Does it still count as a vegetable when it's covered in béchamel and bacon?
Growing up with a mom who, consistently, night after night, created delicious meals for her family, meant my sister and I truly looked forward to coming to the table at the end of every day. (Dad, I don't want you to feel left out here! #popsbologneseforlife!! - but I'm gonna give this one to mom.)
One meal we not only looked forward to, but repeatedly requested, was cauliflower gratin.
Yes, that's right, two gap-toothed girls putting in orders for a cruciferous vegetable you probably couldn't serve up to most wary wee ones, even if you dipped it in chocolate, rolled it in Pop Rocks and told them it was 'trending.' But as far as I can remember, cauliflower gratin was an almost weekly occurrence in our home, and it never, ever got old.
Mom's a clever lady though and she knew a thing or two about passing off what may have been deemed a vaguely smelly, questionably-textured and decidedly albino vegetable, as food worthy of request, to her children. Two words: Béchamel and bacon. Oh. Yes.
When mom pulled the piping hot Pyrex dish from the oven, I could smell the creamy, dreamy sauce and the crisp, browned bacon from my room upstairs. That's pretty much all it took for me to put down the landline, log out of AOL instant messenger and turn off Ace of Base - dinner was on the table.
These days, I can't do béchamel and bacon on a regular basis, because, well, I'm not 10 and somewhere along the line, dairy and my insides got into an argument they couldn't resolve. I can still, however, do cauliflower, and on a regular basis, at that.
Set oven to 425* F.
Trim the cauliflower heads, separate them into small florets, and divide the florets into two piles.
Spread half the florets onto a lined baking sheet and drizzle them with coconut oil. It's consistently been about 90 degrees in my apartment, so my coconut oil has been in liquid form since Memorial Day, but if yours is solid, just give it a quick melt. Season the florets with Ras el Hanout, chili flakes, salt and pepper and toss everything to combine. Roast for about 25 minutes, until nicely browned, giving everything a toss about halfway through.
While you're roasting, work on the purée. Using a steamer basket, steam the reserved cauliflower for about 8 minutes, until tender but not mushy.
On very low heat, melt the butter in a sauce pot and then allow it to brown. Watch the butter carefully. Once you start to see brown flecks and your kitchen smells wonderfully nutty, you're good. The butter will burn very quickly, so this is not a time to abandon your post.
In a food processor, blender or your Vitamix, combine the steamed cauliflower and browned butter, along with salt and pepper to taste. Blend until you achieve a fine purée. You can always add just a touch of the hot water from the pot, to aid in this.
Finally sauté your shallots in a pan with coconut oil on low-medium heat, until caramelized and slightly crisp.
To assemble the dish, start with some purée on the plate, then top with some of the roasted florets and crispy shallots, Sprinkle over a few toasted pine nuts and some fresh cilantro. Then, using your vegetable peeler, shave the rainbow chard stems on top.** Squeeze the lime over the dish.
Though I may have ditched the cream and pork (along with the outdated technology and musical stylings of my youth), the fundamental love for a dish that highlights cauliflower is still there.
But mom, if you're reading this, I won't be mad if dinner gets a little nostalgic next time I come home! You handle the cauliflower, I'll handle the playlist.
Consider this a request.
*Note: Ras el Hanout is not a fictional supervillain, but instead a North African spice blend featuring cinnamon, nutmeg and cumin among other warming spices. You can find it at any purveyor of fine spices or Whole Foods.
**Note: I love rainbow chard raw - it has a mildly bitter but altogether refreshing quality. If you want to eliminate some of that bitterness, you can certainly sauté it first.
If you can pull off a Casual masterpiece the morning after, you're totally 'that' girl
As a single girl, it's always good to have a small arsenal of moves in your back pocket. Being able to get out the door quickly, being totally into the new Star Wars movie, and making an impressive breakfast like it was nothing, are all in your favor.
Of course, the reality may be a little different. You set your alarm for 6:00am, so you could perfect the "Sure! I can do 10:00am breakfast! I'll just roll out of bed and meet you"-look (meant no girl, ever). You're still making your way through the original Star Wars, in very small, increments. (Sorry, I just can't.) And when it comes to casual, sleepover breakfasts, you know you planned that meal a week ago, sourced the best ingredients, and prepped everything yesterday so you could say, 'I'll just whip something up - lemme see what I've got!'
The latter may just be me, but I'm guessing (hoping) there are more of you out there!
My breakfast of choice for moments like this, is carrot 'pancakes' with eggs. I can prep this the night before, and not break a sweat the next morning. Hurray for tiny victories!
These pillowy little medallions are not sweet pancakes, however. They're savory, carroty and delicious, and pair perfectly with poached or soft-boiled eggs.
In a food processor or using a hand grater, grate the carrots finely. I just pop mine in my Cuisinart and 30 seconds later, the job is done.
To your grated carrots add 1-2 egg whites. This depends on how big your carrots are. You want enough egg white so that all your little shreds are coated and sticking together. This is the only binder you get, so if you're worried about it, just add two - better to have a little extra, than not enough.
Add the flour, chili flakes and salt and pepper to season. Mix everything well - you want to make sure the flour is evenly distributed. This can be made the night before, and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Turn your stove to low-medium heat, melt some butter and drop 1/4 cupfuls of batter in the pan. I like to use my hands to shape them into little patties, before dropping them into the butter.
Cook the pancakes 2-3 minutes per side, until golden and slightly crisp.
Serve them up with eggs and avocado.
As a matter of fact, I just happen to have a batch of this in my refrigerator right now - how fortunate! And though there's no one here to share it with at the moment, I'm about to seriously impress myself.
Because nothing says school snack, like chocolatey balls soaked in rum.
Yes, it's true, we Scandinavians come out of the womb with blonde locks, a penchant for dark and twisted literature and a glass of Aquavit in our hands. What I mean to say is, we come ready to play!
It is therefore no surprise that we start everything a little earlier, and that when you ask a Danish child what her favorite sweet treat happens to be, more often than not, you'll find she has a weakness for what is known as a rum ball.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we soak cakey, chocolatey dough in rum, roll it up, throw on some sprinkles, and serve it to our young ones - and they go nuts for it.
I remember two things about my school snack bar: Crispy grilled ham and cheese sandwiches and these yummy, rummy orbs. Come to think of it - great pairing!
To be fair, most of these confections are actually made with what is called essence of rum, instead of real rum, but take one bite and you're basically on a beach in Havana with tiny paper umbrellas and the faint smell of a Cuban cigar wafting past you.
I like to think that it's in an effort to develop sophisticated palates from an early age, but in reality, I think it was a clever way to keep young, rowdy Vikings just a little on the subdued side. And, hey, every child needs a little warmth on the inside when jumping bare-assed into the North Sea on those 'warm' summer days!
In a large bowl, crumble the leftover cake, until it has reached a fine crumb. Add your jam, cocoa and rum, and mix thoroughly to combine. You want a homogenous dough - no lumpy 'bits'.
Pinch off tablespoonful balls of the dough, and roll them into perfect spheres between your palms.
Roll the balls in the toppings of your choice, and place them in the refrigerator to firm up slightly, about 15 minutes.
If you don't eat them all in one sitting, you can keep them in an airtight container in the fridge for about 5 days. I like to take them out about 5 - 10 minutes before serving them, so they soften ever so slightly.
So yeah, there were those who enjoyed Little Debbie cakes and Fruit-by-the-Foot, and then there were those of us who ate balls of dough soaked in sugar cane spirit. Well played mom and dad, well played.
Because-it's-wednesday-Afternoon-and-you-remember-you-have-a-waffle-Iron waffles. And because, Bourbon
Honestly, sometimes I wonder what's going through my head when it comes to planning a meal for myself.
I can wake up and think of Vietnamese pho, and my day is not complete until I have either driven way out of my way, across town (in horrific, pull-your-hair-out Los Angeles traffic) to find it, or spent three hours making it myself, only to realize I don't have air conditioning, and all this aromatic, soupy steam is giving me a panic attack.
Today, it was waffles. Scrolling through Instagram, I happened on a gorgeous golden, buttery stack and I knew that, despite the fact that I only ever really want two perfect bites of waffle before I lose interest, I had to make some.
As a side note, waffles are kind of a thing for me. Mainly it's the idea of them that sends my cravings through the roof. I never order them on a menu - I can't commit to that. I have, however, built them up in my head as the perfect marriage of pillowy sweetness and satisfying crunch, and for that reason alone, I respect, admire and crave them.
I think the most excited I've ever gotten over a Christmas present, was the waffle iron my sister gave me one year. The irony of being pulled aside from the security belt at Brussels international airport by a guard, when my bomb-shaped waffle iron set off alarms in my hand-luggage, does not escape me.
Fortunately, I was allowed to keep said iron, and today i reap the benefits.
Being a bourbon drinker, a former resident of Atlanta, Georgia and a waffle fantasist, I set my mind to pairing them with roasted peaches, bourbon-caramel sauce and (just for good measure) a little Greek yogurt to lighten things up.
Set your oven to 400* F.
Toss the peaches with the cubed butter, honey and a pinch of sea salt, arrange them on a lined baking sheet and bake them for 20 minutes, turning them once, halfway through.
Meanwhile, make your caramel sauce and waffles. Add the sugar to a thick-bottomed saucepan and heat it over low heat, until the sugar begins to melt and takes on a golden color. You need to watch the caramel, as it can burn easily. Don't mix the sugar around! Just let it do its thing, and once it's all melted, you can gently give the pan a swirl. Let it reach a deep brown (but not black - black means you screwed up)
At this point, remove the saucepan from the stove and add the cream, bourbon and salt. It will bubble vigorously, but eventually simmer down. Return it to the heat for a few moments, until everything is nice and smooth and cohesive.
Make your waffles according to your favorite recipe. If that happens to be the back of a box, more power to you for taking back an extra half hour of your day.
Whip the yogurt and honey together until completely combined.
Finally, top those beautiful peaks and valleys with your roasted peaches, whipped yogurt and bourbon-kissed caramel.
Now remind yourself it's Wednesday, you're a grown-up and you just made waffles happen in the middle of the day.
create One perfect moment in your day with Roasted tomatoes, avocado, grilled Corn and micro kale
Do you ever wake up in the morning and think, "today, I want my life to look like the pages of a Bon Appetit magazine"? Oh, I do.
I envision a 24-hour period where everything will be exquisite and just-so. White-washed and meticulously curated. A day where when I go to pick things up, my manicured hands will delicately caress whatever they touch with an ease that's positively regal. "I will be the walking, talking epitome of a killer Instagram account," I think to myself.
Then I open my eyes, glance down at my hands that, let's be honest, could probably use a new coat of paint, and realize that I left the milk out on the counter when I sleepily downed that bowl of cereal and red wine at 1:00 am, after a long night at work. Oh yeah, #domesticgoddess.
So, I wash my face, put some pants on (most of the time) and try to figure out how I can make that dream a realistic reality. "Lunch," I think. "Lunch I can handle."
Set your oven to 400 F*.
In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, minced garlic and olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread them out on a lined sheet pan and roast for about 15-20 minutes, or until lightly popping and blistered.
Meanwhile, toast and butter your toast. I do mine on a pan, but whatever floats your boat. In case any of you followed me on Yahoo, you may remember that there are a few ways to get the 'perfect piece of toast,' but let's be real, just toast it.
If you have a grill, by all means, use that to grill the corn. I do not have a grill, so I use my gas stove. Simply shuck the corn, oil it and turn it on low-medium heat over the flames, until it's nicely charred. Then, using a sharp knife strip the kernels off the cob.
Once your tomatoes are gorgeously puckered, arrange them on the toast, add in some avocado slices, some corn kernels and a sprinkling of micro kale*. Finally, season it with salt and pepper.
Now take a bunch of pictures, slap on a filter, and pretend your entire life looks and tastes this good.
Today, I created one beautiful thing, and that was toast. Now, if I could find a matching pair of socks...Bon Appetit, here I come!
*Note: Yes, micro kale is a thing. There are many micro greens, and I find the best place to pick them up, is Whole Foods. They taste like a milder version of their larger, less-photographable relatives.
Spice up that Melon Salad with just a hint of Thai Chili.
As we're nearing the end of summer, i find myself desperately craving every last bit of sunny sweetness the season has to offer. As much as I look forward to warming dishes prepared with winter citrus, apples and pears, i want to taste summer for just a little bit longer.
Labor Day was the perfect excuse to whip up a dish that satisfied that exact craving, and melon salad was what my sun-soaked heart desired.
Did I reinvent the wheel with this one? Hardly. If you've never had a watermelon, feta and mint salad, you haven't lived! However, the addition of slow-burn, mouth-on-pleasant-fire, Thai chili, really sends it over the top. So, yeah, wheel reinvented...ish.
In a small bowl, combine the juice of three limes, the sliced chilies and chopped mint.
In a large bowl, combine all three melons and pour over the lime and chili dressing. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, allowing the melon to soak up some of that sweet and spicy juice.
Before serving, toss in the cubed feta, garnish with additional fresh mint and season with a little flakey sea salt.
It's spicy, it's sweet, it's cooling and it burns so good. This old stand-by just got a little pep in it's step, and is pushing all my summer-lovin' buttons.
*Note; When buying feta cheese, look for the authentic, Greek, sheep's milk kind, sold in brine. The flavor can't be beat!
Brunch doesn't get much better than Smoked salmon, avocado toast with soft boiled Egg, Persian Cucumber and radish
On a sunny California Sunday, brunch sounds like a really good idea. What doesn't sound so great, is lining up (sometimes around the block) for eggs! It's at times like this, when you take the joys of weekend indulgence into your own hands, and lazily make your way from the covers to the kitchen. No lines. No wait. No makeup. Lots of coffee.
Bring a pot of water to a boil and, gently, lower the eggs into the water. Cook them for exactly 6 minutes, remove them from the water, and rinse them with cold water. Peel and set aside.
Toast your bread and butter it. You can certainly use a toaster, but I love the crusty, almost brown-buttery crunchiness of bread toasted in a pan on the stove. Simply butter and toast it on both sides over medium heat, until golden and fragrant .
Assemble the toast. Start by fanning out the avocado as a base. Arrange the smoked salmon, leaving a nest-like space for the egg to sit in. Add a few slices cucumber and radish, garnish with a sprig of dill and season with flakey salt (I prefer Maldon sea salt) and cracked black pepper.
You'll be tucking into your toast long before the server makes the first pass with coffee and water. Happy Sunday!