Cauliflower is the darling of the vegetable world this year. It is her chameleon-like qualities that make her such a popular girl. Sliced into slabs and roasted as “steak“, shaved thinly and served raw as slaw, boiled and mashed and served in “stuffed potatoes“, roasted whole so it resembles a “brain”, cauliflower crust pizza, and now, masquerading as fried rice.
Is this taking carb avoidance too far? I love fried rice, and had my doubts that cauliflower could step up to the plate and replace the rice in this classic dish. But Google “Cauliflower Fried Rice” and no fewer than 566,000 results pop up. I needed to see what all the fuss was about. Making the cauliflower “rice” couldn’t be simpler. Pulse cauliflower florets in the food processor, about 10 times and you’re done. You could also grate the cauliflower on the large holes of a box grater. I used this recipe from chatelaine.com and adapted it slightly. Get all your ingredients chopped and measured before you start cooking, because this comes together quickly once you start the actual cooking.It genuinely looks like fried rice and it tastes delicious. I was worried that the flavour of the cauliflower would be overpowering, but with all the other ingredients, it wasn’t. Soy sauce and hoisin work together to add authenticity. While you know you’re not eating rice, it is still hits the spot. You can have a big bowl and feel satisfyingly full and healthy. I will be making this again very soon!
When a chef takes a humble ingredient, like the carrot, and makes it sublime, I pay attention. My first carrot experience created by Chef Michelle Bernstein, was 5 years ago, at The Omphoy Hotel in Palm Beach. I was visiting my friend Marla and we went to a killer barre class at the hotel’s Exhale Spa. After class we hobbled over to the restaurant for breakfast.
Once we ordered our poached eggs, the waiter delivered a basket of hot biscuits and house made carrot marmalade to the table. He said we must try the marmalade, and because our mammas raised us right, just to be polite, we ate all the biscuits and asked for a second ramekin of the carrot marmalade. I still have no idea what was in it or how they got it to taste so good. but I think about it often.
My second Michelle Bernstein carrot experience was last month in Miami. I was in town for my nephew’s wedding. We had a spare night so we went to dinner at her Biscayne Blvd. restaurant Cena. I started with the roasted carrots topped with whipped sardinian ricotta and dukkah. Once again, her wizardry with carrots dazzled me. Sadly, I just heard the restaurant closed on May 31.
Dukkah is a Middle Eastern nut and spice mix. I have written about it before, a few years ago. One of my favourite ways to eat it is to dip pita in olive oil and then do a second dunk into the dukkah. A very satisfying and addictive little bite. It had never occurred to me to sprinkle dukkah on vegetables, but it totally works.
Fat spears of asparagus got my attention at the market so I abandoned all plans of roasted carrots. You gotta go with what looks good that day. I decided on a pistachio based dukkah, but feel free to use any nut you like. Sesame seeds, fennel, cumin and coriander seeds add fragrant deliciousness. Seeds and nuts are toasted and then coarsely ground in the food processor.
I have been making squash fries at least once a week for over two years now. It recently occured to me that that I have not shared the recipe with you yet. My bad! Sorry about that. Once you try them, you too will be serving them often. I started making them around the same time that I discovered smoked paprika. Squash and smoked paprika are just made for each other. I usually roast vegetables at a high heat (450°F), which gives then that gorgeous char. However, I have been reading that roasting veggies at a low temp (250°F) deeply concentrates the flavours and gives you a velvety-custardy texture. They turn out more evenly cooked and less shriveled than their high-heat friends. I will admit that the roasting time balloons from 45 minutes to over 2 hours, but it’s unattended roasting time. If you can plan ahead, your patience will be rewarded.
First we need to tackle peeling and cutting the squash. This can be scary if you don’t know what you’re doing. Here’s my method.
Make sure you spread them out in a single layer on the baking sheet.I love dipping them in chipotle mayo. I just mix low fat mayo (please do not use that fat-free stuff) with canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. It is commonly found in the Mexican section of the supermarket. One can will give you way more than you need for this recipe. Here’s what I do to deal with leftovers. Remove all the seeds from the chiles, and process into a smooth paste in the food processor. Transfer paste to a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze. Once the paste is frozen solid, transfer to a zip-loc bag and store in freezer. Then you can simply break off pieces as you need them. Here are some great ideas on what to do with leftover chipotles.
Some people consider green beans boring. I prefer to think of them as a blank canvas. Their neutral flavour is a perfect backdrop for all kinds of culinary profiles. These blistered green beans are ideal for when you just want to crunch your way through something green.
This recipe was featured in the 2015 Thanksgiving (November) issue of Bon Appétit. I wanted to cook and bake almost every recipe in that magazine. While I still mourn the loss of Gourmet, I think that editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport is doing a stellar job at the helm of Bon Appétit. The magazine feels fresh and modern to me and the photography always leaves me feeling inspired.The pesto sauce for these beans is a riff on a traditional Catalan sauce made with roasted red peppers and almonds. Roasted tomatoes stand in for the traditional peppers. While winter tomatoes are often insipid, roasting infuses them with tons of flavour. The green beans spend about 10 minutes in a blisteringly hot pan, until they become lightly charred but still have some crunch. Crunchy, fresh, and tangy-sweet, these green beans hit all the right notes. They are sure to become a regular in your weekday rotation.
The concept of “nose to tail eating” has been gathering quite a bit of momentum over the past several years. It stems from a desire to be more responsible and waste as little as possible of the animals being killed for our food.
I try to be a more responsible carnivore. I buy whole chickens and cut them up myself, using the bones and neck to make stock. However, I just can’t seem to jump aboard the whole animal movement when it comes to using up veal tongue, beef cheeks or pigs ears. I’m just not that adventurous an eater.
Happily, for me, the nose to tail movement has recently made it’s way over from animals to vegetables. There’s a movement afoot by chefs, to use up every part of each vegetable we pull from the garden. Here’s a crusade I can get behind. I’m already great at using up broccoli stems and corn cobs.When I stumbled across a recipe for using up the green carrot tops on epicurious.com, it kind of blew my mind. Who knew that carrot tops were edible and that you could create a pesto from them? I was very excited to try it. Carrots get oiled and seasoned and then blasted in a hot oven to roast for about 30 minutes. I left a tiny bit of the stems on because it looks so pretty. Using up the tender green carrot tops in a pesto is a very clever way to use them up. They taste fresh and clean with a mild carrot flavour. Fresh basil, parmesan, garlic, macadamia nuts and some extra virgin olive oil get blitzed in the food processor with the carrot tops to make a smooth pesto.