Monday, October 14, 2019

Savory Cauliflower Cake

The subtitle of this post should be:  In Which I Learn to Make a Recipe As Written before I Start Playing with It.  It took me a few tries to perfect it, which basically involved moving closer and closer to the original.

For my first attempt I left out the roasted red pepper as I did not have any on hand and did not think it would make much of a difference.  The result was bland and all I could taste was the cauliflower.  Which was not bad, but why go to all the trouble of making it if that is all the flavor you are going to get?  I kept the cauliflower pieces on the large side, which contributed to that being the main discernible flavor.  But there was enough potential for me to try again.

For my second attempt I decided to add the roasted red pepper and used the baking powder that the recipe called for instead of the baking soda I accidentally used on the first version.  As you can see, it got a much better rise and the red pepper made it much more visually appealing.  It also added a welcome complexity of flavor.  I cut the cauliflower into smaller pieces but they were still on the large side.  I also did not cook the onions or the cauliflower enough so it was a little crunchy and not as cohesive as I thought it should be.  But I knew I was on the right track and decided to give it one more try.

For this last version, the only change I made was to increase the amount of caraway and coriander, and I used fresh dill instead of the dried dill I used in the original two versions.  The end result was a delicious, satisfying dish that works as a side dish or entree.

I would like to say that I have learned my lesson about not playing with a recipe until I've followed it as written.  But: old dog; new tricks.
Home Cookin v9.76 Chapter: Beans and Vegetables
SAVORY CAULIFLOWER CAKE
Servings: 6

1 medium head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), trimmed and broken into small florets
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp caraway seed, ground or crushed
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper, or to taste
3/4 tsp salt, divided
3/4 cup garbanzo bean flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
6 large eggs
1 jarred roasted red pepper, rinsed and chopped (about 1/2 cup)
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
3 Tbsps chopped fresh dill, divided

Break the cauliflower into large florets and place in a microwave-safe casserole dish. Add a couple of tablespoons of water, cover, and cook on high for about four minutes, until the cauliflower is tender. (This can be done the day before the casserole is assembled and baked).

Once the cauliflower has cooled or just before putting together the rest of the dish, cut the florets into small pieces about the size of chickpeas.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch cake pan.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until it is tender and golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the caraway seed, coriander, crushed red pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about one minute. Add the cauliflower and stir gently until it is well coated with the onion and spice mix. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes to combine all of the flavors.

Combine the garbanzo bean flour, all purpose flour, baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl and whisk together. Crack the eggs into a large bowl and whisk together until they are well mixed. Add the dry ingredients and continue to whisk to combine and to elimiate any lumps. Stir in the roasted red pepper, feta and 2 tablespoons of the dill. Add the cauliflower mixture and comine. Spread the mixture evenly into the cake pan.

Bake until the top is golden and the cake is set, 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool to warm and remove from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with the remaining 1 tablespoon dill.

adapted from this recipe from Eating Well Magazine
exported from Home Cookin v9.76 (http://www.mountainsoftware.com/homecook.php)

Monday, October 07, 2019

Braised Chicken Thighs with Marinated Artichokes

I bookmarked and saved this recipe a few years ago and recently had the opportunity to make it.  It was an unqualified success.  There is a little bit of work involved, as you sear the chicken thighs skin-side down before baking, but other than that it is a simple dish and even with that extra step I was able to make it for guests on a weeknight after work.  And if you really don't want to put in the extra effort of browning the skin I have it on good authority that you can skip that step and it will still turn out delicious.  So for company, I would take that extra step but when it's just for family I will most likely skip it.

But I will definitely be making it again.  For such a simple dish there is a large "wow" factor that makes it perfect for entertaining, as you can see in this photo, which I think looks just as good, if not better, than the original recipe!

The cooking juices are on the thin side so I served it over rice.  It was the right decision, although it would also be good with roasted new potatoes, I am thinking.


You can find the recipe here.  I pretty much followed it exactly as written.  If you do too you will not be disappointed.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Restaurant Review: Casa Yari, Logan Square, Chicago

Thought I’d give a shout out to Casa Yari, an amazing Puerto Rican/Honduran fusion restaurant in Logan Square. For just about every meat entree they also offer a vegeterian and a vegan version and it is all delicious and beautifully presented.  I first went with friends to check it out as a possible place for one of our Spice Group BYOB dinners.  The verdict was unanimous and we went for it.  And then we went back again for some folks who couldn't make that dinner.  And I plan to go again soon!  It's near the intersection of Fullerton and Kimball and not that difficult to get to with public transportation and again, it is well worth the effort.

These yucca fritters were amazingly delicious, with a light crunchy exterior and soft, pillowy interior.  There was just enough seasoning to enhance the taste without overshadowing the delicate flavor of the yucca.  It would be worth going there for these alone.

A lot of the food here is fried.  But it is all fried with such a delicate touch that it is not at all greasy.  It's not something I would want to eat every day for health reasons, but if it's going to be fried, this is definitely the way I want to go.

There were other appetizers we did not try that looked delicious as well.  I plan to rectify that situation the next time I dine there.


For the paladar, they offer a meat version (Chicken-Cheese (flour) and Shredded Beef and Potato (corn dough)) and a vegetarian version (Spinach-Cheese and Potato (flour), Bean and Corn (corn dough)).  Since there were vegetarians dining with us we opted for the vegetarian version, and both the flour and the corn dough empanadas were delicious.  Again, the exteriors were light and crisp and the interiors were full full of flavor.  Either the yucca fritters or the empanadas (or both) would make a meal in and of themselves.


The pastelon is the Chef's take on a Caribbean version of lasagna where the noodles are replaced with sweet plaintains.  They offer a beef, vegetarian, and vegan versions of this dish.  The vegetarian version was quite tasty, although I am not a huge fan of sweet plantain.  I much prefer the less ripe, savory plantain so I think I would have liked this better if it were made with unripe plantains.  But that did not seem to be a problem for anyone else.



And now for the piece de resistance.  I felt obligated to try their mofongo, a staple of Puerto Rican cuisine.  Although they offer a vegan version with jackfruit which was tempting, I had to go with the more traditional pork version.  It was full of garlic and savory plantain, and the pork was tender and flavorful, with beautifully crisp edges.

They get as many points for presentation as for flavor.  Every dish looked gorgeous and it was clear that great thought was given to how they should be presented.  All three times we went the service was exceptional and the atmosphere was warm and inviting.  For such well crafted, sourced and delicious fare it is wallet friendly, especially being BYOB.

If you are looking for something special you can enjoy on any occasion, you can't go wrong with Casa Yari.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Their hours vary from day to day and they are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays so be sure to check the schedule before you go.  The restaurant is small so I would recommend that you make a reservation.  From what I observed the three times I was there they have a booming takeout business.

Casa Yari
3268 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 661-9546
Hours:  varied

Monday, September 23, 2019

Flatbread with Roasted Garlic, Caramelized Onions, Apricots and Goat Cheese

This is what I did with the Caramelized Onions, Roasted Garlic, and Garlic Herb Flatbread I posted about over the past few weeks.  I will admit that it is quite a bit of work but a lot of it can be done ahead of time and the end result is well worth the effort.

I made it for a potluck and forgot to take a picture of the finished product before I cut it up to take with me but you get the general idea.  The sweetness of the onions and apricots, the almost smoky depth of the garlic and the slightly salty savory goat cheese bring a luscious umami sensation to the bread.

You can use any kind of purchased flatbread if you don't have the time or the inclination to make your own.  It's really the toppings that make this so sublime.
Home Cookin v9.76 Chapter: Breads and Muffins
FLATBREAD WITH ROASTED GARLIC, CARAMELIZED ONIONS APRICOTS AND GOAT CHEESE

1 Garlic Herb Flatbread, or any purchased flatbreadOlive oil
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup sweet sherry
2 medium onions, caramelized
1 whole heads garlic, roasted, cloves separated and squeezed out of their wrappers
1 4-oz package plain or garlic & herb goat cheese
1/2 cup toasted walnuts

Place a baking stone in the oven and reheat it to 450° F. or, if you don't have a baking stone you can use a baking sheet.

Heat the sweet sherry and pour it ove the chopped apricots and let them steep while the oven is pre-heating. Drain and save the liquid for another use.

Spread olive oil over the flatbread. Spread the onions, garlic, apricots and goat cheese evenly over the tops of each piece.

Place two at a time (or as many as the stone/baking sheet will accomodate) and bake for 10 to 20 minutes, until the flatbread is crisp and the garlic, onions and cheese are browned. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes, then cut each into 6 to 8 pieces as desired.

Repeat until all of the flatbreads have been cooked.
8/11/2019
exported from Home Cookin v9.76 (http://www.mountainsoftware.com/homecook.php)

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Baking Class: Garlic Herb Flatbread

I was looking for a flat bread recipe to use as the base for a roasted garlic, caramelized onion and goat cheese flat bread I wanted to make for a potluck.  A quick internet search yielded this recipe for garlic herb flatbread, which seemed prefect given the other ingredients.  I adapted it for sourdough so I wasn't sure what effect raw garlic might have and did not have time to roast the garlic, which I have heard reduces the possible impact that raw garlic can have on yeasted breads, so I used garlic powder instead.  I will roast the garlic for next time, though.

This flatbread is cooked in a skillet on the stove, which is a bonus in the summer as you don't have to heat up your kitchen by turning on the oven.  And it didn't take much time at all to cook the 6 pieces I made.

Next up:  how I made the Garlic Herb Flatbread with Roasted Garlic, Caramelized Onions and Goat Cheese.
Home Cookin v9.76 Chapter: Breads and Muffins
GARLIC HERB FLATBREAD
145g starter
228g water
12g salt
4g sugar
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced, or 2 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp minced herbs
403g all-purpose flour

Mix starter and water in a large mixing bowl. Add the oil, salt, sugar, garlic and herbs and stir to combine. Add the flour a cup at time, mixing well with each addition, until a dough forms. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic, about two minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning to coat. Let rise in a warm place for about an hour, until doubled.

Take the dough out of the bowl and divide into 6 or 8 pieces, depending on desired size. Place a damp towel over the dough and let rest for about 20 minutes.

Place a large cast iron over medium-high heat. Roll each ball of dough into a thin circle no thicker than 1/8 of an inch. Lightly greased the preheated skillet and place the rolled dough into the pan. Cook for about two and a half minutes, until light brown spots have formed. Flip and cook for two and a half minutes on the other side. Place on a plate and cover with a towel to keep warm. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

adapted from a recipe found at https://minimalistbaker.com/garlic-herb-flatbread/

exported from Home Cookin v9.76 (http://www.mountainsoftware.com/homecook.php)

Friday, September 06, 2019

Roasted Garlic

What can I say about roasted garlic?  Nothing that you don't already know.  It's sweet, mellow, loaded with umami, and makes just about everything better.  Here's how you do it:
Home Cookin v9.76 Chapter: Beans and Vegetables
ROASTED GARLIC
2 to 4 whole heads garlic
olive oil or butter

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Remove some of the outer leaves of the garlic head and slice the top just enough so that the inside of each bulb is exposed. Wrap each head in foil and add about a teaspoon of olive oil or butter before closing it up.

Place each package in a custard bowl and place the custard bowls in a larger casserole dish, or if you are using enough heads of garlic you can nestle them against each other directly into the casserole dish.

Place the dish in the middle rack of the oven and roast for 30 - 45 minutes, until the heads are soft when the sides are pressed. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 20 minutes, then unwrap the packages. The cloves should be soft enough that you can squeeze them out of their individual skins.

8/11/2019

exported from Home Cookin v9.76 (http://www.mountainsoftware.com/homecook.php)

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Caramelized Onions

How do you get perfect caramelized onions?  The key to caramelized onions is patience, my friends.  Patience has never been one of my strong suits, I must confess.  I hate waiting for water to boil.  Browning meat is torture.  I've ruined many a casserole by not letting the sauce thicken enough before adding it to the dish and putting it in the oven.  My bread often splits because I do not let it rise long enough.  I could go on but in all honesty I can't be bothered.

But I am working on it.  I am doing my best to be in the moment and let each moment flow from the moment before into the next moment.  It has not been easy, but it has its rewards.

Like with caramelized onions.  In order to get them really sweet and toasty brown you have to cook them over a low heat for a long, long time.  And when you think they are brown enough you have to cook them even longer.  I would say no less than thirty minutes, but it doesn't always take the same amount of time.

What I have learned is to get them started first thing and let them do their thing while I work on whatever else I am cooking and check on them every five to ten minutes or so.  I make sure to set the timer, though, so I don't forget about them.  I would suggest that you do the same.

Why go to all that bother?  Because caramelized onions are one of the beautiful things in life.  They add an incredible depth of flavor to soups, stews, casseroles and flatbread.  And having the patience to take the time to make them is a worthwhile endeavor.
Home Cooking v9.76 Chapter: Beans and Vegetables

CARAMELIZED ONIONS
2 large onions, slivered
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter

Melt butter and olive oil (or any combination of fat equal to 2 tablespoons) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the slivered onions and stir to make sure every sliver is well coated with the oil. Cook until the onions are extremely soft and well browned, which can take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure the have a chance to brown evenly, adjusting the heat as necessary to make sure they don't burn.

8/11/2019

exported from Home Cookin v9.76 (http://www.mountainsoftware.com/homecook.php)

Monday, August 26, 2019

Corn Mango and Tomato Salad

So . . . you may have noticed that it's been a while since I posted.  Life.  Work.  Summer.  Did I mention life?

But as usual I have been busy in the kitchen so I thought I'd share a little something I threw together earlier this week from some fresh corn and tomatoes I got at the Green Market and a mango I had on hand and some scallions left over from a batch of fresh salsa I had made over the weekend.

A friend and I have been getting together to make bread so she can get familiar with the process.  It has been a ton of fun.  We started with Focaccia, then a Turkish flatbread, and then we made this Riga Rye Bread.   It came out really well and she said she couldn't wait to make avocado toast with it.  I just happened to have some avocados so I decided to do the same.  I had already made the salsa so it seemed like the perfect addition.

 And then I bought some fresh corn at the market and had one tomato left that I had brought the week before that needed to be used up so I looked around for an idea of how to use them.  And as soon as my eyes fell on the mango in my fruit bowl I knew exactly what I was going to do.  I had already removed the corn from the ears so I chopped up the tomato, mango, and scallion and threw them in a bowl with the corn. A quick seasoning with salt and pepper, a squeeze of lime juice, and a few tablespoons of olive oil finished it up quite nicely.


It was delicious in its own right but it took a delicious avocado salsa toast to the next level.

I toasted the rye bread and spread it with mashed avocado and then topped it with the Corn Mango and Tomato salad and then topped that with salsa.

In a word:  sublime.


Here's how I did it.
Home Cooking v9.76 Chapter: My Recipes
CORN MANGO AND TOMATO SALAD

2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
1 medium mango, peeled, pitted and chopped
3 scallions, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1/2 a lime
2 Tbsp olive oil

Combine the corn, tomato, mango and scallions in a medium size bowl and mix everything together. Add the salt, pepper, lime juice and olive oil and stir together well.

Garnish with salsa and/or cilantro, if desired.

8/22/2019
exported from Home Cookin v9.76 (http://www.mountainsoftware.com/homecook.php)

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Walnut Pesto Pasta with Broccoli and Mushrooms

One of the few things I have not yet made in my new kitchen is pasta.  It had been a while since I made it at my old place as well.  I am not sure what is going on there but I am sure there is some deep psychological issue needing to be resolved in order for me to make that pile of flour and eggs and start mixing it all together.  Or maybe I've just been busier than usual these past months.

By January I was jonesing for pasta - any pasta - so I decided to use some dried whole wheat rotini I had on hand to tide me over until I could get it together enough to make some.

I am trying to eat mushrooms and some kind of cruciferous vegetables every day as part of my vegecentric diet and happily enough both of those foods lend themselves well to pasta.  I thought they would pair well with pesto but I did not have any pine nuts.

I did have walnuts, though, so I decided to make a walnut pesto using a recipe from Saveur Magazine as the main base.  My neighborhood grocery store had beautiful fresh basil which was a blessing in the middle of January so I was all set.

I was pleased with the results.  The walnuts offer a more subtle flavor than the pine nuts which, while delicious, have a strong distinct flavor that dominates the dish and I was afraid it would overpower the broccoli and mushrooms as well.  The walnuts provided a smooth, rich undertone to the pesto that married well with the pasta and broccoli. 

While there will always be a place in my heart for traditional pesto, this walnut version makes for a nice change when you want other ingredients to have a chance to shine.

I cooked the broccoli just a little longer than I should have so it was a bit on the mushy side.  It did not detract from the overall flavor but next time I will make sure not to let it go over three minutes.

Home Cookin v9.74 Chapter: Grains Pasta and Potatoes
WALNUT PESTO PASTA WITH BROCCOLI AND MUSHROOMS

1-1/2 cups packed basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup toasted walnuts
1/4 cup finely grated pecorino
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
2 cloves garlic
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lb broccoli stems and florets
1 lb cooked mushrooms (here's how I cook mine)
1 lb whole wheat rotini or other short whole wheat pasta
grated parmesan, to garnish

 Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  When the water boils, add a large tablespoon of salt and then add the broccoli florets and stems to the pot.  Cover and turn off the heat and let it sit for 3 minutes.  Remove the broccoli with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.  When the broccoli is cool, drain and set aside.


Process the basil, walnuts, pecorino, parmesan, and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped.  With the power on, add the olive oil through the top feeder in a steady stream and process until it reaches your desired consistency.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 Bring the pot of water to a boil again and cook the pasta according to the package directions.  When it is done, reserve about a cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta.  Do not rinse it.  Add it back to the pot over a low heat and add the broccoli, mushrooms, and pesto.  Combine all of the ingredients and cook until everything is heated through, adding some of the reserved pasta water to reach a smooth consistency.  Remove from the heat and serve immediately garnished with the grated parmesan.

walnut pesto recipe adapted from http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Pesto-di-Noce-Walnut-Pesto
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