Orange Carrots

I made this recipe for Thanksgiving. I was surprised to discover that many of my guests had never had this combination. How could this be? It’s so easy and so perfect. I sometimes believe that in our rush to embrace the latest exotic ingredients, we forget that there are some very delicious old standards that we should still be cooking and eating. This would be one of them.

Orange Carrots
(serves 4)

2 Tablespoons butter
1 pound carrots, cut into 3″ long x 1/4″ thick sticks
juice and zest of 1/2 orange
salt, about 1/4 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram (optional)

Place all the ingredients in a large skillet. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat until carrots are nearly done, about 15-20 minutes. Remove the cover and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook off most of the liquid so that the carrots are glazed, stirring to prevent the carrots from sticking. Serve immediately.

Baked Herbed Cucumbers

baked cucumbers - 1

This recipe is nearly the same as this one, Cooking Cucumber: the French Way. So, if you don’t have cream in your fridge but you do have lots of cucumbers, you can make this!

Do not skip the salting step. Cucumbers are full of so much water that you will end up with icky cucumber mush if you try to bake them without salting them to draw out some of the water.

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I made this version with basil. Which gives me an excuse to show off the gigantic basil leaves from my garden. Wow! The basil (and the cucumbers) are very happy this year.

Baked Herbed Cucumbers
(serves 6)

6 medium cucumbers
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
⅛ teaspoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or use dill or parsley)
3 Tablespoons chopped chives or green onions
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
salt and pepper

Peel the cucumbers and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Slice the cucumbers the long way into about ½” slices. Then cut into 3″ pieces. Place in a large bowl. Sprinkle with vinegar, sugar, and salt. Mix and let sit for 30 minute to an hour. Drain, pour onto a towel, arrange in a single layer then pat dry with another towel. You want the cucumber pieces dry so they cook up crisp, not mushy.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Melt the butter with the fresh herbs and ⅛ teaspoon black pepper in a small saucepan. Place the cucumbers in a large shallow baking dish – large enough so the cucumbers are mostly 1 layer deep. Pour over the melted butter and mix. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 50 minutes, stirring a few times during the baking. Remove from oven. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.

Cauliflower and Peas, Indian-Style

Snow peas and French bush beans in my garden

Sugar snap peas are currently in season in Boulder. You can get them at the farmers’ market. They are always available at my favorite Asian market, Pacific Ocean in Broomfield, or at my local Costco. And most years, I can get them from my garden. I love sugar snap peas which is why I grow them every year. Even though, they take up a fair bit of space, require a lot of water and sun, and some years yield a disappointing amount of peas. But, I persevere in growing them. Because I do love them!

This recipe is adapted from the NY Times. As it turns out, cauliflower has gone on sale this week, which makes this a double win.

As with other stir-fries, it’s important to have your ingredients prepped and measured before you start (what we chefs call mise-en-place). Stir fries happen fast and you can’t be chopping or measuring things as you go.

Stir-fried Curried Cauliflower and Peas
(serves 4)

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 ½ pounds cauliflower (about ½ a large head), cut into florets
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons grated ginger
1 medium jalapeno chile, sliced thinly (if you want less spice, remove the seeds)
3 Kaffir lime leaves (optional)
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ pound sugar snap peas or snow peas, stems and strings removed
2 scallions, cut into 2″ julienne
juice of ½ a lime
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro

Heat oil in a large skillet or wok with a cover over medium-high heat. Add cumin and black mustard seeds and cook until the mustard seeds start to pop. Partially cover because once they start to pop, they will start shooting all over the place! Add the turmeric and stir for 15 seconds. Add the cauliflower, garlic, ginger, chile, lime leaves (if using), salt, and black pepper to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes. Stir often to avoid burning. Add the peas, stir, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover. Cook for 5 more minutes until peas are crisp-tender. Stir in scallions, lime juice, and cilantro. Check for salt. Serve immediately.

Pickled Cauliflower

This recipe is from Too Many Tomatoes, Squash, Beans, and Other Good Things: A Cookbook for When Your Garden Explodes. It was originally published in 1976 and republished in 1991. It is one of my go-to vegetable cookbooks because so many of the recipes are simple, tasty, and full of veggies. Since it’s from the Dark Ages, it also avoids some of the annoying things one finds in newer cookbooks, my primary pet peeve being the use of “superfoods” and trendy ingredients. Though I am a trained chef and I adore interesting food, I often fall back on tried-and-true recipes from the past because they are simple and they work. In this case, it might even get you to eat your vegetables, which isn’t a bad thing.

If you happen to have an exploding garden (I do, on occasion: see here and here), this cookbook will be your friend in times of overabundance. If you don’t have a garden, fear not, dear reader! Produce goes on sale and this cookbook will help you create delicious veggie-filled dishes from cheap supermarket produce too.

Cauliflower Antipasto
Quick Pickled Cauliflower & Carrots
(makes about 6 cups)

1 medium head cauliflower (about 1 ¼ pounds)
4 medium carrots, peeled
⅔ cup cider vinegar
⅔ cup water
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ Tablespoons sugar
1 large clove garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Trim off leaves from cauliflower. Peel lower stalk because it is quite fibrous. Cut the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces. Slice carrots ¼ inch thick. Place the cauliflower, carrots, and remaining ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce the temperature to low, and simmer for 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and transfer to a container for storage. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours for best flavor though it tastes pretty good fresh from the pot. Will keep at least a week, refrigerated.

Food Photos: The Bane of My Existence

Why do I use photos that clearly aren’t a photo of the dish I’m writing about? Because I hate having to take photos of my food! Sometimes, it’s my dinner. If I need to style the dish, I’m eating a cold dinner. No thank you! Sometimes, my dinner isn’t particularly photogenic. As a blog reader, I’m annoyed by articles that have endless photos of the food from every angle along with many photos of the production. Overkill, I say. I also have no patience for scrolling over a bunch of photos to get to the recipe I am looking for.

But, a photo is important for catching a reader’s eye in the overwhelming noise that is the internet. That’s why I include interesting photos of food that I have found in Wikipedia Commons in my posts, when I don’t like/can’t be bothered to snap a gauzy, perfectly lit photo of my dinner (oh, wait, I never do that). Live with it. I cook and I write about food which is my passion. Photography definitely isn’t my passion. I leave that to people who are way better at it than I am!

The photo above is mine. It’s not all that pretty but that cauliflower sure tastes good! It’s seasoned with tahini, lemon juice, and Aleppo pepper. Aleppo red pepper is slightly spicy – not nearly as hot as crushed Italian red pepper – and has a lovely fruity flavor. I think it’s far more useful in the kitchen than crushed red pepper because it’s more subtle. Find some. You won’t be sorry. It’s great on eggs, hummus, chicken, and right here in this cauliflower recipe.

Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini and Lemon
(serves 4-6)

non-stick cooking spray
1 large head of cauliflower
salt
¼ cup tahini
juice of 1 lemon
¼ to 1 teaspoon Aleppo red pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a large rimmed cookie sheet generously with non-stick cooking spray.

Trim off leaves and cut off the tough bottom of the stem on the head of cauliflower. Most of the stalk is edible so don’t try to cut out all of it. It will cook up tender. Slice the cauliflower about ½” thick. The slices won’t hold together; doesn’t matter. Put the cauliflower, in a single layer, on the greased cookie sheet. Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt. Roast the cauliflower in the hot oven for 30 minutes or until tender.

While the cauliflower is roasting, combine the tahini, lemon juice, and Aleppo pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

When the cauliflower is done, remove from the oven and increase the heat to broil. Spread the tahini sauce evenly over the cauliflower. Return the cauliflower to the oven and broil until the sauce browns up. Serve hot.

Stir-fried Mustard Cabbage

Cabbage is going to be very cheap soon. Every year for St. Patrick’s Day, cabbage drops in price. Cabbage isn’t exactly expensive to begin with, but around March 17, you can often find it for 19 cents a pound! Who says you need to use it for corned beef?

Here’s an Indian take. It can be served hot or warm.

Stir-fried Mustard Cabbage
(serves 8)

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 clove garlic, minced
a pinch to ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ pounds green cabbage (about ½ a medium head), thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
⅓ cup minced fresh or frozen cilantro
⅓ cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds and immediately cover the plan. When they get hot enough, the seeds will start to pop and they will go shooting all over your kitchen. The cover keeps them contained.

As soon as they start to pop, add the turmeric, garlic, crushed red pepper, and salt. Stir for 10 seconds. Add the cabbage and toss with spices and oil to coat. Reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook cabbage until it starts to wilt, about 5 minutes. Add lemon juice, cilantro, and coconut. Toss to combine and serve.

Adapted from Moghul Microwave: Cooking Indian Food the Modern Way by Julie Sahni, William Morrow and Company, 1990.

Broccoli Crumble

I love broccoli, so I am always hunting for another interesting way to prepare it. Broccoli in cheese sauce is a classic. I wanted to lighten it up a bit but not in those kludgey 1980’s ways, by using things like evaporated skim milk and low-fat cheese (really, low fat cheese?). I removed nearly all of the fat in the topping. Usually, there’s a lot of butter, which coats the crumbs so they crisp as this bakes. You can crisp up the crumbs by spraying them with non-stick cooking spray. It’s made of oil but the spray allows for even distribution and you end up using much less.

Here’s a baked dish for your broccoli. Or your cauliflower. It would be wonderful with cauliflower.

Broccoli Crumble
(serves 6)

non-stick cooking spray

2 Tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
2 medium shallots, minced
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
⅔ cup 2% or whole milk
½ cup water
1 pound broccoli florets
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup grated cheddar cheese

Topping:
½ teaspoon dried basil
2 slices fresh white or whole wheat bread, torn into pieces
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a medium baking dish (such as 8″ x 8″ x 3″) with non-stick cooking spray.

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté for 3 minutes. Add flour and stir to coat shallots. Whisk in the milk and water. Bring to a boil, then add broccoli, salt, and pepper. Stir, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Add cheese and stir. Pour into the prepared baking dish.

To prepare the topping, add the basil, bread pieces, salt, and pepper to the bowl of a food processor until bread is reduced to crumbs. Spread the topping over the broccoli. Spray the top generously with non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes until topping is browned. Serve hot.