Friday, October 31, 2008

PESD with Recipe for Pasta with Spicy Cauliflower Sauce

Between the US presidential contest and Alaska’s senatorial election, I’ve developed a severe case of PESD (Pre-Election Stress Disorder).

Even when I’m not compulsively checking my favorite political websites, the upcoming election dominates my thoughts. Since I can’t seem to write coherently about food, I’m officially giving up until after November 4.

Though writing is beyond me, I’m still cooking dinner every night. One of my favorite recent meals was Pasta with Spicy Cauliflower Sauce, a dish I created to honor the gorgeous, creamy-white cauliflower that arrived in last week’s CSA box.

Pasta with Spicy Cauliflower Sauce is delicious and gives cauliflower the attention its wonderful flavor deserves. (One day, when I’m fully recovered from PESD, I’ll explain why steaming or boiling cauliflower is almost always a mistake.)

And for my American readers, please vote!

Pasta with Spicy Cauliflower Sauce
Serves 4
The anchovies in the breadcrumbs are optional, but their salty flavor nicely complements cauliflower. The amount of rosemary needed will depend on how strongly flavored your rosemary tastes.

Cauliflower Sauce:
1 cauliflower
2 cups diced yellow onions, 1/2” dice
1/4 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 – 3 tsp. minced rosemary
1 tsp. Aleppo pepper or 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Spiced Breadcrumbs:
3 cloves fresh garlic
1/4 tsp. Aleppo pepper or 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
6 anchovy fillets (optional)
1 cup fresh bread crumbs or
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

2 cloves fresh garlic
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 pound
gemelli, fusilli, or other dried pasta

1/4 cup dried currants
1/2 cup chicken stock, plus more as needed
1/2 cup grated fontina cheese
1/2 cup finely grated fresh parmesan cheese

Make the Cauliflower Sauce: Wash the cauliflower, cut out the stem and discard it, and break the cauliflower into florets. Roughly chop the florets.

Sauté the onions, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in olive oil until the onions soften and start to turn golden. Stir in the chopped cauliflower, rosemary, and Aleppo pepper, and cook over medium heat for 15 - 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender and starts to caramelize.

Make the Spiced Breadcrumbs: While the cauliflower is cooking, puree together the garlic, Aleppo pepper, and anchovies (if using). Toss the puree with the breadcrumbs until they are thoroughly combined. Season with freshly ground black pepper and salt (if using anchovies, which are salty, it may not be necessary to add salt). Sauté the seasoned bread crumbs over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the crumbs are crispy. Pour the crumbs onto a plate to cool.

Make the Pasta: Puree the garlic and salt together; this is easiest to do with a mortar and pestle. Whisk the olive oil into the garlic and salt. Boil the pasta in boiling salted water until it is al dente; be careful not to overcook. Drain the pasta and immediately mix in the garlic oil.

Finish the Dish: Stir the pasta and garlic oil into the cooked cauliflower. Stir in the currants, and 1/2 cup chicken stock. Let cook over medium heat for 1 minute or until the pasta is heated through. If the pasta is too dry, add a little more chicken stock. Stir in the fontina and half the parmesan cheese.

Divide the Pasta with Spicy Cauliflower Sauce between four plates or pasta bowls, sprinkle with spiced breadcrumbs and the remaining parmesan cheese, and serve immediately.
This is my entry for the third anniversary edition of
Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by its creator Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Weekend Herb Blogging #155 Round-Up


We’re back from Greece, my life and family are back on an even keel, and I’m ready to blog again. It’s fitting to resume blogging today; October 26 is my blog’s first birthday.

What a year this has been.

I’ve improved my writing and photography, but still have much to learn about both. I’ve struggled to maintain the discipline that regular blogging requires. Over the next year, I’ll continue that struggle and will do my best to provide interesting content and delicious recipes.

The best part of blogging is something I wouldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams - the dynamic and vital community of food writers. The generosity of fellow writers has been never ending. This kindness and thoughtfulness is a welcome counterpoint to the difficult economic and political challenges facing today’s world.

One way in which food writers build bonds and share information is though “events,” in which all are invited to write posts on a similar theme by a date certain. One of my favorite such events is
Weekend Herb Blogging, an event created by Kalyn from Kalyn's Kitchen to highlight the herbs and other plants used by cooks around the world.

As it happens, today it’s my turn to summarize this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging entries.

Next week (October 27 – November 2, 2008) is the three year anniversary of Weekend Herb Blogging, and Kalyn encourages everyone to join in the anniversary celebration by submitting a recipe featuring their favorite herb, vegetable, or fruit. Kalyn has put together a whole week’s worth of anniversary events, including drawings for three fabulous prizes. Kalyn also has an important announcement about the future of Weekend Herb Blogging.

This week’s Weekend Herb Blogging entries are listed in the order I received them. If I’ve made an error, please let me know and I’ll fix it right away. Remember, next week’s third anniversary host is Kalyn from
Kalyn's Kitchen.

Drunken Crabs
Manila, Philippines

Ning, of Heart and Hearth, was lucky to receive a gift of several kilos of live crab. Ning’s maid generously contributed her family’s secret recipe for Drunken Crab, which Ning says is “the best crab we have ever tasted.” The crab is seasoned richly with fresh ginger, fresh turmeric, garlic, sesame oil, chili paste, and an entire liter of gin. Ning advises that what “cooking wine is to the Chinese, [gin is] to the Filipinos.

Cardamom Pear Cake
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Tina, of Choosy Beggars, used her glut of pears to make Cardamom Pear Cake. Tina says her coffee cake is “wonderfully moist” and is “just perfect with a cup of Earl Gray tea or coffee.” Tina reports, “Five pears down, 500 more to go.”

Chania, Crete, Greece

Inspired by the current economic crisis, Maria, of the wonderful blog Organically Cooked, boldly tried eating nettles for the first time. She put on her gloves and picked a pile of them. She substituted the nettles for spinach in Spanakopita and also made Kalitsounia (little Cretan hand pies) with nettle filling. Sadly, Maria wasn’t able to take a picture of the Kalitsounia because her family devoured them all as soon as they came out of the oven.

Pork and Vegetable Kebabs on Rosemary Skewers
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA

Last week, Nikki, of Niksnacks, had a date with her stovetop smoker. She marinated chunks of pork tenderloin with orange juice, sage, and lavender, and threaded the pork and vegetables on rosemary skewers. Nikki briefly smoked the kebabs and finished cooking them in the oven. Nikki says, “Yum. If only every date I have could taste this good.” (For anyone who hasn’t tried rosemary skewers, I highly recommend trying them; here’s another idea for using them.)

Roasted Butternut Squash with Lemon, Thyme, and Parmesan
Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

Kalyn, of Kalyn’s Kitchen, created Weekend Herb Blogging and has faithfully organized it for the last three years, to well-deserved acclaim. This week, she made Roasted Butternut Squash with Lemon, Thyme, and Parmesan by roasting chunks of squash with olive oil, fresh thyme, and lemon juice, and finishing the roasted squash with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Autumn Fruit and Nut Salad with Pita Chips
Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Yasmeen, of Health Nut, has been having a good time cooking and baking with seasonally fresh pumpkins. She reminds us to always use the “bounteous” and “beneficial” pumpkin seeds. Yasmeen’s Autumn Salad gets its “sensational flavor from crunchy pumpkin seeds … fresh apples, oranges, toasty almonds, and homemade pita chips.” She also describes her pumpkin seed roasting method.

Sfouggato with Asphodels
Athens, Greece

Mariana, of History of Greek Food provides a very interesting lesson about the Greek omelet called Sfouggato. Mariana’s Sfouggato is particularly interesting because she made it with shoots of the asphodel, a flowering plant seen often in Greece. For anyone interested in food history, Mariana’s blog is a must read.

Sunroot Leek Flan with Horseradish Sauce
Valsorda, Lake Garda, Italy

Brii, of Briggis Recept Och Ideer, writes about Jerusalem artichokes (also known as sunchokes, sunroots, and earth apples). Brii used them to make individual Sunroot Leak Flans, rich with cream cheese and seasoned with fresh ginger. Brii served the flans with a simple mixture of creamy yogurt and tangy horseradish.

Chocolate Poppy Seed Cake with Apples
Bardolino, Lake Garda, Italy

In honor of her Grandfather Silvio, Cinzia, of
Cindystar, made Chocolate Poppy Seed Cake with Apples. Cinzia says the cake is “a sweet fantasy … made even more special by the poppy seeds that give this cake a unique and unusual taste and texture.” Cinzia also likes using poppy seeds in salads, sweet breads, and pastries.

Sagu Gula Bali (Sago with Spiced Coconut Milk)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Anna, of
Morsels & Musings, uses sago pearls (similar to tapioca pearls) and pandan (screwpine) leaves to make an Indonesian dessert called Sagu Gula Bali. During a cooking class on Bali, Anna’s teacher explained that pandan is used in Southeast Asian cooking in a similar way to how vanilla is used in Western cooking. In the US and Australia, many Asian stores sell frozen pandan leaves which Anna says retain their flavor.

Pumpkin Seed Brittle
Alexandria, Virginia, USA

Cheryl, of Gluten Free Goodness, hosts a pumpkin carving contest every year for Halloween. This year she served Pumpkin Seed Brittle, based on an old nut brittle recipe in her collection. Because she cooks the sugar syrup in the microwave, Cheryl’s simple brittle takes only 10 minutes to make.

Petis Pois à La Française
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Haalo, of Cook (Almost) Anything at Least Once, recently found red-skinned peas in her local market. The peas look like, well, green peas, but the pods are something to behold; be sure to check out Haalo’s amazing pea pictures. Haalo used the peas to make Petis Pois à La Française, “a bistro favorite … made with onions, bacon, lettuce, and fresh peas [c]ooked in a good amount of butter.” Haalo recommends serving the peas with fresh baguette, perfect for sopping up the delicious juices.

Stir Fried Squid in Black Bean Sauce
Long Island, New York USA

Beachlover, of Beachlover’s Kitchen, combined pre-cleaned squid with fermented black bean sauce to make quick and easy Stir Fried Squid in Black Bean Sauce. Beachlover says that fermented black beans are very fragrant, and are quite popular in China and other Asian countries.