INCREDIBLY SIMPLE TIMES FOUR

Here I am to share with you not one, not two, but four recipes that are so simple you could make them in your sleep. Each delivers a lot more than you’d expect in flavor and you will find yourself making them again and again. Not necessarily in your sleep.

composite

From top to bottom, left to right, here they are:

CHEESE JALAPENO CRACKERS. Credit should go to Angela, from Divalicious Recipes.  Recently she composed a post with 50 ideas for low-carb appetizers very well-timed for a Super Bowl party.  These crackers are pure cheese, with a kick of Jalapeno. I made only eight for the two of us. There was a bit of an argument over the last one, we could not quite agree on who had the right to grab it. I won. Determination is everything.

crackerstutorial

My version, 50:50 Monterey-Cheddar & Parmigiano.
Baked at 350F for about 10 minutes.
Watched them like a hawk.

MARINATED CUCUMBER SALAD. I saw this recipe at FoodTV the other day, a show I don’t normally watch called Valerie’s Home Cooking. I admit to having a bit of a problem with Hollywood folks turned into FoodTV chefs. Maybe I should open my mind a little? Nah, I like my mind the way it is… Anyway, her recipe sounded great but I adapted on my second time around because she used too heavy a hand on the sesame oil. It pretty much overpowered the delicate cucumber.

cucumber

In a small bowl mix and whisk well:

1/2 cup rice vinegar (unseasoned)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil.

Slice one cucumber as thin as you can make it, a mandoline could be helpful. I used a Persian cucumber, so I did not remove the seeds, but if you only find regular ones, removing the seeds is a nice touch. Delicately mix the cucumber slices with the dressing, refrigerate for half an hour if you have the time, but it’s good right away too.
So refreshing!

FRIED EGG OVER LABNEH WITH ZA’TAR. This is unbelievably good!  I confess I’m addicted and have it several times each week for my lunch.  I know you will find the combination a bit odd, but trust me, it is to die for. Just smear some labneh or thick Greek yogurt on a plate. Squirt a bit of lemon juice and a little salt (no need for salt if using labneh). Sprinkle za’tar all over, use a heavy hand if you are a za’tar lover.  Fry an egg whichever way you prefer, for this concoction I like a little bit of a crisp edge. Rest the egg on top of the cold labneh or yogurt mixture. Swoon!

zataregg

I use different spices sometimes.  Sumac goes well, Ras El Hanout is superb, but za’tar is hard to beat. There’s something about the mixture of the runny egg yolk with the cold seasoned yogurt, I never tire of it.  I first saw this combination at Maureen’s beautiful blog, she also included in her cookbook Rose Water and Orange Blossoms, which I own.

BLUEBERRY CHIA PUDDING.  I am usually pretty slow to jump on fashionable ingredients, and most of my adventures with chia seeds have been unremarkable. Not this one. It turned out so good I would serve it for company without thinking twice. It is creamy, sweet and tangy at the same time, the coconut flavor so subtle it would not offend those who are not too fond of it.  All you need to do is remember to soak the chia seeds the day before, or at least a couple of hours in advance.  A minute in the blender, and there you have, Nirvana in a bowl.  You can find the recipe here, but I highly recommend you get the book My New Roots, where you’ll find this one and a multitude of other interesting recipes.

blueberry-chia

for the recipe, visit Les Petites Pestes

Sometimes simple is all we need…

four-simple-recipes-from-bewitching-kitchen

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TWO UNUSUAL TAKES ON ROASTED VEGGIES

I guess it is the season to turn the oven on at high temperatures and help the house stay warm. Do I like this weather? What do you think? I despise it. BUT, I do love roasted veggies, so I try to concentrate on that instead of the fact that someone decided to make repairs in the heating system of our building and the labs were freezing from Christmas break all the way through the first week of January.  I could see my breath while working, and confess to snapping at a couple of colleagues who had the nerve of greeting me with a  “Good morning, Sally.”  Anyway, I digress. Roasted veggies are a beautiful thing, and today I share two recipes, both delicious, but the second one, the second one blew my little mind away! I kept munching on those little morsels of deliciousness and beating myself for never trying them before.  Without further ado, Roasted Pears and Parsnips and…. drum roll… drum roll increasing…. drum roll at maximum blast:  Roasted Radishes. Now, do not leave. Do not. Even if you hate radishes with all your being. Trust me. You need to roast them. You just do.

roasted-parsnips-and-pears

ROASTED PEARS AND PARSNIPS
(adapted from Fine Cooking magazine)

1-1/2 lb. parsnips cut into 1-inch pieces
2 firm pears, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Tbs.  olive oil
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tbs. white balsamic vinegar (or regular balsamic)
1 tsp Herbes de Provence

Heat oven to 425 F.

Toss the parsnips and pears with the oil, paprika, and 1-1/2 tsp. salt.

Roast the vegetables in the oven until tender and browned, about 25 minutes. Toss with the vinegar and Herbes the Provence. Adjust seasoning and serve. 

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: As I was composing this post, I noticed a new blog entry by my dear friend Maureen, from Orgasmic Chef. She professed her love for Jacques Pepin (we are twin sisters, obviously) and included a short video with our guru talking about what constitutes a recipe, and how we should never follow it blindly. So many variables at play, if you follow a recipe without being aware of its ultimate goal (taste great), you might be doomed for failure. I strongly suggest you visit her post and watch the short video.

These roasted parsnips and pears are a perfect example of Pepin’s wise lesson.  First of all, I think of all fruits, pears might be the most finicky to cook with. So many different kinds, if the recipe doesn’t specify which one to use, you could already be set for trouble. Plus, even if a specific type is called for, its level of ripeness will have a huge impact on the outcome. In my first time making this dish, I used regular white pears with light green skin. They were ripe, not overly so, but definitely ripe. What happened is that they were a bit too soft once the parsnips were perfectly cooked. The taste was superb, but had I thought more carefully about it, I would have added the pears a mere 10 minutes before serving time. On my next attempt, I intend to use Bosc pears and roast them from the beginning with the parsnips. They are very sturdy and will stand better to the oven. But don’t let this small detail prevent you from making this unusual veggie roast. It turned out spectacular, paired very well with a juicy, medium-rare standing rib roast, lovingly prepared by my perfect match.

dinner-served

And now, let’s talk radishes, shall we? Let’s suppose when you see a bag of radishes you look the other way, and your lips pucker a little just thinking of how harsh they are. Do not let that prevent you from making this. Talk about a full transformation by heat, that’s what it is. Magic in radish form.

roasted-radishes

ROASTED RADISHES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 bag of radishes (or any amount to serve two)
olive oil to coat
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt and pepper
water
squirt of lemon juice

Heat the oven to 400F.

Cut each radish in half, if you have very large ones in the bag, quarter them.  Place in a bowl and drizzle olive oil to coat them. Season with paprika, salt and pepper.

Place as a single layer on a baking dish, add about one tablespoon of water, cover the baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place in the oven and roast, covered for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and roast for 15 to 20 minutes more, moving them around occasionally, until fully tender and starting to get golden brown.  Squirt lemon juice right before serving, not too much, just a light drizzle.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I own several cookbooks that include recipes for braised radishes.  I promptly ignored them all. Who would braise a radish, I kept asking myself? Radishes are supposed to be enjoyed raw. Thin slices over baguette smeared with the best possible quality butter, seasoned with salt flakes. That is the way it’s done. So, why did I finally roast these babies? I was browsing a forum on ketogenic recipes, and people were going nuts about them. Granted, it was a more substantial version, one that goes around the net as “Loaded Radishes.”  It is radishes plus olive oil plus butter plus cheese plus bacon. I kid you not. I was not that interested in the super high fat content, but what intrigued me was that every single person who made it compared the radishes to potatoes in taste. Gone was the sharp, almost bitter taste that makes radish… a radish!  I had to find out if they were onto something, so I more or less used the steam-roasted method of my recent past, and came up with this recipe. It is absolutely delicious, and yes, think about very light potatoes, and you’ll be on the right taste path. Of course, braised radishes will be on our menu very soon. I just know I’ll fall in love with them too…

Note to self: a mind open is a beautiful mind.

two-takes-on-roasted-veggies-from-bewitching-kitchen

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STEAM-ROASTED INDIAN-SPICED CAULIFLOWER

Recently I blogged about a new way to roast veggies that stole my heart. At that time, carrots were the star of the show. Now, I share my second experiment with the method, following a recipe from the same issue in Fine Cooking, applied to cauliflower. A couple of tips are important for maximal deliciousness. First, do not cut the florets too small, keep them a bit chunky. Second, make sure to leave a flat, large side when you cut them. That will provide better browning during roasting.  The roasted cauliflower is finished with a mixture containing a lot of ginger and other Indian spices. Read my thoughts about it in the comments.

steam-roasted-cauliflower

STEAM-ROASTED INDIAN-SPICED CAULIFLOWER
(adapted from Fine Cooking magazine)

1 large head cauliflower cut into very large florets, florets halved lengthwise to make flat surfaces
5 Tbs. vegetable oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
2 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. ground turmeric
pinch of ground cayenne pepper
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F.

On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the cauliflower and garlic with 3 Tbs. of the oil, 3/4 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Arrange the florets flat side down in a single layer. Cover tightly with foil and transfer to the oven to steam for 10 minutes.

Carefully remove the foil, rotate the baking sheet, and roast until the bottom side is nicely browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Flip the cauliflower and continue roasting until just tender and deeply browned, 10 to 12 minutes more.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 Tbs. oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the coriander, turmeric, and cayenne. Swirl in the lemon juice.

Transfer the roasted cauliflower to a serving bowl. Add the spice mixture, and toss gently. Season to taste with more salt, if needed, and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

caulicomp

Comments: Once again I found the method wonderful to deliver perfectly roasted cauliflower florets. Now, about that spice mixture. I notice quite often these days that many recipes follow what I like to call The Ottolenghi Path:  they call for the addition of many spices and herbs to a dish, often in unexpected combinations. That is not necessarily a bad thing, he is for sure a gastronomic genius, but there is also something to be said about a simply roasted veggie, with a smidgen of olive oil, salt, pepper, and perhaps a single added spice. Of course, cookbooks, magazines, cooking shows, they all need to come up with clever, exotic ways to make food, otherwise, why would we bother paying attention to them, right?  Anyway, in this particular recipe I felt that the addition of the sautéed spices plus the lemon juice messed up slightly the texture of the roasted cauliflower, and also overpowered its flavor a bit. Granted, it made the dish feel more festive. But, if you are in the mood for a classic approach, omit it all, roast it, and serve it as it is. You won’t be disappointed. I will be steam-roasting cauliflower again and again, either in its natural state, or using this recipe with the following modifications: cut the ginger by half, keep the turmeric and coriander, add some lemon zest, and omit the lemon juice and cayenne. That might be a real winner for me.

steam-roasted-cauliflower-from-bewitching-kitchen

 

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A NEW WAY TO ROAST VEGGIES

Fine Cooking is my favorite cooking magazine. I do like Saveur, but for some odd reason never cook anything from it, I like Food and Wine a lot, and have mixed feelings about Bon Appetit. In some ways, I think the magazine is going a bit heavy on the trendy, fashionable, hip. Maybe hip is a dated term already, but you catch my drift. Fine Cooking focuses on recipes, good cooking, tips and advice that help not only the novice cook, but those who feel comfortable around the kitchen. My success rate with Fine Cooking recipes is pretty close to 100%, so what’s not to like, right? The latest issue had a nice article on “A New Way to Roast Vegetables” and it’s at the same time simple and clever. They offer many examples of veggie combinations, but the basic idea is that whatever veggie you intend to roast, first you place it in the oven covered with aluminum foil, that will essentially steam the veggie and partially cook it. Next, you remove the cover foil and proceed with the roasting.  To make clean up even easier,  it is a good idea to line the baking sheet with aluminum foil too, so that during roasting whatever could stick to the pan will stick to the foil instead. Of course, you could steam the veggies in a regular pan first, or even pre-cook them in a microwave, but the simplicity of this method won me over.  I did not follow their recipe for carrots, but if you own the magazine take a look at it. They use smallish carrots with the tops still on, and serve them as the appetizer course with a yogurt-spice sauce drizzled all over. I opted for a more austere version, pairing carrots with paprika, not much else.

roasted-carrots

STEAM-ROASTED CARROTS WITH PAPRIKA
(inspired by Fine Cooking)

5 large carrots, cut any way you like
drizzle of olive oil to coat them
1/4 teaspoon paprika
salt and black pepper to taste

Heat the over to 440 F.

Place the cut carrots in a large bowl, drizzle with the olive oil, and sprinkle spices all over.

Mix well to coat.

Line a baking dish with aluminum foil to allow for easier cleaning later. Make sure to use a rimmed baking sheet, not a baking utensil with tall sides, that will prevent proper browning.  Arrange the carrots on a single layer, cover the baking sheet with a second sheet of aluminum foil, and place in the oven for 15 minutes.

Carefully remove the top aluminum foil (use tongs), and leave it in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes more, moving the pieces around after 10 minutes.  Serve right away.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

roasting

Comments: We absolutely loved the texture of these carrots. I normally find that roasted carrots need to be cut pretty small to allow for homogeneous cooking at high temperature, and even doing that I end up with some pieces that are too hard, some too soft.  This method delivers on all counts, texture and flavor. Of course, you can use all sorts of spices, maybe a bit of maple syrup or Sriracha together with the olive oil (I’ll be trying that combo soon),  and serve the carrots with a yogurt-based sauce, with tahini, lemon, whatever you crave at the moment.   As I mentioned, I opted for a very basic version, which is a real test for the method, no distractions. Cauliflower, potatoes, eggplant, turnips, they can all be roasted this way, for the most part all veggies have enough moisture to steam while covered.

roasted-carrots-with-paprika

 

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PICKLED RED ONIONS

Those who follow my blog might notice that onions rarely appear in our recipes. But here I am to give them full attention in a simple but delicious preparation I saw over at Kelly’s Inspired Edibles. For unknown reasons, in the past few years I’ve developed a huge passion for pickled stuff. I’ve always enjoyed olives and capers, but now every time I see a recipe calling for pickled anything, I start anticipating that sharp bite on the back of the tongue that only the right amount of acid will cause.  Perhaps I developed a “pickled tooth?”  I do take liberties with the English language, but maybe that’s a bit much. At any rate, I loved the fuchsia color of the onions and the pickling liquid, and with each passing day it only got better. I enjoyed the full batch, from first to last slice, since Phil and onions do not get along well.  This recipe is ready in minutes, I hope you’ll give it a try.

Pickled Red Onions

PICKLED RED ONIONS
(from Inspired Edibles)

1 medium red onion, peeled quartered and sliced thin
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
8 or so peppercorns
a few sprigs of fresh thyme

Bring a kettle of water to boil. Place sliced onions in a colander or mesh sieve and hold over sink. Carefully pour boiling water over the onions to soften them, allowing the water to drain through. Set aside.

Whisk together the vinegar, sugar and salt in a clean pint size mason jar until sugar and salt are fully dissolved. Layer in the warm soft onions, thyme sprigs and peppercorns, making sure everything is submerged in the vinegar mixture. The jar will be quite full, you might have leftover onions, just save them for another purpose.

Place lid and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using. Leftover pickled onions will store for 10 days or so in the fridge.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Served

Comments: These onions go well on many types of food.  My favorite was spooned over ground chicken with Tex-Mex spices served with a corn tortilla, but I had it on salad greens, with grilled salmon, and… just to make sure Kelly was onto something, I munched on pieces standing in front of the fridge, fork in hand, smile on face. Yeap, she is right. It will curl your toes in every direction.. and that’s a good thing!  The pickling liquid is fantastic as the base of a vinaigrette, and I even enjoyed a little drizzle over avocado slices. Once again, this recipe proves that simplicity can be very good. I know there is a time and place for dressings that mix 17 spices, half of them roasted, juice of preserved lemons emulsified with first pressed pistachio oil, but… when you have something that awes your palate with only a few ingredients… it’s a gold mine. Make this, marvel at the color, the taste, and stop by Kelly’s site to say merci beaucoups!

Pickled Red Onions, from Bewitching Kitchen

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RUTABAGAS ANNA

Talk about life not being fair. This poor veggie falls quite short on looks, no way to sugar coat that pill. But to add insult to injury, someone decided to name it rutabaga. I mean, c’mon!  “Go to sleep now, or the rutabaga will come and get you!” No wonder most people don’t even look at them at the grocery store. My friend Denise tells me that in England they are called swedes, a much more poetic name. I was intrigued, so a quick stroll through Wikipedia-Land brought the light at the end of the tunnel: the name has its roots in old Swedish. Rotabagge from rot (root) + bagge (short, stumpy object). so swede would be a natural choice to name these ugly ducklings.  Call it swede, rutabaga, white turnip, or snadger (yeah, that too), this recipe is absolute perfection.  I still cannot believe that two ingredients (sliced swedes and butter) plus a little seasoning could result in such a perfect side-dish. Pretty easy on the eyes too. So, get over their funky looks and unfortunate name. Bring them home, get slicing and cooking… Did I mention it is reasonably low-carb?

Rutabagas Anna1a
RUTABAGAS ANNA
(slightly modified from Ketogasm)

2 small rutabagas, thinly sliced
½ stick of butter
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Slice rutabaga thinly using a mandolin or knife. Reserve the sliced rutabaga in a bowl. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add thyme to melted butter and let it gently simmer for a couple of minutes.
.
Pour the melted butter herb mixture over the sliced rutabaga. Ensure the slices are evenly coated by rubbing them all with the butter using your hands. Gloves work wonders here…

Arrange and layer the rutabaga slices, dividing among the muffin tins, larger slices at the bottom, overlapping smaller slices on top.   Drizzle any remaining butter over your rutabaga little towers. Cover the muffin tin with foil.

Bake for 35 minutes. Remove foil. Continue baking uncovered for an additional 25-30 minutes, or until the edges are golden and crispy.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

rutabagacomposite
Comments: I found this recipe over at Ketogasm, a blog that is new to me. Being a huge fan of Potatoes Anna, but rarely indulging in it, I thought that this version with a lower-carb root veggie could be worth trying. We both loved it. The rutabaga gets very creamy, with the crusty edges offering a nice contrast, very similar to the authentic Anna. I don’t usually like to mess with classics, but there’s really nothing  bad to say about this version.  My only recommendation is to add more slices to the muffin tin than you think you’ll need. The little towers collapse a lot during baking.  Next time I’ll start with three rutabagas and make 6 individual portions. We love our leftovers, and I am not finicky about warming up in the microwave for my lunch next day.  If you’d like to serve these for company, do the first step of baking, covered, and reserve. Twenty minutes before serving, finish them uncovered.  They keep warm for quite some time.  You can add different spices, perhaps. Smoked paprika sounds great, maybe a little cumin for a Southwest flair. Great side dish, satisfying without being too heavy.

Note to self:  Try alternating slices of rutabaga and sweet potatoes,
I bet it could look and taste wonderful too!

 

Rutabagas Anna, from Bewitching Kitchen

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ZUCCHINI NOODLES WITH SUNDRIED TOMATO PESTO

One of the best acquisitions for our kitchen was the spiralizer. It is the type of gadget that requires a little bit of getting used to. When I first got it, the idea of dragging it out of the cabinet, setting it on the countertop, and getting my technique right so that the strands would be uniformly gorgeous… seemed a bit much. But trust me, the more you use it, the better you’ll be and the more you’ll fall in love with it. Now I don’t even blink, grab it, and try it on all sorts of veggies, broccoli stalks being the most recent. Stay tuned for that one… Should I call them “broodles?” Yeah, broodles. Mind. Blown. But anyway, zucchini is probably the number one veggie that everyone uses. They have the perfect shape and give super long and beautiful strands. Plus, they marry well with so many sauces: Oriental style like soy with peanuts plus a little fish sauce to hip-it-up, tomato based sauces, cashew cream, real cream, pesto, browned butter… Today I am sharing a recipe from a favorite food blog of mine. I’ve cooked many dishes from  The Iron You. Mike raved about the combination of sun-dried tomato pesto and zoodles. He is one smart cookie. It is superb! You must try it.

ZoodlesSundried11

ZUCCHINI NOODLES WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATO PESTO
(adapted from The Iron You)

for the sun-dried tomato pesto:
½ cup  oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
⅓ cup roasted almonds
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
small bunch of fresh basil leaves
salt to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil

for the noodles:
6 medium-large zucchini

In a food processor (or blender) add roasted almonds and basil and pulse until roughly chopped. Add sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, and Pecorino Romano cheese and process until a uniform paste has formed. Season with a little salt. With the food processor (or blender) running, stream in the olive oil and continue blending until the olive oil is emulsified into the pesto and the sauce looks uniform. Pesto can be stored in the refrigerator with a thin film of olive oil on top.

Using a spiralizer create zucchini noodles using your favorite blade, thin or thick, whatever you prefer.

Boil the zoodles in salted boiling water for 2 minutes, drain and mix with the pesto sauce while still very hot.  Sprinkle with additional Parmigiano cheese before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

comp1


Comments:
Talk about a tasty pesto!  The texture of mine was not as smooth as the one Mike made, at least from the photos, but I don’t think that matters that much. If you prefer a smoother texture, process further and maybe add a little more olive oil.  I used roasted unsalted almonds, so I adjusted the seasoning with salt. Mike used salted almonds and he also used garlic, which I am sure most of my readers will enjoy too.  I fully agree that it was a match made in heaven with the zoodles.  We enjoyed it as a side dish with grilled pork tenderloin, but of course you could make it into a fully vegetarian meal if you add a few more goodies on the plate, like roasted asparagus, a big salad, or a crostini with a smear of goat cheese run under the broiler. Yeah, that sounds about right!

served11

Dinner is served!

 

Zoodles with Sundried Tomato Pesto

 

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