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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Broccoli Olive Salad with Parmesan

We’re in clean-out-the-fridge mode as we prepare to leave on a two-week trip to the Republic of Georgia this weekend. I’m pretty excited about Georgia–especially the food. From what I’ve read about and cooked in terms of Georgian food in Paula Wolfert’s The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, the cuisine is very similar to Turkish cuisine: heavy on the vegetables, nuts, olive oil, and pulses. So I’m already dreaming about roasted eggplant smothered with walnut sauce, and white bean salad full of fresh herbs. I hope my dreams and the reality match up 🙂

In the meantime, I had a large head of broccoli ready to use up and not a ton else in my fridge, so I came up with this salad. I’m really happy with the taste–the salty and sharp flavor of the olives and Parmesan really make this delicious, and the fine florets really soak up all the dressing. I was going to add in some cherry tomatoes that I had around, but I kind of feel that their texture would interfere with the straightforward crunch this has as-is. Nevertheless, tell me if you improvise and add other things and like it.

Use a sharp knife to cut the broccoli into small pieces, taking care to really dice it up–large chunks of broccoli won’t be nearly as good or coated with the dressing. Also, my mom taught me way back when that in order to pit an olive, you simply squish it with the flat side of a chef’s knife. The pit is then easily removed from the olive That’s not only a time-saving tip, but a money-saving tip as well, as pitted olives are more expensive, and often not as fine quality as whole ones. Also, it’s important to use real Parmesan here, not the fake stuff. Also, grate it on the coarse side of your grater rather than the finer one so that you can really taste it in the completed salad. Finally, I used rice vinegar because it was all that was left around as we pack up our apartment, and funny enough, I think I prefer it here. It’s not too acidic, which allows you to add enough vinegar to the dressing to coat the broccoli well without the dressing becoming too acrid. That said, I’ve tried it with balsamic, which is good, and I know that red wine vinegar would work well too.

This is definitely going in my standard rotation. Hope you enjoy!

Broccoli Olive Salad with Parmesan

  • 1 large head of broccoli, diced
  • 12 or so Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 3 Tb. or so olive oil
  • 2 Tb. or so rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, or red wine vinegar
  • 1/8 to 1/4 C. of high quality Parmesan, grated coarsely
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional: red pepper flakes or hot pepper vinegar

Make sure that your broccoli is diced finely and then put it in a bowl. If you haven’t already, pit the olives by pressing the flat side of a chef’s knife against them to pop out the pit. Use your fingers to pull out any straggler pits and then chop the olives coarsely. Combine the broccoli and olives. Make the dressing by whisking together the vinegar and olive oil. Toss the broccoli and olives with the dressing and then add the cheese. Thoroughly combine the mixture and taste. Add more vinegar or oil as needed. Taste for salt and pepper and add as needed–be careful since the olives and Parm are quite salty. Serve, with a dash of red pepper flakes or hot vinegar, if desired.

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.