• Smoky Cauliflower Frittata

    Smoky Cauliflower Frittata.

    Smoky Cauliflower Frittata.

    frit2We almost never do this, but we are enjoying Yotam Ottolenghi’s (YO) cookbook “Plenty” so much that we are posting another recipe. This wasn’t exactly by plan, but we like this recipe a lot and have the photos, so why not? And the other new cookbook we are working from that will go nameless Nigella, isn’t working out quite as well- at least, not yet. But if this keeps up, YO may end up in Alice Waters’ territory as far as being a “go-to” source for vegetable recipes. In our part of the world that is lofty company (although we gather that this wouldn’t be a surprise in the UK).

    frit6frit7Oddly enough, this frittata is more about the eggs and cheese than the cauliflower, but it is easy to make and tastes good (and the vegetables give at least the appearance of a healthy dish). That makes us happy. And using scamorza (smoked mozzarella) makes us even happier. This cheese melts evenly and has smoky, but clean, flavor that works incredibly well with the sweet, caramelized cauliflower. And YO then adds some smoked paprika and aged cheddar to accent the scamorza even more. If you haven’t tried smoked mozzarella, this recipe is worth a try. We bet you will want to use it in other recipes.

    frit8frit9frit10The other key to this dish is that YO uses crème fraîche, Dijon mustard and chives in the egg mixture (we added a little tarragon, as well). This adds sharp, herbal and tangy notes that cut the richness of the overall dish (even as the crème fraîche adds a good dose of fat). It’s these little things that make a big difference in the final dish. Without a little tang, this recipe might be all smoky cheese and eggs, good on the first bite, but probably overwhelming as a main dish. But those brighter notes make for a dish that is good from beginning to end. And if you serve this frittata with a nice green salad with a basic vinaigrette, the balance is even better.

    frit11frit12frit13Another good thing about this dish is that it is quick and easy. It will take about 30 minutes total, without a bunch of work. The only extra step is to boil the cauliflower a few minutes before you caramelize it. But this does soften the cauliflower and give you an even texture, so we think the work is worth it. And since the rest is so easy, you barely notice the extra work. Otherwise, this is frittata 101. Start it on the stove top, finish in the oven, let it cool just a bit and serve. A good payoff for the time spent. Happy Monday.

    frit14Smoky Cauliflower Frittata:

    (Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Plenty“)

    Notes Before You Start:

    What You Get: An easy dinner with extra flavor. A perfect weeknight dish.

    What You Need: No special equipment required.

    How Long? About 30 minutes, and an easy 30 minutes, at that. Anytime dish.

    Ingredients:

    (Serves 4-6 as a main dish)

    • 1 medium cauliflower cut into small florets
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 6 large eggs
    • 4 tablespoons crème fraîche
    • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
    • 2 teaspoons sweet, smoked paprika
    • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
    • 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon (optional)
    • 5 oz. scamorza or smoked mozzarella, including the smoky rind, grated
    • 2 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

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  • White Whole Wheat Biscuits

    Bisk

    White Whole Wheat Biscuits.

    bisk1So let’s get right to the question, “what is white whole wheat”? It’s real whole wheat, just from a variety of wheat that has none of the red color and somewhat less of the overtly strong and tannic flavors of traditional whole wheat (think albino whole wheat). White whole wheat flour has all the nutritional benefits of whole wheat, but has a softer flavor with just a pleasant hint of “nuttiness”. What it also means is that you can bake whole wheat biscuits, scones and pastries for your kids (and other picky eaters) and they will eat and enjoy these treats as if they were made from refined flour. A neat trick. Good for you, too.

    bisk2bisk3And if you get your hands on some white whole wheat flour (we use King Arthur, but there are other brands), we suggest you make some biscuits. Why biscuits? Firstly, who doesn’t like a biscuit? Secondly, you can get a good idea how white whole wheat flour provides a hint of “whole wheat” flavor and color, while having a texture like refined flour. And finally, biscuits are easy once you get the hang of it.

    bisk5bisk7Making these biscuits follows a mostly traditional method. You combine dry ingredients with cold butter. Then add in wet ingredients and lightly mix to create a dough that just holds together. The less you handle the dough, the less gluten forms, the more tender the biscuit. The only trick in this recipe is that if you use honey as your sweetener (and you should, but you can use sugar), is that you need to heat it slightly so it will mix easily with the eggs and cold water without clumping. Otherwise, just cut the biscuits from the dough, bake, eat and repeat. And smile.

    bisk8bisk9Before we get to the recipe, a note about one of the ingredients you may not see in most recipes, the dry nonfat milk powder. Dry milk powder is basically the calcium and protein from the milk without the water or fat. Protein makes baked goods firmer and calcium helps with browning- without adding extra water that may alter the chemical balance of the recipe. In this case, the milk powder helps get you a nice brown biscuit that holds its shape. There are other ways to add protein and calcium, but they can require some serious reformulation (and remember, baking is chemistry), we just use the dry milk powder when we are told. It works. So if you see it in a recipe, there is nothing to worry about, just get some and use it, there are even organic versions. One more tool for your baking “arsenal”.

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  • Seared Ahi Tacos With Wasabi-Lime Crema

    Seared Ahi Tacos With Wasabi-Lime Crema

    Seared Ahi Tacos With Wasabi-Lime Crema

    We have to admit, if we have a “crutch” as cooks, it’s our love of serving tacos. They are fun, easy, and you can please a crowd with very diverse tastes. And kids simply love them. They choose what goes in the taco (up to a point), they build it the way they want and they can eat with their hands. Come to think of it, that’s why adults enjoy them, too. But if we are going to serve tacos as often as we do, we at least try to mix things up a bit. And that is where tacos like these come into play. Still simple, still good, but with a few extra flavors that, we hope, elevate the dish.

    wlime3wlime5And what makes this taco recipe somewhat special is the use of seared tuna (Yellowfin, in this case) the wasabi-lime crema, and quick pickling of some of the veggies. This adds a bit of Japan to an otherwise Mexican dish. The flavors are a bit lighter and brighter, so they don’t hide the flavor of the fish. But make no mistake, these are still fish tacos. And if you don’t have access to tuna steaks, or just don’t like their cost, this recipe will still work with any firm-fleshed fish, just don’t serve it rare like tuna.

    wlimewlime2As for searing tuna on the outside and still being rare on the inside, there are a few tricks. Firstly, your pan needs to be rocket hot, and cast iron works best. A very hot grill also works. Secondly, the exterior of the tuna should be free of moisture, you need the tuna to sear, not steam. Use a high-temp cooking oil like peanut or safflower or it will break down and hurt the flavor. And finally, you need to stop the cooking quickly, or the tuna will continue to cook from residual heat, even when out of the pan. Many chefs will plunge the tuna into an ice bath, and that does work. The easier way is to simply slice the tuna when it is cooked the way you like it, letting the heat escape the fish and stop the cooking. This works both ways. If the tuna is a bit too rare, just wait 30 seconds and look again- it will have cooked quite a bit in its remaining heat. (FWIW, taking the photos cost us a few extra seconds and we got a bit more of the cooked outer layer than we like- that is how quickly the tuna cooks in its own heat.)

    wlime7wlime8Making the crema for this dish is as easy as it gets. A crema combines sour cream, heavy cream and your choice of seasonings. In this case we add some wasabi powder, prepared horseradish (it amps the wasabi), rice wine vinegar, lime juice, lime zest and salt. Blend the ingredients, taste and adjust seasoning and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavors meld. Great on almost any fish, and tasty on veggies. Hard to go wrong here. Continue reading

  • Weekly Cocktail #44: Wild-Eyed Rose

    Wild-Eyed Rose cocktail.

    Wild-Eyed Rose cocktail.

    (Note: Before you read on, we suggest you visit Liquid Culture Project and read about the Ile Saint-Honorat, one of the best cocktails we’ve had in quite a while. Then come back and see us.)

    St. Patrick’s Day is coming, and while we are not big fans of the holiday (we explain below), we decided to play around a bit with Irish Whiskey. And this can be a bit of a tough task. Irish Whiskey is very tasty stuff, but is basically known for smooth flavor. Good for sipping on its own, or alongside a good beer (and we are all for a shot and a beer sometimes). But since Irish Whiskey lacks the smoke of Scotch, the spice of rye or the sweet of bourbon, it can get lost in many cocktails. With that in mind, there just aren’t that many cocktails that lead with Irish Whiskey.

    wild5wild4But we do have the internet and an ever-growing stack of cocktail books to look through and it didn’t take long to find the Wild-Eyed Rose (we found it at Alcademics). This cocktail is a simple combination of Irish Whiskey, lime juice and grenadine. And, at first, you can look at this recipe and think it is one of the thousands of basic cocktail “trios” of spirits, sweet and sour. But on further inspection, there is a little more going on here, and the cocktail comes with a decent back story.

    wild3wild2The recipe for the Wild-Eyed Rose is interesting in a number of ways. Firstly, it uses lime juice with whiskey, rather than the more traditional lemon juice. Secondly, it uses a whole lot of lime juice, a full ounce balanced against two ounces of whiskey and a half ounce of grenadine. This is a dry and strikingly sour sip, but you get just enough sweet at the end to keep you coming back (it certainly isn’t cloying). A good cocktail to start the evening and get your taste buds going. And the lime and cherry garnish is visually appealing (we are suckers for that kind of thing). Finally the drink came from famous pre-prohibition bartender Hugo Ensslin and his cocktail book “Recipes for Mixed Drinks“, so the cocktail comes from a master (CORRECTION: Ensslin wanted only the juice of 1/2 a lime- other recipes changed the original. Thanks to Doug Ford for the real scoop.) As for the name of the drink, it is a riff on the song “My Wild Irish Rose”, and as names go, it’s pretty good.

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  • Weekly Cocktail #43: The Jezebel

    The Jezebel Cocktail.

    The Jezebel Cocktail.

    After a thoroughly enjoyable time hosting Mixology Monday, we are back to our regular weekly cocktail. Although in this case our weekly cocktail is really just a holdover from our MxMo experiments. And while it didn’t make the cut (for purely technical reasons- we had no photos) the Jezebel is a delightful cocktail that we will make any time we have some blood oranges on hand.

    jezebel3The Jezebel is a riff on the classic cocktail the White Lady, a simple combination of gin, lemon juice and Cointreau (some recipes include egg white for extra body). But for this drink we substitute blood orange juice for a bit of both the lemon juice and the Cointreau. And the extra berry notes, acidity, tartness and color of the blood oranges makes big difference (better than the original, IMHO).

    jezebel2Yes, we are on a bit of a blood orange kick (we are a seasonal food blog, after all). But it has been a tremendous season for blood oranges here in California, and we simply can’t resist one of our favorite fruits (and a number of MxMo participants seemingly agreed and used blood oranges in their recipes- very cool). And what makes this even more fun is that orange juice is traditionally a difficult citrus ingredient for cocktails. Flavors and acidity vary, and oranges are often just too sweet (and watery) to balance the base spirits. There are some classic exceptions like the Bronx cocktail, the Monkey Gland (horrible name) and the Screwdriver, but generally oranges are a difficult cocktail ingredient. Blood oranges are a whole different story, the only bummer is limited availability based on the season. But if it’s winter, go get some and start making drinks (the juice is great on its own, btw).

    jezebel4As for the name of the drink, we have the MxMo theme of “inverted” and one of our favorite blogs, Silver Screenings (a fantastic blog about classic movies, we can’t recommend the site enough) to thank. We wanted to invert the White Lady and decided that blood oranges would work, and the drink tasted great. Happily we were looking at Silver Screenings and asked, “what about using a classic movie name” and, of course, we immediately thought of the 1930′s Bette Davis movie “Jezebel“. We won’t give away much of the story, but we will say that respectable young ladies in the 19th century shouldn’t wear red to the ball when all the other bells wear white. In the 21st century, we may have cut Jezebel a little more slack, or maybe even bought her a drink….

    jezebel1The Jezebel Cocktail:

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. dry gin
    • 1/2 oz. Cointreau (or quality triple-sec)
    • 1/2 oz. blood orange juice
    • 1/2 oz. lemon juice.

    Assemble:

    1. Put all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well-chilled. Strain (or even better, double-strain) into a chilled cocktail glass, coupé or flute. Serve.
  • Caldo Verde

    caldo5

    Caldo Verde.

    caldoIt seems to be kale and cocktail week here at the farm. (And we are OK with that, things could be worse.) Kale is in season, and after making a massaged kale salad, we decided to make a kale-based main dish, and we quickly settled on cooking up a pot of Caldo Verde. If you are going to have a kale recipe that will please a crowd, we suggest you take a look at making Caldo Verde. Caldo Verde, one of Portugal’s most popular dishes, is a soup of kale, potatoes and onions that often includes extra herbs, garlic, sausage and pork. This is a hearty soup that is easy to make and uses readily available ingredients. And if its cold outside, there are few things better than a big bowl of this soup.

    calso12caldo10Caldo Verde is also a versatile dish, you can start with a basic version of kale, potato, onion and linguica sausage (or spanish chorizo) and be ready in about an hour. But, if you want to add depth you can make a quick pork stock from ham hocks and add garlic, other herbs, etc. The only issue is time. But since we had some time, our recipe is based on making a ham hock-based stock, using the meat from the ham hocks and building the Caldo from the ham stock. We also add extra herbs to brighten the flavor. But if you don’t have the time, stick to the basic recipe and use salted water or low-sodium chicken stock as the base of your soup.

    caldo11caldo9As for making the dish, if you can boil water and rough chop some ingredients, you can cook a fine batch of Caldo Verde. The only real trick in this recipe is that you use half of the potatoes as a thickener for the stock and add half later to have pieces of potato in the soup. You can mash the potatoes with an immersion blender, potato masher or even with the back of a wooden spoon, but don’t skip this step, the potatoes give extra flavor and silky texture to the soup. Otherwise this recipe is as simple, and as good, as it gets.

    caldo7caldo9So how does Caldo Verde taste? It depends somewhat on the base you use for the soup, but you will get bright kale, rich potato, sweet onions and some spice from the linguica sausage. If you use a ham hock or shank for the soup base, it will be richer and smokier, while water or chicken stock will be a bit brighter flavored and lets the kale lead the dish. But there is one more thing, regardless of how you make your Caldo, it will be good the first day, but even better the second day. So make a big batch and enjoy this soup over a couple of days. You will be glad you did.

    caldo6 Continue reading