Archive for February, 2008

Delectable Roasted Cauliflower

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Oh, how I love cauliflower. When cooked just the right amount of time, it’s earthy flavor and creamy texture are incomparable. Cauliflower can also be quite a pretty plant. If you look in the right places, such as farmer’s markets or Whole Foods, you can find beautiful purple, orange, or green cauliflowers, as well as those with spiky tips from Italy. So, if your child doesn’t “think” they like cauliflower, try choosing a nontraditional type that is a fun color or shape. The novelty will probably perk your child’s interest and get them to at least taste it.

Once your child is paying attention, cut off a floret and give them a taste of it raw. Grab your child’s favorite dip if it helps. Cauliflower has a sweet flavor before it’s cooked and the firm texture is crunchy, which kids love.

There is a problem with cauliflower, however: it gets stinky if you over cook it. Like cabbage and Brussels sprouts, which are also part of the same cruciferous family, it can get a sulpherous smell if you cook it too long, which is pretty unappetizing and is a surefire way to get your kids to hate it. This is definitely a vegetable that should be cooked al dente.

There is a simple remedy for this: Roast your cauliflower! I know that the idea of roasting this vegetable may seem odd, but the results are worth the effort. Also, if you’re already roasting a chicken or something else, you can use your preheated oven while your meat is resting as this dish only takes about five minutes to make. Better yet, when you roast your cauliflower, you just stick it in the oven — no stirring or hovering over the stove.

Here’s my recipe for roasted cauliflower. With butter, olive oil, and Parmesan, it’s a hit with both the kids and the grown ups.

Roasted Cauliflower

Ingredients

1 head of cauliflower cut up into smallish florets

2 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 Tbsp chopped parsley

1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1/4 cup water

Salt to taste

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Chop up cauliflower and place in a baking dish or cast iron pan.
  3. Add the water.
  4. Thoroughly mix in olive oil and a dash of salt.
  5. Sprinkle on the parsley and breadcrumbs.
  6. Top with the Parmesan cheese.
  7. Cut butter up into small pieces and place on top of the cauliflower.
  8. Roast for 10 – 20 minutes.
  9. Take pan out of oven and taste a small floret. If it is al dente, serve immediately.

Note: I originally said to roast for five minutes. This is still true under the following circumstances: you are using a convection oven, your oven is good and hot, and your florets are cut into thinish pieces. If you are using larger florets and/or don’t have a convection oven, you’ll need to cook the cauliflower for 10-20 minutes.

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New Bay Area Bites Post — Appetizers!

I have a new post on KQED’s Bay Area Bites page. Check it out to see my recipes for White Cannellini Bean Dip and my special Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates wrapped in Prosciutto. Just go to http://kqedbayareabites.blogspot.com/

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Fruity Coffee Cake

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My kids are out of school this week, so today we are spending the day watching movies and snacking while it rains outside. I told my daughters that I would bake them a treat to celebrate our “vacation” status. My daughter Sophie requested a blueberry cake, so I mustered up enough energy to lift myself from the couch to make my coffee cake. The recipe calls for 2 cups of fruit and blueberries are a great choice.

This recipe is an amalgamation of about ten different coffee cake recipes I’ve tried in the past. After making many different recipes, I just started to use the ingredients that I liked best, such as sour cream which lends a nice flavor to the cake. I often top the cake with some brown sugar and cinnamon, but didn’t want to distract from the cake and fruit flavors today, so left those out. The one thing I can always count on with this recipe is that it has a nice texture and subtle flavor that work well with the fruit. It also isn’t too fattening as I use vegetable oil instead of butter. Best of all it’s ridiculously easy to make.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

3/4 cup sour cream

1/2 cup oil

1 tablespoon lemon or orange zest

1 cup blueberries, raspberries, chopped apples, or chopped pears (frozen berries are fine)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Mix sugar and eggs in a large bowl until fully incorporated. Add oil and mix thoroughly. Stir in sour cream and citrus zest. Fold dry ingredients into the egg mixture, being sure not to overmix (which result in a rubbery cake). Fold in fruit.

Place batter in an pan that has been oiled. The pan can either be a bundt pan, a 9 x 9 pan, or a tart pan. Top with a 1/2 cup of brown sugar mixed with a little cinnamon if you want a crunchy topping. Leave this off if you don’t.

Bake for 40 minutes. Serve warm.

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Chicken Soup for the Common Cold

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I woke up this morning with a sore throat and a cold. I wasn’t surprised when I noticed that I felt like I had a small boulder in my throat. My family and I had a very busy week, Sophie spent most of it with a cold, and Maddie had come down with one Friday night. As my girls like to crawl in bed with me when they’re sick and sleep with their sweet little faces coughing into mine, it’s really a miracle I wasn’t sick before today.

I’m a lover of soup on any given day and in every season. I love all types of soup with all types of textures. Meaty and vegetable-based both have a place in my heart, as do brothy and creamy. I love a Williams-Sonoma creamy wild mushroom soup that I make every holiday season, as well as the fresh summer tomato and basil soups I make each summer. It’s all good. When I’m sick, however, I crave a steaming bowl of brothy chicken soup full of vegetables and little else

In addition to feeling that soup has some lovely restorative properties for a tired and ailing body, I also appreciate that making soup gives me an opportunity to use some of those vegetables sitting in my refrigerator that I had all but given up on. Today, I had the opportunity to use the second fennel bulb I bought a week ago but hadn’t yet eaten, as well as three forlorn turnips that I bought at the farmer’s market a week earlier but hadn’t yet used.

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In addition to these vegetables, I picked up some fresh baby spinach, full of vitamins A, B6, and E along with a healthy dose of calcium, that seemed just right for healing my cold. It took about an hour to make my soup, but much of that time was spent on a stool at my kitchen counter, trying to wake my brain up enough to do the Sunday New York Times crossword. Other than chopping up some vegetables, this soup is a breeze, even for a sick girl like me.

Homemade Chicken and Vegetable Soup with Pancetta

3 Tbsp olive oil

4 chicken skinless thighs

1/4 cup chopped pancetta

1 small ribs of celery (or one large rib) diced

1 large leek halved and sliced

1 tsp dried thyme

1 bay leaf

1 15 oz can diced tomatoes

4 cups water

1/2 fennel bulb sliced

3 small turnips cut into 1/8 slices

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/4 Meyer lemon or 1/2 regular lemon with zest

3 oz fresh baby spinach

Preparation

  1. In a large pot, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil on medium high heat. When oil is hot, salt chicken thighs and add them to the pot, searing each side.
  2. Remove chicken thighs and then add pancetta, celery, and leeks to the pot.
  3. When pancetta is browned and vegetables are wilted, readd the chicken thighs and let them cook another minute or two more.
  4. Add water, canned tomatoes, thyme and bay leaf. Let simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Add fennel and turnips to the pot and cook for another ten minutes.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Remove chicken from the pot and strip all the meat off. Readd the chicken meat to the soup.
  8. In a blender or small Cuisinart, chop parsley, 1 Tbsp olive oil and the zest and juice from a 1/4 Meyer lemon or 1/2 regular lemon. Add to the soup.
  9. Turn off the pot and add the baby spinach. Stir to wilt the spinach.
  10. Taste and add more seasonings if needed.
  11. Serve immediately with a wedge of crusty bread or on top of cooked pasta, which is how my kids love it.

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Dinner party and family cooking

I just wrote a new post for KQED’s Bay Area Bites food blog! It’s about cooking for a crowd. I list the recipe for my mom’s Roasted chicken with Italian Sausage, which is a favorite of mine. If you’ve been to my house for a dinner party, there’s a good chance you’ve had it. I love this dish because it’s a one-pan easy meal for a large crowd, while also being delicious. Click here to take a look!

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Dinner in a Hurry — Spanish Tortilla

I’m having a crazy week with a lot of work deadlines. This means that dinner for my family (and this blog) is taking a back seat. After a long day of writing and editing, I was fried and it was getting late and my kids were getting mighty crabby, which means they were hungry.

I stared at the fridge, hoping some delicious leftover would jump out at me. No such luck for the kids as the only thing I had was some chili I made on Super Bowl Sunday (a recipe I hope to list here soon, but only after I try it again with some tweaks). The chili is made with chipotle chile powder, and so was too spicy for my girls, who hate spicy food. So, with little else, I decided to make a tortilla.

No, not a dough Mexican tortilla — a Spanish tortilla, which is an egg dish that is similar to a frittata made with potatoes and onions. They’re popular at Spanish tapas restaurants and are considered a humble dish of the people in Spain. As everyone in my house loves eggs, I decided to make this easy and fairly quick dish.

Anyone reading on should note that a traditional Spanish tortilla can take 20-30 minutes to make as you slowly cook the potatoes and onions before adding the eggs. I usually don’t have time for slow cooking on Spanish tortilla nights (as I only make it when I’m tired and in a hurry) so I take some short cuts that would horrify a traditional Spanish chef, or a lot of other chefs for that matter. I hope, however, that all of you tired and hurried parents appreciate my unorthodox methods for cooking this fabulous dish. In the end, I think my tortilla is still quite tasty and it’s the perfect dish for a crazy hurried evening.

Anyway, the great thing about a Spanish tortilla is that you probably already have the ingredients on hand. So the next time you need dinner in a hurry, give the Spanish tortilla a try and you can dream you’re in Spain instead of at the end of a long hectic day.

Spanish Tortilla

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Small onion

1 Small potato

4 Large eggs

salt and pepper to taste

In a medium pan (I love to use one made of cast iron), heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions, reduce the heat to medium-low, and saute for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cut your potato into fairly thin slices and blot them with a paper towel to absorb some of their moisture. Add the potatoes to the pan and saute for another 3 or 5 minutes.

Okay – here’s the unorthodox part: Add a little water to the pan (a couple of tablespoons worth) and quickly cover it. This will steam the potatoes so they cook faster. Cook the potatoes covered for a couple of minutes or until a fork can easily enter them. Uncover the pan and cook for another minute or two, browning the potatoes on each side. Add more olive oil if needed and salt and pepper to taste.

When the potatoes are golden brown, scramble the eggs, add some salt to them (about a 1/4 tsp) and then add them to the pan. Turn the burner to low and cover the dish. Cook until the eggs start to firm up. When the eggs are mostly firm, place the pan under the broiler for a couple of minutes. This will help you cook the center middle of the tortilla without drying out the rest of the dish.

Serve immediately with a hunk of good bread, if you have it, or a green salad, if you have the energy to make one.

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Bay Area Bites

My first post is now up at Bay Area Bites! Bay Area Bites (BAB) is the food blog site for KQED (the local San Francisco Bay Area NPR station). I will post a food blog once a week on their web site, focusing on cooking for and with kids, making homemade meals, and eating out (especially with kids). I feel very honored to have been asked to do this and look forward to sharing my thoughts on food there. This doesn’t mean I’ll stop writing for Denise’s Kitchen. I still plan to post on here regularly, so keep checking in! But, if you’d also like to also see what I’m up to on BAB, just go to http://kqedbayareabites.blogspot.com/.

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