. I don’t even remember where I read about it for the first time, it’s been a while. I finally caved and ordered a bottle (it is a bit pricey), but I’m glad I did. It conveys a similar flavor of my recent passion (Ottolenghi’s Rose Harissa paste), but because it is dry, you can use it in different ways and it can sit in your pantry for a longer time. Smells wonderful.

The meat was tender, juicy, and with a nice hint of smoke. It went perfectly well with the roasted veggies.  I had some leftover asparagus sitting in the fridge, so I roasted with the parsnips, but you can omit that or even add other root veggies, just keep in mind their roasting times. Sweet potatoes, butternut squash, turnips, they would all work great.

I know not everyone has a smoker, so you can do a similar preparation cooking the pork tenderloin in the oven, after searing it on the stove top. Use smoked paprika to season it, and you will be on your way for a delicious meal.

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OMG SPINACH PIES

Staying safe in Corona virus time: read the guest blog post by Phillip Klebba here. A video summarizing important tips can be found here

SPINACH PIES… Please, do not run away from me, I cannot take it. Times are stressful, I need your company. Hate spinach? Hate anything green? Fear not, this was quite likely THE tastiest savory recipe I tried this year. I know, it’s just April, but it’s a year that feels like a lifetime passing by. I will ask you to steam a ton of spinach and you might be a bit annoyed by that step. But once that’s done, you are basically there. Ready to enjoy one amazing side dish or fancy brunch item. Locked inside with no guests? Fancy Brunch for Two. Go with the flow…

SPINACH PIES
(slightly modified from The Washington Post)

(5 to 6 tartlet pans, about 4.5 inches in diameter)

20 ounces fresh baby spinach, rinsed
1 medium shallot, chopped
2 large eggs, beaten
10 ounces small-curd, low-fat cottage cheese
10 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Set a steamer basket above simmering water. Place half of the spinach in the steamer. Cover and steam until just wilted, then drain and coarsely chop. Press with paper towels to remove as much moisture from the spinach as possible, then transfer to a large bowl. Repeat with the remaining spinach.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Use cooking oil spray to grease the tartlet pans, then arrange them on a baking sheet. Add the diced shallot to the spinach, along with the eggs, cottage cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, pepper and nutmeg; stir to blend well. Divide evenly among the tartlet pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until browned on the edges and set in the center.

Wait 5 minutes before removing the little pies from the pans. Serve warm or at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Credit should go for the husband who noticed the recipe in The Washington Post and sent me the link. It was part of an article on Irish cooking, published right around St Patrick’s Day.  We were so impressed by these pies, not only tasty the day I made them, but two days later, very gently warmed in a low oven. I normally don’t care for low-fat cottage cheese, but it worked perfectly in this preparation. If using low-fat goes against your principles, by all means grab the regular kind.

I used tartlet pans from Wilton that have a loose bottom, so it’s easy to push them out to serve. The original recipe mentioned you could make 6 tartlets, but using these pans I made only 5. The same type of filling could work well as a real tart, over a crust (like the olive oil crust of my recent past), but this version is as light as it is flavorful.

I hope you make these pies. It is possible that it would work well with frozen spinach, but I much prefer the brighter taste that you get once you steam it yourself and use right away.

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INCREDIBLY SIMPLE: CRUNCHY ASPARAGUS

For a few years I’ve been blogging on recipes that are almost too simple to call as such (see them all here), but tasty enough to sit side by side in a blog with more elaborate concoctions. Normally I like to wait until I have several “incredibly simple” items to share in a single post, but spring is almost here, asparagus season is knocking at the door, and this recipe was too good to keep it a secret for much longer. I made it three times in two weeks. The delicate crunch on these babies? I am seriously in love.

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE CRUNCHY ASPARAGUS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

a bunch of asparagus, tough ends removed
olive oil
lemon juice
salt & pepper
Herbes de Provence
1/3 cup almond meal

Heat oven to 425 F.

Mix enough olive oil and lemon juice (half and half) to give enough liquid to coat the asparagus well.  Add salt, pepper, Herbes de Provence to the mixture, eye-balling is totally fine.

Place the asparagus on a tray, pour the seasoned olive oil mixture over them, and move to coat well.

Place the almond meal in a separate tray, drop the asparagus coated in olive oil over it, move gently to make the almond meal stick to the surface.

Arrange them on a single layer on a baking dish covered with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Roast for 12 minutes, shaking them a bit halfway through.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Really hard to imagine a simpler recipe. Well, of course, you can omit the almond meal coating and still get excellent roasted asparagus that way. But this very minor additional step sends this side dish to a whole other level of deliciousness.

Change things around by using other spices, although you risk masking the flavor of the veggie itself. Still, if you are in the mood for it, add cayenne, smoked paprika, sumac (oh, that would be great), play with the whole concept and make it yours. Whatever you do, do not omit the lemon juice.

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UTTAPAM, WHITE LENTIL AND RICE FLATBREAD


I am back with another recipe using ivory lentils (in case you’ve missed the first one, click here). I had never heard of uttapam, but learned about it in the website of the very company I got the lentils from. They are described as flatbreads, but I suppose little pancakes (or fritters) could work equally well if not better. After all, it is more a batter than a dough, that is poured instead of rolled, and cooked over a griddle, not an oven. In my mind, that gravitates to pancake territory. But flatbread, pancake, fritters… it’s irrelevant. They are delicious. Dangerously so, I should add.

UTTAPAM
(slightly modified from Woodland Foods)

(makes 8 little pancakes)

1 cup Basmati rice
1/2 cup Ivory lentils
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
1 Jalapeno pepper, minced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
vegetable oil (I used grape seed)

Thoroughly rinse rice and lentils separately. Place each in large bowl of fresh water and soak for 2 hours.

Drain rice and lentils, and place in blender. Add salt, sugar and baking soda and grind mixture into paste. Add about 1/2 cup water, and continue blending to create thick batter. Transfer mixture to bowl, and set aside to ferment at room temperature for at least 4 to 12 hours.

Combine peas, Jalapenos and cilantro in a small bowl. Heat griddle or nonstick skillet over medium heat and brush with oil. Pour in 2 to 3 tablespoons batter and spread out with back of spoon to create circle 4 inches in diameter. Sprinkle some of pea mixture evenly on top. Cook until small bubbles appear on surface, then flip and cook other side until crisp and golden.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I always feel a bit insecure making ethnic recipes I have zero experience with, but I must say this one turned out excellent, no problems, every step seemed to happen exactly as expected. Plus we both loved the texture and the taste of the little pancakes, that were served with a turkey chili. Sally again takes a ton of liberties with her dinner preparations. Chili made with turkey. Served with little flatbreads from India.  All enjoyed with no remorse whatsoever!

 

Pin me, pin me!

 

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IVORY LENTILS, MY NEWFOUND LOVE

In May last  year I read a very interesting blog post by Mimi, in which she shared a Mediterranean salad recipe using Ivory Lentils. Are they white lentils? Well, not really. They are the center of a black bean found in India and known as “urad dal.” I was intrigued, and knew that at some point I had to amazon-it. Because, obviously, the chances of finding ivory lentils in our neck of the woods are essentially zero. Finally I can share my first adventure with this product. I absolutely loved them, but must warn you they do not taste anything like lentils. Or beans. They are quite unique and remind me more of a grain such as barley. Which is pure gastronomic joy in my book.

IVORY LENTILS WITH CHICKPEAS AND BLACK OLIVES
(inspired by Chef Mimi)

1 cup ivory lentils, soaked for 4 hours

for the dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
Juice of 1/2 small lemon
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

for the veggies:
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
olive oil to coat chickpeas
salt and smoked paprika to taste
2 celery ribs, diced
1/2 cup artichoke hearts marinated in oil
1/3 cup black kalamata olives, pitted
a few sundried tomatoes, sliced thin

After soaking the ivory lentils, cook them in a large volume of salted boiling water for about 20 minutes, until tender. Skim the surface every few minutes. Drain, and reserve to cool (if serving as a salad).

Roast or air-fry the chickpeas coated in olive oil and seasoned with salt and paprika.  Reserve.

Make a dressing whisking all the ingredients together. If the sundried tomatoes are too hard, let them soak in the dressing for a few minutes. If they are soft, simply mix them with the cooked lentils and all other ingredients.  Place in a serving bowl, and serve immediately.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Some recipes do not call for soaking ivory lentils, but I decided to follow Mimi’s advice. I am glad I did, because they foamed a lot even after soaking for hours and changing the water for cooking. Maybe they cook fast enough without the soaking step, but if you have the time, do it.

This exact preparation would work very well warm, so consider skipping the cooling time and just mixing everything together as soon as the lentils are drained. Leftovers are equally tasty at room temperature or briefly warmed in the microwave.

I get so excited when I find a new ingredient to play with! I already have another recipe to try using these beautiful “lentils”, one that takes them in the direction of a flatbread… Intrigued? Stick around…

You can order and read more about ivory lentils with a click here.

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SWEET POTATOES WITH TAHINI SAUCE

As some of you might know, I don’t like to apply the word “healthy” to a recipe. Just a pet peeve of mine. But it is hard to resist using it in this case. Sweet potatoes are full of nutrients that are good for you, and in this preparation they get the right amount of luscious that makes them almost festive. Cutting them into wedges makes them cook faster, so no problem considering this side dish for a weeknight meal.

SWEET POTATOES WITH TAHINI SAUCE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled, cut in wedges
olive oil to coat potatoes
salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon honey
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp sesame oil
water to thin sauce (adjust to your liking)
toasted sesame seeds to sprinkle over sauce

Heat oven to 400 F.

Coat the potatoes with olive oil, season lightly with salt and pepper. Try to massage the oil around them, so they are well coated. Spread them in a single layer over a baking dish covered with aluminum foil. Roast them for 15 minutes, move them around and roast for 10 to 15 minutes more, until fully cooked and starting to get golden brown at the edges.

Prepare the sauce by mixing all ingredients together and whisking very well.  The sauce will thicken as it sits, so don’t make it too thick to start with.

Place the potatoes on a serving dish, spoon the sauce over, and finish with toasted sesame seeds.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I think tahini and sweet potatoes are another example of a match made in Nirvana. Save any sauce leftover and use it over other veggies like broccoli, or drizzled over roasted salmon (yes, another a bit unusual but nice move for tahini).

I visualize this recipe again, with some pomegranate seeds added to this party. Color and freshness never hurt.

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