Cauliflower has been called one of the trendiest vegetables of 2014. Epicurious magazine called it the vegetable of 2013, so I guess it’s having a good run of popularity. The only reason I know this is because I’m wrapped up in the great big food blogosphere and keep track of these things.
I can honestly say I eat more cauliflower now than I ever did (not to be trendy–I know how to cook it now). I eat it in soups, like this roasted cauliflower soup. Its great mashed or in curries too, but cauliflower is at its best simply roasted with a dusting of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. I like cutting it in great big slabs before throwing it in the oven. It’s easy to do and so addicting, I’ve been guilty of eating it with my fingers while standing in the kitchen.
You can serve roasted cauliflower as an easy side dish with just about anything. It’s a great substitute for starchy potatoes and pairs well with both seafood and red meats. It also makes a great main dish, especially thick-cut and served as a “steak”. The nutty/sweet flavor it acquires from roasting is completely different than the tasteless, limply-steamed versions served up in restaurants around the country. If you passed on cauliflower before, this recipe will make you a believer.
Preheat oven to 400° F/ 190° C
Wash and dry the cauliflower head. Using a large knife, slice through the entire cauliflower to make 1-inch thick slices. The ends will crumble into florets, but you should get 2-4 intact slices. Lay the slices and florets on a sheet pan drizzled with olive oil.
Season to taste with salt, pepper and optional spices. Turn cauliflower to coat in oil, seasoning both sides.
Place into preheated oven and cook for 20-30 minutes, turning once. Remove from the oven when the cauliflower is browned and the stems are easily pierced with a fork.
Fennel is one of my all-time favorite vegetables. It’s delicious raw in salads, like this fennel and apple slaw. It’s also incredible when roasted. It’s a little sweet with the texture of cooked celery. Roasting brings out a nutty flavor along with the subtle anise flavor fennel is known for.
This easy roasted fennel side dish takes only a few minutes to prepare. It’s one of those recipes to bring out when you don’t have a lot of time, but you still want to get a healthy, home cooked meal on the table. I usually make roasted fennel when I’m cooking a chicken. The carrots, onion, celery, potatoes and fennel all go in the bottom of the roasting pan and I cook the chicken on top. Our family (and guests) all look forward to “roasted chicken day” because it’s such a delicious meal.
When I’m not roasting a chicken, I use this recipe to roast fennel on its own. I like how the large quarters look on the plate (plus it’s less work). A simple toss in good olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper and you are done. When you use good ingredients, they don’t need a lot of preparation to taste amazing.
Preheat oven to 400° F/ 190° C
Remove the fennel stems and any damaged outer stalks. Quarter each fennel bulb lengthwise, keeping the core intact. Drizzle the fennel with olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat.
Arrange the fennel on a baking sheet and cook in the oven, turning once, until lightly brown and crisp on the edges, 45 minutes to an hour.
Taste for seasoning and top with grated Parmesan cheese (optional).
It’s been a few months since I started this blog and I have yet to do a recipe that actually contains duck fat. Since my blog owes its name to the stuff, I intend on creating a lot more duck fat recipes, but I have to start somewhere. You see, I don’t cook with duck fat very often. It is something I like to keep around though, for this very recipe. Duck fat, potatoes and shallots are just perfect together. They are crisp and caramelized with the perfect balance of fatty/creamy and a delicious sweetness from the shallots.
Why on Earth would you want to cook with duck fat? I’ll tell you. Because it’s good. Really good. It’s also not as fattening as you think. Nutrition experts are touting the health benefits of cooking with duck fat over margarine and butter. It seems our feathered friend not only tastes good; duck fat is high in beneficial monounsaturated fats and one of the healthiest animal fats. While it isn’t as good for you as olive oil, duck fat is a “healthy fat” because it is unprocessed, and contains linoleic acid.
Some shops actually carry duck fat for sale. I’ve seen it for sale by the pound in Miami locally at Proper Sausages. If you can’t find it fresh, you can make it yourself. Just cook a duck! You’ll end up with about a cup of wonderful duck fat. It stores for a long time in the fridge, and is perfect for frying, roasting and even baking. Add some duck fat to savory or sweet pastries for an even more indulgent treat.
This recipe makes cooking with duck fat easy. I recommend using really good potatoes, like an heirloom variety or Yukon Gold. You can use fingerling potatoes too. Most recipes for roasted potatoes with duck fat call for boiling the potatoes first. I’m not sure why, because they cook up just fine without the extra step. Why make things more complicated if you don’t have to, right?
Cut potatoes into equal sizes. Half or quarter them until they are bite-sized. Toss the potatoes, shallots, duck fat, garlic (if you are using it), salt and pepper until everything is well coated. You can do this right on the sheet pan. Arrange in a single layer. Roast in the oven about 35-45 minutes, turning a few times until the potatoes and shallots are soft and browned.
Remove from the oven and check for seasoning. Serve hot, sprinkled with fresh parsley.
A papaya tree in my backyard was so heavy with fruit; it broke in half, leaving me with 30 or so green papayas all ripening at the same time. This is our second crop of fruit from this tree, and we have learned to eat papaya in many nontraditional ways. We love to eat it while it is still green. It makes a delicious, crunchy addition to salads like in a traditional Thai green papaya salad. I’ve also prepared green papaya stewed like a potato in curry dishes, fried and roasted, like this recipe.
There are varying ripeness levels of a green papaya, each appropriate for different ways of cooking. I’ve found that a very young papaya isn’t ideal for roasting. It lacks any flavor. For this dish, you want the papaya to be green on the outside, with just a touch of yellow near the top. When you slice it open, there should be a faint blush of coral, with the seeds mostly dark grey.
At this stage, the papaya is still firm. When you roast it, the sugars will intensify and the resulting glossy chunks will have a divine taste and texture that is a cross between a peach and a butternut squash. This is nothing like the papaya you know! I can think of a bunch of ways you can use your roasted papaya. Serve it for breakfast with vanilla Greek yogurt, add it in a savory sauce to pair with tropical pork tenderloin or sprinkle it with brown sugar and cinnamon for dessert. I bet it would even be good in a pie!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
Peel the skin from the papaya and split in half lengthwise. With a spoon, scrape out the seeds and any membrane. Cut the papaya in slices 1-inch thick, or 1-inch cubes. Arrange in a single layer on a backing sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Toss to coat.
Roast for approximately 20 minutes, until papaya is tender and lightly browned.
I always thought broccoli rabe (also known as raab or rapini) was a baby stalk of broccoli, but I was wrong. Because I thought this was a baby vegetable, I expected it to be sweet and delicate. Nope. Broccoli rabe is a robust, slightly bitter green that holds up to some strong flavors. This relative to broccoli loves to be smothered in garlic and good olive oil. It is a favorite vegetable in Italy and Portugal and lends itself well to pastas, spicy sausage and nutty cheese like Parmesan Reggiano. It also makes a great addition to a sandwich or pizza.
Brocolli rabe is easy to cook, but usually requires a quick blanch in boiling water before you sauté it to make sure the tougher stem is cooked through. I left most of the stem on in this dish because we like to eat every bit of this healthy veggie. If you like a more tender green, remove the stem at the point where the leaves are growing. With its dark green color and robust flavor, you know this veggie is healthy for you. Dr. Axe listed it #2 on his list of Top 10 Superfoods because it’s, “packed with potassium, iron and calcium, dietary fiber and as well as Vitamins A, C and K. Broccoli rabe also contains lutein, which is an antioxidant that protects the retinas of your eyes from damage caused by free radicals.”
Along with the nutritional benefits of broccoli rabe, I love how it looks on a plate. It’s elegant and wild at the same time. This is a veggie that impresses. I served this batch with roasted pork loin and shallot, tarragon cream for our Sunday dinner. I like to go all out on the weekend and cook something that is out of the ordinary and has the bonus of leftovers. Usually it’s a perfectly roasted chicken. Sometimes it’s a duck. For this occasion I had a gorgeous organic boneless pork loin roast from Sea Breeze Organic Farm in Fort Pierce, Florida. A good roast deserves a great vegetable and broccoli rabe fit the bill.
Total Time: 25 minutes
Yield: Serves 4
Adapted from Maria’s Broccoli Rabe.
Trim off most of the broccoli rabe stem. Blanch in boiling water 5 minutes until it becomes bright green and slightly wilted. Remove from water with a strainer.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and pepper flakes and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe and continue to stir and cook for 12-15 minutes until leaves are wilted and stems are tender.
Green beans are a staple in American kitchens. We all have our favorite ways of cooking them and eating them, whether it’s straight out of a can (vivid memories of school lunches), covered in cream of mushroom soup and fried onions, or simply steamed. Me? I like them with crispy bacon, garlic and onions. This is my go-to way to cook green beans. The recipe is easy and full of flavor, and you won’t find many leftovers when these hit the table. Cooked in a rich chicken broth and lots of fresh pepper; they have a savory taste you’ll love. The beans keep their bright green color and crunch, and swim in a delicious, garlicky broth. I usually dip my beans in it while eating them, and have been known to slurp up the rest directly from the plate.
Green beans are best when they are fresh and in season. Don’t buy beans that have dark spots or look shriveled or limp. You want them to be firm and bright green. You’ll find them in-season locally in late summer. The rest of the year, they are imported. The best green beans are young and small. These are tender and will cook quickly, no longer than 7-10 minutes. Larger beans require a longer cooking time and may lose their bright green color by the time they are cooked.
To prepare your beans, snip off the end with the stem by hand. This bit is tough and you don’t want to eat it. You can snip off both ends with kitchen shears or a knife to make it this process faster. If the beans are very long or large, cut them in half or into inch-size pieces.
In a medium-sized pot, cook bacon on medium heat until crispy and brown. Remove bacon to a paper towel, keeping about 1 tablespoon of bacon fat in the pan (if you don’t have this much, add some olive oil).
Add the onions to the hot pan, stirring until soft. Add garlic and green beans. Pour in chicken stock and season with salt. Bring to a boil.
Cook over medium-high heat, turning the beans every few minutes so they cook evenly. After 7-10 minutes, check the beans to see if they are tender. If they are, remove them from the pan with tongs, leaving the stock in the pan.
Turn the heat to high and let the stock reduce by at least half. When it is reduced, taste for seasoning and add fresh pepper. Toss the beans in the reduced liquid and arrange on a deep plate. Sprinkle bacon on top and serve.