Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Herby Green Dressing

Roasted Cauliflower Salad

I was craving a rice salad, but without the rice. Something that’s all about soaking up a good sauce. Roasted cauliflower has been my recent go-to sauce-soaker-upper, and I was really happy with what I came up with. Here’s the skinny:

Olive Oil

1 head Cauliflower, finely chopped

2 or 3 handfuls Grape or Cherry Tomatoes


2 cloves Garlic

Olive Oil

Red Wine Vinegar

1 T Dijon Mustard

tiny drip of Honey (or something else if you’re vegan)

Lemon Juice

a few tablespoons or more Minced Chives

a few tablespoons or more fresh Oregano, chopped (basil or parsley would be good, too)

1 T Capers

Salt and Pepper to taste

Chopped Walnuts (optional)

Oil a baking sheet and throw the cauliflower on it with a couple of garlic cloves. Roast at 375F, for about 20 minutes. Halve the tomatoes and roast them for about 20-30 minutes as well. This brings out their flavor like crazy.

I’m not really a measuring kind of person when it comes to dressing (or, let’s be honest, for a lot of things). If you really want measurements, you could use a basic vinaigrette and add the extras. I think I’d add even more herbs next time. I really wanted something that was so green it would color the cauliflower, but my herb garden wasn’t quite in full swing when I made this.

Chop up the roasted garlic and whisk it together with the other dressing ingredients.

Toss the cauliflower with the dressing and tomatoes. Add walnuts. Yum. I realized later that the dressing flavors were inspired by the broccoli gribiche recipe from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day.

What are you cooking this summer? I’m always on the lookout for interesting salads. Hope you had a great weekend and a happy Father’s Day.

Roasted Cauliflower with Olives, Capers, and Red Wine Vinaigrette

Roasted Cauliflower

I’m on a cauliflower kick, what can I say? I seem to be eating a lot of it, roasted, with various toppings. I think it’s because my friend Laurel mentioned it, then it was in the paper (something about a cauliflower trend—yes I still read a paper paper) and then I just couldn’t get it out of my head.

Besides cutting out wheat, I’m avoiding large servings of grains in general, so the idea of something mild  and non-grain that takes flavors very well —–a sauce depository, if you will—-is very appealing. I was never a huge fan of cauliflower in the past, but I think, as with many veggies, I just had to find my favorite cooking method. Roasting wins.

Roasted Cauliflower

First, preheat the oven to 375F. Slice the cauliflower into pieces about 1/4 inch to 1/3 inch thick, brush with olive oil and roast for about 20 minutes (just like the broccoli here). If you’re going to make the vinaigrette below, throw in a clove or two of garlic and roast them while you’re at it.

When the cauliflower is tender but still firm, with browning on the edges, it’s done. At least, that’s the done-ness I like.

At this point you could serve it with any number of sauces or toppings: peanut sauce? bread crumb/ nut topping? curry?

I made this vinaigrette in homage to a bread dipping sauce from a favorite restaurant, Passion8 Bistro in Fort Mill. Charlotte area friends, seriously, you MUST go there. It’s this funky little farm-to-fork place in the middle of nowhere. Besides great food, it has loads of character.

But I digress.

The vinaigrette is a loose combination of:

Olive Oil

Roasted Garlic, minced

Chopped Olives (I used green ones but kalamata would be excellent)

a spoonful of Capers

a judicious amount of red pepper flakes (I’m addicted)

Red Wine Vinegar

1/2 tsp or more Ground Mustard (optional)

Salt and Pepper to taste

I usually do a little more olive oil than vinegar and just add however much I like of the rest of the stuff, to taste.

Charlotte friends, I feel compelled to mention a couple of places we’ve eaten recently that, in addition to Passion8 Bistro, were just outstanding.

  • The King’s Kitchen (which is owned by the same guy that owns Roosters, which I also love) is fantastic—-sort of re-imagined upscale meat and three, and btw it’s non-profit, which is totally fascinating and you should read about it on their website. I had the hangar steak. Yum!
  • Doan’s Vietnamese Restaurant: try the hotpots!! It’s like a Vietnamese broth fondue. So excellent and fun. Best tomyum broth I’ve ever had.
  • And one more: Zeitouni’s Mediterranean Grill at Toringdon in Ballantyne. Seriously, how did I not get a clue about this place earlier? The falafel is TO DIE FOR!

Okay, that’s a lot of exclamation points, but really, it’s been good dining lately. What about you? What’s got you inspired in the kitchen/ out to eat lately?

Potato-Broccoli-Egg Salad

Broccoli Gribiche

This is Heidi Swanson’s recipe (Broccoli Gribiche) from Super Natural Every Day. But it’s basically a potato salad with more stuff plus a delicious dressing. Check out the recipe here if you don’t have the book.

I’m sure mine would’ve been even better if I’d had the fresh herbs—this was just before we put in our new herb garden. I added roasted cherry tomatoes, and for the dressing, I cooked the shallots on low to soften them up a bit before adding them. I’m sure this cranked down the flavor a bit, but we just don’t do raw onion relatives around here very well.

Anyway, if I make it again, and I probably will, I’ll definitely do the fresh herbs and maybe add a wee bit more vinegar….or a squeeze of lemon.

But the basic idea (roasted veggies and eggs with dressing) is pretty simple and really effective. Also very filling. If you couldn’t tell, I’m really into roasted vegetable salads right now. For more of my posts on less-meatarian cooking, click here.

Hope you have a great weekend! So sorry, friends in northern climates, about the weather. I hope spring will make its way to you very soon. I hear you could use it.

Quick Black Bean and Polenta Casserole

Black Bean and Polenta Casserole

I threw this together the other night when I needed something pretty quick and had to use what I had on hand. It was a perfect easy supper.

It’s inspired by Rachael Ray’s Calabacitas Casserole, which is yummy but more involved, with no beans. I once had it at my sister-in-law’s house, and was immediately sold.

My casserole is based on three main ingredients: black beans, salsa, and pre-cooked polenta. Anything else is icing on the cake.

Quick Black Bean and Polenta Casserole

Measurements are approximated. What you want is enough salsa to give the beans plenty of flavor.

2-3 cups canned or pre-cooked black beans, drained (I used up leftovers I had cooked the day before)

1/2 to 1 jar chunky salsa (I used Herdez salsa, which was great, but would’ve been better semi-drained. I think semi-drained Ro-tel would also be excellent, and maybe even Mexican-style stewed tomatoes)

1 tube prepared polenta, sliced into 1/3 inch rounds (you could also cook your own, then chill and slice)

Olive oil

Optional add-ins: diced scallions, cilantro, chopped veggies, spinach, cheese

Preheat oven to 375 F. I made a smaller version of this (since it was just for me) and cooked it in the toaster oven.

Place the beans in an oiled casserole dish (maybe 8 x 8), and add enough salsa to suit your taste. You want a little less salsa than beans, but enough salsa to add lots of flavor. Lay the polenta rounds on top and brush them with a little olive oil.

Bake for 35 minutes or so at 375 F, then add, if you feel like it, a handful of spinach and chopped scallions, and turn up the heat to 400 F. When the spinach is wilted, the polenta is getting crispy, and the beans are bubbling, it’s done.

The polenta adds structure and has such a great creamy/ crispy texture that I really didn’t miss having cheese. This one will definitely go on my repeat list. I think I’ll add more spinach next time and maybe cilantro. Hmmm…what about sweet potato?

For more of my recipes and recipe trials, click here.

You have less than a day left to join the giveaway for a gorgeous Dawn Hanna print. Details here. All you have to do is comment about which print is your favorite—-you won’t be added to a mailing list. Just enjoy!

Broccoli Battle Winner: Roasted with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Roasted Broccoli

The ongoing broccoli battle in our house is, I believe, finally won. No, it wasn’t over whether or not certain people will eat it. The kids don’t love it, but they’ll eat it without much of a fuss. The battle is over the best way to cook it.

Hubs prefers stir-frying with soy sauce, but I find that time-consuming and too hands-on to do all the time. For a long time my favorite method was steaming, then rolling in olive oil, garlic, and breadcrumbs. Hubs ate this broccoli dutifully but missed the stir-fry texture.

Enter Mollie Katzen’s vegetable roasting guide from Vegetable Heaven. I’ve used the roasting guide so much that the book naturally opens to that page. It’s great for many a veggie, but at our house, it’s helped us find the broccoli method that results in the perfect texture + flavor+ easy-ness.

Add a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette, and you have us battling again, over seconds.

So, here’s my adaptation of the original Mollie Katzen recipe. It’s less of a recipe, more of an idea for you:

Roasted Broccoli

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice your broccoli florets in half. I find this helps things cook a little faster and more evenly.

Brush a cookie tray with olive oil, and arrange the florets on it.

I usually cook about 20 minutes, but check at 15 minutes to see how it’s going. Personally, I like the broccoli still firm but tender, with some brown edges.

Serve with your favorite vinaigrette. Here’s what we use:

Balsamic Vinaigrette

In a jar or bottle, combine:

about an inch Balsamic Vinegar

about an inch and a half, maybe more, Olive Oil

a big squirt/ soup spoonful Dijon Mustard (you can use powdered mustard here as a substitute)

small squirt of Honey, to taste

freshly ground Pepper

dusting to half a handful freshly grated Parmesan (*optional)

I always taste the dressing and adjust seasonings to suit.

Enjoy! For more of my cooking posts, click here or on the “Food” category.

Do NOT forget to join the giveaway for a gorgeous Dawn Hanna print. There’s no downside here, people. You won’t be added to a mailing list. Just check out her gorgeous work and decide which is your fave, then comment on it. You do not have to live in the U.S. to enter.

Mushroom and Spinach Tacos

Mushroom-Spinach Tacos

I know, I’ve been doing a lot of tacos. I can’t help myself. Here’s yet another simple twist.

I’ve had plenty of spinach and mushroom enchiladas before at restaurants but somehow never thought to recreate something similar until the recipe here, in Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson (she of 101cookbooks fame).

Her version is minus the spinach and uses fancier mushrooms (chanterelles, or Pfefferlinge, if you’re German—btw wouldn’t it be great to see this on a seasonal Pfefferlinge menu?). I just used plain brown mushrooms. Along with the mushrooms, there’s garlic, onions, and a serrano pepper involved. Yum.

I used frozen chopped spinach from Trader Joe’s. I definitely recommend spinning or squeezing it dry if you’re going that route. Fresh spinach would also totally work, of course. Either way just saute it a little in the pan, but separately from the mushrooms so each veggie cooks at the right temp and length.

I find the mushrooms really satisfying and a welcome change from my normal array of vegetables. And it was a quick lunch.

Do you get stuck in veggie ruts? I’m not-so-patiently waiting for the local-ish asparagus to come in. I’m guessing it’s still Rotkohl (red cabbage) season in Deutschland? That’s one of those dishes I’ve only appreciated in restaurants and haven’t yet ventured into cooking myself. (If you’re wondering why I’m talking about German vegetables, it’s because last year this time, we were living in Hannover, Germany).

In other news, our local chapter of the WNBA (no, not basketball—the Women’s National Book Association) had a great joint meeting the other night with the Charlotte Writer’s Club. It was a panel about the process of getting published, with lots of great food for thought from industry folk.

Meanwhile I’m still plugging away at my character interviews led by these questions. Writers, have you ever done this? It’s such a Magic-8-ball/ subconscious-channeling kind of exercise. Feels weird at times, but I’m coming up with lots of good character stuff that relates to the plot.

Oh, and one last aside. I did a Skype call to talk about Slowpoke with a class of first graders last week. So fun. Best question, which still has me laughing: “Are you ever afraid you’ll never finish another book?”

Spicy Roasted Chickpea and Spinach Enchiladas

Spinach Chickpea Enchiladas

These are just a riff on the chickpea tacos I made here (recipe from Amy’s Cooking Adventures).

I just made enchilada sauce from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (subbing ancho chiles for the kind he calls for) and used the roasted chickpeas and baby spinach as filling and baked according to Bittman’s enchilada instructions.

After struggling with several different methods of preparing enchilada shells, I stumbled upon the easiest trick. Just stack a few in a clean dishtowel and wrap like a present. Zap for about 30 seconds, and they’ll be perfectly warm and pliable. So much easier than frying or dipping them!

Though the sauce was a lot of work (maybe something to make in advance) these were delicious, and my husband even preferred them to the meat version I had also made. I think it’s because the chickpeas are so spicy and lime-y.

If you’re interested in more of my less-meat recipe trials, just click on the “Food” category on my blog.

Have a great weekend. Friends in Northeastern North America, I hope you stay warm and get to play in the snow!

Spinach Chop

Spinach Chop

Sautéed spinach, hard-boiled eggs, garlic, lemon, toasted almonds, harissa. These are things I never ever would’ve put together, but they totally work.

This recipe is a perfect example of why I love Heidi Swanson’s work (she of 101cookbooks fame). She can put together ingredients that previously seemed un-mixable, then photograph and write about them in such a way that I HAVE to try them.

I finally finally bought her second cookbook, Super Natural Every Day. Loving it. What took me so long? If you’re interested in cooking with veggies, it’s a wonderful place for inspiration. One of the many best parts is the “Every Day” because the recipes are pared down, simple stuff for week nights. Sometimes it seems like cookbooks are filled only with special occasion dishes.

I’ve had a time looking for harissa, the Tunisian chili sauce, but this recipe works well with Cholula, one of my current hot sauce crushes (the other one is Sriracha sauce—don’t get me started).

Anyway, I love this as a simple winter meal. I seem to be craving spinach lately. And, as usual, anything with spice and citrus. For more of my less-meat recipe trials, click on the Food category.

Thanks to everyone who came out to the book signing on Saturday. What a great crowd! I felt really celebrated.

Roasted Chickpea Tacos with Lime

Chickpea Tacos

Looking for a new twist on tacos? These are full of flavor and have a satisfying, hefty texture. Recipe here.

When I saw a photo of them on pinterest, I immediately clicked through. Love chickpeas. Love tacos. But I’d never thought of putting them together.

I added lime zest to mine, which may be overdoing it for some, but I’m a lime-aholic.

Amy recommends serving them with guacamole. I used a little sour cream instead since that’s what I had on hand. I could also see them with plain sliced avocado or apple-avocado salsa. Hmmm…I bet the chickpeas would be a great enchilada filling, too.

Thanks, Amy, for the idea!

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

These fries are so good no one notices they’re eating vegetables. The spice/ salt mixture is the perfect counterpoint to the potatoes’ natural sweetness. I like to double the recipe so we have leftovers, and I use chili powder rather than cayenne to keep the hotness down for the kiddos. Recipe here.

I’ve been serving them with tacos, which makes no sense, really, but no one is complaining. I wonder if they’d be good inside the tacos. Hmmm….what do you think?