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Roasted Cauliflower and Black Bread Gratin

1 Nov

Though I know these words will eventually (say, in May, when the temperature is 55 degrees and I am crying about the nonstop rain) come back to haunt me, I have to admit that I have been absolutely loving the chilly fall weather we’ve been experiencing around here. The morning fog, the hoodie I have to don each night to stave off the cold while reading in bed, even the torrential rain pounding against the windows—it’s autumn in Portland, and that means it’s time to break out the gratin dishes.

Not that one is prohibited from eating a warm, crisp-yet-soft gratin in the summertime, but a gratin in autumn is just so much more fitting than a gratin in the summertime. Of course, a lot this rationale of mine centers around what, exactly, makes a gratin in the first place, and, as with many things in the kitchen, the definition of a gratin is certainly up for debate. Traditionally, a gratin is a dish with a crunchy lid baked on top, that lid being, more often than not, bread crumbs, cheese, or a combination of both. The word gratin itself refers specifically to the crisp, crunchy bits left behind in a pan after baking, but, as most of us know a gratin, it means a baked dish itself, topped with something crunchy or cheesy, then baked into a state of complete heavenly bliss.

As far as gratins go, this one is low on the cheesy scale, but high on the crunchy bread factor. Big chunks of crisp, dense black bread get folded amongst roasted cauliflower, speckled with Parmesan cheese, and dotted with garlic, then baked into a warm, crisp mass of perfect autumn eating. If you’re in the mood for something a bit more decadent, you can up the cheese presence, even using something a bit more melty and gooey, like fontina. As it appears here, however, this gratin is a great balance of autumn comfort and roasted vegetable goodness. If I can somehow make all my meals as enjoyable as this one, the cold, rainy weather and I should be able to get along just fine.

Last Year: Ranchero Sauce and Mexican Rice, plus a few words on my unparalleled admiration of Tamra Davis

Roasted Cauliflower and Black Bread Gratin Recipe

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

4 cups cubed black bread (the densest, most flavorful black bread you can find–I used the leftovers from this enormous loaf of black bread)

1 large head cauliflower, core removed, head cut into medium-small florets

2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped

¼ cup chopped Italian parsley

¾ cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

On a large baking sheet, combine bread cubes with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Toss the bread cubes to thoroughly coat with olive oil. Bake bread cubes in center of oven for 5 to 8 minutes, until the bread is crisp, but not hard. Remove bread crumbs from baking sheet and set aside.

On the same baking sheet, combine cauliflower florets with remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add salt and pepper, and toss everything to combine. Roast cauliflower in center of oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the undersides are well-browned and the tops are golden.

Remove cauliflower from oven, then, while still on the baking sheet, combine with toasted bread cubes, chopped garlic, and chopped Italian parsley. Carefully toss together to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Lower temperature of oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lightly spray or brush a casserole dish or baking dish (9” by 13” would be a good size, but I used one that was 10” by 7.5” and it worked out wonderfully) with olive oil. Add half of the cauliflower and bread mix, then sprinkle with ½ cup of the Parmesan cheese. Add remaining cauliflower and bread mixture, sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese, then bake in center of oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top of the gratin is crisp and golden brown.

Serve hot or warm, sprinkled with more chopped Italian parsley. Serves 6 to 8 people as a side dish, or 4 people as a main dish.

Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Samosas in Phyllo

20 Aug

In the spirit of my propensity to toss bits and pieces of leftover vegetables into a tart or a quiche and then sit back and enjoy the fruits of my frugality, a little while ago I decided that my bits and pieces of this and that were ready to branch out a bit. I love a good tart and quiche, but I also love a good challenge. Also, I love Indian food.

I know that I went super heavy on Indian food posts a few weeks ago, but can you blame me for wanting to add on to my arsenal of Indian food recipes? And it’s not just because I am Indian. I mean, technically I am half Scottish as well as half Indian, but you won’t see me whipping up a batch of haggis any time soon. Though I have been know to make shortbread, but, you know, I put ginger and lime in it, because that’s what happens when India creeps into Scotland.

This new riff on samosas is also a new riff on the traditional Indian dish of aloo gobi, a dry sauté of spiced potatoes and cauliflower Literally, in Hindi, “aloo” means potato and “gobi” means cauliflower. Now you know roughly 50% of the Hindi that I know. (If I ever have to negotiate a taxi fare in India, I am going to be in so much trouble.) With a sad little bag of leftover sweet potatoes sitting in the pantry and a fast-wilting head of cauliflower in the refrigerator, I knew I wanted to whip up a decidedly different version of aloo gobi. Since I also had a package of phyllo dough that was quickly turning dry, it soon became clear to me that the universe wanted me to make samosas. And who am I to throw a cold shoulder to the universe?

I am a big fan of my initial recipe for samosas in phyllo, and I cart that sucker out quite a bit when tasked to bring a dish to a potluck or picnic, but these sweet potato and cauliflower samosas are fast overtaking the originals on my list of favorites. The sweet potatoes add a nice change in flavor from ordinary potatoes, and the cauliflower, once sautéed, wrapped up, and baked, practically melts into the creamy and delicious mixture. The spices in this version of samosas are different from the original, I have streamlined the filling and folding process, and, believe it or not, I just might prefer this version overall. For now, at least. Until I find a couple of sprouting potatoes and sagging chiles lying around and decide to make a batch of samosa recipe #1, and then predictably pronounce them to be my reigning favorite.

Last Year: How to Cook Pizza on the Grill

Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Samosas in Phyllo Recipe

3 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced into very small ¼-inch cubes

½ head fresh cauliflower, cored and cut into ½-inch chunks

½ teaspoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 small green chile, seeds and ribs removed, then very finely chopped

1 tablespoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 package phyllo dough, about 35 to 40 sheets

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted then cooled a bit

In a large pan set over high heat, heat vegetable oil or ghee until it is very hot. Add cumin seeds, and cook them just until they begin to sizzle and pop (this will take just a few seconds). Carefully add in sweet potatoes, and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using a slotted spoon, remove potatoes from pan and set aside. In the still-hot pan, add the cauliflower and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add the potatoes back to the pan with the cauliflower, then add in the spices, ginger, and chopped chile. Reduce heat to low, stir to combine, cover, then let cook for 5 minutes. Remove cauliflower mixture from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.

When the mixture has cooled, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Cover phyllo stack with a dampened kitchen towel (this will keep the phyllo from drying out as you work).  Take one phyllo sheet from stack and lay it down on your work surface with a long side nearest you (keeping remaining sheets covered as you work) and brush lightly with butter. Fold the dough towards you in three folds, like a tri fold business letter. You will now have a long, three-layer strip of phyllo dough.

Place a tablespoon of filling near one corner of a strip, then fold corner of phyllo over to enclose filling and form a triangle. Continue folding the strip (as one would fold a flag), maintaining a triangle shape. Put fully wrapped samosa triangle, seam side down, on a parchment-lined large baking sheet. Repeat process, making more triangles in the same manner, until you’ve used all the phyllo and all the filling, whichever comes first. Very, very lightly brush the tops of the formed samosas with any remaining melted butter.

The samosas can be baked in a 375 degree oven, one sheet at a time, for 20-25 minutes, or until they are golden brown.  Cool them slightly on a wire rack before serving.

If you plan to freeze the samosas instead of bake them straightaway, place the wrapped samosas in the freezer on their parchment-lined baking sheets, and freeze for one hour.  Remove the samosas from the freezer, and stack them in an airtight container, separating each stack with a layer of parchment or wax paper.  The samosas will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.  When you are ready to bake the frozen samosas, follow the baking directions for fresh samosas.  There is no need to adjust the baking time.

Makes 35 to 40 samosas, depending on how generous your 1 tablespoon scoops are.

Indian Cauliflower Rice

9 Feb

I am not generally one to eavesdrop, but I am also not one to hear whisperings of what sounds like an incredible meal and then walk away.  This is how I found myself pretending to read messages on my phone while I stealthily listened to two people waiting for coffee talk about a dish involving fried rice made out of cauliflower, as in, the rice being fried was not rice at all, but rather finely chopped cauliflower.  It involved ginger, green onions, and then something-something that I could not hear, on account of the steady coffee shop din of sputtering milk steaming wands and a slightly-too-loud-for-eavesdropping playing of the Replacements (Let It Be).

I thought about the dish, and the concept of the dish, during the entirety of my walk home.  By some heretofore unseen miracle of refrigerator preparedness, I actually had cauliflower on hand (which never happens, ever, even though, I know, I am Indian and I like to make Indian food and Indian food means cauliflower and potatoes but, still, MIRACLE), but I was mildly flummoxed about what should come after finding the cauliflower in the refrigerator and marveling at my good fortune (it apparently does not take much to impress me).  Since I was receiving all the information about this new recipe via an unsanctioned source, there was very little required of me in the way of actually following a recipe.  Really, I was in this position on account of a concept, which meant that whatever I wanted to do with the cauliflower could probably not mess things up too badly.

So I went with what I know.  The cauliflower rice, originally conceived as a Chinese fried rice-type dish, became an Indian dish.  Toasted spices joined a healthy dose of grated fresh ginger, and a tiny bit of heat was added to keep things interesting.  What came together was a pleasant, delicious surprise, and one I don’t think that, left to my own devices, I would have ever happened upon myself.  Though I can’t condone eavesdropping on a regular basis (I suspect that most topics of private conversation probably involve things a lot more spicy than this dish), I have to admit that, used sparingly, a little nosiness can sometimes result in a lot of deliciousness.

Indian Cauliflower Rice

1 large head cauliflower, leaves and core removed

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger

½ medium yellow onion, finely diced

¼ teaspoon garam masala

¼ teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon coriander

salt to taste

¼ cup fresh cilantro (optional)

Cut the cauliflower into large florets.  In a food processor, pulse about 1/3 of the cauliflower until it is uniformly chopped into very small, rice-sized pieces.  Repeat with the remaining cauliflower, working in small batches and being careful to pulse the cauliflower only until it is chopped (over-chopping the cauliflower in the food processor will turn the cauliflower into a mushy paste).  When you have chopped all the cauliflower, set it aside.

In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat.  When the oil has just started to shimmer, add the cumin seeds and bay leaf, stirring constantly to keep them from burning.  When the seeds start to sputter and pop (this should take just a few seconds), add the garlic, ginger, and onion.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened and just beginning to brown, about 8 minutes.  If your onions and garlic begin to brown too quickly, turn the heat down to medium.  Add the chopped cauliflower to the pan, and stir fry for 2 to 3 minutes, until the cauliflower just begins to turn slightly golden at the edges.  Add the garam masala, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and coriander.  Cook for an additional 7 to 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is golden and the spices smell toasty.  Add salt to taste.

Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired.

Serves 3-4 people as a main dish, twice as many as a side dish.

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