Avocado-Cilantro Salad Dressing

I’ve lived in my home for forty-seven years and for most of that time we had an enormous Haas avocado tree in our back yard. Talk about an embarrassment of riches! In addition to the abundance of avocados we had to eat and give away year after year, we also had the prettiest possums in the neighborhood–their coats silken and glossy from feasting on our tree’s crop. Then, a few years ago, the tree went into a decline and I had to have it removed. That was a dark day. To my great chagrin, I am now (avocado) treeless. Bummer.

I have not lost my taste for avocados though, and, thanks to Costco, I’m able to keep my fruit bowl well-stocked. That is a very good thing since avocados are a healthy food choice.

Avocados, technically a single-seeded berry, are a sodium-free and cholesterol-free fruit that acts as a nutrient booster by increasing the body’s ability to absorb a number of vitamins including vitamins A, D. K, and E. Avocados are also a nutrient-dense food. According to the California Avocado Commission, a fifth of an avocado contains only 50 calories but delivers nearly twenty vitamins and minerals to the human body. (Who, by the way, was the person at the CAC who concluded that a fifth of an avocado was a serving? NO ONE has the willpower to eat just one-fifth of an avocado! Ever. Am I right about this?)

A native to Central America, the Haas avocados most commonly grown here in southern California are related to avocados that originated in Guatemala and contain almost no sugar or starch. A Haas avocado can contain as much as 30% oil–making it one of the fattiest plant foods in existence. Harold McGee in his book Of Food and Cooking says that, at 30% oil content, the avocado can be compared to a piece of well-marbled meat. Don’t despair, though. The health advantage of the avocado’s oil (over that of meat) is that it is largely monounsaturated–the “good fat” as the Haas Avocado Board and numerous health experts like to point out. The oil in avocados is generally credited with a number of health benefits including the reduction of inflammation in the body and the reduction of LDL bad cholesterol.

To maximize the health benefits of eating avocados, the experts recommend that you select an avocado with a “slight neck” rather than one that is rounded at the top. The slight neck is an indication that the avocado was ripened on the tree and predicts that the avocado will have a better flavor than one that is picked unripe. Those experts also recommend that you carefully peel your avocado to protect the darker green flesh that lies just below the avocado’s skin, flesh that is particularly rich in healthy carotenoids. To do this, the California Avocado Commission suggests that you use the “nick and peel” method:  “Cut the avocado lengthwise. Hold both halves and twist them in opposite directions until they separate. Remove the seed and cut each of the halves lengthwise into long quarter sections. Using your thumb and index finger, grip the edge of the skin on each quarter and peel it off, the same way you do with a banana skin.”

Apparently, avocados’ benefits go beyond nutrition, too. A “Healthy Living” column in The Huffington Post credits the fruit with properties that can help repair damaged hair, moisturize dry skin, treat sunburn and minimize wrinkles. I’m so onto that last one!

Here is an excellent avocado salad dressing recipe.  I’ve been wanting to find a good avocado-cilantro salad dressing for a very long time. The marriage of avocado and cilantro has seemed like a natural to me.

I think you will enjoy this dressing.

Avocado-Cilantro Salad Dressing

10 minPrep Time

10 minTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 3/4 C. milk
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/4 C. fresh cilantro (chopped)
  • 1 fresh medium jalapeño pepper (seeds removed) chopped
  • 1 medium Haas avocado
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 2 T. chopped green onion
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1/8 t. ground cumin
  • 1/4 t. ground pepper
  • 1/2 t. kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Put all of the ingredients into your blender and blend until smooth.
  2. You can leave the seeds in the jalapeño pepper if you want your dressing a bit more spicy.
Cuisine: Mexican/American | Recipe Type: Salad Dressing

Notes

You can add extra milk to the dressing to thin it.

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http://bluecayenne.com/avocado-cilantro-salad-dressing

My recipe is an adaptation of one that appeared on the Skinny Taste blog. Here is a link to the original recipe:  Zesty Avocado Cilantro Buttermilk Dressing

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Mr. Bates and The Queen’s Cake

 

Apparently Queen Elizabeth is a foodie.

She loves raspberry jam cookie sandwiches, white peaches, Dubonnet and gin, and chocolate biscuit cake. Scones are a constant at her tea table where she reportedly crumbles some of them up and slips them under the table to her beloved corgis. Like the rest of us, she enjoys having bowls of snacks, particularly mixed nuts, readily available when she is in the mood to nosh. (Remember the gossipy e-mail leaks a couple of years ago that revealed that the Queen was in a bit of a tizzy about the royal police guards who were pilfering nuts from the bowls that were kept in the palace corridors–nuts that were clearly intended for Her? Reportedly, she started marking the bowls to deter the thieves and a frosty royal memo was issued. If I may add my two cents here, I guess we all have our triggers, but I don’t think I would get into a war of words with the people protecting my life over a few bowls of nuts.  Just sayin… )

Purportedly, the chocolate biscuit cake is her favorite after-dinner dessert. Wills’, too. (He had the cake as his groom’s cake at his wedding to Kate Middleton.)

On the occasion of the recent celebration of the Queen’s 91st birthday, the press ran a number of anecdote-filled stories about the bespoke chocolate biscuit cake and the Queen’s obsession with it.

The anecdote I liked best was one about the Queen’s travels (by train) from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle. On those trips, it is the job of a member of the royal household to package up a chocolate biscuit cake (most likely a left-over cake since the thrifty Queen eats a slice every day and insists upon finishing every last piece of a biscuit cake before starting a new one).  A member of the royal household then rides in the train car behind the Queen’s car with the box of cake safely stowed on his lap. Great image. I’m picturing the honorable and ever-reliable Mr. Bates sitting patiently with the Queen’s cake as the verdant green English countryside rolls by outside his window. Full disclosure: I think I’m in love with Mr. Bates. When did they stop making men like that?)

Speaking of love, the love of chocolate has a long history among British royals. Chocolate was introduced into England from The New World during the age of exploration. England’s Seventeenth Century King Charles I enjoyed drinking hot chocolate at court until that no-fun Puritan Oliver Cromwell condemned chocolate as “sinfully pleasurable.” Charles lost his head during the civil war that followed, but when the monarchy was restored under Charles II, chocolate quickly came back into royal favor. When William and Mary came to the throne in 1689, they had a special chocolate kitchen built at Kensington Palace. Cadbury has been supplying a special dark chocolate to the British royals since Victorian times. The recipe is a trade secret. Maybe Elizabeth’s chocolate sweet tooth is in her genes.

Here is the recipe for the Queen’s chocolate biscuit cake. To my taste, it is more like a candy bar in the shape of a cake. Fresh out of the refrigerator, let it sit on your counter for a while before cutting it. It is rich. Serve it in small slices. A scoop of high-end vanilla ice cream would be a good accompaniment.

This cake recipe was adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe. Here is the link: Bon Appetit’s Chocolate Biscuit Cake .

Here is the recipe:

Serves 1 Small Slice

Chocolate Biscuit Cake

20 minPrep Time

20 minTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 1/2 C. plus 6 T. (4 sticks minus 2 T.) unsalted butter
  • 30 oz. bittersweet chocolate coarsely chopped (do not exceed 61% cacao)
  • 3/4 C. heavy whipping cream
  • 6 T. Lyle's Golden Syrup
  • 2 7.5 oz. packages of Rich Tea Biscuits coarsely chopped
  • (or butter biscuits like Le Petit Beurre)
  • For Glaze
  • 8 oz. semisweet chocolate (coarsely chopped)
  • 1 C. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 T. light corn syrup

Instructions

  1. Use a springform pan that has been lightly-coated with vegetable oil spray. Put a round of parchment paper on the bottom of the springform pan.
  2. Melt butter and chocolate over low heat in a medium saucepan. Add cream and golden syrup to the pan and stir. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully mix in the coarsely-chopped biscuits. Pour this mixture into the prepared springform pan and tap on the counter to settle and smooth the mixture. Refrigerate overnight (until set).
  3. For the glaze, put your chopped chocolate into a medium bowl. Heat the whipping cream and corn syrup until it simmers. Pour the simmering cream/syrup mixture over the chocolate and let the mixture sit for about five minutes. Stir until the ingredients are totally melted and the mixture is very smooth. Let the glaze cool slightly but it should still be pourable when you apply it to the cake.
  4. Remove the cake from the refrigerator. Remove the cake from the pan. (You will probably need to run a knife around the edge of the springform pan to dislodge the chilled cake.) Invert the cake onto a wire rack that you have positioned over a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Remove the bottom plate of the springform pan and the round of parchment paper from the cake. Pour the glaze over the cake and let it dribble down the sides of the cake. Use a spatula to smooth the glaze onto the cake. Refrigerate the cake for about 30 minutes until the glaze sets. Remove from refrigerator and let the cake sit on your counter for a while to make it easier to cut. Garnish with a sliced strawberry.
Cuisine: English | Recipe Type: Cake

Notes

I halved this recipe with no problems.

I used Scharffenberger bittersweet chocolate. It was 70% cacao rather than the 61% (max) called for in the recipe. The cake is very rich. I will try it with a lower percentage cacao the next time I make it.

Amazon.com carries the Lyle's Golden Syrup called for in this recipe.

I was able to find Rich Tea Biscuits at Stater Brothers in the imported foods section.

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http://bluecayenne.com/mr-bates-queens-cake

 

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Day-O! and Banana Cake

 

 

Join Juliet and me as we conga around the kitchen island singing Harry Belafonte’s Banana Boat Song .

Got you in the mood for a banana recipe?

The way I figure it, everyone needs a few good banana recipes. Bananas are a health food, after all. According to the LiveStrong site: “The high levels of potassium and carbohydrates in bananas make them a good source of fuel for athletes. The fiber in bananas can help to lower your risk for intestinal problems, high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes. The fiber can help fill you up and keep you feeling full for longer, helping you keep from eating more calories than you need and gaining weight.” What’s not to love?

I figure everyone also needs a few great banana recipes to use up those unsightly overripe bananas that inevitably end up in your fruit bowl–you know, the ones that shrivel, turn black and ooze out of their skins without the least provocation. (You can, by the way, freeze those over-ripe banana bad boys and use them –right outta the freezer– in any cake recipe that calls for bananas.)

In my home, in addition to my conga-loving rescue pup, Juliet, banana obsession extends to my  27-year-old umbrella cockatoo, Moti. Woe be it to me if I don’t promptly deliver a food dish with a few banana slices to her cage early each morning. I’ve been known to make a sleepy-eyed  early-morning banana run to the supermarket to keep Moti in bananas. Trust me, there is no sunshine in in anyone’s day if Moti doesn’t have her morning banana.

Moti is smart, too. Early each morning, perched on one foot next to her water bottle, she ever-so-carefully places pieces of her other foods onto the velcro-like sticky surface of her banana slices where they stay as she eats a little banana and then a little of her other foods, washing it all down with big gulps of fresh water. (What can I say? Everyone is a foodie in my house.)

Fortunately for us all, bananas have been around forever. Well, almost forever. Food historians trace the domestication of bananas to New Guinea around 8000 BCE, making them perhaps the first cultivated fruit. Later, Muslim traders spread the banana across Asia and into Europe and, in the 15th and 16th centuries, Portuguese explorers brought the plant to the new world. In today’s America, the average American consumes 27.9 pounds of bananas each year.

By the way, the plant in the photo (above) is a yellow African begonia, a Staudtil microsperma, from Nigeria by way of Andy’s Orchids in Encinitas.  For my gardening friends who are reading this blog, here is the link to Andy’s website:  Andy’s Orchids .  Prepare to be overwhelmed by the collection Andy has put together.

This truly wonderful banana cake recipe is adapted from one that appeared in Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. Here is a link to that book: Dorie Greenspan, Baking: From My Home to Yours.

From everyone here, Day-O! to you and yours.

 

Serves 1 Slice

Banana Cake

20 minPrep Time

1 hr, 5 Cook Time

1 hr, 25 Total Time

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Ingredients

  • 3 C. all-purpose flour
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 2 C. sugar
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 5 large very ripe bananas (mashed)
  • 1 C. sour cream (or plain yogurt)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Carefully grease your bundt pan.
  2. Whisk flour, baking soda and salt together. Set aside.
  3. Add butter to the bowl of a stand mixer and mix until the butter is creamy. Add the sugar and beat until the butter/sugar mixture is pale in color and fluffy in texture. Add vanilla to the butter mixture. Add eggs (one at a time) and mix thoroughly after adding each egg--about one minute after adding each egg. Lower the speed of your mixer from medium to low an add mashed bananas. Then, add one half of the flour mixture and mix. Add the sour cream and mix to combine. Add the remainder of the flour to the batter. Mix until ingredients are combined.
  4. Using a spatula, scrape the batter into your prepared bundt pan. Rap the bundt pan on your counter once or twice once all the batter is in the pan. This will remove any air bubbles from the batter.
  5. Bake on the middle rack in the center of your oven at 350 degrees F. for 65 to 75 minutes. (Cover your cake loosely with tin foil for the last 15 minutes of baking.) Your cake will be done when a toothpick or wooden skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.
  6. Let cake cool on your counter and unmold onto your serving plate. Serve plain dusted with powdered sugar or drizzle a powdered sugar glaze (powdered sugar mixed with a little milk) onto the cake. You can serve this immediately or wrap it in plastic wrap and serve the next day. According to the original recipe, the texture of the cake improves when wrapped overnight and served the next day.
Cuisine: American | Recipe Type: Cake
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http://bluecayenne.com/day-o-banana-cake

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Me, Serena Williams and Cauliflower Rice

You know how you put stuff off?

Me, too. I don’t usually sing my own praises but I’m not shy about saying that I excel (I mean really excel) as a procrastinator. In fact, I’m the Serena Williams of procrastination.

So, today I decided it was time to check some long-overdue stuff off my list.

Brushed Juliet’s teeth. Check.

Organized the clothes in my closet by color. (People who know me will snicker at that one. I wear black. Every. Single. Day. I think I must have been a theatre tech in another life.)  In any event, my closet is now arranged with my black clothes neatly separated from that one pair of (yet-to-be-worn) red pants I bought during a moment of wild abandon. Check.

Made cauliflower rice. Check.

The truth is that I’ve been putting off making cauliflower rice for the longest time. I certainly have no excuse. I’ve been intrigued by the concept. I love cauliflower. Heavens knows I’m  a food adventurer. For whatever reason, I’ve kept the recipe on the back burner.

Let me shout it from the rooftops.  Cauliflower rice is delicious!

This recipe is adapted from one that appeared on the My Food Story blog and on Pinterest. Here is the link: Mexican Cauliflower Rice

 

 

Yields 3-4 servings

Cauliflower Rice

13 minPrep Time

4 minCook Time

17 minTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 3-4 C. cauliflower florets
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 small onion (finely chopped)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 jalapeno (finely chopped)
  • 2 medium tomatoes (deseeded and chopped)
  • 3/4 C. diced bell peppers (mix up the colors)
  • 1 t cumin powder
  • 1/2 t. red chili powder or paprika
  • 1 T. chopped cilantro
  • Salt to taste
  • More cilantro, sliced avocados, black olives, sour cream, jalapeños, lime juice, etc. for garnish

Instructions

  1. Pulse cauliflower florets in our food processor until the cauliflower resembles fine grains of rice. Set aside,
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Saute onion, garlic cloves and jalapeno for 3 to 4 minutes until onion is translucent and garlic is fragrant.
  3. Add tomatoes and spices to the pan. Stir and cook for several minutes until the tomatoes are soft and the spices are fragrant. Add the chopped bell peppers, chopped cilantro and cauliflower rice to the pan. Mix and stir fry for several minutes until the cauliflower is tender.
  4. Garnish and serve.
Cuisine: American | Recipe Type: Vegetables
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http://bluecayenne.com/serena-williams-cauliflower-rice

 

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Edamame Salad

 

 

These days many food sites exhort us to “eat the rainbow”–a colorful visual cue to remind us of the importance of incorporating a variety of nutrients into our daily diets.  Good advice. I know I need the nudge.

Here is a recipe for a rainbow in a bowl, a nutritious roasted edamame salad redolent in garlic and marinated in a delightful basil vinaigrette. It is so good that I’ve found myself raiding the refrigerator late at night for this salad rather than the usual desserts. How funny is that?

Edamame?

Edamame are (Aargh! Is edamame plural or singular? )  young soybeans and they are powerfully nutritious–high in protein, dietary fiber and micronutrients.

While records indicate they were first available in the United States in the 1920s, they didn’t take off here until the 1980s when, depending upon the food writer you read, the Shogun series hit U.S. TVs and American interest in everything  Japanese  (including Japanese food)  spiked or the U.S. organic food movement took off. Maybe it was a bit of both.

Edamame has long been a staple of Asian cuisine. In fact, the consumption of young soybeans in China and Japan predates American interest in the food by a couple thousand years. It was the Japanese who gave the young beans their modern name edamame, beans on a branch.

In Asia, edamame was consumed for both its culinary flavor and its medicinal applications for conditions as varied as diabetes and hypertension. A 17th Century Chinese writer even claimed that beans would “kill evil chi.”

Modern nutritional research has validated many of the earlier beliefs about edamame’s value in the human diet, noting that the bean is a complete protein with all the essential amino acids and a single serving provides substantial amounts of your daily dietary needs: 17% Iron, 78% folate, 26% vitamin K.  A cup has only 120 calories but 10 grams of protein. Wow!

Try this great and great-for-you recipe. Who doesn’t need to exorcize a little evil chi anyway?

 

Yields 4 Servings

Edamame Salad

15 minPrep Time

15 minCook Time

30 minTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 12 ounces frozen shelled edamame (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 C. fresh corn kernels
  • 1/4 C. finely diced scallion
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 3/4 t. kosher salt
  • 1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 C. chopped fresh tomato
  • 1/4 C. chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 T. red wine vinegar

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Combine edamame, corn kernels, diced scallion, minced garlic, olive oil, kosher salt and black pepper in a bowl and toss to combine all the ingredients and coat them in the olive oil.
  3. Spread vegetable mixture on a rimmed metal tray and bake for 10-15 minutes. Remove roasted edamame mixture from the oven and chill in your refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  4. Add tomato, chopped basil leaves and red wine vinegar to the chilled edamame mixture. Toss to combine. Adjust your seasonings to your taste and serve.
Cuisine: American | Recipe Type: Bean Salad
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http://bluecayenne.com/edamame-salad

This recipe is an adaptation of one that appeared on The Good Network. Here is the link: Roasted Edamame Salad

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Olive Oil Cake

Olive oil in a cake? Yuck.

Don’t get me wrong. I love olive oil. I regularly drive to Los Alamitos’ Antica Olive Oil store to buy the best olive oils I can find. There, I enthusiastically swirl, sniff, sip and swallow  the various offerings freshly poured from the fusti, searching for the olive oil with the most grassy flavor and the most peppery bite–all the better if it is chock-full of polyphenol antioxidants.

I’m hooked.

But putting three-fourths of a cup of the pungent stuff in a cake? I dunno. Seems wrong to me.

On the other hand, the olive oil cake in this month’s Cook’s Illustrated Magazine had me intrigued. True, I’ve been seeing olive oil cakes in a number of publications in recent years, but up until now I’ve simply registered the idea as an engaging one and quietly slid the copied recipe to the bottom of what is my burgeoning stack of “to try” recipes. But, if Cook’s Illustrated touts a recipe, my cooking instincts told me, it must be good.

Too, I let my heart get away from me at last week’s farmers’ market. I bought six baskets of exquisite organic strawberries. However you cut it them, that is a whole lot of strawberries for one lady and a small sweet dog to consume. So, I was looking for something interesting to serve as a strawberry shortcake. Olive oil cake? Why not?

It turns out that the distinct taste of a fruity olive oil complements the slightly sweet flavor of the cake.

Here is the link to the Cook’s Illustrated article about olive oil cakes: https://www.cooksillustrated.com/articles/462-olive-oil-cake

Yields 8 Servings

Olive Oil Cake

20 minPrep Time

40 minCook Time

1 hrTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 C. (8 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 3/4 t. salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 C. (8 3/4 ounces) plus 2 T. sugar
  • 2/4 t. grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 C. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 C. milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease a 9-inch springform pan.
  3. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt until ingredients are well-distributed. Set aside.
  4. Using the whisk attachment of your stand mixer, whisk eggs until they are foamy, about one minute with mixer set on medium speed. Add 1 1/4 C. sugar and the lemon zest to the egg mixture. Continue to whisk the mixture until it is pale yellow (about three minutesI). With mixer set on medium speed, slowly drizzle the oil into the egg mixture until the oil is completely combined with the eggs (about one minute).
  5. Turn mixer speed down to low speed, and mix in one half of the flour mixture. Mix for about one minute until the flour is completely incorporated. You will need to use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl as you mix in the flour. Add the milk and mix for about thirty seconds. Mix in the remaining flour just until it is incorporated (about one minute).
  6. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl and scoop the batter into prepared springform pan.
  7. Sprinkle two T. sugar over the surface of the batter.
  8. Bake cake at 350 degrees F. for approximately 40-45 minutes on the middle rack in your oven. You want the top of the cake to be a pretty golden brown when the cake is finished.
  9. When a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with only a few crumbs, remove cake from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. The top of the cake is going to crack, so don't worry when that happens. Then, release the sides of the springform pan and leave cake on your counter to cool completely (1 1/2 hours).
Cuisine: American | Recipe Type: Dessert
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http://bluecayenne.com/olive-oil-cake

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Savory Bread Pudding with Sautéed Leeks and Butternut Squash

I love bread pudding. It is my idea of a soothing comfort food–right up there alongside refried beans and candy corn. That said, I guess it’s pretty clear that carbs whisper sweet nothings in my ear when the pressure’s on in my life .

While I have many fond memories of eating bread pudding over the years, two recipes in particular stand out in my memory–a decadent whiskey-sauced bread pudding I learned to make at a cooking school in New Orleans and an Indian version (Shahi Turka) made with almonds and saffron that we devoured every night during a wonderful stay in New Delhi. 

Over the years, however, I’ve learned that there is another kind of bread pudding, a savory one, that rivals its sweet cousins in the wonderfulness department. ( Yes, Virginia. Wonderfulness is a real word according to Merriam Webster.)This is a post about one of those savory delights,  a bread pudding that features leeks sautéed in butter and bits of butternut squash suspended in a creamy gruyere-flavored custard. Are you drooling yet?

This beautiful casserole would be a perfect dish to serve at an elegant breakfast or brunch. It also would be excellent served as a main dish any night of the week.  Just pair it with a green salad and you have a satisfying meal.

Here is a link to the original recipe: Roasted Butternut Squash Bread Pudding with Gruyere

 

Yields 8 Servings

Savory Bread Pudding

An elegant savory bread pudding made with leeks and butternut squash cubes.

30 minPrep Time

40 minCook Time

1 hr, 10 Total Time

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound day-old French baguette cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 T. unsalted butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 C. whole milk
  • 1 1/2 C. heavy whipping cream
  • 1/8 t. freshly-ground nutmeg
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound butternut squash (peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice)
  • 1/4 C. olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 leek (white and light green parts only) halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 3 C. baby spinach
  • 1 C. shredded gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 C. grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Butter a large 2-quart baking dish.
  3. Mix eggs, milk, cream and nutmeg in a medium bowl to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Cut baguette into 1-inch cubes. Add bread cubes to the milk/cream mixture stirring well to combine. Let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes to give the bread cubes an opportunity to absorb the custard mixture.
  5. Cut off an inch or so on each end of the squash and then cut the squash in half. Remove the seeds and strings from the inside of the squash and brush the squash generously with olive oil. Salt and pepper the squash and bake in a 400 degree F. oven until it is tender. This takes about 20 minutes. Test the squash for doneness and, when done, remove from the oven and cool. When the squash is cool, peel it and cut it into 1-inch cubes.
  6. Wash leek in cold water and trim off the tough green stem. You will only be working with the light green and white parts of the leek. Cut the leek into thin slices and soak in a bowl of cold water to remove any residual sand. Lift leeks out of water, drain and pat dry.
  7. Wash spinach, drain and pat dry.
  8. Melt butter in a large pan and sauté the leeks until they are tender (about 5 minutes). Add the spinach to the leeks and cook only until the spinach begins to wilt. Add this leek-spinach mixture to the bowl of bread cubes. Add the roasted squash, gruyere cheese and 1/4 C. grated parmesan. Mix well with your hands.
  9. Pour the pudding into the prepared baking dish and top with the remaining 1/4 C. parmesan cheese. Bake in 400 degree F. oven for approximately 40 minutes. The pudding will be set and the bread cubes will have golden brown edges when the pudding is done.
  10. Remove from oven and set on your counter for a few minutes. Serve hot.
Cuisine: American | Recipe Type: Casserole
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http://bluecayenne.com/savory-bread-pudding-sauteed-leeks-butternut-squash

 

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Roasted Cauliflower Steaks

My friend Sarah recently went to lunch at the new Farmhouse Restaurant at Roger’s Gardens in Newport Beach. She came home raving about the food. The cauliflower steaks with chimichuri sauce particularly impressed her.

I decided to see if I could recreate the dish and went on an online searching expedition. I found several recipes. Coincidentally, I also attended a Sur La Table cooking class where cauliflower steaks were one of the dishes we prepared.

It turns out that cauliflower steaks are having their moment and they are being served with a rainbow of complimentary sauces–romesco, vinaigrette, pesto and on and on. Epicurious even has a recipe for cauliflower steaks sauced with cauliflower puree. That one sounds kind of redundant to me but I haven’t made it. Maybe it is wonderful.

Once my cauliflower steak was roasted, I had some fun plating it. I decided that it should sit on the sauce rather than having the sauce as a topping. I also added roasted pine nuts as a garnish and that turned out to be a major flavor and texture treat with this dish.

Hope you enjoy this.

Serves 1 Steak

Roasted Cauliflower Steaks

20 minPrep Time

40 minCook Time

1 hrTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 4 1/2-inch thick cauliflower steaks cut from a heavy and firm cauliflower
  • 2 T. olive oil (or more)
  • Sea salt and freshly-ground pepper
  • For the sauce:
  • 1/4 C. pitted green olives
  • 1 T. capers (rinsed and dried)
  • 3 T. roughly-chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 small garlic clove (minced)
  • 1/2 t. Dijon mustard
  • 1 t. lemon zest
  • 2 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 5 T. extra-virgin olive oil (or more)
  • Garnish with roasted pine nuts, chopped parsley (or cilantro), a strip of tomato peel, and an extra drizzle of your best olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper. Move oven rack to the top position.
  2. Wash the cauliflower and discard the leaves. Do not core the cauliflower. You will need the core to keep your "steak" slices in one piece. Cut the cauliflower in half and begin slicing the steaks about 1/2 inch thick. As you move to the outside of the cauliflower, the pieces of the cauliflower will not hold together. You can either roast those pieces and serve along side the steaks or reserve them for another purpose.
  3. Brush cauliflower steaks with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast until a knife inserted in the steaks punctures the steaks easily. This will take about forty minutes. Turn each steak over at the mid-point in roasting. When the steaks are done, you will have pretty golden brown bits on the edges of some parts of the cauliflower.
  4. Make the sauce by combining all the sauce ingredients except the oil in your food processor. Process until the ingredients are well combined and the greens are chopped into small pieces. You will want to use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the processor bowl once or twice while you are processing the sauce. You don't want to over-process because you want some texture in your sauce. Next, with the food processor running, slowly drizzle the oil into the bowl until the oil combines with the other ingredients. Add salt and pepper to your taste.
  5. To plate the cauliflower, smear some sauce on a white plate. Arrange the cauliflower steak on top. Sprinkle chopped parsley and roasted pine nuts over the steak. Decorate with a strip of tomato skin and drizzle with some extra olive oil.
Cuisine: American | Recipe Type: Vegetables
7.6.2
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http://bluecayenne.com/roasted-caulifower-steaks

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Strawberry Sorbet

 

Did you know that if all the strawberries produced in California in one year were laid berry to berry, they would go around the world 15 times?  I didn’t think so.

Did you know that ninety-four percent of households in the United States consume strawberries?  (Personally, I want to know what in the world is wrong with that other six percent of Americans?!)

Did you know that strawberries are a member of the rose family or that there is a strawberry museum in Belgium or that an average strawberry has 200 seeds or that the average American consumes 4.85 pounds of fresh and frozen strawberries each year or….?  (OK. OK. I’ll stop.)

Obviously, our subject today is strawberries. We are, after all, on the cusp of the strawberry season!  How absolutely wonderful is that?

We all know that ripe strawberries are delicious, but some may not realize quite how healthy a food choice they are as well. For example, a cup of strawberries has only 55 calories.  One serving of eight strawberries contains more vitamin C than a whole orange (163% of our daily requirement). They’re packed with fiber and they are fat free and cholesterol free.

Looking back through history, strawberries have long captured the imagination and have, for the most part, been held in high regard. The Romans consumed strawberries to cure fevers, fainting and inflammation. They also used strawberries as a tooth whitener. The French long thought that strawberries were an aphrodisiac. The dour English, however, had different ideas about strawberries–at least when it came to trash talking about Anne Boleyn. Sixteenth Century court gossip had it that Boleyn hid a strawberry-shaped birthmark under that famous golden B necklace–a sure sign that she was a witch. As you may remember, things didn’t end well for Anne.  

Today, the reputation of strawberries has enjoyed a resurgence with scientific studies proving that strawberry consumption positively influences many areas of our health. We can thank strawberries for stronger hearts, lower cholesterol levels, healthy teeth, lower blood glucose levels and lower blood pressure. 

So, where to start?  You could  eat them right out of the basket as you drive home from the market as I often do. Or, you could make a strawberry pie. Or, you could make this  wonderful strawberry sorbet. It is absolutely delicious and its intense red color will capture the admiring gaze of everyone at your table.

Here is a link to the original recipe which appeared under Amanda Hesser’s byline in the New York Times Food Section: NY Times Strawberry Sorbet Recipe .

Yields 1 1/2 quarts

Strawberry Sorbet

15 minTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 1 whole lemon (seeded and roughly chopped)
  • 2 C. sugar
  • 2 pounds ripe strawberries (hulled)
  • Juice of 1 to 2 lemons

Instructions

  1. Process chopped lemon and sugar in your food processor until it is well-combined and the lemon chunks are very small. Set aside.
  2. Puree the strawberries in your food processor bowl. Add lemon and sugar mixture and lemon juice to taste.
  3. Pour the strawberry/lemon mixture into an ice cream maker and process until frozen.
  4. Serve and enjoy. Freeze any leftovers.
Cuisine: American | Recipe Type: Sorbet

Notes

The original recipe calls for two cups of sugar. Several of the people who commented on the recipe online recommended cutting the sugar to one and a half cups or less to your taste. I like to live dangerously and used the whole two cups of sugar but you may want to reduce the sugar to satisfy your taste and your concience.

7.6.2
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http://bluecayenne.com/strawberry-sorbet

 

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