Sunday, July 25, 2010

American Highway Cauliflower (Pasta with turkey & peppers in cauliflower sauce)

(Well, it's as close as I could come. "Ask the Dust" is nowhere to be found...)

Since I may have managed to properly queasify most of the members of the audience who don’t much care for the dismemberment of furry woodland creatures, here’s something that’s a little less farm-to-table, although I guess it wouldn’t have to be for the most part.

Cauliflower is one of those vegetables I had to develop a taste for – but now that I have, I use it (as you’ve seen) in all sorts of ways. Instead of a heavy cream sauce for pasta, using steamed cauliflower as a base makes for a much healthier sauce. This savory bit of yumminess is very quick and healthy. If you’re a WeightWatchers person, as I once was – it’s about 5 points for a serving. (Thanks, Rachel.)  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • head o' cauliflower, cut into florets (about 6-8 cups)
  • 1 onion (preferably Vidalia or something sweet) cut into thin wedges
  • 6 oz. roasted turkey from the deli, sliced thin
  • a bunch of dried tomatoes, sliced thin
  • 1 jar roasted red peppers, drained and sliced into 2 (or so) inch pieces
  • chives
  • 1/4 c. fresh basil, chopped
  • thyme (2 tsp. ground or a heaping teaspoon of leaves, fresh)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 c. skim milk
  • 1 c. chicken broth
  • 1/4 c. parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb. pasta -- penne works well.

Steam the cauliflower until tender. (18-20 minutes in a steamer) Add to blender.


In a skillet over medium-low heat, add some olive oil and the onion. Cook until caramelized and tender -- 10-12 min. Add to blender.


Return pan (do not wipe out) to stove. Increase heat to medium. Add turkey and tomatoes. Saute until turkey begins to brown -- about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add peppers, stir to mix, cover and keep warm.


Start pot of salted water boiling for pasta. After you add the pasta to the water, add milk, broth, lemon juice, and herbs to the blender. Puree until smooth. Pour into saucepan over medium-low heat. Add parmesan cheese. Stir and cover.


When pasta is finished, drain, return to pot, and add cauliflower sauce and turkey mixture. Salt and pepper to taste. Plate it up. Garnish with a few chives.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

…Feed Your Head (Rabbit Stew with Olives & Rosemary)

I’ll start this with a disclaimer. If you think that the following picture is absolutely the most adorable thing you’ve ever seen, skip this entry…


Seriously. Consider yourself warned. This is also not a quick recipe. But it’s too interesting not to share.

Anyway, I work with some very interesting folks. One of these people is Kelli. She and her husband decided somewhere along the way to raise rabbits for dining purposes. Because of an old bartering agreement, Kelli offered me one of the rabbits after they’d been “processed.” Feeling adventurous, I took her up on it.

Now, I’ve never done anything with rabbit. Never cooked it. Never eaten it. In fact, pretty much the only thing I knew about cooking rabbit was this:

I did some poking around, though, and I found the rabbit stew recipe. It sounded pretty tasty, so I ran with it. The ingredients:

  • 1 good sized rabbit, skinned and cut into pieces
  • 1 c. dry red wine
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 4 rosemary sprigs, tied into two bundles
  • 4 c. chicken stock
  • 1/2 lb. assorted olives

First up, the rabbit itself. I got my knife and a cutting board and unwrapped it, not having looked at it yet. Here’s what greeted me:


“It’s just like a whole chicken,” I thought. “Just like a whole chicken…not Thumper.” I took a deep breath and went to work:


After this process was finished, I coated the pieces liberally in salt and pepper, heated some olive oil in a pot, and browned the pieces in a couple of batches:


Once the pieces were browned, I set them aside in a pan. I deglazed the pot with the red wine, scraped up the bits from the bottom of the pot, and then poured the wine into a small bowl. I wiped out the pot, added another good portion of olive oil, and added the carrot, celery, and onion. This mixture is called battuto, a base of many Italian-style stews.


Cook this for about 8 minutes over medium heat, until the vegetables have softened. Then add the tomato paste and rosemary bundles. Cook, stirring, until the tomato paste starts to brown. Return the rabbit and any accumulated juice to the pot, along with the wine. Cook this, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add two cups of the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add a few grinds of pepper, but do not add salt.

After the 30 minutes are up, add the remaining 2 cups of broth and the olives. I also had a nice big sprig of Thai basil that I laid across the top. Simmer this for 20 more minutes:


When the 20 minutes are up, remove and discard the basil. Take the rabbit pieces out of the pot and put them aside to cool for a few minutes. Allow the stew to continue to simmer. Taste for salt at this point. (The olives will impart a lot of salt. I found out the hard way and had to make some adjustments on the fly.) If it gets too thick, add a little broth or red wine.

When the pieces are cool enough, remove the meat from the bones (it will be tender enough that it will basically fall off the bone), cut it into small pieces, and return it to the stew. Stir and let simmer for 2-3 minutes to warm the meat back up. Pour into bowls. Serve with crusty bread and a fruity Italian wine. In this case, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo filled the bill nicely.

If you can handle the prep (or find someone to do it for you), rabbit does make for a delicious meal, believe me.


Monday, July 5, 2010

Captain Hi-Tapas (Basic Yummy Tapas)


OK, folks – this is going to be easy and quick, because that’s what we needed here. Rapid, healthy, fiber-filled calories for our enjoyment. It’s the end of the holiday weekend and we’re feeling a little bit uninspired. But tapas popped to mind, since it’s one of our favorite things.

For those of you unfamiliar with tapas, it’s the Spanish’s greatest contribution of culinary common sense. Basically, it’s a bunch of small-plate type appetizers. Almost anything can be tapas. But fish and roasted stuff are usually on the menu somewhere.

Since we had a bottle of La Cana 2008 AlbariƱo – we decided to run with it. We just got the makings for a few small plates and decided to call it dinner Tonight’s ingredients:

  • 1 link chorizo sausage
  • 1 box Kroger mussels in wine and garlic sauce
  • 1 bulb fennel
  • baby carrots
  • 4 new potatoes, sliced thinly
  • 1 red poblano (I don’t know the real name) pepper
  • roasting spices, olive oil, etc.
  • crusty bread

OK, first off – before you give me any grief for the Kroger mussels…I know that they’re not the high-end stuff. I realize that they're not perfectly authentic. But the things take under 10 minutes to get a bowlful of scrumptiousness and a sauce that’s perfect for dipping bread.

Preheat the oven to 425. Chop up the veggies. Set the pepper aside. Put the rest of the vegetables in a pan. Drizzle with some olive oil and spices (for this, it was ground thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper) and stir it all up. Put it in the oven.


We’re lucky enough to have a convection oven, so we took it out to stir about every 7-8 minutes. Regular ovens can go every 10. After 20-some minutes, add the peppers and a little more olive oil.

The mussels take about 10 minutes to cook. The chorizo link takes about that long to cook on the stovetop. The bread we used took about 5 minutes in the convection. You can time this up as you feel best.

When the veggies are tender and starting to brown, take it out. Plate it up. Chow down. Thank me later...