Lemon-Olive Tapenade

lemons 3 4.27.14I made this little tapenade one evening a couple of weeks ago, and it’s amazing to me that this small list of ingredients took til now to show up in a post! But, sometimes, that’s the way it goes.

Traditionally, a tapenade includes olives, capers and anchovies. This tapenade includes the olives part.

I had what turned out to be about three-quarters of a cup of Luques olives (a very nice green olive that I used here most recently) left in a jar, and I decided to use them up.

I pulled out my food processor, and processed each of these ingredients separately (because I wasn’t sure how much I would need):

  • the 3/4 cup of olives, pitted first!
  • 1/4 of a small red onion (I got about 2 tablespoons from this, and used 1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • handful of cilantro

I didn’t purée them, just got them to a small mince.

lemons 1 4.27.14Scooped each of the ingredients into a bowl as they were ready. Then to them I added the zest of 1 medium lemon, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, and some freshly ground pepper.

I enjoyed this on crackers…along with cocktails and the company of my husband and sister!

Lemony Light Pots de Crème

lemons 1 4.8.14I had gone to Longwood Gardens to buy orchids…not because I needed another orchid, or, for that matter, any other additional plant in my sunroom! Longwood, one of the great public gardens in the Philadelphia area, is just a few miles away from me, and a few late-winter weeks ago my husband and I spent part of my birthday there. We walked the outdoor paths, breathed in cold, crisp air, took in the snowy landscape. Beautiful.

Then we went indoors to the conservatory, and were overtaken with breathtaking color and lushness…and orchids everywhere. It was their Orchids Extravaganza. Orchids were tucked in among other plants, hung from rafters, grouped together into orchid trees.

So when the display was dismantled, and the orchids offered at discounted prices, off I went to pick up a little piece of that day. Of the remaining orchids I was drawn to the oncidiums, and bought two. It was the yellow, I think. One had yellow flowers with touches of purple and ivory, and the other was ivory with purple and bits of yellow.

Spring seems to finally be declaring itself around here, and, yellow…well, yellow is a sunny color, and seemed right in step with incoming spring.

And sunny yellow made me think of lemons, for which I happen to have several clipped recipes gathered over several years…and never made.

So I pulled one out.

Lemon pots de crème. Lemon pots of custard.

Meant to make six individual servings, it was perfect, because I happened to have six individual-sized, ovenproof custard cups, having bought them to make the mushroom tarts I wrote about last year.

Here’s the recipe for lemony, sunshiny pots de crème.

  • 2 medium lemons (or whatever amount of lemons it takes to get 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of zest. I happened to have little ones, and it took 6!)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 4 egg yolks (I froze the whites to thaw out another time and make meringues.)
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • powdered sugar (to dust on top of cooked and cooled custards)

Heat the oven to 325°. Grate 1 teaspoon of lemon zest. Squeeze that 1/2 cup of lemon juice. Whisk in sugar, egg, and yolks, then whisk in cream until sugar dissolves. Pass mixture through a strainer; stir in zest.

Put six 1/2-cup, ovenproof custard cups in a deep baking dish. Divide the lemon mixture evenly between them. Slide the whole thing into the oven and fill the baking dish with hot tap water to come within 1/2 inch of the top of the custard cups. Bake, uncovered, until custards are just set in the centers, 35 to 40 minutes. Carefully remove from water and set aside to cool completely.

Dust with powdered sugar.

lemons 4 4.8.14What a burst of flavor that first bite is! Lemony tart! You know that it’s rich, because you realize, as you’re eating, that one serving is plenty…yet light and bright at the same time.

Pots de crèmes of sunshine.

Cauliflower Sliders

cauliflower 3 4.1.14I thought, “Hey, cauliflower steaks have been a thing now for a while, why not cauliflower sliders?” It was a Friday night, my husband and I were sipping on beer, I had a head of cauliflower in front of me, and a food processor, too (a recent gift from my daughters who’d known it was on my wish list).

Sure, you could call them cauliflower patties, but make them a little smaller, snack size, and now, poof!, they’re fun bar food in the comfort of your own home!

My list of ingredients: dandelion greens, shallot, garlic, cauliflower, organic frozen soybeans (thawed), jalapeño, shiitake mushrooms, an avocado, and organic corn tortillas.

Part 1:

  • 1 bunch of dandelion greens, leaves and stems chopped
  • 1 shallot
  • 3 garlic cloves

While oil heated in a pan over medium heat, I peeled the shallot and garlic and minced in the food processor, using the pulse button. Added to the pan. Pulsed the dandelion stems til minced. Into the pan. Pulsed the dandelion leaves til minced…added to the pan. The simmered greens would bring moisture to the patties. I put the lid on to cook through. They cooked maybe 5 or 10 minutes, while I prepared the other vegetables for part 2.

Part 2

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 10 oz. thawed organic soybeans
  • 1 large jalapeño, seeded

I pulsed each of these separately til minced. Emptied them into a large bowl. Seasoned with salt and pepper. The mix at this point was light, sweet and coleslawish.

To this, I added the sautéed dandelion greens, shallot and garlic mixture, and checked again for seasoning. It had a nice flavor, with the cooked greens adding a depth to the other raw ingredients. And it looked beautiful, like a fluffy grain dish in shades of green.

To form the sliders, I added two eggs to bind the mix, and got 25 2″ patties from this. Placed in the refrigerator to set, while I got toppings ready.

Toppings

  • 5 shiitake mushrooms, destemmed
  • 1 avocado

Heated oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. I cut the mushrooms into about 1/4″ slices. Tossed them in the pan, and let them cook, turning from time to time. The idea is to let them cook til crispy. Some people do this in the oven. While the mushrooms cooked down, I halved the avocado, cut into slices, and set aside.

To finish off the sliders, I heated oil over medium heat in the pan I’d had the greens in, pulled the patties out of the fridge, and began to sauté the sliders. I also heated the oven to 300°. As I cooked up the sliders, I put them on a pan and into the oven to stay warm. Actually only made half of these, put the other half, separated by sheets of wax paper, in the freezer.

As I cooked the sliders, the mushroom continued to shrink and get crispy. They took at least 20 minutes to get to a browned and shrinking state, and then I just kept an eye on them while I cooked off the patties, so they got crispier but not burned.

When everything was done, I took out organic corn tortillas, and heated one at a time over an open flame to soften. Cut them in half, one slider per half. Topped with a buttery avocado slice, and a few crisp shiitake pieces.

cauliflower 1 4.1.14Now, I have to admit, they didn’t end up being quite what I’d wanted. I had wanted more kick, more juicy but firm. More oomph, because cauliflower can take it. One less egg maybe. Definitely at least one more jalapeño. And I forgot to add the cilantro I’d bought specifically for this, which is why I didn’t put it in my ingredients list, but would certainly have been an excellent addition!

Still, I like this idea. And I will say that corn tortillas, crispy shiitake and creamy avocado are a great way to serve these sliders.

A little tweaking to do on this one, but worth a repeat.

Cauliflower sliders…fun bar food for a Friday night at home.

Saffron Cauliflower

cauliflower 1 3.15.14Versatile cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables. Roast it, sauté it, mash it, or dip it in egg, then breadcrumbs, and fry ’til tender. Always wonderful.

Mellow and satisfying with subtle flavors, it also holds its own with bigger, more distinct flavors. So when I came across this saffron cauliflower recipe while leafing through my copy of the Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook Plenty, I really wanted to try it. British cook Ottolenghi brings Mediterranean-Middle Eastern inspiration to the entries in this all-vegetables cookbook, that is rich in colors, ingredients, and textures.

In this recipe, which I adapted a little to accommodate ingredients I already had, the exotic aroma of saffron, the sweetness from raisins and long-cooked onions, and the slight saltiness of green olives work beautifully with cauliflower, which remains central even as it plays well with the others.

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons saffron
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 2 12-ounce packages cauliflower florets (or 1 medium cauliflower, divided into medium florets)
  • 1 large red onion
  • 2/3 cup Thompson raisins (if you use raisins that are very dry, soak them in water for a few minutes, then drain)
  • 1/2 cup Luques green olives (or other nice-quality green olive)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons cilantro

I preheated the oven to 400°F, then put the saffron strands in a small bowl, over which I poured the boiling water. While that infused, I sliced the onions and pitted and halved the olives.

Then I put everything, except for the cilantro, into a larger bowl, mixing it all together with my hands, giving the white florets (as well as my hands!) a good stir in the yellow saffron-water infusion.

Transferred that to an ovenproof pan, which I covered with foil and placed in the oven to cook for 40 to 45 minutes. Until the cauliflower was tender but still a bit firm. About halfway through I pulled the pan out to give everything a stir, covered again and returned to the oven to finish cooking.

When it was done, I removed the foil and allowed it to cool down slightly, before stirring in the cilantro, and adjusting the seasoning.

cauliflower 5 3.15.14I don’t know how to describe the flavor of saffron. It’s distinct. It’s more a permeating scent than a taste. As simple as this dish is, there’s a lushness to it because of that, and because of the mellowed olives, juicy raisins, the onions cooked to a drapey softness, citrusy cilantro.

All mingling with golden-hued cauliflower…showing off its glamour side.

Silky Cauliflower Soup

cauliflower 1 3.3.14Once I decided that I’d like to use cauliflower in my next three posts, I immediately thought of this soup. I have made it several times in the past, and it never disappoints.

It comes from a Food & Wine issue from several years ago, and, just like its name, it really does have a silky texture. I’ve adapted minimally, using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, dried thyme instead of fresh, already ground nutmeg instead of freshly ground.

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 shallot, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • One 2-pound head of cauliflower
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf (I used 2 small)
  • 1 quart vegetable broth
  • 4 cups water
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

In a soup pot, I melted the butter over a medium-low heat. In the time it took the butter to melt, I had chopped the onion and shallot, and sliced the garlic cloves. Added that in.

While they softened and the butter came to a quiet simmer, I chopped the cauliflower into medium-sized florets. Added those to the onion, shallot and garlic, along with the teaspoon of thyme and the two small bay leaves. Put a lid on to allow the cauliflower to begin to soften, about five minutes. Then added the broth and water, seasoned with salt and pepper, brought to a boil and reduced to a simmer. Simmered til cauliflower was fork-tender, maybe up to 30 minutes.

Discarded the bay leaves. Pureed with a stick blender. Checked seasoning again, then added the nutmeg.

cauliflower 2 3.3The herbs and nutmeg lent a warmth to the soup. And, though the butter added a slight richness, most of the creaminess came from the cauliflower, making it an unexpectedly light soup.

Simple…and elegant.

Which is why I decided to pull out my grandmother’s gold-rimmed bowl to serve from!