spicy calabrian cauliflower carbonara

A while back (a long, long while…) I was paying a visit to California wine country.  I was exploring the town of Yountville one afternoon, and wandered into a NapaStyle store. Right there in the middle of the place was Michael Chiarello himself, working the room like the smooth guy he is. He was wearing an immaculate lavender-colored oxford shirt, slim Italian-tailored trousers and his megawatt Food Network smile.

Feeling a tiny bit starstruck, I went over to say hello. I don’t remember what we chatted about, but I do remember him handing me a jar of hot chili pepper sauce, telling me it was from his family’s hometown in Calabria and that I couldn’t leave the store without it. Okay! He didn’t have to work that sales angle too hard.  [Read more…]

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. 1 head cauliflower, separated into bite-sized florets
  2. ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  3. Salt
  4. 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  5. 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  6. 1 small sweet onion, like Maui or red onion; finely sliced
  7. 2 – 3 tablespoons harissa
  8. ½ bunch each Italian parsley and cilantro
  9. ½ a lemon
  10. 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/

Cauliflower Mascarpone Gratin

Cauliflower Mascarpone Tart

Are you the type of Thanksgiving cook (and/or eater) who expects to sit down to the same lineup of food from year to year or do you like to get a little bit crazy and try something completely new every time?

I’ve learned that there are definitely two distinct – and very personal – approaches to getting the holiday menu together. I recognize one, the tried-and-trues, as the keepers of family traditions; rational, organized, intelligent souls who keep things simple (doable) and predictable (foolproof).  Which makes a lot of sense. How else to organize 10, 20 or more people around a dining table and keep the peace?

I count myself in the other, open-to-experiment camp. While I’ve never ditched the turkey altogether and made fish instead (as Debra did to much disappointment in one episode of Everybody Loves Raymond) I like to play with vegetables and entertain ideas on how to handle the turkey (shall we bone it, brine it, spice it, tie it up and smoke it?).

I’ll be sharing a few of my ideas for vegetable side dishes over the next week, nothing too wild and crazy. But maybe something to mix up the usual suspects.

In the meantime, leave me a note and share your family favorites, old or new.

Cauliflower Mascarpone Gratin

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  1. 1 head cauliflower, separated into florets
  2. 1 tablespoon softened butter
  3. 1 8-ounce container Wisconsin Mascarpone cheese
  4. 3/4 cup heavy cream
  5. ½ cup Wisconsin grated Parmesan cheese
  6. ¼ cup chopped fresh sage
  7. 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  8. ½ teaspoon salt
  9. Freshly grated black pepper

Instructions

  1. Blanch the cauliflower in a pot of boiling salted water 5 minutes; drain.
  2. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 7 x 11 gratin dish with butter; arrange cauliflower in dish.
  3. Stir together Mascarpone, cream, ¼ cup Parmesan,sage, garlic, salt and black pepper to taste until smooth; pour over cauliflower. Sprinkle top with remaining Parmesan.
  4. Bake 30 minutes, or until top is browned and sauce is bubbling. Rest 15 minutes, loosely covered, before serving.
http://familystylefood.com/2012/11/cauliflower-mascarpone-gratin/