Say it with (Cauli)flowers!

Is cauliflower making a comeback or was I just unaware of great recipes for it? I’ve always liked it raw, with dip. And sometimes I pick it out of a new jar of sweet mixed pickles. When I was on a low carb diet, we used to have mashed cauliflower in place of the higher carb mashed potatoes. I realized then that cooked cauliflower didn’t just have to come with nutmeg or cheese sauce.

It seems that lately the universe has been pointing me in the direction of Roasted Cauliflower. First a friend sent me a recipe for a Spicy Whole Roasted Cauliflower. VERY nice! A few tweaks: I found that the head needed more baking time (or pre-steaming/microwaving) and less chili powder. But 2 of us ate the whole thing in one sitting!

Then I saw and made the recipe for Roasted Cauliflower, Tomato and Goat Cheese Gratin. It could be a side dish, but it worked REALLY well as a one-dish dinner! The egg and goat cheese add protein. But meat lovers could also mix in some chopped and sautéed hot Italian sausage or Chorizo. Mmmmm. Cauliflowers seem to be on sale right now, so I’m off to buy another one!

Do the Macaron-a.

No, not a typo. Just a bad pun. Sometime in the last few years (a review of news articles suggests about 2010) these little French Meringues have made a come-back. One article called them the new craze to replace cupcakes. (I say there’s room for both!) I have no idea why I suddenly felt challenged to make some, but I did.

The recipe I chose was from the CHOW website, mostly because it looked less complicated than some. I forgot, however, that I wanted to make coloured macarons, and this is a chocolate macaron recipe, with cocoa powder. Oh well, next time!

I know that working with meringue can be tricky, and my batter ended up being runnier than I wanted, so they spread a bit. Also, is it just me or is working with pastry bags a royal pain in the tuches? I did buy a plunger thingy a while ago, to fill muffin tins. I think I’ll use that for macarons next time too. The recipe is for about 25 cookies (50 rounds) and I got 26-2 inch rounds, so I definitely need to work on my portion size!

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And there will be a next time. Despite the less than ideal shape, and a few buckled tops (not for your eyes!) these are fantastic (if I do say so myself), crispy in the outside, chewy on the inside. I sandwiched a few together with Nutella. Like so.

Mmmmmmmm!

Mmmmmmmm!

I ate that one! Many of the recipes suggest letting the macarons “mature” in the fridge overnight. So I will do that with a few and see if it makes a difference.

Tomato Soup.

My mom made GREAT soup: chicken noodle, chicken with rice, vegetable, vegetable with beef…mmmmmm. But one thing I DON’T remember her making is tomato soup. We had it, but it came out of a can, usually Campbell’s. And I liked it!

Sometimes we would dilute it from the can with milk instead of water. Or put a blob of yoghurt or sour cream on top. But mostly it was just plain Campbell’s Cream of Tomato Soup. Later, as an adult, I would also add a few drops of Tabasco, and some chopped rosemary or parsley on top.

I used to live near a restaurant that has Tomato Jinn soup on the menu. The Jinn is actually Gin! I don’t know what else they do to it, but it is delicious. After I tried that, I would put a tot of gin in my doctored Campbell’s. Sometimes if I didn’t have gin, I used vodka instead. Whatever!

My local grocery store chain has it’s own brand of fresh soups; there used to be two tomato soups, one a bisque and one with Gorgonzola. Both yummy, although I haven’t seen the Gorgonzola one lately. Sometimes I buy a few on sale (there are ALWAYS sales!) and freeze them so that I don’t run out.

It isn’t that I haven’t used tomato in soup myself. When it comes to Clam Chowder, “I’ll take the red please.” LOVE Bouillabaise with a tomato base. But I have never made “just” tomato soup. I guess I thought that it would mean starting with fresh tomatoes and chopping and cooking and, well, a lot of hassle.

So I was delighted to see a recipe for Tomato-Fennel Soup that starts with a good brand of chopped tomatoes and goes from there. I guess it should have come as no surprise to me that it is from Melissa Clark at the New York Times. Sometimes I just want to BE her! The soup came out GREAT, tasted even better the next day. And I am always thrilled when my version looks like the “published” version!
Tomato-Fennel Soup

The recipe calls for toasted slices of baguette. But I had made some “No Knead” Buns, so I toasted some slices of that instead.
No Knead Buns

I have seen another recipe lately, for Tomato Soup with Goat Cheese. Might try that soon too!

Awesome Sauce.

There is an ad on TV, I think it’s for a credit card, and one of the “characters” in the ad uses the phrase “awesome sauce”. Apparently there IS such a thing, a tomato based sauce that goes over pasta. But mostly it’s used as an expression that means “Great!”, which is how it is used in the ad.

I am using it for something else, and I don’t mean the lovely Scotch whisky referenced in the bottle below (although that was great too!) Inside that bottle now is ANOTHER awesome sauce, called Comeback Sauce.

Comeback Sauce

Confession time: Many of my culinary adventures are inspired by articles and recipes I see in the New York Times, often from Melissa Clark, Mark Bittman, and David Tanis. But this one is from an article by Ellen Ann Fentress.

Still a keeper! A couple of hints. The chili sauce usually used is Heinz and 2/3 of the bottle works out to about half a cup. And it really is worthwhile to let the sauce sit in the fridge overnight before using, to allow the flavours to blend. So far we have used it on chicken, rice, and cauliflower. This is a great condiment to help you “up” your intake of veggies!

Leftovers.

We try to eat what I guess is now called “whole foods”, that is, as seasonal and local as reasonably possible, and as unprocessed as possible. But. So, late last year I read about about Cronuts® and how you can make a facsimile using Pillsbury Crescent Roll® dough. Bought the dough, made the pastries; bought the dough again, didn’t use it.

Until today. We are trying to use up leftovers from our recent open house (as opposed to putting it all in the freezer, then tossing it out when it is unrecognizable with freezer burn!) and I still have some ham (which I “made” myself by the way by brining some pork, but that’s for another post) and cheese, and LOTS of pickled vegetables. Southerners LOVE their pickles.

Suddenly I had the makings of a hot lunch! Rather than separating the crescent roll pieces into triangles, I pinched together 4 sets of 2 triangles and ended up with 4 rectangles. Pinch the seams well, back and front. On half of each rectangle put some chopped ham, grated cheese (I did 2 with Cheddar and 2 with Gouda) and a bit of chopped pickled something (banana peppers, okra, mushrooms) or sun dried tomatoes, anything you have to hand.

Fold the other half of each rectangle over the filling so you have 4 “pillows”. Then pinch the edges together well on all three open sides of each one. Place the “pillows” on a baking tray and bake in a 375F oven until nicely browned, maybe 25 minutes.

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I guess I should have taken the photo of all 4 BEFORE we started eating them! I had a thought after, that I could have used ham and pineapple as a filling, and added a spoon of pasta or pizza sauce (oh, come on! You don’t have some in the back of the fridge?). Then it would have been a homemade version of another commercial product. I’m sure that you have lots of your own ideas for fillings from leftovers!

Serendipity is your friend.

My adventures with cooking and baking often start serendipitously. I am reading something and there will be a reference to a certain food or dish and my mind says “hmmmm. I want to check that out.” That’s how I ended up making the subject of this post.

I read a column in the New York Times written by someone who shared a food memory with his cab driver. The memory referenced an Armenian dish called lahmajun, kind of like an Armenian pizza. Sounded yummy! So I looked it up online and found mostly references to lahmacun, a Turkish version. (I am not insensitive to the potential political implications of this, but this blog is about FOOD.) My web surfing brought me to a recipe on a lovely blog called Global Table Adventure. Now THERE’S a food blog!
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This was my version. We had had lamb for dinner the night before, so I used locally accessed ground beef instead. The recipe makes several “pizzas” and the dough is EXCELLENT; I didn’t use all of it that night, so I froze half, then defrosted it another night for a thin crust ham and pineapple pizza. STILL good!

When life hands you lemons…….

I make lemon curd. I was thrilled to receive a Meyer lemon tree this Spring! Apparently it is a more hardy variety, so that it can survive our Winters which, although warmer than some, can still get into the minus temperatures.

The last of this year's lemons.

The last of this year’s lemons.


I love the taste of lemon, actual lemon, not reconstituted. I also love the colour which, as you can see from my header photo, is lovely when set off by cobalt blue. Lemon is a feast for the tongue AND the eye and I think its most aesthetic use is in lemon curd.

The recipe I use is adapted from The Australian Women’s Weekly soft cover book called “The Book of Preserves”. It was published in 1990 and still my “go to” book for simple and tasty jams, jellies and the like. I say it is adapted because the original recipe calls for lemon and lime juice and I just substitute lemon juice for the whole thing. Here is the original recipe.

Lemon and Lime Butter (Lemon Curd)

180 grams unsalted butter, chopped
2 cups castor sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lime rind
1/3 cup lime juice
4 eggs beaten, strained

Combine all ingredients in top half of double boiler. Stir over simmering water until mixture thickly coats the back of a wooden spoon. Pour into hot sterilized jars; seal when cold. Makes about 3 cups.

I prefer a tart curd, so besides using just lemon juice and rind, I cut the sugar (I use regular white) by about 1/4 cup and use a full cup of juice. Store the jars of curd in the fridge.

Ta da!

Ta da!

This is so good not only on toast, but also makes a great quick filling for tarts. Pre-bake or buy already baked tart shells and fill with curd. Instant dessert fit for company (or just you!).