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.

 

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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!

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

Roasted Grapes with Goat Cheese & Rosemary

Hanging out in Colmar, France

Hanging out in Colmar, France

What a whirlwind it has been since we returned from our trip to Europe. We had a great time in Basel, Colmar, and Stockholm. But thing thing Garriy and I both took back home with us, as usual, is that it is the people that make the place.

The view from Aya and Kileken's balcony in Basel

The view from Aya and Kileken’s balcony in Basel

AyaandCatOur favorite part of the trip was being with Aya and Kileken in their lovely home in Basel, cooking dinners with them, drinking too much wine together, and getting lost while biking through vineyards with them in the Alsace in France (more on that in the next post!). As you know, Aya and I met studying together in Morocco–and one of the reasons we hit it off so well is because I think we travel and approach the world in a similar way. Our most recent trip only underlined that.

Aya spoiled us with lots of meals that we should try and post (including moules in wine sauce, which entailed lots of YouTube videos about how to debeard mussels), but we all cooked some amazing meals together as well.

This is a simple appetizer I made during our visit that I love and I learned from my friend Trish. It’s so easy to put together, which makes it all the better. If you decide you don’t want it as an app, the grapes on their own are also great as a side (especially roasted pork, or a polenta and veggie main). Miss you A&K!

Grapes and goat cheese

Roasted Grapes with Goat Cheese & Rosemary

  • 2 or 3 bunches of green grapes, taken off the stem
  • 2 Tb. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. minced rosemary
  • ground black pepper
  • coarse sea salt
  • 1 log of mild goat cheese
  • baguette, cut into rounds

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the grapes, olive oil, rosemary, and pepper and toss to coat. Put the grapes on a baking sheet or in a baking pan and place in oven. Roast for 20-30 minute or until grapes begin to burst and put out their juices. When done, sprinkle on a generous amount of coarse sea salt to provide a nice crunch. Serve with the goat cheese and baguette.

The Best Pimento Cheese Ever…Seriously

Happy New Year everyone!

Other than eating too much, we had a wonderful holiday, but are now glad to be settled back down in Knoxville after lots of travel.

If you’ve ever visited my parents’ house in Kentucky, you’ll know that there’s always a big container of pimento cheese in the fridge. No matter what. And no matter how many times I say my lactose-intolerant self won’t take a bite, I always do, which is why I wanted to share this family favorite recipe with you all.

Pimento cheese has had an in-vogue moment again, at least here in Knoxville, along with deviled eggs, homemade pork rinds, and all kinds of other bad-for-you Southern food that trendy “locavore” restaurants here help eaters justify since the ingredients are easily sourced from nearby farms. I mean who can resist free-range deviled eggs with sriracha and homemade chowchow?

I’m glad Southerners are finding their groove and celebrating their food culture (even if it might give us all a heart attack). For one, it means that people are learning not to do sacreligious things, like pureeing one’s pimento cheese in the food processor, or God forbid, adding something sweet, like Miracle Whip, to it. Nevertheless, pimento cheese is one of those things you just don’t want to mess with. So, please don’t add jalapenos, or barrel-fermented organic pickles, or what have you to this. Just stick with the basics and keep it simple, simple, simple.

The trick here is to start with good ingredients, making sure to especially use good mayo (I always use Hellman’s) and good cheese (Cabot cheese is the best–I’m looking at you, Sara). My family always uses sharp white cheddar and roasted red peppers, which might sound kind of shishi, but fresh roasted peppers are a lot better than the little jars of pimentos that sit mouldering on the back shelf of your Piggly Wiggly (plus, you can’t even find pimentos usually up North or in Europe). The other trick is to absolutely not add too much mayo. The mayo should just barely bind everything together. Other than that, when serving it’s best with bland crackers. Saltines, water crackers, or Melba toast are all great options, but just make sure that your saltines aren’t fully salted, or the end product will be too much of a salt bomb.

Hope you enjoy!

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The Best Pimento Cheese Ever

  • 1 lb. or so sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1 large roasted red pepper, diced
  • 1/4 C. or so mayonnaise (Hellman’s or similar suggested)
  • 1 Tb. grated yellow onion
  • lots of freshly ground black pepper

Grate the cheddar cheese using the grater fitting on your food processor, or by hand. Grate the onion and add to cheese, making sure to include any juice. Sprinkle in the diced roasted red pepper. Gently fold in the mayonnaise a bit at a time, adding more or less, just until the mixture binds together. Season with plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Chill and serve with bland crackers or make sandwiches (tomato is nice on a sandwich with pimento cheese).

PS- Big thanks to Rita and Mom for teaching me this recipe…

Greek lovin’

Greece was wonderful primarily because the food was always so fresh and flavorful. Interestingly most restaurants had very similar menus, but we always stuck to seafood either grilled or fried. The octopus, squid, sardines and fish such as grouper were delicious especially finished off with fresh lemon and flavor-punching olive oil. The feta was also smoother and lighter. We spent most of our time on the beach in little taverns along the shore eating what was caught that day. Having gotten back, K made a Greek inspired dish with our new copper pan!

Ingredients:
Olive oil
Octopus
Sardines
Tomatoes
Basel (this would not be Greek but we had fresh Basel in the patio garden which we couldn’t resist)

Directions
1. Put everything on the dish
2. Drizzle olive oil
3. Cook at 200 degrees Celsius
4. Once out drizzle with fresh lemon

We made our own ravioli from scratch this past-weekend-so fun!!

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Okra Salad + White Asparagus

I have two recipes in one post due to my long absence from ze blog.  We’ve used our location to it’s advantage over the past few weeks and enjoyed seeing friends and family in various areas. Every time I come back to Basel, it’s starting to feel more like home and the weather has been unbelievable.  With the start of spring, the first item to appear in the grocery stores: asparagus in all shapes, sizes, and colors!  I had heard of ‘asparagus season’ since we moved here.  This region seems to have a devotion to spring asparagus, especially white ones. I had never bought white asparagus as they seemed kind of creepy and not as healthy or nutritious as their green counterparts. Hearing all the rage and seeing them repeatedly at the supermarket, we took the plunge when we could buy a handful at the French farmer’s market.  Our Swiss friend warned us that you MUST peel the asparagus before you eat it.  Now, I assumed this was similar to needing to “peel” carrots or apples. Let me tell you – it is NOT the same. We did an experiment where we kept one asparagus with the skin…yuck.  Unless you like extremely bitter, roughage, peel the asparagus.  We also realized why one needs to buy the big, fat asparagus rather than the thin ones we bought (we were cheap) because peeling these things are ridiculously tedious and time consuming.  Definitely not akin to an apple or carrot.

We had these asparagus the “traditional” German method.

Ingredients:

– White Asparagus

– Ping of Salt

– 2 tbs Butter

– 1/2 Lemon

Recipe

– PEEL the Asparagus

– Boil water with salt

– Once boiling, squeeze the half lemon and put in the butter

– Cook asparagus for 22 min (or until you can spear them with a knife – our Swiss friend was very precise)

Surprisingly, the white asparagus actually punched a lot more flavor.  They were quite delicious…though I’m not sure if they’re worth the peeling ordeal.  Next time we’ll spring for the fat ones.

Finally, below is a quick recipe for an okra salad I often have for lunch.  I love okra because it’s slimy and gooey. In Japan you often eat it raw, but I’m not sure if it’s common practice elsewhere (I’ve only had deep fried okra down South, which is also delightful):

Ingredients:

– Okra

– Bonito Flakes

– Cucumber

– Pickled plum (optional)

– Soy sauce

Recipe

– Chop okra, cucumber, and pickled plum

– Mix together

– Sprinkle Bonito flakes and season with soy sauce

Grilled Eggplant Caponata

I’m not sure exactly how to categorize this dish.  It’s not really a salad- too juicy and no green or grain to bind it together.  It’s not really a salsa- too substantial.  But let’s throw semantics aside and say this: whatever we want to call it, it is tasty and it is something that would be great on bruschetta, in a sandwich, on a pizza (which I am sorely tempted to do), or just eaten with a fork, as I did the other day for a highly satisfactory grad school lunch. 

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One of my resolutions, not associated with 2012 per se but just with trying to get my act together and be more of a grown up, it to be better at using up the odds and ends in my fridge instead of tossing them when they inevitably rot.  (Any tips are welcome; I get the sense some of my fellow contributors are real pros at this).  I had some eggplant, tomato, and olive that needed to make their way into something, and I had some roasted garlic on hand, too. 

 A little Googling and a little MacGyvering, and I had this play on pantry caponata- not all the ingredients caponata would usually have, but close enough.  Even with winter tomatoes, I liked it a lot and can’t wait to make it with more flavorful tomatoes when they are in season this summer.  With an assist from my awesome Panini maker for the grilled eggplant, this dish came together in minutes.  (If you don’t have a Panini machine, George Foreman, or grill pan, you could just use two skillets to press the eggplant on the stovetop.)

 Grilled Eggplant with Caponata

Inspired, as usual, by Smitten Kitchen

 Ingredients:

(I’ve listed my amounts here, but as veggies and olives can vary in size, what’s more important is that your ratio of tomato to olive to eggplant is roughly the same)

  • 2 medium eggplants, sliced thin into ½ in thick rounds
  • 4 cloves roasted garlic (I popped some cloves in their skins into a 400F oven with my brussel sprouts for 30 min or so)
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes, chopped (maybe ½ cup in volume?)
  • 6 olives (I used black), diced
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3 T red wine vinegar
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes (I found this was essential to the flavor; if you think you can hack it, be generous with your pinch!)

 Place eggplants on grill and get ‘em nice and browned.  (Depending on your grilling method, you may need to brush them with oil.  I grilled them dry.)

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To make the caponata: in a bowl, mash and whisk the roasted garlic with the oil and red wine vinegar.  Add tomatoes and their juice, olives, and pepper flakes.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  If your olives are not super salty, you may want to add salt but mine provided enough on their own.

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Dice the grilled eggplant and combine with the caponata.  Cleaning out the crisper drawer can sometimes taste surprisingly good.