Cheesy Cauliflower Patties & Poor Man’s Crab Cakes

Cheesy Cauliflower patties are the latest recipe meme I’ve seen ciruclating, and damn are they good! I’ve had the recipe pinned for a while, and tonight I made a special trip at rush hour, just to get cheddar cheese and eggs, and it was totally worth it.  We ate them at room temperature with a side of Panda’s favorite black-eyed pea salad, but they are just screaming for a winter evening, piping hot on the side of some tomato soup. I also imagine you could bake these instead of frying them, much like Stacey’s cheesy broccoli bites.

At the same time I was wanting to try a similar pattie recipe, sort of a “poor man’s crab cakes”, using artichoke hearts instead of crab meat. I figured it would just be a big pattie night and we’d have a lot leftover for lunch. Ha. I’m writing this with a tremendously full stomach and Jeeps is passed out on the floor. Since I stuffed myself, you’re going to get stuffed with both recipes as well. It’s only fair I share.

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Cheesy Cauliflower Bites

The best thing about these babies is that there are four ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (panko, plain, flavored, whatever)
  • 2 eggs

Cut the cauliflower into florets and drop into boiling water for about 10 minutes, until fork tender. Drain and mash. Let cool slightly.

Put cheddar cheese and bread crumbs into a bowl. Add cauliflower and eggs, mix thoroughly.

Form into patties and fry in olive or coconut oil until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Salt the patties after you’ve flipped them. Drain on paper towels, then keep on a baking sheet in a 175-200 oven while you cook the rest.

Poor Man’s Crab Cakes

  • 1 can artichoke hearts (cut each heart into quarters, then crosswise. Squeeze as much water out as possible before putting in bowl)
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped (I realized too late I’d used up both my scallions and last red pepper in the black-eyed pea salad, oops)
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp mayo
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning (which I didn’t have so it wasn’t the true faux crab cake experience, oops)

Combine all ingredients, form into patties and fry.

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Sweet Potato Quinoa Burgers

OK I had great intentions, but these veggie burgers didn’t quite come out the way I wanted them to.  Taste got a 10; Texture got a 3.  They were not burger-y at all so something went wrong somewhere (I have a few ideas), or it’s one of those recipes you have to fiddle around with.  But again, as far as taste goes, these knocked it out of the park so I feel they are worth another try.

To make up for them being less than stellar, I’m including a brussel sprout-and-radish slaw that I shamelessly stole/copied from Mezon in Danbury, where we went with friends the other night for Tapas.  Taaaapaaaaas!  I love tapas.  In fact I have dreams of taking the best of my scribbles (like Heaven, FlightRain, Needle, Smack, Fast, and Blue) and compiling them in a collection called “Tapas”.  Because they’re just little bites but they fill you up.

Or so I like to think.

20130422-203610.jpgAnyway.  One of our tapas was served with this slaw that was so good, I had to try to re-create it.  I just made a little, thinking that only Jeeps and I would eat it.  But no, Panda kept dipping her spoon in and so did her friend who was over for dinner.  These dang kids, you can never figure their tastes out.

Go Figure Sweet Potato Quinoa Burgers

  • 1 can (15 ounces) no salt added black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes (I think I screwed up here because instead of measuring 3 cups of raw, cubed sweet potato and then steaming that amount, I measured 3 cups of steamed mashed sweet potato)
  • 3/4 cup sweet corn, frozen or fresh
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa (I didn’t screw up here; cook the quinoa first, then measure 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Heaping 1/3 cup garbanzo bean flour, or finely ground rolled oats, or almond flour (I had none of these things but I did have almond meal.  Maybe it contributed to the mushy texture, maybe it didn’t)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • Fresh black pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
  • 1 tbsp hot sauce20130422-203710.jpg

Fill a large pot 3/4 full of water and bring to a boil on the stove.  Add the sweet potatoes and lower the heat to simmering.  Let the potatoes cook for about 20-30 minutes.  Drain the potatoes and set aside to cool.  (You can also steam the potatoes in the microwave.)

While your potatoes are cooling preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or non stick foil.

Once your potatoes have cooled use a fork to mash them.  You want them mashed but not creamy.

In a large mixing bowl add half of the black beans and mash them with a fork.

Add the rest of the beans and the remaining ingredients.  Stir until just combined.  Form the mixture into 10 balls.  Each burger should be about 1/2″ thick.  Place each patty on your prepared baking sheet and place in the oven for 30 minutes, flipping the burgers over once halfway through baking.

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Remove from the oven and serve.

I made the slaw by running 8 brussels sprouts and 4 radishes through the shredding disk on the food processor.  Then I dressed it with lime juice, mayonnaise, and chopped cilantro.  Raw brussies are bitter, so after combining all that, I started adding squeezes of honey and tasting until it was the perfect blend of sweet and sour.  You’ll know when you get it right.

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Sweet Potatoes with Black Rice

IMG_5991Isn’t this gorgeous?  I love mason jars.  And here’s a funny thing:  twelve-year-old girls apparently love to organize things into jars.  Even if those things are weird grains that they wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, it’s fun to decant them into the jars and arrange them on the shelf.

But great grains they are and one of my resolutions this year is to eat more of them.  So without further ado, I introduce the Grain of the Week:

Bl–…

Wait.

Let’s let Mark Dacascos from Iron Chef America have the honors.

Markdascascos

BLACK RICE!!!!!!

Thank you, chairman (makes “call me” telephone gesture).  Black rice, also known as purple or “Forbidden Rice”, is high in nutritional value and contains 18 amino acids, iron, zinc, copper, carotene, and several important vitamins.  It is indeed a deep black color and usually turns deep purple when cooked. Its dark purple color is primarily due to its anthocyanin content…

Blah, blah, blah, it looks cool in the jar and anything called “Forbidden” is usually pretty good.  So what to do with it?  Well, on the back of the bag there happened to be this recipe for sauted sweet potatoes with black rice which sounded forbiddingly tasty.  And so, with an open heart and an empty stomach, I say unto you in the words of my uncle…

ALLEZ CUISINE!!!!!!

Forbidden Sweet Potatoes with Black Rice

  • IMG_60223/4 cup black rice
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil (I used coconut oil because I’m a total evangelical convert, I’m addicted, it’s crack, I use it in everything)
  • 3/4 cup scallions (and by the way, see these scallions here?  They are the last thing standing in my garden.  No lie.  Pulled ’em right out of the frozen ground)
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced (which I skip entirely in favor of a heaping tablespoon of my jarred, pressed ginger, and you should too)
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced

Bring rice, water and 1/2 tsp salt to a boil in a saucepan, then reduce heat to low and cook rice, covered until tender and most of the water is absorbed (about 30 minutes)

While rice is cooking, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Saute scallions, ginger and sweet potato, stirring until coated, about 2 minutes.  Reduce heat and add salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and cook another 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sweet potato cubes are fork-tender.

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Add rice and toss gently to combine.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley or cilantro and ignore your husband, who hates parsley and cilantro sprinkled on his food.  It won’t kill him.

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Serve to the Chairman.  I’m sure he doesn’t mind a little parsley sprinkled on his food…

Coffee-Cocoa Rubbed Brisket

So this happened because whenever we go down to Maryland to visit my seester, I end up hanging out with my brother-in-law watching a lot of TV. And one night he let me control the remote and we ended up watching like seven back-to-back episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives which, after Chopped, is like my favorite Food Network show ever. I love me some Guy Fieri, now there’s a man who loves food. I totally want him to come hang out in my kitchen and just make those mouthgasm noises.

My BIL did comment that a lot of the food didn’t look that good, and furthermore, it didn’t seem like food I would eat. I disagreed; I think most of the food looks awesome, and Guy certainly makes it sound amazing, but who knows how it actually is in person.

Anyway, one episode featured the restaurant Momocho in Cleveland, and the chef featured his specialty: coffee-rubbed brisket. It was slow cooked for hours, then shredded and served in a tortilla with onions and peppers.

This definitely had possibilities. Tacos and burritos are a sure thing around here and this meat looked really spectacular; furthermore it could be made in the slow cooker.

I remembered an episode of Chopped where the secret ingredient was ostrich. One chef rolled it in cocoa powder before searing it. I thought about doing this with the brisket because when I make chili, I always throw in a square of baker’s chocolate. Yet the coffee rub sounded interesting, too. Could I do both?

Of course I could.

I scouted around the Internet, compared and contrasted, and in the end, came up with this. And it was crazy.

Coffee-Cocoa Rubbed Brisket

  • 2 tbsp coffee
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt (the brisket, I confess, came out just a tad salty so I’m taking it down to a teaspoon, you can add more later if it needs it)
  • 1 can coconut milk

20130109-185203.jpgMix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut the brisket into two pieces, rub all over with either olive oil or coconut oil and then roll it in the dry rub, really getting it coated. Your hands will be a mess. It’s OK, just keep packing on the rub. Get the brisket into a ziplock bag and let it sit for either 2 hours or overnight.

Pour the can of coconut milk into the slow cooker. Put the brisket in, cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Take the brisket out, skim the fat off the gravy. Shred the meat with two forks and put back into the cooker.

Serve over coconut rice, or in a soft tortilla, with onions and peppers.

Die.

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Spatchcock

(Bangs wooden spoon for order) All right, settle down, this is serious business. Hey you…no giggling. Enough.

Right. So. Spatchcocking.

(giggle)

Sorry. This both looks more difficult and more obscene than it actually is. Actually, no, I take part of that back, something about this whole process is definitely sort of obscene. But the results are obscenely good, especially if you are, like me, a fan of roast chicken skin.

So, spatchcocking (knock it off!) is simply removing the backbone from the chicken and flattening it out onto your baking sheet and roasting it thusly. Basically it’s one step short of dismantling the whole chicken. I’ve seen it in magazine articles quite a few times, and Lucinda Scala Quinn features it in the January issue of Martha Stewart Living, roasted with lemons and shallots.  I always trust Lucinda so I decided to give her recipe a try, and with two chickens so I would have a good foundation for the week ahead of going back to school.

20130101-191842.jpgWell, it was meant to be that I try this today because I received a package in the mail from my cousin, and inside was a box of garlic. I’m not kidding. A box of garlic from Ransom Hill Garlic in upstate New York. There’s a braid of Italian Purple Heirloom, and bulbs of Porcelain, Artichoke, Marble Purple Stripe, Asiatic and Rocambole. It’s gorgeous and I took two of the bulbs for the project.

Lucinda Scala Quinn’s Roast Spatchcocked Lemon Chicken

  • 1 whole 4-pound chicken (or two smaller ones and if doing two, double everything else below)
  • 2 tbsps plus 1 tsp olive oil (like I measure)
  • 2 lemons, thinly sliced, divided
  • 6 small shallots, peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • 1 bulb fabulous garlic gifted to you by your cousin, separated into cloves (optional)
  • Sprigs of thyme, oregano and rosemary (also optional)

Preheat oven to 425. Brush 1 tablespoon oil on a baking sheet and place half the lemon slices and half the garlic cloves in single layer on top of oil, then scatter the herbs on top. Note: the cloves do not have to be peeled.

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Place chicken, breast side down, on a work surface. Starting at the thigh end, cut along one side of the backbone with kitchen shears. Courage. Turn the chicken around, cut along other side of backbone. Set backbone aside (more on this later). Flip chicken and open it like a book, pressing down firmly on the breastbone with the heel of your hand.

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Place chicken, skin side up, on top of lemons. Rub skin with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. With your fingers or spatula, carefully loosen and separate the skin off the breast, and slide the remaining lemon slices underneath against the meat. You could slide some butter in there too. Why not.

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Roast chicken 20 minutes. Toss shallots and remaining (peeled or not) cloves of garlic with 1 tsp oil. After 20 minutes, scatter shallots and garlic around chicken. Roast another 25-30 minutes until a thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast reaches 165.

Transfer chicken to carving board, let rest 10 minutes. Serve with the pan juices, roasted lemons, shallots, and garlic cloves (squeeze them out of the skins if you left them unpeeled).  Now just take a minute and look at that skin.  Look at it!  Are you looking?  That is chicken skin!

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20130101-192027.jpgNow, remember the backbones? Watch. Are you watching? Good. Throw them into your soup pot. Add 2 quarts water and turn the heat on medium-high. Peel 3 or 4 carrots, chop them any old how, throw them in. Add 3 or 4 ribs of celery. Throw in a couple onions, quartered. Leave the skins on because they will give the stock color, in fact if they are the last onions in the bag, shake all those loose skins in there. Got old garlic, those little center cloves that are so hard to peel so you chuck them back in the bin? Throw those in, don’t peel them. Whatever sad vegetables there are in the bin, just throw them into the pot. Be sloppy. Add salt and pepper. Bring it to a boil and then turn it down low and forget about it for a few hours. Strain it through a fine sieve or cheesecloth, and discard all the solids. You are left with liquid gold, and tomorrow you can simmer it up with carrots, celery, barley, shred leftover chicken into it, and before digging in, drop in a slice or two of roasted lemon and one of those big, fat roasted garlic cloves.

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You rock.

You spatchcock.

It to me, sock.

Happy New Year, y’all.

Salmon-Potato Cakes

It’s the real deal, baby.  Alaskan salmon.  Caught fresh by my seester- and brudder-in-law in Ketchikan, dressed, prepped, frozen and shipped back home to them. 

Prior to the trip, in one of my “take all those old magazines and pin recipes to Pinterest while watching the Olympics” sessions, I came across a recipe for wild salmon and potato cakes in Food & Wine.  In honor of the Ketchikan catch, and in celebration of scoring a night sans kids, I decided to give them a go.  Here they are, made with my own inferior salmon steaks, but still punch-the-wall good.  I improvised a peach salsa to go with them for dinner, and the next day had one on a potato roll with lettuce, tomato and thousand island dressing.

Ketchikan (catch them if you can!) Salmon Potato Cakes

  • 2 pounds medium red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed (I had 3 leftover baked potatoes, each about fist-sized.  Worked great, saved time, tasted fine)
  • Sea salt
  • 1 pound skinless wild salmon fillet (preferably self-caught in Alaska but make do however you can)
  • Safflower or sunflower oil, for greasing and frying
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bunch scallions (about 6 scallions), coarsely chopped
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger (I used my trusty bottled, pressed kind)
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tamari (I didn’t have this, substituted soy sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large saucepan, cover the potatoes with water. Add a large pinch of sea salt and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately high heat until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and let cool slightly, then peel. Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl and mash.  (Or peel your cold, leftover baked potatoes and mash)

Meanwhile, put the salmon on a lightly oiled rimmed baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the salmon is medium-rare inside.  Remove from oven, lower temp to 170-200 and put a clean baking sheet in.

Gently flake the salmon and add it to the potatoes along with the scallions, eggs, garlic, ginger, onion, tamari and sesame oil. Mix well, then fold in the bread crumbs. Season with salt. Form the potato mixture into fourteen 1/2-cup patties.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1/4 inch of safflower or sunflower oil until shimmering. Working in batches, fry the potato cakes over moderately high heat until browned and crisp, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to baking sheet in warm oven. Repeat with the remaining potato cakes, adding more oil and adjusting the heat as necessary.

The peach salsa was total improvisation:  2 peaches, the other half of the red onion, cherry tomatoes, 2 persian cucumbers.  Chop it all, throw in some parsley or cilantro, some vinaigrette to toss.  And at the last minute, a shake of black sesame seeds for no reason, they just looked cool.

These were amazing.  The salmon and potato alone would have been good but the ginger and the sesame oil turned it into something entirely new and wonderful. 

Warfare Ratatouille

‘Tis the time of the season:  everywhere farmers’ markets are showing off their squash, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes.  So what does that mean?  Why ratatouille, of course.  Ironic because it’s a peasant dish, stick-to-the ribs food, and evokes cold winter nights.  But screw it:  the time is now, the produce is at its peak, you can serve it cold, and DAMMIT THIS RECIPE IS INSANE!!!!!!!!!!!!  My friend Bridget found it on Epicurious and sent it to me.  The author, Francis Lam, coined it “Weapons-Grade Ratatouille” and rightly so…you can win a war with this dish.

My friend Becky challenged me to make it the way Remy does in Disney’s Ratatouille.  If only I had that kind of patience, not to mention a mandoline.  So this is going to be vegetable mess style.  And I’ve decided that the next party I throw is going to be one giant pot of this ratatouille, a couple giant rosemary focaccias, and big bottles of wine.  To be consumed while standing around in the kitchen.  I cannot wait.

Transcribing the recipe as it was written, with my modifications in italics

Weapons-Grade Ratatouille

The point of this recipe isn’t to follow it slavishly. If you want more of this, got less of that, go for it. The only thing I insist you do is block off some time on your calendar and hang out with your vegetables for an afternoon — the low, slow cooking is what makes it knock your momma’s bonnet off.

Makes nearly half a gallon, of very intensely flavored stuff

  • 3 shallots and 1 large onion, minced (I didn’t have shallots so I used 1 medium yellow onion, 1 medium red onion, and 4 big cloves of garlic, all minced)
  • ½ cup of extra-virgin olive oil.  Yes, that much. Summertime is living it up time.
  • A couple more glugs of olive oil.  Hell, just keep the bottle handy.  (I love Francis)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 large red peppers, puréed in the food processor (I didn’t have peppers but I had an unopened jar of roasted red peppers so I threw that in the food processor)
  • 4 pounds of very good regular field tomatoes, or fancy heirlooms if you’re rich.  Just make sure they’re the kind you eat a piece of … and then involuntarily eat another piece of a minute later.  Oh, and purée them in the food processor too. (I had no fresh tomatoes so I used a can of San Marzano whole tomatoes, drained and thrown in the food processor)
  • 2½ pounds of summer squash and zucchini, ½-inch dice (I don’t weigh produce, I just used 2 green zucchini, 1 yellow squash)
  • 1½ pounds of eggplant, diced into ½-inch cubes (A medium-sized eggplant…you know, about…that….big.  Right.)
  • Thyme and basil to taste
Cook shallot and onion (or garlic) in the ½ cup of olive oil over low heat in heavy pot so that they soften and give up their liquid.  Stir; don’t let them brown, and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Cut up your other vegetables while you’re doing this.
 
Once the onion mixture is pale gold and sticky, add the puréed red pepper. Red peppers have a ton of water, let it cook down, stirring to make sure nothing gets too caramelized and burned.  Then you’ll have a rich, rusty jam.
To said jam add your puréed tomatoes.  Bring it to a boil, and turn the heat way down to let that baby snooze off all its liquid.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  You’re concentrating sugar and tartness, to be umami-oooo-Mommy.
 
Around this time, heat oven to 450.  Toss the zucchini with salt, pepper and olive oil.  Roast hard in one layer on a baking tray.  Check after 15 minutes:  when you get nice browning underneath, take the tray out.  Cool a bit before putting roasted squash in a big bowl. Repeat with the eggplant.  (I confess I roasted everything at once)
 
Keep cooking down your onion-pepper-tomato jam.  You’ll know it’s ready when it gives oil back up.  Chop up some thyme and basil and stir it in.  Carefully combine the tomato base with the roasted vegetables.
 
  
 
 
Stick a spoon into it and feed it to people you love.  Then wrap it up tightly and let it sit in the fridge for a day; it’ll be even better tomorrow — the flavors meld, the herbs work their way through the whole thing.  Just let it come back to room temperature when you serve it to your favorite people, maybe with some cheese and bread, and try not to break too much furniture.
Keeps in fridge 3-4 days and freezes well.
 
And all right, Becky, here’s Remy’s version: