Cauliflower Spread

Wow, over a month since any of us have posted! That must mean we’re all very busy!

We’ve been entertaining a bunch, working on finishing a semester and two upcoming exhibits, and working a ton on the house–painting, gardening, cleaning up the winter debris. Unfortunately, that has also meant ignoring blogging.

I cooked this cauliflower spread the other night before a dinner party with friends on our back patio (pictured above a few weeks ago before everything started blooming…). It continues my obsession with vegetable-based spreads for crackers and bread. It would be good with Indian flavors or Middle Eastern flavors too–next time I try it, I think I’ll add some curry powder or Dukkah, but this simple version was great too with herbs from our herb garden. Hope Spring is treating everyone well!

Cauliflower

 

Cauliflower Spread with Crostini

adapted from Cauliflower Spread, Better Homes and Gardens

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2-3 oz. goat cheese (or substitute feta)
  • 1 tsp. fresh oregano, minced
  • 1 tsp. fresh chive, minced
  • 1/4 C. or more olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 baguette, toasted, or crackers

Steam the cauliflower until very tender in the microwave or on the stovetop. Add cauliflower and all other ingredients except for olive oil to food processor. Drizzle in the olive oil till desired consistency is achieved, and process till very smooth. Taste for salt and pepper. Garnish with extra olive oil and snipped oregano. Serve with toasted baguette or with Wasa or water crackers.

 

¡¡Picante!!

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Hi all! I’ve been doing a lot of finger foods lately: sauces to dip things in, sambusek, mezze, etc. Something about this time of year maybe? Or just that I’ve been working lots of nights which tends to leave me a little queasy and not that hungry for more than little snacks at a time – unless its something REALLY delicious. I came across this recipe on Tasting Table, an e-mail I get regularly that has among other things, recipes from sous-chefs at renowned restaurants across the country. This one really caught my eye – its not something I’d ever really thought of making, but it seemed so simple and oh, that creamy orange color just looked so delicious! I made a few small adjustments, but for the most part I must thank Jose Enrique from San Juan, Puerto Rico for this one. You can of course adjust the heat by adding or subtracting Habaneros. I did it just like is written below and it was spicy after a few seconds, then faded out slowly without ever making you break a sweat. (So next time I think I’ll add more hot peppers.) Goes well with eggs, beans, sandwiches, tacos of all kinds, and just for dipping toasted bits of baguette. Enjoy!

Ingredients (makes ~2-3 cups)

  • 1/2 large yellow onion cut into chunks
  • 1 medium-sized vine tomato, cored and diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper diced
  • 1/2 Anaheim pepper (or substitute another sweet pepper) diced
  • 3 Habaneros – cut off the stem but otherwise leave whole (with seeds)
  • 4 Jalapenos – cut off the stem but otherwise leave whole as well
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
  • ~2.5 cups EVOO – enough to just cover the ingredients
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

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  • Throw everything into a heavy-bottomed Le Creuset-type pot on medium heat
  • Simmer uncovered for 4 hours – there should be small bubbles coming up occasionally, but it should not get to a rolling boil. Everything should begin to brown on the surface as you get towards 4 hours.
  • Let cool.
  • Get the veggies out with a strainer, reserving the oil in the pot. Put the veggies in a food processor. If you have a Vitamix, that would probably yield ideal smoothness. If you have an immersion blender that is not totally dull and useless at this point as mine is, that would work too!

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  • Blend the veggies until smooth. Depending on what consistency you want, add more oil. I ended up adding back probably a half cup or so of what had been strained out. You can also take out a Habanero or two before you puree, see how hot the sauce is, and add the reserved ones back to adjust.
  • Add salt to taste.
  • Keep the cooking oil! It has lots of flavor and is nice and spicy.

This will be a fun one to play around with in the future with proportions and other ingredients! If anyone makes it, post your adjustments and let us know how it turns out!

Flourless Chocolate-Almond Cake

Thanks Cat for keeping the blog alive and as I end my month of fun-employment, I wanted to at least have one-post!  Having just returned from an amazing yoga/cooking retreat in Southern Spain (highly recommend it for anyone interested!), I am eager to try out all of the gourmet vegetarian recipes that I learned.  I especially loved learning about quick, easy techniques that elevate your plates into something from a fine-dining establishment.   For example, using small metal round disks for plating/making parmesan crackers to adorn your dishes.  I also discovered the beauty of an ice cream machine.  We made delicious home-made vanilla ice cream, but also more exciting savory mustard ice-cream for an appetizer paired with red cabbage to a light rose-water sorbet.  I am inspired.  I only wish that the three of you could have been with me!   It was so fun to cook with others, but definitely made me miss you all.

As my last hurrah before plunging back into work, I am going away on a girls weekend.  It’s almost become a tradition for me to bake something whenever I leave since a) I like leaving a little love behind; b) I don’t particularly like baking; and c) I don’t like sweets/cakes so it’s an added treat for K when I am away.  Consequently, this week before my trip, I decided to try to re-create one of the dishes we had at the retreat, which was a flourless, almond (or hazelnut), chocolate cake.

Ingredients 

- 200g dark bitter chocolate

- 1 tbsp of strong coffee

- 1 tbsp of rum, brandy, cognac

- 1/3 cup of sugar

- 150 g butter

- 3/4 cup of almond meal

- 5 eggs separated (make sure you don’t get any yolk in the whites)

Directions

- Melt chocolate, coffee, alcohol, sugar and butter on low heat in a sauce pan until everything is mixed; remove from heat, transfer to large mixing bowl and make sure that it is cooled enough for eggs not to cook, but not so cooled it starts to harden.

- Add in almond meal

- Beat egg yolks then add to the chocolate mixture

- Beat egg whites until it becomes stiff with an electric mixer

- Fold into the chocolate mixture

- Put it into a cake pan at 180 degrees Celsius for 40-50 min or until the cake stops wobbling

- Consume with chocolate gancahe, frosting, ice cream or plain since it’s quite rich

YUM.

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Cake with home-made ice cream and sugar adornment from the retreat

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Photo of the retreat courtesy of a fellow yogi/cook from the week

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Almond blossoms in full bloom!

Swiss Chard and Chickpeas with Beet-Yogurt Salad

Snow

Wow, it has been too long since our last post!

Last night, as we settled in at home with a snow storm blanketing our area, I wanted to make something healthy but hearty. I had a few roasted beets in the fridge that I’d thrown in the oven the night before and so I figured I’d make something with them. Inspired by some recent Russian cooking, I wanted to make a beet salad and put it on top of grains, but I also wanted some protein, so I improvised this chard and chickpea stew to go with it. I only had a bit of Israeli couscous and a bit of bulgar, so I mixed them together in this recipe to stretch them. You don’t need to go to extra trouble to make both unless you want to, but the bulgar adds a nice texture to the softer Israeli couscous.

This was pretty great–I wish I’d had some fresh herbs to stir in it, but hey, it’s February, and it was also pretty good without.

Miss you ladies–enjoy the snow! I think at this point it has hit the West coast, the South, and now is headed up to New England, so we’ll all get some snow (except Aya)!

Beet Yogurt Salad

Swiss Chard and Chickpeas with Beet-Yogurt Salad

  • 1 C. coarse bulgar wheat
  • 1 C. Israeli couscous
  • water
  • 2 Tb. olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/8 tsp. caraway seed
  • 1 bunch swiss chard
  • 1 can rinsed and drained chickpeas
  • 2 beets, roasted or microwaved till tender
  • 1/2 C. Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 lemons + 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Add 1 Tb. olive oil to saucepan and saute raw Israeli couscous till light brown. Add 1 1/2 C. water and a pinch of salt and cook over low for about 15 minutes, or till water is absorbed. In the meantime, cover the bulgar slightly with water and a pinch of salt in a covered microwaveable dish and microwave for 5 minutes. Let both grains sit and steam in their pans when done.

Saute the onion in remaining 1 Tb. olive oil till soft and brown. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute. Add the swiss chard and caraway seed. When the chard is just beginning to wilt, add the chickpeas and salt and pepper to taste and saute over medium heat.

While the greens are cooking, peel and dice the beats. Add the yogurt, 1 tsp. lemon zest, and juice of 1 lemon. Season with salt and pepper to taste and place.

Finish the greens off with juice of 1/2 a lemon and taste for seasoning. Toss the bulgar and couscous together lightly with a fork. Serve the greens and chickpeas atop the grains and top with a bit of beet salad.

Bourbon Milk Punch

Okay, seriously you guys, this one is just in time for the holidays. This is a drink we whipped up for our recent holiday cocktail party that I can’t recommend more: a Southern (and much lighter) answer to eggnog.

There’s something about the overly rich, thick taste of eggnog, combined with bad memories of artificially flavored grocery store eggnog that is a turn-off to me. But this is wonderful–ice cold, pleasantly nutmeggy, and nicely festive. And it has bourbon, which as a KY girl, if I’m going to drink hard liquor, is only right. Many recipes called for the addition of half-and-half or even cream, but I really do prefer (and recommend) it with just whole milk.

We threw ours in the freezer the night before the party and left it out for a half-hour before serving, flaking it with a fork to add it to our punch bowl. It’s wonderful served in julep cups, but since not everyone has a ready supply of those sitting around, you can also simply serve it over ice in plastic cups :)

Enjoy, and Happy Holidays to everyone!

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Bourbon Milk Punch

  • 5 C. whole organic milk
  • 1.5 C. bourbon (not your best, but not the worst either)
  • 1 C. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • a very generous fresh grating of nutmeg

Whisk all ingredients together until combined. Throw it in the freezer till slushy or frozen through and serve in julep cups. Alternatively, serve over crushed ice or whole ice with an extra garnish of grated nutmeg.

Cheese Platter

Okay, continuing on the Holiday Cocktail Party menu train, here’s another recommendation. This is certainly not a recipe, but a great set of tips for making a nice cheese platter:

via Cupcakes & Cashmere

via Cupcakes & Cashmere

I didn’t completely follow the lead on this, as we didn’t have a hard cheese, but it’s still helpful. We stuck with Trader Joe’s water crackers, some dried cranberries for the “sweet” and some hazelnuts for the “crunchy.” We had a separate saucisson plate with mustard and olives, so we didn’t do any meat or savory on the platter either.

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For cheeses we went with a triple creme brie (soft); a chevre (soft) drizzled with honey, thyme, and olive oil; a Syrah soaked Toscano (semi-hard);  a marinated feta (throw some pepper flakes, fresh herbs, and olive oil on a block of sliced feta); and a blue (semi-soft), all from Trader Joe’s. Though typically I find cheese boards to be budget busters, with Trader Joe’s prices, it was relatively inexpensive (around $18) for all of those cheeses, and of course, couldn’t be easier or quicker to put together. Bon appetit!

Mexican Lime-Pepper Soup by Guest poster Chris

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Inspired by Cat’s flurry of posts, I took the opportunity to document our humble domestic meal tonight. In rainy, low-ceiling, grey Seattle, this meal comes as a real tonic. The best thing about this meal is that it is a total bonus thrown together from leftovers from—eeck—a week ago!

We had had some friends over a week ago for a belated Channukah party, which was totally rad and super fun, but nothing on the scale of Cat and Gary’s soiree (WHOA—wish we had attended—looks amazing!). We served some roasted chickens, which are always wonderful to eat, but what I savor most is gleaning the scraps left on the bird, setting them aside, and making stock. From the stock and left-over shredded chicken, we got a nice enchilada party with our buddies Pete and Jenell, who at the same dinner inaugurated their first Settlers of Catan match. Then tonight this meal happened, and was worthy of a post…

Again, this meal is just killer when it’s cold out, or your feeling under the weather (too much holiday cheer, etc.). Here’s more or less the ingredient list:

Two fistfuls of shredded chicken per person

A bowl or two of stock per person (homemade obviously worlds better than store-bought)

An onion or shallots or something, chopped

Some garlic, minced

Oregano (we had fresh on-hand), chopped

Cilantro (fresh—is there any other kind?), chopped

2-4 corn tortillas per person, cut into thin strips

Fresh cracked pepper, more than you think is rational

Expensive and rare colored salts, to taste

2 limes per person, or more than you think is rational

Grated extra sharp cheddar (Tilamook was on hand)

Optional is cotija cheese (We had it, so threw it in, why not)

Olive oil for sauteeing

Canola oil for frying (1-2 cups)

Recipe

  1. Take shredded chicken and fry it in hot olive oil in a pot that you will make the soup in, tossing the onions and garlic on top, medium-high to high. The goal here is to take cooked chicken and brown it in the pan. The nice auburn crust on the chicken is great for looks, but the brown bits that develop in the pan are important for flavor, and when you see this develop after 5 or so minuted, throw some water in, a cup or two, and deglaze the pan by scrapping the brown bits off on high.
  2. Throw a bunch of stock in and simmer with oregano and a Bill and Melinda Gates generous amount of black pepper.
  3. Meanwhile, heat canola oil, maybe a cup, in a smallish sauce pan until the surface dimples with heat. Throw a test tortilla strip in—if it floats immedately your temp is good. Smoking is bad, here as elsewhere. Throw the tortilla strips in, a handful at a time, and have a slotted spoon or a spider on hand. Fry until blond or golden brown, set on paper towel to cool.

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  1. It’s best to have the cilantro chopped, the cheese grated, and the limes cut into Mexican wedges ahead of time, so that when your tortillas strips are ready to go you throw the whole thing together in the bowl—the tortilla strips will crackle, still being hot with micropockets of roiling oil.
  2. Put strips in bowl, ladle chicken and chicken broth on top, throw some cilatro, sharp cheddar, and cotija on top like Emeril—BAM!Ô —and squeeze the lime on top.
  3. Enjoy with loved ones. Listen to Frank Ocean’s song Pink Matter on Rdio.

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Smoked Salmon with Green Onion Cream Cheese

Continuing on with recipes for the Holiday Cocktail Party… This app couldn’t be easier–it’s almost embarrassing to post, but here goes nothing!

Table2

 Smoked Salmon with Green Onion Cream Cheese

  • 1 large smoked salmon (Trader Joe’s has one for $17 or so)
  • 1 package cream cheese
  • 1/2 bunch of green onions
  • black pepper
  • 1 Tb. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest

Place the salmon on a platter and garnish with some lemon slices. Whizz the cream cheese with green onions, cracked pepper, lemon juice, and zest until blended. Chill cream cheese before serving with salmon and crackers.

Bourbon Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Mango-Ginger Chutney and Yeast Rolls

Continuing with the Holiday Cocktail Party menu, here’s an easy one. This pork tenderloin is great as a heavy hors d’oeuvres or as a main, and it’s super easy–I hate cooking meat, because I don’t know what I’m doing, but this is impossible to screw up if you have a meat thermometer. I scaled this up for about 50, but you can scale down easily.

Add some Trader Joe’s chutney and some yeast rolls, and you’re set!

Bourbon Pork Tenderloin

Bourbon Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Mango-Ginger Chutney and Yeast Rolls

  • 3 packages of pork tenderloins (2.5 lbs. each) for a total of 7-8 lbs. meat
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or put through press
  • pepper
  • 1 C. bourbon
  • 1/2 C. soy sauce
  • 2 Tb. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 C. olive oil
  • Trader Joe’s Mango-Ginger Chutney (or substitute any other chutney you like)
  • 1 package of 36 frozen rolls (I used Kroger brand–see here for example–baking these myself was much cheaper than buying lots of pre-cooked store rolls, but you could also go that route)
  • 2 Tb. butter

There is no science to the marinade, so go with your gut on it. Separate the pork tenderloins and put 3 tenderloins in each of 2 plastic gallon bags (you’ll have 6 tenderloins total). Whisk together the bourbon, soy, mustard, and olive oil and pour half into each bag. Marinate the meat overnight.

Generously butter several baking pans or pie pans and place individual pieces of frozen roll dough into them (space about 1″ apart). Let the rolls rise for 3-6 hours in a warm corner or in a warm but unheated oven.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line roasting pans or baking sheets with foil and place the tenderloins on them. Cook at 400 until the pork reaches 145 degrees and then tent it with foil (ours took about 20 minutes, but yours could be more or less). Turn down the oven to 350 degrees for the rolls. Let the meat rest at least 10 minutes before carving (preferably more).

While the meat is resting, melt the butter and brush the rolls with it. Bake the rolls at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes till golden brown.

Serve meat with juices warm or at room temp with the chutney and the rolls on a platter garnished with arugula or other greens.

Holiday Cocktail Party for (almost) 50

New Year's Tree

Last night we were excited to host our first big party at our house, and I promised Sara that I’d share the menu. It’s the first time I’ve hosted that many people (almost 50), and I have to say, we had a blast.

Artful arrangementWe spent a few nights slowly wrapping presents and decorating the tree and the mantels with holly, magnolia leaves, and hemlock branches from Mom & Dad’s yard, and we especially enjoyed these gorgeous red and white tulips, courtesy of Ryan and Sara. I never buy fresh flowers for the house and so they were such a treat.

The TableWe forgot to take pictures during the party, as we were busy filling drinks and socializing, but it reminded us of how many lovely people we’ve met in Knoxville, and how we’ve really started to make our home here. The only thing missing? My BFFs. I sure do wish we could’ve had you all there–I miss you guys, especially around the holidays.

I put some thought into making the menu budget-conscious and as easy as possible, so I’ll share below in case it helps anyone plan a big cocktail party in the future! I’ll post the recipes separately and link to them so they’re more easily searchable. Truly, you can spend a lot of time arranging items on a table, but none of these recipes took very much time, most of them could be made ahead, and you could take some additional shortcuts (buy already-baked rolls; store-bought hummus; etc.).

Happy holidays to everyone!

Cocktail Party Menu for 50