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
7.3
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
7.3
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
7.3
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
7.3
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
7.3
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.

7.3
http://bluecayenne.com/strawberry-sorbet

 

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Hope, Beauty and a Mushroom Galette

 

Today, April 3rd, is National Find a Rainbow Day.

Woo-hoo!  Let’s party!  I’ll bring the hors d’oeuvres.

National Find a Rainbow Day is a day to either follow your whimsy and go looking for a rainbow, or, failing that, to look for beauty and hope in our troubled world. There are no rainbows here in sunny Southern California today but sign me up for that beauty and hope part.

I picked up this recipe for a mushroom galette at a recent Sur La Table cooking class (see link at the bottom of this post)  and it is excellent. Trust my good friend Gene about this one. He gives it an enthusiastic five stars and Gene is a tough grader.

A galette, by the way, is a French free-form crusty cake. It can be savory or sweet. It is easy to prepare, too. Of galettes, Bon Appetit Magazine says: ” Perhaps no baking project is easier, simpler, or lower-stress than the galette.” And that BA quote comes with a recipe for a galette where you have to make your own pie crust! For this recipe you just roll out a rectangle of prepared puff pastry and in very short order you have an appetizer worthy of a place on your party table. No one needs to know how easy it was to prepare.

I paired my galette with a glass of Malbec but it works with any party drink. Maybe it is time to concoct one of those craft cocktails everyone is writing about.

Hope your day is full of rainbows.

Here is a link to the Sur La Table Cooking School: Sur La Table Cooking Classes

Mushroom Galette
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Ingredients

  • Unbleached all-purpose flour for dusting
  • 1 sheet packaged puff pastry dough (10 x 15 inches, thawed)
  • 1 egg (beaten for egg wash)
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 pound baby bella mushrooms (sliced)
  • 2 T. minced shallots
  • 1 T. minced garlic
  • 1 T. fresh thyme leaves (chopped)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 T. sherry wine
  • 3 ounces blue cheese or to your taste (crumbled)

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. Dust the surface on which you plan to roll your pastry. Unroll the puff pastry. Roll the pastry with your rolling pin to make the pastry flat. Carefully move the pastry to your baking sheet. Use a small knife and trace a slight indentation around the edges of the pastry to create a 3/4 inch border. You need to be careful that you don't push too hard on the knife and cut through the pastry. You only want a slight indentation rather than a through cut. Prepare your egg wash and brush the outside 3/4 inch border with egg wash.Do not brush the larger inside area of the galette with the egg wash. You want that area to absorb the flavorful mushroom juices as the galette bakes. Use a knife to punch holes into the interior area of the puff pastry (inside the border); this will keep the dough from puffing while it cooks. If it does puff (mine did), punch more holes in the pastry when you take it out of the oven and press with your fingers to release the trapped air.
  3. Bake the pastry for 10 minutes. Set aside.
  4. Prepare the mushroom mixture by melting the unsalted butter in your pan with the olive oil. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté for about five minutes until the mushrooms are browned and soft. Add the shallots, garlic and thyme to the pan and season generously with salt and pepper. Continue cooking the mixture for about three more minutes. Add the sherry to the pan and cook until the wine has evaporated. This will take about two minutes.
  5. To prepare the galette, spread the mushroom mixture evenly on the galette crust. Sprinkle the top of the mushrooms with blue cheese. Bake in a 400 degree F oven for twelve minutes. The pastry should be puffed and golden brown and the cheese should be melted when the galette is done.
  6. Remove galette from the oven and place on a cutting board. Cut into pieces and serve. I used my pizza cutter to cut the galette into even pieces.
Cuisine: French-American | Recipe Type: Hors d
7.3
http://bluecayenne.com/hope-beauty-mushroom-galette

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White Bean Stew with Carrots, Fennel and Peas

I often look to David Tanis’ food column for inspired food ideas.

He was a lead chef for more than thirty years at Berkeley’s legendary Chez Panisse. That credential alone positions him in the pantheon of culinary immortals.

Since leaving Chez Panisse in 2011, Tanis has written a weekly column, City Kitchen, for the New York Times. The guiding concept for his column is “big city, small kitchen, busy cook,” so his recipes are aimed at people who like to cook (and eat)  at home. That would be me. If you are reading this blog, I suspect that describes you, too.

Tanis’ culinary signature is the showcasing of fresh seasonal ingredients in accessible recipes, often in Mediterranean-inspired dishes. Susan Goin of Los Angeles’ Luques wrote of him: “If I could have one person in the world make me a snack or one good dish, it would be David Tanis.” Enough said.

This recipe from a recent City Kitchen column is excellent. Fortunately, it instantly caught my attention with its headline: “My New Favorite Beans.”

That’s a pickup line for me. I’m a sucker for recipes where the chef touts his food with superlatives.

Favorite. Best. Killer. If a recipe title uses any of those words, I’m in. Throw Grandma in (as in “Grandma’s Absolute Favorite Biscuits”) and I’m over the moon.

Sometimes I get “burned” that way.  (Oh! No!  Was that a shameless food pun?  Sorry.)  Not with this recipe! This bean creation, packed with all manner of good and good-for-you vegetables, is full of flavor and deserves all the superlatives Tanis can throw at it.

It is versatile, too. Serve it as a satisfying main dish or as a bold side dish. It would be beautiful on a Spring buffet. I used my stew to construct a rice bowl. Topped with its garnish of lemon zest, chopped mint, chile and parsley and crowned with a pretty hard-boiled egg, the rice bowl presentation hit all the right notes for me. The flavor of the fennel in particular was exceptional against the flat flavor of the steamed rice and the little explosions of sour, hot, and minty tastes from the garish moved the dial on this dish from excellent to wonderful. I had the rice bowl for dinner two nights in a row!

Speaking of fennel, I was particularly intrigued by Tanis’ use of the under-appreciated vegetable in this recipe. I don’t often use fennel but I always enjoy trying new tastes and I’ve long wanted to cook with fennel in a serious dish. Now I’m thinking that a fennel gratin would be pretty terrific.

By the way, fennel, with its distinct anise aroma, is in the carrot family. Did you know that? I didn’t. It is also related to parsley, dill and coriander. That’s quite a family of flavors! You buy fennel in the market by the bulb. It can be eaten raw (in thin slices) in salads or cooked in any number of dishes. All parts of fennel are edible, but this recipe uses only the bulb.  Fennel is often served braised or cooked in a gratin.

Fennel probably originated in the Mediterranean and is known to have been popular with the ancient Greeks and Romans, both as a food item and as a medicine. Interestingly, in Greek mythology, knowledge was delivered to man in a fennel stalk filled with coal.

You can feel virtuous about eating fennel. A cup of fennel provides 14% of your daily requirement for vitamin C, 11% of your daily fiber needs and 10% of your daily requirement for potassium. Did I mention that a cup has only 27 calories?

Here is the link to Tanis’ original recipe:

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1018666-white-bean-stew-with-carrots-fennel-and-peas

Yields Six to eight servings

White Bean Stew with Carrots, Fennel and Peas

2 hr, 30 Total Time

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Ingredients

  • 2 C. dried white beans (about 1 pound)
  • 1 medium onion (peeled and halved and stuck with two cloves)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small sprig rosemary
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large white onion (medium diced--about 1 1/2 C.)
  • 3 celery stalks (medium diced, about 1 C.)
  • 6 orange carrots (medium diced, about 1 1/2 C.)
  • 1 or 2 fennel bulbs (medium diced, about 1 1/2 C.)
  • 1 t. crushed fennel seed
  • 1/2 t. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 t. minced garlic
  • 1 bunch small yellow carrots (peeled and left whole or halved lengthwise)
  • 1 C. fresh or frozen peas
  • 3 T. roughly-chopped parsley
  • 2 T. roughly-chopped mint
  • 1/2 t. grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 serrano chile (seeds removed and finely chopped)
  • 4 large eggs (boiled 9 minutes, chilled in ice water, peeled and halved)

Instructions

  1. Put beans in a large pot with onion halves, bay leaf and rosemary. Add enough cold water to cover the ingredients by about two inches. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat, shift the lid on the pot until it is slightly ajar, and simmer the beans. Check the beans regularly to be sure that you maintain about one inch of water above the beans. After approximately forty minutes of simmering, stir 2 t. salt into the beans and continue to cook until the beans are tender. This will take approximately one and a half hours depending upon the age of the dried beans. Alternatively (and more quickly), you could cook the beans in your Instant Pot. When beans are cooked, set aside to cool.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet and sauté diced onion, celery, carrots, and fennel. Season with salt and pepper and add fennel seed, red pepper flakes and garlic to the mixture. Continue to cook this mixture until the vegetables are softened. This takes approximately ten minutes. Lower your heat as necessary. Be careful not to burn the garlic or otherwise brown the vegetables. Set aside.
  3. Simmer yellow carrots in a pan of salted water until they are tender but firm. This will take about five minutes. Remove carrots from water, drain, pat dry and cool. Set aside.
  4. Put peas into a pan of salted water and simmer for about two minutes (or less if you are using frozen peas). Drain the peas and add them to the sautéed vegetables.
  5. To assemble the dish, heat the vegetable mixture over medium high heat. Add drained beans. (Discard the onions but reserve a cup of the cooking liquid from the beans.) Continue cooking until the mixture is evenly heated. As you are heating the vegetable mixture, add reserved cooking liquid to keep the mixture moist. Add salt to taste. Add cooked yellow carrots and let them heat in the mixture.
  6. To serve, either serve this dish spread on a platter and garnished with the mint/parsley/chile mixture and the halved boiled eggs or serve over rice in a pretty rice bowl. Just before serving, drizzle with a bit of olive oil.
Cuisine: Mediterranean | Recipe Type: Bean Stew

Notes

I used Rancho Gordo pretty yellow eye beans in this recipe. The original recipe simply calls for dried white beans.

Be generous with the mint/parsley/chile garnish. The fresh flavors of the garnish elevate this recipe to high level of taste.

7.3
http://bluecayenne.com/white-bean-stew-carrots-fennel-peas

 

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Strawberry Mascarpone Tart

Do the words five ingredients and gourmet dessert go together? Throw in the word fast and you have this gorgeous strawberry tart.

Your guests will rave (in a good way).

You may be unfamiliar with mascarpone cheese, the main ingredient in this tart. Mascarpone is a mild-flavored soft double or triple cream cheese that originated in the Lombardy region of Italy. It is similar to cream cheese or a thick French creme fraiche. You may need to sit down before reading the next line, though. Mascarpone has a fat content that ranges from sixty to seventy-five percent. There are six grams of fat in a single tablespoon of the cheese. Fortunately a small slice of this tart is very satisfying!

Typically, mascarpone is a dessert ingredient. It is a chief ingredient in Italy’s decadent tiramisu dessert, for example, but it also is used in savory dishes like pastas. You can buy mascarpone in the dairy section of markets like Trader Joe’s.

There are links at the bottom of this post to the original recipe from the How Sweet Eats blog, to a tutorial for carving the roses (it’s a cinch!), and to a do-it-yourself recipe for making mascarpone at home if you want to give that a try.

Strawberry Mascarpone Tart

1 hrPrep Time

1 hrTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 C. cookie or graham cracker crumbs
  • 5 T. unsalted butter (melted)
  • 12 ounces mascarpone cheese (at room temperature)
  • 1/4 C. powdered sugar
  • 2 pints fresh strawberries
  • Optional ingredients/garnishes
  • juice of 1/2 lemon (or vanilla extract)
  • fresh mint for garnish
  • honey for drizzling

Instructions

  1. Pulverize cookie crumbs in a food processor. (I used graham cracker crumbs.)
  2. Melt butter and add it to the cookie crumbs. (Add more butter if necessary to get the crust to hold together. I did.) Press the crumb/butter mixture firmly into a 4 x 14 inch tart pan (or an 8 inch round pan) with your fingers. (Your pan should have a removable bottom. The crust is tender, so a pan with a removable bottom will make it easier to remove the tart from the pan at the time of serving.)
  3. Mix mascarpone and powdered sugar in a bowl. Add the optional lemon juice or vanilla extract. (I used fresh lemon juice.) You will want to mix the cheese filling until it loosens up a bit. Gently spread the mixture with a spatula onto your tart shell. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. (The butter in the crumb crust will harden and firm up the crumbly crust. It is still a tender crust, though. Be careful handling it. If it does break, just sprinkle the crumbs over the tart slice and enjoy. It will still look beautiful.)
  4. Meanwhile, prepare your strawberry roses. When you are ready to serve the tart, place the strawberry roses decoratively on top of the tart. The original recipe covered the tart with roses. It was beautiful. I used a single line of roses because I thought it was attractive to expose some of the filling.
  5. A link to a tutorial that shows you how to carve the roses appears at the end of this post. It was easy!
Cuisine: Italian | Recipe Type: Dessert

Notes

When I first made this, I was worried that the small amount of powdered sugar the recipe called for would be enough to adequately sweeten the tart. Once I tasted the finished product, though, the subtle sweetness was just perfect for me. Depending upon your sweet tooth, you may want to adjust the amount of sugar in the mascarpone filling.

7.3
http://bluecayenne.com/strawberry-mascarpone-tart

 

Here is a link to a tutorial on carving the strawberry roses: Carving Strawberry Roses

Here is the link to the original recipe on the How Sweet Eats blog: Five Ingredient Strawberry Tart

Here is a link to a recipe to make your own mascarpone that appears on the Epicurious site: Do-it-yourself mascarpone from Epicurious

 

 

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Did it. Guacamole with peas!

 

You know how, when you aren’t exactly sure you want to do something,  you put it off—turning instead to “must do” projects like sorting the dog’s toys by size and color?

This week I’ve been nagged by the feeling that I needed to make this (in)famous guacamole with peas recipe from The New York Times. I wrote about it here a week ago when I posted a recipe, also from the New York Times, for a wonderful traditional guacamole. (Here is that link: http://bluecayenne.com/guacamole-give-peas-chance)

To remind you, The New York Times posted the guacamole with peas recipe on Twitter in 2015, after initially publishing the recipe in 2013 in Melissa Clark’s column in their newspaper. The original recipe came from Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the chef-owner of ABC Cocina, an upscale and well-reviewed restaurant in New York. The 2013 recipe didn’t cause a stir, but, when the Twitter recipe was published, the Internet exploded. “Don’t #$!** mess with guacamole!” was the message that came through loud and clear. Despite getting rave reviews from the likes of Zagat’s James Mulch and New York Magazine restaurant critic Adam Platt, guacamole with peas was a decided bad boy among guacamole aficionados. One Twitter writer, obviously a serious student of history, wrote: “Peas in guacamole?! We fought two world wars and invented a space program so we could have this world? WTF.” Even President Obama waded into the controversy: “respect the nyt, but not buying peas in guac. onions, garlic, hot peppers. classic.”

I guess I kind of agree with the guac purists. Guacamole is a pretty iconic dish.  That explains, I guess, my hesitancy to begin blanching the peas, mashing the avocados, and <gulp!> mixing them together. (Yes. The recipe does have avocados as an ingredient.)

But, you know me, I like to live on the edge.  So, yesterday, I decided to tackle the recipe.

It turned out a bit lighter, sweeter and grassier (is that a word?)  than regular guacamole. I didn’t finish the whole bowl of guacamole in one sitting, so I stored it in the refrigerator overnight and it didn’t discolor. (That’s always good.)  Also, I liked the crunch of the sunflower seeds better on the second day when they were a bit less crunchy and a bit more chewy.

And the verdict is? Good. Very good. But, then again, I’ve always liked bad boys. 

Here is the recipe. A link the original recipe appears at the bottom of this post. 

Did it. Guacamole with peas!

49 minPrep Time

49 minTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound fresh or frozen peas (I used frozen)
  • 2 medium jalapeno peppers
  • 2 T. packed cilantro leaves (chopped)
  • 3/4 t. salt (more as needed)
  • 3 large avocados
  • 2 scallions (white only, sliced as thin as possible)
  • zest of 1 lime
  • Juice of 1 1/2 lime
  • 1 T. toasted sunflower seeds
  • Tortilla chips (for serving)
  • Lime wedges (for serving)
  • Flaky sea salt (for serving)

Instructions

  1. Blanche peas in boiling water for about one minute (until al dente). Drain and immediately transfer peas into a bowl of ice water.
  2. Broil one of the jalapeños until it is completely charred. Transfer to a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 15 minutes. Then, remove the charred skin from the jalapeño using a paper towel or the back of a knife. Remove seeds and mince jalapeño. Set aside.
  3. Drain the peas. Reserve two tablespoons of peas for garnish and puree the remainder in your food processor along with roasted jalapeno, minced raw jalapeno, cilantro and 1/4 t. salt. Continue to process until mixture is almost smooth but still a little chunky.
  4. In a serving bowl, combine mashed avocado, scallions, lime zest, lime juice and remaining 1/2 t. salt with the pea puree. Adjust salt and lime juice as needed and garnish with fresh peas, sunflower seeds and flaky sea salt. Servie with tortilla chips and lime wedges.
Cuisine: Mexican/American | Recipe Type: Dip

Notes

The original recipe called for e small ripe avocados. I used three large ripe avocados.

7.3
http://bluecayenne.com/did-it-guacamole-with-peas

 

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