roasted cauliflower, chickpeas and harissa

roasted-cauliflower-chickpeas-with-harissa

I was browsing through Vegetable Love, a huge and wonderful cookbook by legendary food writer Barbara Kafka. The recipes are not strictly vegetarian or vegan, but it contains a bounty of ideas, methods and nutritional info for just about any vegetable you can think of. I especially like the A – Z glossary at the back of the book.

Which is what I was reading when I came across the section on cooking methods for Cauliflower, where Barbara lists the many ways it can be prepared; steamed, stir-fried, boiled, fried, and last but not least…microwaved. And then she writes: “cauliflower...is not good roasted”.

cauliflower-photo

Are you freaking kidding me?! I couldn’t disagree more. Cauliflower is delicious roasted. In fact, it might be my favorite way to eat it. But to give Ms. Kafka the benefit of the doubt, I’m sure she’s expressing her fine-tuned personal taste.

My personal taste includes a pretty intense addiction to the spicy Tunisian chili paste harissa. I could – and do – put harissa on everything at any time of day, from eggs to leftovers I eat for lunch. It’s my global ketchup.

tunisian-harissa-paste

You can find harissa in many well-stocked supermarkets. But if you really want to find harissa nirvana, I recommend the one made by Moulin Mahjoub. I don’t know what it is, but to my palate it has just the right amount of smoky, sweet-heat and savory deliciousness.

You can get it at Amazon if you’re not near a specialty food store, which is where I often buy it. I’ve even seen it at Williams-Sonoma a while back.

If you love cauliflower or better yet, if you find yourself on the vegetable fence, try spicing it up and roasting as I do in this slightly Moroccan-inspired recipe.

roasted-cauliflower-chickpeas-with-harissa

roasted cauliflower, chickpeas and harissa

Serving Size: serves 4 - 6

The cauliflower makes a simple salad meal served warm over wilted spinach.

Ingredients

1 head cauliflower, separated into bite-sized florets

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained

1 small sweet onion, like Maui or red onion; finely sliced

2 – 3 tablespoons harissa

½ bunch each Italian parsley and cilantro

½ a lemon

1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Spread the cauliflower out on a large rimmed baking sheet. Add 3 tablespoons of the oil, ½ teaspoon salt and the cumin seeds. Roast 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender and golden. Add the chickpeas and roast an additional 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon oil in an 8 – 10-inch sauté pan. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cover the pan and cook over medium-low heat until the onions are very soft. Stir in the harissa along with 1 tablespoon water.
  4. Pick the leaves off the parsely and cilantro and tear into rough pieces; throw them over the chickpeas. Squeeze the lemon over and toss together with the onion mixture.
  5. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the feta.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/01/roasted-cauliflower-chickpeas-and-harissa/

escarole lentil salad with sweet potatoes

Lentil-escarole-salad-with-roasted-sweet-potatoes

I’m on a roll with my Italian bitter greens, looks like. I grabbed a bunch of escarole yesterday while I was grocery shopping, bypassing the baby spinach-arugula-mixed lettuce I’ve gotten into the habit of buying.

Do you remember the time before prewashed salad came in plastic boxes? It seems like a lonnnnng time ago when I used to buy fresh, whole heads of lettuce, wash and dry them in my salad spinner. I know! The labor! The convenience of those containers of greens has made me lazy, I regret.

There’s a lot to be said for choosing whole heads of salad greens. For one, there are certain varieties that don’t come packaged in a little box – like Little Gem, which is like a small, tender version of Romaine. And speaking of Romaine, whenever I buy a head of it to make homemade Caesar salad instead of those bags of pale, wilted hearts, I appreciate how great Romaine is: leafy, crunchy and sweet.

escarole

But back to the subject – I didn’t mean to go off on a salad tangent. Actually, when I was growing up escarole rarely appeared raw in a salad. Rather it was the star – along with tiny meatballs – in a delicious soup my mom would make for holidays or what came before the main course at family weddings. I’m going to have to scout out that recipe…

Escarole was made for a hearty, wintery salad like this one. I cooked tiny black lentils and mixed them with some leftover roasted sweet potatoes. The contrast of colors in the bowl perked up the gray day outside, in a big way.

lentil-salad-with-escarole-and-sweet-potato

escarole lentil salad with sweet potatoes

Serving Size: serves 4

Any size or color lentils will be great in this salad, However, I like tiny green French or black lentils because they keep their shape after cooking

Ingredients

1 cup lentils – any size or color

Salt

1 shallot, finely chopped

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons wine or sherry vinegar

Fresh ground black pepper

1 small bunch escarole, outer leaves removed

1 cup diced, roasted sweet potatoes *

Instructions

  1. Cook the lentils with 2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan of boiling water about 25 minutes, or until tender.
  2. Drain the lentils and mix in a bowl with the shallot, olive oil, vinegar and a few grinds of black pepper.
  3. Trim off the stem of the escarole and slice into bite-sized pieces; add to the lentils along with the sweet potatoes and toss together.

Notes

*To roast sweet potatoes, cut into wedges or chunks (no need to peel) and toss on a baking sheet with a few tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a preheated 425 degree oven about 20 minutes, until tender and lightly brown.

http://familystylefood.com/2013/01/escarole-lentil-salad-with-sweet-potatoes/

red chili rapini aglio e olio

red chili rapini aglio e olio

Green Superfoods – especially kale – have been “trending” for a while. Now, it seems like there’s a kale salad on the menu of every restaurant I’ve visited over the past six months. I couldn’t be happier. I LOVE me a plate of Tuscan kale, raw or cooked.

But I’m thinking that maybe kale is the gateway green to other dark and mysterious vegetables…….like rapini.

I’ve been familiar with rapini (also called broccoli raab or rabe) since I was a kid, when I knew it as “robbie”. My grandmother would occasionally put a bowl of slow-cooked robbie on the Sunday table. I’m pretty sure I was seriously afraid of it back then. After the long braising, the greens would go very limp and turn dusky, blackish-green, the same texture and color of the seaweed that got tangled in my feet at the beach. Not very appealing to a little girl who was just looking forward to a plate of macaroni and a meatball.

red chili rapini brushetta

In parts of New England and especially in Rhode Island where I grew up, broccoli rabe is still very familiar. It’s on the menu of mom-and-pop Italian delis, generously piled in grinder sandwiches with or without grilled sausage and provolone cheese.

Rapini is classified as a brassica, the same family as cabbage and broccoli, but it’s more closely related to turnip greens than it is to broccoli. When I’m shopping, I look for leaves that are uniformly dark green, with lots of tight little flower buds. Sometimes I find a bunch of rapini with its buds about to open to yellow flowers; a sign that it’s over the hill. I pass it by.

The lower stems can be tough and fibrous; I trim off about a third of the bunch, keeping the thin upper leafy stems and buds. Rapini has a slightly bitter bite, tempered by briefly blanching it in boiling salty water, which also preserves its beautiful emerald green color. I say briefly because unlike the way my mama made it, rapini doesn’t take very long to cook at all.

rapini

After blanching, I like to toss the greens with chili, garlic and olive oil (aglio e olio); they are delicious tossed with pasta, over creamy, cheesy polenta or piled on crusty toasted bread as a bruschetta.

red chili rapini agio e olio polenta and bruschetta

I enjoyed reading my friend Susan from Food Blogga’s post about broccoli rabe – we come from the same neck of RI.

Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for pasta with garlickly broccoli rabe makes me hungry, too.

Red chili rapini with olive oil and garlic

Serving Size: serves 4 - 6

Serve the rapini as a side dish, over creamy polenta, or as a bruschetta on toasted, crusty bread.

Ingredients

1 bunch rapini (broccoli rabe)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 fresh red chili pepper, thinly sliced

Pinch dried red chile flakes

Fresh ground black pepper

Grated fresh Pecorino Romano cheese

Instructions

  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil with 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  2. Trim off the lower, thick stems of the rapini; cut the remaining green leafy tops and buds into smaller pieces, drop into the boiling water and blanch 30 seconds. Drain and gently squeeze out any excess water.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, fresh and dried chili and cook for a minute or so, until sizzling and fragrant (but don't brown the garlic).
  4. Add the rapini to the pan and toss to coat with the garlicky oil. Remove from heat and season with salt and black pepper. Sprinkle with the pecorino.
  5. Serve as a topping for polenta, pasta, or bruschetta.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/01/red-chili-rapini-aglio-e-olio/