Warm Smoky Roasted Cauliflower Salad

Crunchy, smokey and healthy

It’s one month in to 2012 and we’re proud to say that we’re sticking to our goals. Beyond sticking to them, even. We one-up’ed ‘em this weekend.

The original goal is just to get our bums moving and spend some quality time in the running lane down Ocean Parkway, oh maybe three times a week. Throw in some crunches and push-ups for good measure. Nothing too crazy, of course.

Chop coarsely - this is a quick and easy dinner

Inspired by the overflowing bins and cartons at our beloved Ditmas Avenue fruit and vegetables stands, we’re making an extra effort to put the earth’s bounty to good use in our kitchen. We hope to replace a good portion of our refined starches with vegetables. Zucchini instead of pasta. Squash instead of russet potatoes. Cauliflower instead of rice.

We started with cauliflower a few Sunday nights ago. So far, so good. In the past, we’ve roasted the white florets with garam masala spices and served with chickpeas or yellow dhal (rice optional). We’ve tried the saffron seasoned version with nuts and raisins offered up at StoneSoup with great success. Sunday’s version, though, is my current favorite. We skipped heat of masala and used smoked Spanish paprika and sea salt on our veggies. The smoked pepper turned out to compliment both the slightly bitter cauliflower and the pork chops we served them with. A little fresh spinach and apple cider vinegar completed the meal.

Lo, and behold! Two servings of vegetables in a leisurely Sunday evening meal, new year’s plans none-the-worse. In truth, a little better.

Healthy Dinner!

Continue reading

Stove-top Popcorn with Olive Oil and Cracked Pepper

Fresh stove-top popcorn is the only kind you'll get in our apartment

Despite the rapid popularity of microwave popcorn during my lifetime, stove-top popcorn wiggled its way into a single memory from my 1980’s childhood.  My great-grandmother stood next to our stove, melting butter in a big pot and I stood next to her on tip-toe, trying to catch glimpses of the golden pool. She opened a big plastic bag of popcorn kernels, pushed me away from the stove and poured in half the bag. I still remember the high-pitched “whoosh” of all those little kernels hitting the metal. Then came the first “pop.” Then the next. Then it seemed as if the popcorn would pop right off the stove.

The memory ends there, although I’m sure I enjoyed this buttery snack while watching Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, happily nestled between the sofa and the coffee table, cross-legged on the floor.

Store unpopped popcorn in a bug-proof container

Shortly thereafter microwave popcorn appeared on the scene, and stove-top popcorn — along with Irish beef stew and creamed tuna on toast — was catapulted into the magical realm of “things Dema used to make” which is something like a museum for food memories from my early life.

Start with two or three test kernels in the pot. When one pops, its time to add the rest.

Raphe and I rediscovered stove-top popcorn together in the early months of our relationship.   I was in school, completely broke-ass and living with two other broke-ass student types in a tiny two bedroom plus large closet that lacked, among other things, a microwave.  Raphe suggested a movie-night on chilly winter evening and my mind went back to that  memory of Dema standing in front of the stove with a bag of unpopped popcorn.   So, Raphe and I ventured into the well-stocked dry good section of the local grocery store, picked up a bag of Goya popcorn and have never gone back.

We like to use a pot with a clear lid so we know if we need to remove some of the popped corn, Also, it's fun to watch.

Stove-top popcorn is now our go-to snack for lazy Saturdays and has made appearances at the dinner table on even lazier weeknights.  We leave large bowls of it out at parties, where it disappears long before the hummus or cheese platter. The popcorn is crisper than the microwave version, avoids imitation butter and takes only a few minutes to make.  Instead of melted butter, we drizzle our popcorn with rosemary olive oil and season it with sea salt and cracked pepper.  Sometimes we add a touch of hot pepper oil  or Old Bay seasoning to mix it up.  For your first batch, we recommend keeping it simple so you can appreciate just how good stove-top popcorn is.

Continue reading

Scarborough Fair Roasted Root Vegetables

A flavorful dinner - veggies roasted with herbs, beer fermented with herbs

It’s a chilly spring evening here in Kensington.  When the fog rolled in we scrapped our salad plans and herb roasted some root vegetables in true autumn fashion.

Chop everything up and throw it back in the plastic bag to toss with herbs.

Our beer menu is holding out for spring, though.  No heavy stout or porter tonight; Raphe paired our veggies with Saison du Buff, a collaborative effort between Stone, Dogfish Head and Victory brewing companies.  Instead of the citrus-y flavor we’ve come to expect from saisons, this crisp beer – brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme – takes on a light herbal character.

Such photogenic root vegetables

Taking a cue from the beer, we tossed the vegetables in olive oil, salt, pepper and “Scarborough Fair” herbs.  Then we roasted the bite-sized pieces at 425 degrees F for about 40 minutes – just long enough to crisp up the edges and leave the centers tender.

Out of the bag, into the roasting pan

It was a warm and welcome meal for a brisk evening, but we’re not giving up on warmer days still to come.  Here’s to more saisons and salads!
Continue reading

Lazy Day Cassoulet and Baby Spinach Salad with Cherry Vinegrette

Goodbye, Winter.

It’s been a good few months. You’ve given us much lovely snow, but much drippy rain. It’s probably best that we go our separate ways.

You’ve aided and abetted many an early night in (not to mention the late mornings). You’ve inspired cookies, muffins, soups and stews. You make that bread hot from the oven just that more tempting. We’ve spent whole lazy weekends under your spell.

We’ve made you one last savory baked dinner. You’ve been begging for a casserole, so we spent one more lazy day in the kitchen for you. We sauteed that holy trinity of French flavors (onions, celery and carrots) in fat rendered from salty bacon, rich chicken legs and sweet bratwurst. We baked the meat under a thick layer of tomatoes and white beans until the chicken practically melted off the bone. Oh, and we topped it with garlic breadcrumbs (your favorite, we know). It warmed the house as it baked all afternoon. We hope you like it (we certainly did).

But it’s time for us bid you adieu. We’ll see you again next year.

Love,
Us

**********

Hello, Spring.

It’s been a while and we’ve missed you. The sun’s almost become a stranger in these short few months.

We’ve been dreaming about your early mornings and late afternoons. We’re yearning for fresh, tender leaves and bright buds.

We know it’s a bit soon for this, but we made you a little something. We hope it doesn’t scare you off, but it helps us remember what it’s like to be warm again. Crisp spinach and tangy goat cheese are such a tease. Toasty walnuts crunch under our teeth and sweet cherry vinegar (made from the cherries we got from you last June) nips at our tongues. We hope you like it (we certainly did).

Hope to see you around here more often.

Love,
Us

Notes: Don’t be intimidated by the length of the ingredient list. The important thing to note is that you’re using some aromatic veggies and meat as a base for the beans. The actual veggies and meat isn’t so important: cassoulet isn’t a fussy dish. We made a lot of changes to the recipe as we went along, since it was hard to follow while we cooked. We added an ingredient list and split the process into four basic sections common to casseroles: 1. Prep, 2. Brown, 3. Bake, 4. Finish. We used a dutch oven, but this could just as easily begin in a skillet and be transferred to a casserole dish or crock pot after the “Brown” steps.
Continue reading

Food for Thought: 11 March 2011

Switching to international-style date writing (11 March rather than March 11th). We’ll see how that goes.

How to Buy the USDA Recommended 4.5 Cups of Fruits and Vegetables for $2.50 Per Day (via CheapHealthGood)
This is completely possible in our neighborhood. We’ve recently scored a whole head of cauliflower (4+ servings) for $1.39, a container of grape tomatoes (2+ servings) for $0.99 and 2 yellow peppers for $1.19.

roast cauliflower with saffron & pinenuts (via stonesoup)
Sooooo very tasty. We made a double batch of this last week (with aforementioned head of cauliflower), subbing in white vinegar for the red wine vinegar and pecans for pine nuts. We’d recommend crushing the saffron a little to let out more flavor/color.

Another way to look at farm subsidies ( via Rachel Laudan)
As she says, “anything that challenges a cliché is good with me if it’s based on evidence.” However, we need a little help deciphering this evidence. Give us a holler if you know what the y-axis is a percentage of…our inner science teacher takes off points for failing to label axis.

Binge eaters’ dopamine levels spike at sight, smell of food (via e! Science News)
Makes binge eating sound a bit like addiction to me. Perhaps it should be treated just as seriously.

AM-Thai Basil Kitchen at Village Voice Choice Eats (via KensingtonProspect)
This is where Raphe took Marni to celebrate her getting a holiday retail job after being let go in November 2008. Good times.