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Tag Archives: spreads

Cauliflower and Herb Spread

3 May

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It’s picnic season! I knock on wood as I say this, but Portland has really been delivering some fine spring weather this year, and I can’t wait to keep our outdoor time at its maximum level. Playing outdoors, eating outdoors, sleeping outdoors—it’s all in our future.

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My love of picnics is no secret, but I do sometimes wonder how I can shake up our picnic spreads without diverting too much from what makes a picnic meal so enjoyable for me. Picnics are casual affairs for us, without a reliance on silverware or fussy presentations. While we do sometimes pack a picnic that includes a salad or two thrown into a lidded container, it seems almost antithetical to the very spirit of a picnic to make your food fork or spoon-required. This means our picnics tend to include a lot of cheese selections to pair with bread, a good amount of fruit and vegetables in their most casual form, and, of course, a treat or two…or threeoh, fine to round out the meal. It’s a lovely way to eat, but, tough as it may be to imagine, even I, at times, get a bit overloaded by cheese and sweets.

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Last week, when thinking of ways to diversify our picnics, I started dreaming of my favorite white bean spread. It’s a nearly perfect item to slather over a hunk of crusty bread, and, with silky pureed cauliflower swapped in for the creamy white beans, I began to imagine a new picnic food to audition this year. As it turns out, this combination of sweetly sautéed onions, fresh herbs, and smooth cauliflower is even better than I thought it would be. It’s even better, dare I say it, than cheese. For your friends who are allergic to legumes, it makes a great alternative to hummus or other bean spreads. For your vegetarian friends, it’s a super flavorful topping for bread that needs no meat to make it shine. For your vegan friends, try swapping the butter for ¼ cup of good olive oil, and sauté the onions and garlic slowly, until they begin to really melt. For everyone, make a batch of this right now, grab yourself a picnic blanket and a baguette, and head outside.

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Last Year: Crisp Baked Vegetable Wontons and Spinach, Fennel, and Pear Salad with Brown Butter Hazelnuts

Cauliflower and Herb Spread

1 medium head of cauliflower

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion, finely diced

2 tablespoons fresh garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

2 tablespoons Italian parsley, finely chopped

2 pinches red chile flakes

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Trim cauliflower of leaves and tough inner stem. Cut cauliflower into small florets, then place in a steamer basket. Over a pot of boiling water, cover and steam cauliflower florets for 10 to 12 minutes, until the florets are tender. Remove steamer basket from pot, and allow cauliflower to cool a bit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

In separate saucepan, melt butter over medium low heat, then add onions, garlic, herbs, and chile flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent about 7 to 10 minutes. Add steamed cauliflower. Mash or puree with a food processor or stick blender until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove to a dish or bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and serve with crusty bread.

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A Trio of Flavored Butters

14 Apr

What I am about to say may get me kicked out of every food-appreciation club in America, but here goes: I am not an enormous fan of butter.

Now, it’s really as cut and dry as that.  I do, of course, enjoy the way butter adds an unmistakable flavor to a recipe, and, obviously, you can’t bake (and enthusiastically devour) as many things as I do without a fine appreciation of butter, but the habit of positively slathering a biscuit, pancake, or slice of bread with enough butter to create the look of a frosted cake is not really my idea of maximum deliciousness.  While not in any way anti-butter, I so have fairly set standards for where my enjoyment of butter starts and stops.  A light slip of butter atop a slice of warm bread?  Yes.  A biscuit soaked through with a prodigious slick of dripping butterfat?  No.

I am sure this proves some sort of fault with my tasting capabilities, and it no doubt points to some sort of loss of my ability to enjoy the most basic things about simple food and plain ingredients, but I am fine with that.  Why?  Because that possible weakness in my taste preferences leads me to do the type thing that I did yesterday afternoon, which was spend a very pleasant half an hour coming up with creative ways to flavor butter.  Just like that, my loss has become your gain.

The idea here is to use each butter sparingly.  The subtle briskness of the mint, the fresh shot of citrus, the layered combination of the lemon and basil—these are all meant to coax your butter into something a bit more satisfying to the palette than what ordinary butter provides.  If you are not sure that anything in the world can ever top the simple pleasure of plain old butter, I certainly don’t disparage that opinion.  What I do suggest, however, is that you take a few minutes to at least make and try these wonderful flavored butters, as it might just change your opinion about what butter can do.

 

It certainly altered my opinion of the joys of butter, a turn of events that has, not surprisingly, managed to almost work against me.  Whereas I used to eschew butter on my bread 90% of the time (with the exception of fresh, hot bread newly released from the oven), I now find myself looking for reasons to spread these lovely flavored butters on everything I can.  If, previously, my loss was transformed into another’s gain, it seems as though my weakness has now become, well, my weakness.

It would be a crime to relegate these butters as being toppings for just baked goods.  I have visions of any of these butters making for an absolutely dreamy combination when lightly dolloped on poached fish, steamed new potatoes, or roasted asparagus.  I plan to get right on those experiments, and I encourage you all to get in on it as well and let me know how it turns out.

Orange Butter

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted, softened, room temperature butter

2 heaping tablespoons finely grated or chopped orange zest

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice

pinch sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.  Thoroughly combine by beating vigorously with a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula.  If you want your butter to have a lighter consistency, whip butter combination with an electric mixer until fluffy.

Mint Butter

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted, softened, room temperature butter

3 heaping tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

small squeeze of lemon juice

pinch of sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.  Thoroughly combine by beating vigorously with a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula.  If you want your butter to have a lighter consistency, whip butter combination with an electric mixer until fluffy.

Citrus Basil Butter

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted, softened, room temperature butter

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil

1/4 teaspoon finely grated or chopped lemon zest

small squeeze of lemon juice

pinch of sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.  Thoroughly combine by beating vigorously with a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula.  If you want your butter to have a lighter consistency, whip butter combination with an electric mixer until fluffy.

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