Comfort Food You Can Feel Comfortable With
When all the Holiday lights are turned off and the frantic hustle and bustle dies down, our chilly and dimly lit evenings could use something delicious to keep us satiated and satisfied. Believe it or not, during this health-crazed start to the year, pizza may be the answer. Cauliflower pizza, that is.
January, perhaps more than any other month of the year, calls for comfort food. While October through December seem to have the market cornered on all things rich and indulgent, given the onslaught of Holiday cheer, cold, gray and quiet January could use a little help. A month rich with resolutions, restrictions and post-Holiday-regret, needs a healthy dose of feel-good food.
While pizza certainly checks the 'comfort food box', I bet you didn't think it could make it onto the 'healthy' list, as well. But you see, when you substitute a traditional pizza crust for its cauliflower alternerative, you're ticking more boxes than you may have thought possible.
As opposed to a standard, white-flour pizza crust, which really offers very little nutritional value (albeit delicious), a cauliflower crust is low in carbohydrates and packed full of all the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants this cruciferous vegetable has to offer. In fact, one serving of cauliflower contains over 75% of your recommended daily dose of vitamin C, not to mention lots of good fiber to aid in digestion. Pizza's starting to sound like a really good idea, right?
While many cauliflower crusts claim to be a healthy alternative to 'the real deal', they also seem to be packed full of more cheese than most standard delivery pizzas wear on top. Sure, they're gluten free, but 'healthy' may be a bit of a stretch.
This simple rendition goes easy on the cheese, without sacrificing flavor, and makes for a meal you'll feel really good about.
Just because it's January, doesn't mean you need to sip every meal through a straw - you can have your pizza, and eat it, too.
For the pizza crust:
For the toppings:
Set your oven to 400*F.
In a food processor, process the cauliflower into an even crumb. Once it looks a bit like quinoa and has a fine, granular texture, turn the machine off. Alternatively, you can use a hand-grater, if you don't own a food processor.
In a large bowl, combine the processed cauliflower, almond meal and cheese, and mix well. At this point, season it to taste with salt and pepper - remember, there's a fair amount of salt in the cheese, so season gradually.
Once you're happy with the level of seasoning, add in your eggs and mix well to combine.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the cake ring in the center of it. Now, scoop the cauliflower mixture into the ring and pat it out evenly. Try to give yourself a bit of a raised edge around the outside, by gently pushing the mixture ever-so-slightly up the sides of the ring. This will ensure that the egg stays on the pizza when you add it later.
Using a paper towel, blot any excess moisture from the pizza crust by pressing into it gently. Cauliflower contains a lot of water, and you want to get rid of some of it, before you bake it.
Remove the ring and bake the crust until golden around the edges, about 30 minutes.
While the crust bakes, add the olive oil to a pan, over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and sauté for one minute, then add the tomatoes and sauté until blistered and soft, about 5 minutes longer. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper.
Top the baked crust with the cooked tomatoes and the remaining 2 tablspoons of cheese, then crack the egg into the center of the pizza.
Set the oven to broil and bake the pizza for a further 6 minutes or so, until the egg white is set, but the yolk is still runny.
Finally, top the pizza with the arugula, and drizzle it with a finishing touch of olive oil.
*Real Pecorino cheese is made from sheep's milk, which I find easier to digest than cow's milk. If lactose isn't a problem for you, you can by all means substitute Parmesan cheese here.
When you realize it's late and you still have to make dinner
Ok, full disclosure - outside the four walls of a perfect little Instagram photo, lies pure and utter chaos. Pots, pans, grocery bags, the sweater that was cast off in a fit of overheated food styling, and the general clutter that is everyday life.
Of course I'm speaking from my own, personal experience here, but I can pretty much guarantee that in the periphery of even the most well-oiled machine, someone's pushing a creative mess just outside of frame. Thank goodness for the tight crop!
Now, I don't think I've mentioned it before, but I shoot all my photos on my little iPhone 6 Plus (ok, not so little - unless you have really, really large hands), using only the natural light that shines in through my living room windows. I set up a chair with a cutting board on top, and move that chair around the room, depending on where the light's coming from at any given time of day. Is it ideal? No. Is it the way I dream of shooting my food? Again, no. But I love the challenge and I'm having a blast with it.
Or, at least I was until the seasons started to change!
I now find myself in a mad dash to dream up, produce and shoot before the last glimmer of viable sunlight surreptitiously makes its retreat from my hardwood floors, leaving in its wake a dim shade only rectified by ambient (but useless) electric light. The slow cooker has no place in my kitchen at the moment - it's all fast-paced and high heat!
The other afternoon I found myself wanting to cook and shoot, but realizing that I had no more than 30 minutes left, before cooking became merely about enjoyable consumption, as opposed to creating aesthetically pleasing and photographable forays into food. (Gone are the days of casually whipping up anything as simple as a piece of toast without artfully swooping something across it, just so.)
This is when the chaos ensues. This is where the myth that cooking for food photography is somehow therapeutic and peaceful, is cracked wide open. And this is when you get creative.
I scoured my fridge and cabinets for their contents and pulled together a veritable mystery basket of ingredients to begin my 'Chopped-meets-Top Chef quick fire challenge', for which the clock had already been set. Buckwheat noodles, bok choy, mushrooms, some Fresno chilis and an egg. (This was a good day. I've certainly encountered the 'stick of butter, half a cucumber, scallions and an open bottle of Sauvignon Blanc basket', too! At which point, it's best to just drink the wine, switch on Netflix, rest cucumber slices on those suitcases under your eyes, and save the scallions for a day when you choose to live more like an adult.)
I quickly set a pot of water to boil on the stove, broke out the sautée pan and began chopping my vegetables - repeatedly glancing at the floor of my living room, hoping to keep it lit by sheer will power.
Noodles in water - check! Veggies in pan - check! I dashed to grab a pot for the egg poaching, and out of the corner of my eye, I caught a grim shadow enveloping the front of my apartment, like a scene right out of a horror movie. Slowly but surely, the dim began to creep across the room, rendering much of the space utterly useless.
Determined not to lose a day's work, I gently cracked the egg into the barely simmering water, as a bead of sweat broke on my brow, then set the timer for three minutes.
As I yanked the noodles out of the water and swiftly chilled them down, I added soy, mirin and almond butter to my pan of vegetables, furiously stirring and counting down the final seconds of my egg's poach.
As the noodle dish hit the bowl and the egg went down on top, I triumphantly turned toward the living room, only to find that the last beams of light had, indeed, made their exit for the day.
My shoulders slumped, momentarily, as I eyed my steaming bowl of perfectly cooked egg and noodles, and then, refusing to admit defeat, thought, 'to the roof!!' And to the roof I ran, bowl, cutting board, garnish and phone in hand.
I awkwardly bounded up two flights of stairs, trying not to break the yolk, and unlatched the door to the roof, which bears a sign that reads 'NO FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY ON ROOF!" (It may actually say something like 'DO NOT USE ROOF!' but it's all a blur - I can't be sure.)
I was in luck - there was just enough light to get the job done. Down went the cutting board with the bowl on top, and after a little artful arrangement of some mushrooms and scallions, I whipped out my camera (phone). Click, click, click...and then she died.
This is not the first time I've drained my phone without noticing and been left with 2% on which to shoot - I believe the last time this happened, I was 30 seconds away from pulling a soufflé out of the oven!
I laid down on the roof, stared up at the sky and then glanced over at my beautiful bowl of buckwheat noodles and thought 'well, at least dinner's ready!'
Fortunately, after the descent to my apartment and 10 minutes of charging my phone, I discovered I still got the shot, albeit a little on the dim side.
Cook your noodles according to the instructions on the packet, then drain them and run them under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set the noodles aside and place a small pot of water on the stove to boil, adding about a tablespoon of vinegar. (This is for egg poaching.)
Separate the mushrooms if using the Japanese variety, or slice them if using something like a white button or crimini, then chop the bok choy,
Heat the coconut oil in a pan over medium-high heat, and add the mushrooms and bok choy. Cook until the mushrooms are browned and soft, then add the sliced chili to the mix.
Meanwhile poach your egg, at a low simmer, for three minutes. Once cooked, place the egg on a paper towel or tea towel, until the dish is ready to plate.
To the pan with the vegetables, add the mirin, soy sauce and almond butter, and stir thoroughly to combine, then add the cooked noodles, and sautée one minute longer. If needed, season with salt - although the soy should cover that.
Sprinkle with fresh cilantro, squeeze half a lime over it, and top the noodles with the egg.
So, next time you're leafing through the pages of your favorite food magazine, or obsessively checking your go-to Instagram accounts, remember, somewhere, just outside of frame, a soufflé died while the battery pack was being replaced.
Here's to an earlier start until the clocks 'spring forward' again!
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.
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!