Sunday, June 29, 2014

Cauliflower (Gobi) Masala

Cauliflower can be the forgotten vegetable. It's white, so no "Eat your greens" umph there. Most people think to pair it with cheese, so more white. And while color isn't everything, you eat with your eyes, not just your tastebuds.

But once you get bit by the cauliflower bug, it will get it's hooks in you! Often I simply roast it with salt and olive oil but sometimes it begs to be dressed up and showed off. Enter Indian spices and flavors!

Gobi is the word in Manchurian for cauliflower and and usually this dish includes potatoes as well, going by the name of Gobi Aloo. But I wanted just cauliflower on its own, and it was just as delicious!

This version leaves the cauliflower still toothsome, crisp and crunchy. If you want it softer, add about 1 teaspoon of water and cover it to steam lightly before adding the final squeeze of lemon and cilantro.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Frittata with Sun Dried Tomatoes, Feta, Capers and Olives

Frittatas are my go to brunch food, great for using up lots of odds and ends in the refrigerator and no worries about your omlett not flipping well!

My frittatas are the Italian version, which involves whipping eggs and adding lots of fun ingredients. While I have yet to try the Spanish version which incorporates potatoes, that's only out of lack of planning since my family loves potatoes!

This version is quite Mediterranean in taste: sundried tomatoes, feta, capers and olives. Those are the green Castelvaltrano olives you see poking out of the frittata, my favorite! Ask for them by name. They are lightly brined and almost taste like the canned black olives which many olive connoisseurs turn their nose up at, even as they'll gush over Castelvaltranos! (cas - tel - vall - tran - os). You can use any type of olive you like, but know that the stronger flavored ones such as kalamatas or Nicoise will impart more of an olive taste throughout, so adjust the amount accordingly.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

30 Minute Spinach Pesto Lasagna

Making homemade pasta is such a treat, and I've shown how to do it here and raved about it here. But sometimes you want a shortcut that also makes you look good and tastes delicious. That's when I turn to won ton wrappers.

Yup, you read that right. Won ton wrappers.

Won ton wrappers are not quite fresh egg pasta, but pretty darn close. And oh so easy to use! My family loved the fun little stacks that they got to sink their forks into and I loved how quickly this gorgeous and tasty meal came together.

With summer around the corner, this is a super easy meal with fresh ingredients. I imagine varying the filling with basil pesto or sauteed summer squash or even just a tomato and cheese version. My mind is awhirl over the possibilities!

This can easily go vegan as long as you check your won ton packaging since not all of them are vegan. Adding your own favorite vegan cheese or leave it out and you're all set!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Radish, Carrot and Snow Pea Asian Slaw

Ahh, fresh vegetable salads. Too many of the uninitiated think they're boring or only eaten to fulfill some sort of "healthy" quotient.

Dear readers, don't fall into this trap! Feed them this salad and behold the transformation!

Often, I will confess, that tossing a bunch of random chopped vegetables into a salad is my idea of a great veggie side. But sometimes you have to wow people to woo and win them. That's when you go for the good stuff, like snow peas and pink radishes, the exotics that actually are worth the extra trip to the produce department.

The truth is that the dressing on this salad can transfer to other chopped salad options, but it really does work best with Asian centric vegetables, such as radishes, snow peas and carrots. If you're catering to a more gourmet crowd who are not afraid of vegetable salads, toss in some julienned daikon radish or some bean sprouts or even green beans cut on the bias and lightly steamed. But stick with the dressing, it's what makes it all worth while.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

"Dad is great! Gives us chocolate cake!"

That's the song that rings through my head whenever I think of homemade chocolate cake, the refrain from a story that Bill Cosby used to tell on one of his comedy recordings. He was put in charge of providing breakfast for his kids at an early moment in his parenthood journey and spying cake in the fridge, he fed it to them for breakfast. His kids thought he was a hero; his wife was furious...

It always made my sisters and I laugh out loud, long and hard. Our dad never did that but we could easily imagine our mother's horror if he had.

The cake pictured above was inspired by the birthday of my boyfriend's daughter. As I've protested elsewhere, my sweet tooth is nonexistent so I had to search the web for the perfect chocolate cake and hope my powers of intuition would help me find the right one. Everyone who ate the cake thought it was pretty great, so my powers were obviously in top notch form!

Don't be put off by the seemingly strange ingredients - hot coffee, greek yogurt, buttermilk.  Who ever created this recipe obviously knew what they were doing because it is a moist, deeply chocolate flavored cake that made my boyfriend take seconds, and his sweet tooth is as MIA as mine!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan

My answer to people who say they don't like eggplant is always, "have you ever had eggplant parmesan?" It was my introduction to the dusky nightshade fruit that too many people askew without getting to know properly and has kindled a lifelong love affair for me.

Breaded, fried eggplant with a simple tomato sauce and grated hard cheese on top is one of life's greatest pleasures and if you have yet to try it, do yourself a favor and book mark this page immediately!

On many occasions, usually special ones, I've made the full size pan of eggplant parmesan (and here's a zucchini version if you want to try that). But this version is a quick shortcut that can be done on a week night and provides all of the deliciousness of the original in half the time.

The breading technique is what usually puts people off from trying this, but after one try and with this fool-proof method, you'll be hooked on breading everything, 'cause it just tastes so good! The instructions look long, but it's just the precision method of breading that will turn you into a master breader, I swear!

Thanks to my boyfriend for the creative food styling above, note the tiny pink flower of the fern!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Caesar Salad with Aioli and Garlicky Prawns

Ahhh, homey, delicious, slightly decadent but actually really healthy. Does a meal get any better than that?

My man loves caesar salads, and he loves shrimp. So what better way to make his day when he's had an extra long one than to serve him a crisp caesar with homemade dressing and some garlic sauteed shrimp on top. I love it because it's relatively quick and easy. He's super appreciative of the homemade croutons and aioli. And the fact that it's mainly lettuce means that we eating a very healthy meal that is gourmet without any fancy sauces!

Making aioli (or homemade mayonnaise) is really easy once you follow these key steps:
  1. Chill your metal bowl and whisk in the freezer for 30 minutes prior to using
  2. Place a dish cloth on the counter and use it to rest the bowl when whisking
  3. Drop the oil in the aioli using a tablespoon, at least for the first 1/4 cup of oil
Trust me, this is virtually a foolproof recipe and will make you and your diners so happy that you'll be thrilled to realize how easy it is to make, because they will be begging for more!

Homemade croutons are also simple, and with the salad as your main dish, really worth making. You can use the same pan to make the shrimp in after sauteing the croutons; so much less to clean up!