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Cauliflower Confluence

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We’ve all heard the phrase “great minds think alike”, well  it seems like a lot of online food-type people are thinking about cauliflower! Now, this could just be a case of new car syndrome, like when you or a friend gets a new car and you suddenly start noticing that same make and model wherever you go, or it could be because it’s in season. Cauliflower recently came back into my cooking repertoire in a big way, so maybe I’m just more likely to click on a cauliflower related link.

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I was never a huge cauliflower fan growing up, but a while back I started adding it to curry dishes and I found that it readily absorbed the flavours of the sauce and the texture held up nicely, plus Young Fresh Chef would ask for seconds. Double yay, since cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable which is a code name for cancer fighting vegetables, in fact I’d say it’s something of a super food.

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Just to warn you, broccoli is a gateway veg, I started out roasting the green stuff after reading this one hungry night. Then with a desire for more, I turned up a recipe on epicurious that sounded too easy to not try. I did have to go out and buy cumin seed, but I’ve found lots of other uses for it.

One day my niece, Divette, came over for a visit with her new iPad. I was chopping up some cauliflower when Young Fresh Chef wandered into the kitchen with Divette in tow.

Divette: “Auntie, what are you doing?”

Kitchenette: “I’m making us a cauliflower snack.”

Young Fresh Chef: “My Mom makes GREAT cauliflower snack.”

When I talked to her mother later, I mentioned what a hit the roasted cauliflower was, she said that she’d already heard about the, “yummy white broccoli”!

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If you find or have any other cauliflower-centric recipes, share them in the comments!

More links:

10 Cauliflower Recipes from Canadian Living

Dinner with Julie: Roasted Cauliflower with Parmesan Cheese

Quinoa Quandary

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The only difficult thing about having quinoa for breakfast, at least in our house, is deciding what to mix in with it. My son, Young Fresh Chef, would have straight up quinoa for breakfast everyday, but I am not a creature of flavour habit and I need to switch it up. I’ll usually make a big batch of neutral flavoured quinoa at the start of the week so I can get creative with the additions. While it cooks up in only 15 minutes, it’s even faster to just reheat it, which gives me more time to play around with the add ins.

Quinoa works well in savoury side dishes, but takes on sweet flavours just as well. This South American seed gives you the goods to get your day off to a promising start, packing a complete protein punch. It also delivers as a good source of dietary fiberand phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. So I always feel I’ve done well to send YFC off to school with a bowl or two in his poke-able belly.

The only caution that comes with quinoa is, “Beware the saponins!” This bitter coating protects the growing plants from hungry birds which makes means less pesticides are needed, so it’s easier to grow it organically. I would recommend buying quinoa has already been pre-rinsed for your laziness.

It’s pretty easy to find quinoa at the corner grocery store, as long as you bring your specs! My favourite source for white quinoa is Costco  where they carry Truroots  organic pre-rinsed quinoa. I like the white quinoa for breakfast, while I find the red and black varieties hold up a bit better in cold salads.

So, what do I like to use to jazz up my morning bowl of quinoa? First, I feel the need to gild the nutritional lily:

chia (either ground or in gel form)

flax (ground)

wheat germ

Then I pick a flavour combo:

-raspberry and unsweetened coconut

-apple or pear or whatever is in season with spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, etc)

-blueberry and walnut

-dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, what have you) and almonds

And just a touch of sweetness:

Agave Nectar

Molasses (iron!)

Maple Syrup (manganese and zinc!)

Xylitol

-Brown Sugar (special occasions!)

As you can see, the variations are limited only by your imagination and your provisions! My top pick right now is raspberry and coconut with xylitol and just a splash of coconut milk. I use frozen berries, but I dream of when they will be back in season…

How do you like your greens? Crisp!

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I remember clearly my first taste of Coffee Crisp. I had one in my bag of Halloween loot many moons ago (pretty sure I went as a clown, can’t get much scarier than that!) and the first taste of bitter coffee was too much for my young palate, I spat the tiny half chewed treat into the trash, only to have my mouth then filled with the mochalicious aftertaste. I learned not to judge a food by its first flavour profile as there may be more, and better, to come.
When I first had kale, it was cooked by Momette without additional flavouring. I did not enjoy it, to say the least. But, when, as an adult, I bravely shared a spicy kale-centric dish at Vij’s restaurant with my husband, it was fantastic! I realized that kale was just a vessel and must be filled with flavour.

Kale has a ridiculous amount of nutrients and calorie for calorie is the best thing you can give your body! It’s a sturdy leafy green that can take the heat and soaks up flavour like a tasty sponge.

My new summertime favourite is when Exec Chef blanches kale, marinates it in lemon juice and garlic, then throws it on our charcoal grill. Seriously, I could eat it all day long. Smoky, sour, garlicky goodness that sticks to the ribs (and goes well with ribs!).

The blogosphere has been whispering in my ear about the amazing tastiness of kale chips/crisps. The words are compelling, but the images lean more toward the repellant. Dry green leaves covered in goop. I’ve been enjoying kale in soups, now that the grill has been put away for the season, and it was only a craving for chips of the potato variety that made me join the food focussed blogistas in their kale chip cult.

I had been resisting the urge to buy Honey Dijon Kettle Chips until one day the snack food satellites aligned in my local Save-On-Foods. Kettle Chips were on sale for 2 bags for $5, the racks were mostly empty and there wasn’t a single orange mustardy bag of goodness to be found. It was only when I was zipping back to the produce department to grab some purple yams (so pretty!) that my eyes landed on a single bag of potato-ey gold that had been abandoned by the newly installed self checkouts. I practically scaled the Mt. Everest of Lucky Charms boxes, shoving Lucky and his crusty “marshmallows” to the side, to rescue the lonely bag. It was obviously meant to be mine and I may have stroked it gently as I made my way to the register.

Once I had them in the kitchen, I decided to reverse engineer the tongue tantalizing taste and find a less nutritionally void vehicle to deliver dijon spiked sweetness to my pleasure centre. I mixed, tasted, mixed again and used the excuse of “research” and “comparative analysis” to stuff my face with the crispy taters. I used olive oil as a base with Keen’s mustard powder, one of my go to ingredients for all things savoury, providing the necessary tongue curling zing which was mellowed by Maille’s Dijon Originale and creamed honey. Apple cider vinegar provided a tangy kick, which was rounded out by onion and garlic powder. Tumeric added it’s sunny colour and an earthy sweetness that only needed the finish of salt and pepper to match the taste of the half-finished bag of inspiration.

I massaged by mustardy elixir with my tumeric toned hands into the waiting leaves of kale. The oven dried them to a crispy conclusion and it was time for the final comparison.

The translucent leaves shattered into delicate shards on my tongue and the flavour was almost exact, there was just a subtle vegetal undertone that melded nicely with the mustard. They were a hit with Young Fresh Chef and he insisted on packing them in his school lunch for the next day. So, if you’ve been resisting the call of kale, give in!

Jicama Hi-jinks

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This is the vegetable that I like to make friends and coworkers try. People expect it to taste like raw potato and they are always pleasantly surprised by how crisp and refreshing it is. To me, the flavour is like fresh peas still in the pod. For others, they compare it to an unripe apple or pear.

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Usually, I just munch on it au natural (the jicama, not me), but I also like to squeeze some lime juice over it to give it a citrusy boost. Jicama is loaded with fibre, vitamin C and is a good source of folic acid (extra important for Mamas-to-be).

To add a little more complexity, I hit it with a dash of chili powder. That’s one way they serve it in South America. It would also be great in a salad to add some crunch or it can be cooked as well. Cooking brings out more of a water chestnut type flavour.

Look for jicama or yam bean root, as it’s sometimes labeled, in your local supermarket near the jalapeño peppers. Pick out a smaller one that feels heavy and has the nicest skin(but don’t eat the skin, it’s nasty). Keep it in the fridge wrapped in plastic once it is cut or slice it all up and dip it in lemon water to keep it fresh. Just remember to share it, get your friends and family hooked on jicama!

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Tomato Time

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Tomato TimeThe most common reaction, when I tell someone (who isn’t in the restaurant biz) that my husband is a chef, is a loud intake of breath, then an exclamation of “Aren’t you lucky!”, or some similar sentiment. I see the glint in their eyes as they picture me arriving home to a spotless kitchen filled with bubbling pots, a table set with fine china and my husband putting the finishing touches on an artistically arranged salad. I have to resist the urge to yell in their face, in my best Borat voice, “NOT!”

People, please. Stop for a moment and let reality sink in, like teeth sinking into a thick slab of warm fresh brioche. He works nights, minimum five, maximum seven. So, the most meals we will have together in a week is four (his metabolism can only handle two meals a day, plus snacks). Given that he slaves over a hot stove/cold cutting board for at least  twelve, but maybe more like sixteen, hours a day how many times do you think he’s woken up early and jumped out of bed just to create a multi-course rose-in-the-vase breakfast-in-bed for his loving wife? Approximately, no wait , PRECISELY, zero.

I’m not saying he NEVER cooks at home, I would classify it more as hardly ever. I’m not bitter about it. I accepted it a long time ago. Besides, I like cooking on the weekends, and of course we like to support our local restaurants. The upside is now that he’s added the owner slash to his “chef” title if I want to be fed by him I can mosey down and belly up. Of course, I still have to pay, no free rides, baby. But, when I play my cards right and bat my eyelashes fast enough I might get an extra course  or a sample of a new dish.

The point is, when he does fire up the tongs at home I try to kick back, relax and enjoy every moment. The smartest move I made this year was the charcoal grill I got him for his birthday, which led to a lovely summer of BBQ’ed deliciousness (I just had to supply the potato salad and the limeade). So, when he brought home a paper bag filled with Sun Gold tomatoes from Stoney Paradise Farms, I had visions of sweet tomato-y recipes dancing in my head. Sometimes when you have such a lovely ingredient to work with, especially at the tail end of the season, it is hard to commit to just one dish.

My dilemma was solved when the Executive Chef of the house took dinner by the reins and put his Junior Chef to work. I was demoted to photographer and documentarian. Since our boy-named-sous(chef) is a carboholic (he’s addicted to carbohol!), pasta was an easy choice. While I have a shelf with a varied selection of dried pastas, the boys decided to make some from scratch.

Now, there are not many things I enjoy watching more than an expert practice his craft, but I can say that watching said expert share his knowledge with the next generation definitely tops it. The big rough hands marked with scars and burns wearing a battered wedding band, guiding the cute little hands in kneading the pasta dough is on the top of my list for things that make me go *sigh*.

While Exec Chef demonstrated his wicked knife skills on the folded pasta dough, Jr. Chef ran out to our basil plant in the backyard for a fresh herbaceous touch for  the dish. The sauce was just the tomatoes with olive oil, butter, basil and some Parmigiano-Reggiano.

It’s the simple dishes that make the best use of extraordinary ingredients and it’s sharing the simple pleasures that make the best memories.

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