October 28, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower with Coriander, Caraway and Garlic

roasted cauliflower with garlic and coriander seeds




Comfort is often found in the kitchen. With the turn of a dial, warmth and aroma permeate the cold dark parts of our home and psyche. Wet drizzly days can be made a little brighter by simply turning the oven on and roasting something.  Try it and see. During the busy workweek we don't always have the luxury or time to put a huge roast in the oven and let it cook for hours on end. But there are other things we can roast that can be made in a fraction of the time, at a fraction of the cost, which have the same comforting effect.

Cauliflower, one of fall's most humble ingredients is completely transformed when simply roasted with  olive oil, garlic, coriander seeds, caraway seeds and lemon zest. And the best thing is the transformation happens in less than 30 minutes, with the oven doing most of the work.  Because cauliflower has a natural richness and heartiness when roasted, this recipe is does not call for any cheese. Its full flavor will convert even the most apprehensive of cauliflower eaters.




October 21, 2012

Baked French Toast with Caramelized Pears and Hazelnuts




In France, French toast is called pain perdu, which literally means "lost bread".  The unused, leftover and stale bits of bread are soaked in a batter of cream and eggs, and then fried, transforming the bread into a delicious hearty meal.  Nothing is wasted. This French toast recipe is baked instead of fried and can be assembled the day before, which makes it easy if you are having guests over. It's a decadent recipe featuring fall pears caramelized in butter and maple syrup with toasted hazelnuts and real vanilla beans. It's perfect for the holidays or a special occasion brunch. 


This can be made in a baking dish, a large cast iron skillet, or even individual oven proof ramekins or bowls.



October 13, 2012

Maple Glazed Acorn Squash with Apple, Parsnip and Sage


Stuffed Acorn Squash

This hearty fall recipe is deeply satisfying. Acorn squash is roasted with a bit of maple syrup until it's soft and caramelized. A savory filling is made with fall apples, parsnips, sage,  pecans and your choice of either Italian sausage or Soy Sausage. It's easily customized...for example if you are having guests over, some of whom are vegan, you can make some vegan and also make some with meat.  


I am often amazed at the intelligence and timing of nature.  How, just in time, the earth brings us hardy produce like winter squash and root vegetables and apples and nuts, thick skinned and tough enough to last thru winter. Over the last few weeks, fall has arrived in the Northwest.  And with the blustery winds and the swirling leaves, come the pumpkins and winter squash. Fall produce is not only hardy, it is hearty. It is meatier and denser than summer produce, and often contains more sugars. Just look at the difference between a summer squash and a winter squash.



As ingredients change with the coming of fall, the cooking techniques we use, change too. The barbecue is put away, and  the season of roasting and braising and stewing begins. We cook more slowly, because much of fall produce requires longer cooking times. And as the weather cools, our food cravings change and we seek the comfort and warmth of more robust and filling meals. 











When choosing  winter squash, pick any kind you like, but just make sure they are smaller and similar in size so roasting times don't vary too much. I used small acorn squashes, but little butternuts, pumpkins, delicata, kobacha or spaghetti squash would work well too.

October 4, 2012

Shakshuka- North African Skillet Eggs

Shakshuka North African Skillet Eggs





It has almost been a year since our trip to Portland, and I still can't get these eggs out of my head. A friend of mine, Kevin, recommended the restaurant Tasty n Sons for brunch, and thankfully we took his good advise.  Somehow we managed to avoid the two hour wait by sitting up at the bar. The restaurant was all hustle bustle, buzzing with the good energy of happy guests.  The fragrant earthy smells  coming from the kitchen almost made me melt. After much debate, I ordered the Shakshuka, a flavorful North African tomato and pepper stew of sorts, topped with eggs and then baked in a mini cast-iron skillet, served with crusty bread to mop up all the deliciousness.  It was full flavored and hearty and comforting..... and as soon as we got back home, I recreated it, so as to not forget the flavors.




This is really a simple dish to make.  It is also a good one if having company because you could easily make the stew ahead, and when ready to serve, just heat it up on the stove, add the eggs and finish in a hot oven.  It is dairy free and gluten free.  You could the substitute the eggs with pan-seared salt and pepper tofu (see below) and make this completely vegan.  Finish with fresh herbs and serve with crusty bread.  This can be made in one large cast iron skillet, or in individual mini skillets.

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