Cauliflower Spinach Dal

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You know, some food, no matter how delicious, is just never going to be photogenic. Case in point, this dish. It is delicious – so delicious…and looks like glop.

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Dinner last night came after a bout of me changing my mind over and over again. I really wanted to use my cauliflower and I really wanted something not too heavy. And split peas. I was just feeling veggies. And, voila, this was born.

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I think the standard method of cooking cauliflower is boiling but I kind of hate boiling. To me, it represents a farewell to half the nutritional value of my food. So, I went with roasting! And man did it work well.

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And you know my crowning achievement? My roommate loved it. Thank. Goodness. Score.

Here is how it’s done!

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
salt & pepper
1 cup red split peas
3.5 cups veggie or chicken stock (split)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp butter
2 tbsp sunflower seed oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 tsps fresh minced ginger
2 garlic cloves. minced
2.5 tsp cumin seeds
2.5 tsp mustard seeds
1.5 tsp coriander, ground
1 tsp turmeric
.5 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp cloves, ground
4 cups of baby spinach leaves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 deg F.

Toss the cauliflower florets with a little bit of salt and pepper and 1 tbsp of sunflower seed oil. Spread the florets out on a baking sheet so they’re all in one layer and roast for approx 30 minutes. Check every 15 minutes or so to ensure no burning occurs.

Put the split peas and 2.5 cups of the broth into a sauce pan with the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Cook on low for about 20 minutes. Very low. These suckers don’t need much to cook!

In a separate pan heat the remaining butter and oil and saute the onions, garlic, and ginger for four minutes on medium heat. Once the onions are translucent, add the cumin and next five ingredients and mix well with the onions. Cook for two minutes and then add the split peas, cauliflower, and enough broth to bring it to a smooth consistency. Add the spinach leaves and cook until wilted.

Serve this with your favorite rice – mine is Jasmine. Delicious aromatic jasmine rice.

This would be a good meatless monday meal – if you’re into that. I am. But, I swapped meatless Monday with Sunday. Because that’s how I roll. No rules.

You could also serve this with a meat entree, or with naan, or with raita, or with all of those, or alone. It’s pretty dang delicious and full of healthiness!

Man, I love Indian food.

What’s your favorite Indian dish?

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Spinach-Stuffed Sun-Dried Tomato Polenta & Beans

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First things first, folks. Sorry for my extended absence! I have been keeping myself just too busy. That combined with the yucky winter after-work lighting – blech! I know, i know, excuses, I’m sorry! Please accept my apologies in the form of a delicious meal.

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Several months ago I went on a cookbook binge and one of the books I bought myself was The Flavor Bible. It was recommended to me by my step-niece, who graduated from culinary school, and boy-oh-boy has it been a life (in the kitchen) changer. The book basically tells you what flavors go well with other flavors. It’s difficult to explain, fully. But I’d definitely recommend picking one up or getting one from the library if you are interested in creating your own recipes. I have always been one to use/alter recipes that already exist and, for the first time, I’ve been able to make my own! And they taste good! Really!

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So, here is one of my favorite recipes that I’ve recently developed. I was impressed when I took a bite, as my self-inspired food stuffs, while usually edible, do not typically wow me. It is polenta. It has sun-dried tomatoes in it. It is stuffed with spinach AND mozzarella. It’s on top of cannelini beans…and porcini mushrooms. It’s topped with mascarpone – with chives. It is definitely my cup of tea on a cold winter/almost spring night. AND it’s perfect for Meatless Mondays! (unless you count chicken broth as cheating on Meatless Mondays. it’s easily substituted by vegetable broth!!)

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And, about those cold winter nights. Where’s the snow? Here in DC we’ve been promised snow several times this winter with nothing to show for it. I didn’t move up here from Florida for the sunshine, people. Gimme my snowmen and snow angels and snowballs! Some foods just taste better when you can look out upon a snow-covered landscape. They just do! Plus, I recently discovered that my love for creating food may have begun inside an igloo (read giant mountain of snow) that my brother and I created in our front yard in Omaha when we were little. So, I kind of owe snow.

Anyways, without further ado, the recipe!

Ingredients
Serves 4-6

Spinach-Stuffed Sun-Dried Tomato Polenta

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsps peanut oil
  • 6 oz fresh baby spinach
  • 2 tbsps water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 3 tbsps freshly grated parmesan
  • 5 chopped sun-dried tomatoes from a jar
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 4 oz mozzarella

Preheat oven to 400.

To make the polenta you begin by heating up the peanut oil and sautéing the garlic for about 30 seconds, or until you can smell that garlickly scent. Then, toss in the baby spinach and toss with the oil/garlic. Add the 2 tbsps of water and cover until wilted, maybe 5 minutes. Then uncover and let the excess liquid boil off.

Bring 1 cup milk, 3/4 cup water, and the salt to a boil and slowly whisk in the 1/2 cup cornmeal. Continue to stir and cook until the polenta pulls away from the pan, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, parmesan, and the sun-dried tomatoes.

Butter a 1.5 qt casserole dish (or smaller). Take half of the polenta and spread as evenly as you can across the bottom of the dish. Spread all of the spinach/garlic on top of this layer. Slice your mozzarella in enough pieces so that it just about covers the entire layer of spinach. Then, spread the remaining polenta across the top of the cheese.

Pop this in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the polenta is golden on top.

Savory Cannelini Beans

  • 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsps peanut oil
  • 1+ cup chicken stock
  • 1 (15.5 oz) can of cannelini beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried savory
  • salt & pepper
  • 5 chopped sun-dried tomatoes from a jar
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 4 oz mozzarella
  • 1.5+ Tbsps Lemon Juice

These beans are easy. So easy and so much flavor. First off, soak your porcini mushrooms in hot water until they’re reconstitute and then chop up. They can reconstitute while you’re working with the beans since they go in at the end!

In a pan, heat up 2 tsps of peanut oil and saute the onion and garlic for about 2 minutes or until the onion becomes translucent. Pour in the chicken stock then Add the beans, bay leaf, savory, and season with salt and pepper. Let this cook for about 10 minutes. Add more chicken stock if it dries up or if you want it a little soupier. Chop the porcinis up and add them for the last minute or so just to warm them up.

Chive Mascarpone Cream

  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
  • under a quarter cup of finely chopped chives
  • 2 tsps heavy whipping cream

The finishing touch! Mix the mascarpone, chives, and whipping cream in a bowl until fully incorporated. Tres simple.

Serve the polenta in squares (or piles, however you want) on top of the beans and top off the polenta with the chive cream! Delicious. I promise.

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CHOMP! Look at that mascarpone cream just melting over the polenta. Mmmmmmm

Do you mainly go off recipes from cookbooks/online or do you enjoy creating your own? What are your favorite recipe making resources?

The Great Food Blogger Swap 2012

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COOKIES!

That’s what this swap is all about. Lots and lots of cookies. Last year, around this time, I saw all these posts full of cookies and that’s when I discovered the Great Food Blogger Swap! I knew I had to participate the next time around, if only to get my hands on three dozen cookies from other food bloggers. Because, really, who doesn’t like cookies?

In early November, the time had come. I was emailed the names and addresses of my matches and it was time to devise a cookie! I settled on a Double Chocolate Cherry Pistachio cookie. Maybe a bit too complicated sounding, yet delicious. After I did a Thanksgiving test run and experimented on my friends I was ready to go.

Now, I must apologize for the appearance of my cookies. I realize that they look a bit…err, um, unsightly? And there is an easy explanation for this. I am lazy. I couldn’t be bothered to let them chill, then roll them into pretty little balls and flatten them. If you want pretty cookies – do that. I, however, just plopped them on the cookie sheet and let ‘em fly! Fortunately for me, laziness does not preclude deliciousness.

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I started out by shelling an annoying amount of salted pistachios. If you are not cheap, like I am, I would recommend buying them previously shelled. Unless you have a front porch and rocking chair and take joy in doing such things as shucking corn, shelling beans, cracking open pistachios, etc. In which case, carry on with your old-timey soul! After shelling my pistachios and gathering my other mix-ins I got down to business with my stand mixer.

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First, I creamed the butter and sugar together. Softened butter is key to this step! And patience. You need to cream it until it turns light in color, which is a pretty obvious transition since I used dark brown sugar! Once the butter and sugar are creamed, I added an egg and mixed until it was incorporated. Then added all the dry stuff. Then the vanilla! And, finally, the pistachios, cherries, and chocolate chips!

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Once I slowly mixed these babies in there, it was time to plop them on the cookie sheet. I honestly eyeballed the cookies. Probably a couple of tablespoons each? I really need a cookie scoop. Or two. Whatever you do, do NOT use your hands on these if you haven’t chilled the dough. It just creates an impossibly messy sticky mess. I wouldn’t know. I mean, it’s not like I did that with the first batch. Or anything…….SO ANYWAYS, here are the pre-baked cookies in all their imperfect wonder.

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Mmm clumps of misshapen dough! I baked these at 350ºF for about 12 minutes. They’ll be soft when they come out so let them cool on the baking sheet for five minutes.

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Then, carefully move them to a cooling rack and allow them to cool entirely. And I mean carefully. I used a combination of hands and spatula. The spatula itself will smoosh them, so I had to lift them on. I learned from experience (sorry blogger with one broken cookie – I made exactly three dozen!!!)

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Speaking of spatulas, I was gifted this great little “be a good cookie” one by OXO! OXO is promoting Cookies for Kids’ Cancer and sent each blogger these adorable spatulas as a thank you for supporting the charity!

Hm, so, I completely neglected to take a photo of my packaged cookies! Whoops! Bad blogger, bad! I did, however, take a picture of the delicious cookies I got from the lovely blogger Meghan at Stir & Scribble! She sent me delicious Chai Spiced Snickerdoodles! And that little overachiever sent home-made vanilla extract! Awesome! I love overachievers :)

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There are only two cookies in the picture…because…that’s all I had left. Did I mention they were delicious?

While, unfortunately, I only received cookies from 1 2 (I just got word that I have more cookies coming, yay!  Thanks, Sarah!) out of 3 bloggers, this was all in all a great experience! I hope the three bloggers who received my cookies enjoyed them as much as I enjoyed the ones I received!!

Double Chocolate Cherry Pistachio Cookies

Ingredients

(makes 18 cookies)

8 tbsps (1 stick) of unsalted butter, softened
1/2 C dark brown sugar
1/3 C white granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 C Cocoa Powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 C pistachios, salted
1/2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 C dried cherries

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
2. Mix all sugar and softened butter in mixer on medium for approximately five minutes, or until lightened in color.
3. On low, mix in the egg until incorporated.
4. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cocoa, powder and salt. Slowly mix into the sugar/butter/egg mixture.
5. Add vanilla and mix to incorporate.
6. Add the pistachios, dried cherries, and chocolate chips and fold to incorporate.
7. Using your favorite method (spoons, cookie scoops, etc) scoop approx. 2 tbsp of dough onto a baking sheet, approx 2 inches apart.
8. Place on middle rack of oven and let bake for 12 minutes.
9. Allow to cool for five minutes on the baking sheet.
10. Gently transfer to cooling rack and cool fully.

Enjoy!

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