Sunday, November 30, 2014

slow down

December 1st. It's only been 4 days since Thanksgiving. I've just finished reading through "101 Ways to Use Pumpkin," and I just saw a Tweet with a "Best of 2014" list. Give me a break. Can I at least enjoy Christmas for half a second before you make me think of 2015? Mariah hasn't even gotten through the first verse of "All I Want For Christmas" yet. Everybody, calm down.

So to protest all holidays ever, and the feeling that I'm being rushed into my future, I give you lovely, unrushed, non-seasonal Uni Risotto. Although of course, I feel any day with uni is a holiday, and this might be a nice, non-traditional twist to your Feast of Seven Fishes, so the holidays are probably winning anyway. They always do.

If you love uni, you will love this risotto. It's not for the faint of heart - 4 whole oz. of uni really comes right through in this recipe. Serve with lots of vegetables on the side - an assertive salad, or the roasted broccoli-cauliflower combo I have here would be perfect.

Uni Risotto
slightly adapted from Spoon Fork Bacon
serves 4

4 oz. uni
2 T. heavy cream
1 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
2 shallots, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 c. Arborio rice
2/3 c. dry white wine
4 c. clam juice
salt and pepper, to taste
toasted and shredded nori, for garnish

1. Place uni, cream and butter into a food processor, and blend until smooth. Set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil in a medium pan. Add the shallots, sauté for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and rice, and continue to sauté for 3 to 4 minutes or until a small white dot remains in the center of each grain of rice.

3. Deglaze pan with wine and stir. Allow almost all the liquid to evaporate then reduce the heat to medium and add a ladle of clam juice, stirring frequently. Each time the liquid evaporates, add another ladle of stock, and continue to stir. Repeat until the rice is al dente, about 20 minutes.

4. Stir in the uni puree, followed by the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter (for a glossy finish), until fully incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Divide risotto into portions and top with shredded nori. Serve immediately.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

the first and the last

If I see one more list of "Last-Minute Turkey Day Recipes," or "Ways To Out-Pinterest Your Friends' Dining Tables On Thanksgiving," or "387 Brussels Sprouts Recipes for Thanksgiving," I will absolutely burst into tears. I should probably quit the Internet for the next week.

It's true I won't be home for Thanksgiving this year, and it's true that a small part of me is devastated. I think it's the part of me that likes to show off a little, or maybe the part of me that's a bit of a control freak, because after all, Thanksgiving for me is basically half a year of Excel sheets and test recipes. The food and family bit is just a nice bonus.

You won't find any Thanksgiving ideas here. Well, maybe the corn salad. Or the green onion pasta. But that wasn't the intention. If I can't tell you about my Thanksgiving feast in a week, I will tell you about the one feast I was able to have - what Matty and I affectionately called "The First and Last Barbecue of the Summer."

It was basically a day to make up for a summer of being on the road, watching football with our nearest and dearest. So it turned into a DAY.

First up, Blueberry Cake Donut Bars. They sound good and taste even better, but let's be honest that if you're baking something in the oven, it by definition cannot be a donut. Even if you have one of them cute donut pans. You just made a circle muffin with a hole in it.

But these Blueberry Cake Donut Bars are quite good - like a lovely, fruity coffee cake. Highly recommended. In fact, it was so good, I skipped making an extra dessert by doubling the recipe and using it to bookend our meal.

Blueberry Cake Donut Bars
slightly adapted from Food52
serves 40

For the donut bars:
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. baking soda
1 pinch salt
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 c. buttermilk
1 t. vanilla
2 1/2 c. blueberries

For the buttermilk glaze:
2 c. powdered sugar
3 T. buttermilk
1/3 c. whole milk

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until well-combined. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, buttermilk, and vanilla.

2. Alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients to the butter mixture alternately, in 2 or 3 additions each. Mix until just combined. Fold in the blueberries.

3. Pour the mixture into a lightly greased 9x9-inch cake pan, then bake in a 350-degree oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 30 minutes. Cool completely, then cut into 8 bars.

4. To make the glaze, whisk the powdered sugar, buttermilk, and milk together to combine. Make sure the glaze is runny. Add additional milk, 1 T. at a time, if needed. Place the bars on a wire rack and pour the glaze over top. Let it set completely before serving.

We did have vegetables, I promise. I lovely tray full of green goodness. You pick your favorites - I had asparagus, celery (actually, not my favorite at all, but seemed obligatory), sugar snap peas and Persian cucumbers. 

To go with the crudite were a Chickpea + Chive Mash and Cashew Cheese. Originally, the mash was meant to be a warm dish, a bit polenta-like, topped with roasted vegetables, but when I tasted the mixture from the food processor, it seemed more useful as a fancy hummus.

And when the Cashew Cheese turned out to be the dip of my dreams, I pulled out my favorite serving dish (I love compartments), and had a nice little appetizer for the game-watch.

Chickpea + Chive Mash
slightly adapted from Dolly and Oatmeal
makes about 2 cups

1 c. drained, canned chickpeas
1/4 c. fresh chives
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 t. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 T. extra virgin olive oil
3-4 T. water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, and process until smooth. Serve immediately.

Cashew Cheese
slightly adapted from Choosing Raw
makes about 2 cups

2 c. raw cashews, soaked 2 hours or overnight in water
1/2 t. sea salt
1/4 c. lemon juice
3 T. nutritional yeast
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. tightly packed basil

1. Drain cashews and rinse them. Add the drained cashews to the food processor along with the salt, lemon, and nutritional yeast. Pulse to combine.

2. Let the motor run, and drizzle water in, stopping a few times to scrape the bowl down. Keep blending till the cheese has the consistency of a light cream cheese or whipped ricotta. Add the basil and pulse to combine. Serve immediately.

So let's see - sweets, check. Veggies, check. Carbs are next. And this Pasta with Green Onion Sauce quickly became my favorite dish of the night. It's like an elevated pasta salad, and is equally good warm, cold or at room temperature. Really, the perfect potluck/game-watch side.

I don't know what can of voodoo you need to do to turn the green onions into a puree, but I stopped fighting it, and the added texture actually improved the dish for both the mouth and the eyes. If the apple is too weird for you, leave it out, but it was nice to have a little sweetness to go with the bite of the onions.

Pasta with Green Onion Sauce
slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks
serves 8

1 lb. of your favorite pasta shape
1/4 c. olive oil
4 c. thinly sliced green onions
3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
zest and juice of one lemon
2 oz. grated Parmesan
4 c. arugula
1 large apple, diced

1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of well-salted water until al dente. Set aside at least 1/2 c. of pasta water, then drain pasta and set aside.

2. In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a large skillet until hot. Add most of the green onions, all of the garlic, and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions soften, and the garlic begins to take on some color, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for a couple minutes.

3. Use a hand blender or food processor to puree the green onion mixture along with 3/4 t. salt, 1/4 t. black pepper, zest of the lemon, half the lemon juice, and the reserved pasta water. Puree and taste. The green onion flavor should be assertive. Stir in the Parmesan.

4. Combine the macaroni with the green onion sauce in a large bowl. Toss well. Add the arugula and most of the apple and toss again. Taste, and add more pepper, salt, or lemon juice if needed. Serve topped with the remaining apple and green onion.

Here's that possible Thanksgiving contribution - a lovely salad of some of my very favorite things: corn, coconut and almonds. If your tastebuds don't know the genius of this combination, please don't wait until Thanksgiving to find out. Make this immediately. It's fresh and light, with just the right amount of richness from the coconut and almonds.

Coconut Corn Salad
slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks
serves 8

3 T. butter
5 ears of corn, shucked
salt, to taste
3 T. fresh thyme leaves
1 c. big coconut flakes, well toasted
1 c. sliced almonds, well toasted
3 T. chopped red onions
big squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice

1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the corn, sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt, and stir well - you want all the corn to be coated. Cook for just a minute, until the corn looses its raw edge, stir in half the thyme, and then transfer the corn to a large serving bowl.

2. Just before you're ready to serve, add most of the coconut flakes, most of the almonds, the rest of the thyme, red onions, and citrus juice. Stir well. Taste, season with more salt, to taste, and serve topped with the remaining coconut and almonds, and more juice, if needed.

And last, and also kind of least, an avocado chocolate pudding that is so delicious as pudding, but somehow didn't manage to translate into pie, strawberry trim be damned. While I have plenty of vegan friends, my game-watch bunch is decidedly un-vegan, and I got a lot of, "There's what in it?," and a couple of, "Does that taste good?" No, you assholes. I'm poisoning you with fake chocolate pudding.

Perhaps I'm being a bit extreme. Forgive me - by that time, the Cowboys had well lost, and I really wasn't having anybody talking back to my pudding pie.

Chocolate Avocado Pudding Pie
inspired by The Iron You
makes one 9-inch pie

For the pudding:
2 very ripe avocados
1/3 c. honey
1/3 c. cocoa powder
3 T. coconut oil
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. ground chia seeds

1 9-inch Oreo cookie pie crust

1. Combine all the filling ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and silky.

2. Pour the pudding into the pie crust, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

So, in case it's another month before I post, have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and have extra stuffing for me.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

all the sugar you'll ever need

This Cinnamon Bun Bread is so easy to make, it's almost a crime. All of the ingredients are standard pantry items, so it can be whipped up any time, in little to no time.

Unless, of course, you're me, and you're home from tour for 48 hours, and the boys who live in your house have somehow managed to survive the last two weeks without almond milk or yeast.

So, I improvised. Instead of regular (or almond) milk, I used sweetened condensed milk. And instead of measuring out 4 t. of yeast, I dumped in two entire packs and prayed. Why the prayer? Because one of the packs may have expired last year.

But it's all fine. Not sure what an actual fresh pack would have been able to do since the rise time is so short, but worth trying again and doing it right.

I cut down the sugar because I was using sweetened condensed milk, but I still thought that we all would have been fine with just half of the topping sprinkled on - the full amount was entirely too sweet for our palates. The halved topping amount is below. If you want to make sure the original recipe is too sweet for you, too, just double the topping ingredients.

Cinnamon Bun Bread
slightly adapted from Baking Bites
serves 9

For the bread:
1 1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 t. salt
4 t. active dry or rapid rise yeast
2/3 c. sweetened condensed milk
3 T. vegetable oil
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1 large egg

For the topping:
1 1/2 T. butter, room temperature
6 T. brown sugar
1/2 t. ground cinnamon

1. Lightly grease an 8×8-inch square baking pan.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt.

3. Heat the condensed milk in the microwave for 1 minute. Dissolve the yeast in the warmed milk, then stir milk mixture, vegetable oil, vanilla extract and egg into the flour mixture. Mix well, until very smooth. Pour into prepared pan and let rest for 15 minutes.

4. While the dough rests, mix together butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl using a fork until all the butter has been incorporated into the sugar and mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly on top of rested dough and press the mixture down into the dough with your fingertips.

5. Place pan into a cold oven, then set the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for about 30 minutes, until bread is lightly browned at the edges and the center of the bread springs back when lightly pressed. Cool until the sugar has stopped bubbling.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

gone 'til november

These Egg-Stuffed Soft Pretzels may be my greatest accomplishment yet. Sadly, they were for a very bittersweet brunch - meeting up with my best bud Paul to hand over the USC football season tickets I won't be able to use this fall.

It all started with a Huffington Post article. Paul is our soft pretzel guru for game watches, and I asked him sweetly to make me everything on that list if I ever saw him again. Turns out we were able to get together for brunch today, so I volunteered to host just to get a little cooking fix. Pretzels were the obvious answer, but since nothing breakfast-savory made the list, I had to go on a little Pinterest/Tastespotting/Google spree.

I'm thankful I didn't overachieve by also trying to make breakfast dessert (I'm sorry, but did you say Caramel Apple Soft Pretzels?) because these turned out to be quite time-consuming. Luckily, that was an excuse to chat and hang with Paul longer, but between rolling out the dough, assembling the filling, rolling it back up (neatly), giving them a baking soda bath, etc., it's not something you want to be making a lot of in one go.

All the effort was 100% worth it. I mean, I love soft pretzels, so I'm not a hard sell, but these were pretty spectacular. Think breakfast burrito, but with more carbs. How can you go wrong? I'm looking at you, breakfast tailgates (for other people).

Egg-Stuffed Soft Pretzels
slightly adapted from Yes to Yolks
serves 6

For the dough:
3/4 c. warm water
2 T. sugar
1 rounded t. active dry yeast
1 t. salt
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. butter, melted
1 egg yolk, for brushing on formed pretzels
salt for sprinkling on top

For the soaking liquid:
2 c. boiling water
1/4 c. baking soda

For the filling:
6 eggs scrambled with your choice of add-ons

1. Combine the yeast, sugar, and water in a small mixing cup. Allow to sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, make the soaking liquid by adding the baking soda to the boiling water in a 9x9 pan, mix well, and allow to cool.

2. Combine the remaining dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Slowly stream in the yeast mixture and the melted butter. Mix with the dough hook attachment until a smooth ball forms, about 1 minute. Remove dough from bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Knead for 5 minutes. Return to bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rest for 45-60 minutes. The dough should double in size.

3. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

4. Scramble the eggs with your choice of add-ons (I used peppers and bacon once, and just kale another time - with bacon on the side for the non-vegetarians). Form an assembly line with your fillings.

5. Divide the risen dough into 6 equal pieces. Flatten each piece of dough into an oval a little under 1/4-inch thick. On each dough piece, place a few tablespoons of scrambled eggs. Fold the edges over the fillings, pinching to seal. Gently roll the filled pretzel on the counter to seal the closure. Continue forming the pretzels.

6. Add the formed pretzels to the pan of cooled baking soda water. Allow them to sit in the water for 2 minutes, flipping them once. Remove from liquid and place on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with the egg wash, and sprinkle with salt.

7. Bake the pretzels for 7-10 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy on the outside. Enjoy warm.

Friday, August 15, 2014

keep chuggin' along

Operation: Bell Pepper continues for tonight's dinner. I only got rid of two more - not every dinner can take up a dozen. I'm really starting to worry about what happens when I leave. He might have to open up a stand at the farmers market.

One pepper went into this Coconut Shrimp Ceviche - a dish that almost didn't happen. For some reason, it took forever for the shrimp to "cook" - my guess is that mixing the lime juice and coconut milk together lowered the acidity, thereby leaving the shrimp still a little more raw than I would have liked. Luckily, it was really great quality shrimp, and we like sashimi. In future, though, I would definitely just marinate the shrimp in pure lime juice until it was cooked, and then toss in everything else afterwards.

Coconut Shrimp Ceviche
slightly adapted from My Columbian Recipes
serves 4

1 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp, cut into thirds
1/4 c. fresh lime juice
1/2 red onion, finely diced
2 green onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 c. coconut milk
1/2 c. cilantro, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a large bowl, mix together the shrimp and lime juice. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until shrimp is pink and opaque all the way through.

2. Add the remaining ingredients and toss thoroughly to combine. Serve cold.

I served it on top of this delightful Mango Slaw with Cashews + Mint. If I were a little less afraid of slicing my digits off whenever I peel/slice a mango, I would make this all the time. I'd go way heavier on both the cashews and the mint, but that's your call.

Mango Slaw with Cashews + Mint
slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen
serves 8

2 mangoes, peeled, pitted and julienned
1 lb. Napa cabbage, sliced very thinly
1 bell pepper, julienned
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 c. fresh lime juice, from about two limes
2 T. olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
Sriracha, to taste
1/4 c. thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
1/4 c. toasted cashews, coarsely chopped

1. Toss mangoes, cabbage, bell pepper, and onion in a large bowl. Add the lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and Sriracha, and toss to thoroughly combine.

2. Before serving, toss with mint leaves and sprinkle with cashews. Garnish with additional Sriracha, if desired.

And finally, for dessert - no, not bell peppers - an Apricot Buttermilk Pie that makes me exceedingly happy. It takes dried apricots, so you can have it year-round. Wonderful news for the traveler who will never be in the kitchen when her favorite stone fruits are in season.

I do wish the texture was a bit smoother. Perhaps, this is a job for the blender rather than the food processor. Will try again and report back.

Apricot Buttermilk Pie
slightly adapted from Joy the Baker
makes one 9-inch pie

For the filling:
8 oz. dried apricots
1/2 c. hot water
2 T. Maker's Mark
3/4 c. sugar
1 t. lemon zest
3 large eggs
2 T. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. salt
8 T. butter, melted until browned
1 c. buttermilk
2 T. fresh lemon juice
2 t. pure vanilla extract

For the crust:
8 sheets phyllo dough
baking spray

1. Place the dried apricots in a small bowl. Pour hot water and bourbon over the apricots, and let sit for 5 minutes. Place the apricots (water and bourbon included) into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Process for about 3 minutes until smooth. Set aside.

2. Combine the sugar and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Add the eggs, and whisk until thick and well combined. Add flour and salt, and whisk to combine. Add butter, and stir to incorporate. Add buttermilk, lemon juice, and vanilla extract, and whisk until smooth. Fold the apricots into the pie filling. Set aside.

3. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

4. Working quickly to prevent the phyllo sheets from drying out, alternate 8 sheets with a spritz of cooking spray, turning each sheet 45 degrees to make a fairly even border. Pour the filling into the pie shell. Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the pie is puffed up and the center no longer jiggles in waves. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Serve at room temperature, or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

doin' my job

My assignment for my week home was to help get through the bell peppers that are threatening to overtake our tiny garden. To be fair, the kale, now about as tall as I am, are definitely laying stake in their corner, but the sneaky thing about these peppers are that they're green, and just as you start thinking you've made a dent by collecting the dozen you need for dinner, your eyes adjust, and you realize your boyfriend is shit out of luck while you're on the road.

The original recipe only called for 4 peppers, but I don't know what kind of crazy GMO peppers you'd need to have to put all of that filling in only 4 peppers, but it took 12 homegrown ones to make it work.

While there's cheese on the pepper in the photo, I'm still trying to maintain a dairy-free life (except in Chicago - all the cheese gets eaten in Chicago), so I didn't use any cheese or sour cream in the filling. Instead, I used Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream, which was wonderfully creamy, and (I like to think) better for you with the less fat and more protein elements.

This was so hearty and wonderful, with some of the heaviness offset by the cool kale salad. Trying to kill two garden-pruning birds with one stone.

Beef- and Rice-Stuffed Peppers
slightly adapted from Serious Eats
makes 12 peppers

For the sauce:
1 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, minced
1 t. dried oregano
1 T. chili powder
1 1/2 t. dark cocoa powder
1/4 t. ground cumin
1 c. pale ale
1 1/2 c. canned crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper, to taste

For the peppers:
1 T. olive oil
1 lb.  ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 jalapeños, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. ground cumin
1 t. chili powder
2 c. cooked white rice
1 c. canned crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 t. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 c. Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream
salt and pepper, to taste
12 small (about 4 oz. each) bell peppers - tops sliced off, seeds and white membranes scooped out

1. Make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and sauté until starting to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add oregano, chili powder, cocoa powder, cumin, and beer. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Continue to simmer until sauce has thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

2. Make the filling: Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add beef and cook, breaking it up into little bits, until cooked through. Add onion and jalapeños, stir to combine, and continue cooking until vegetables are slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add cumin, chili powder, rice, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, Tofutti, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Continue cooking until filling is creamy, about 5 minutes longer. Remove from heat.

3. Arrange peppers in a baking dish standing upright like cups. Generously mound filling inside peppers and ladle sauce all over. Cover with foil and bake until peppers are tender, about 1 hour, removing foil during the last 15 minutes of cooking. Let peppers rest to 10 minutes, then serve.

Dessert, though, was a little disappointing. This is a delicious pound cake, but I was hoping for more bay flavor, especially since I promised this for my bay-loving friend Greg for his birthday. 

I was planning on making this cake last night, but quickly fell into my old habit of falling asleep on the couch watching Perry Mason, so the bay leaves steeped in the brown butter all night rather than just the required hour. Even then, I didn't feel the cake carried any of the flavor. It smelled lovely, but the taste just wasn't there. I'd make the cake again, but take out the descriptor to not lead anyone astray.

Bay Leaf Pound Cake
slightly adapt from 101 Cookbooks
makes one 9-inch cake

6 T. butter
10 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 2/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
3 large eggs
1/2 c. Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream
finely grated zest of one orange
1/2 t. vanilla extract

1. Brown the butter in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add 3 of the bay leaves. Let steep for 1 hour.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan. Dab one side of the remaining 7 bay leaves with a little bit of butter and place the leaves, evenly spaced, on the bottom of the prepared pan, buttered side down.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, Tofutti, orange zest, and vanilla until combined. Whisk the bay leaf butter into the egg mixture.

4. With a spatula, gently stir the egg mixture into the dry mixture, just until the batter is smooth. Do not over mix. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, being careful not to disturb the leaves. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Monday, August 11, 2014

but now i'm back

Home again, home again. Time for the overachieving to kick in.

Cauliflower, prepared two ways. Seared salmon. Impromptu, but very seasonal, fruit crumble for dessert. A la mode, clearly.

Cauliflower - basically, if you see a crudite platter missing all of the pretty white florets, it means I've been there and cleared them out. Other than a sugar snap pea, there are few raw vegetables that make me quite as happy.

I'll take cauliflower roasted, too. But like a lot of vegetarian/vegan food, I've never been into it pretending to be something it's not. So I was a little skeptical at the idea of making both "couscous" and puree, which of course, the no- to low-carb folks call "mashed potatoes," out of cauliflower. I was also afraid it would taste like too much of the same thing, but was I ever wrong.

First of all, the cauliflower puree was shockingly good, and tasted exactly like potatoes. Think of how much richer they would be if I had used whole milk rather than almond milk. Shocking.

And then the cauliflower "couscous," which I could eat for the rest of my life. Some of it was the addition of pistachios and mint - this was almost more a coarse cauliflower pesto, but so light and fresh from the minimal olive oil and abundance of lemon juice.

Salmon with Cauliflower Puree + Minted Pistachio Cauliflower Couscous
slightly adapted from Leite's Culinaria
serves 6

For the couscous:
12 oz. cauliflower florets
1 c. roasted and salted shelled pistachios
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
4 T. fresh lemon juice
2 T. pistachio oil
salt, to taste

For the cauliflower puree:
12 oz. cauliflower florets
1 c. almond milk
2 T. butter
1 T. fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste

For the salmon:
6 3-oz. salmon fillets
olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Place the cauliflower florets in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until they’re a couscous-like texture. Remove to a large bowl.

2. Place the pistachios and mint in the food processor and pulse to a bread crumb-like texture. Add to the cauliflower. Clean out the food processor and set aside.

3. Add the lemon juice and olive oil to the cauliflower-pistachio mixture, and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

3. In a small saucepan, bring the cauliflower and almond milk to a boil. Simmer until the cauliflower is very tender. Drain the cauliflower, reserving the milk. Place the cauliflower in the food processor, add the butter and lemon juice, and process until smooth, adding a little reserved milk if necessary to attain a purée. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm while you cook the fish.

4. Pat the fish dry and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat enough olive oil to coat the surface of a large skillet. Place the fish in the skillet, skin side down, and cook until crisp and golden, about 2 minutes. Flip the fish and continue to cook until the fish is opaque throughout, another 2 to 3 minutes, depending on the size of the fish.

5. To assemble, place a dollop cauliflower purée on each plate, top with cauliflower couscous, and place a fish fillet, skin side up, alongside.

And for dessert, Aprium Crumble, served with French vanilla ice cream, only because I forgot I stopped eating dairy. 

You see, I cut dairy a few weeks ago in an effort to a) manage my slight lactose intolerance, and b) help myself avoid the evils that usually come with a cream sauce or any dairy dessert. I've actually been pretty good about it. I didn't even cheat with a cheesesteak in Philly. But I hit Chicago, and consciously un-quit dairy - life is too short to not eat Garrett cheese popcorn and deep dish pizza. 

I got so used to my Chicago rules that I didn't even think twice topping my crumble with ice cream, and then proceeding to eat the fire out the whole thing. 

But even without ice cream, this will definitely be a seasonal party trick - just equal parts oats, flour and brown sugar, mixed together with some butter, all packed over whatever is delicious at the moment. I'm bummed I wasn't home for cherry season, but I think I'm going to check the farmers' market every time I'm home to pick the best fruit going, and hurry home to make this.

Aprium Crumble
serves 4

1/3 c. oats
1/3 c. flour
1/3 c. brown sugar
4 T. butter, diced
4 c. diced apriums

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the oats, flour, and brown sugar, and stir to combine. Add the diced butter, and process with your hands until the butter is mostly incorporated.

3. Fill your ramekins about half way full with fruit. Add a small dollop of crumble, and fill the ramekins the rest of the way with the remaining fruit. Divide the crumble evenly between the ramekins.

4. Set the ramekins on a foil-lined baking sheet, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops are browned. Let cool slightly, and serve warm.