Spring’s busy but easy salad with cauliflower and asparagus

Spring’s busy but easy salad with cauliflower and asparagus

Does this look busy to you? Okay, maybe. BUT it’s so easy to put together and even more easy to put into it whatever the seasons offer. I first got the cauliflower salad idea from Ottolenghi in Simple, where he uses both roasted and freshly grated, then adds a variety of greens, pistachios, and pomegranate. It’s refreshing and absolutely beautiful. His recipe has transformed a bit in this household and I wanted to share it with you in case you needed some fresh ideas for your stay in.

This was the latest version I made. I used:

-1 large head of cauliflower, 1/4 of it set aside in a thick wedge for grating
-olive oil, enough to coat
-1/4 tsp turmeric
-salt and pepper, to taste
-1 cup cooked wild rice, or any leftover rice/grains you have
-1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces
-2 large garlic cloves, chopped
-1/2 cup parsley, chopped
-1/2 cup dill, chopped
-pomegranate seeds from 1/2 of medium pomegranate
-juice from 1 lemon
-ground cumin, to taste
-ground allspice,to taste
-almonds or pistachios, optional
-feta, optional

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the cauliflower into florets and place in a baking sheet. Toss in olive oil, turmeric, salt and pepper. Roast til they just begin to brown, about 20 minutes. You want them still firm, not entirely caramelized and softened to the point of no return. Let cool.

wp-15901152584122597430571738740929.jpg

While the cauliflower is in the oven, saute your asparagus in a heated pan with olive oil,. salt and pepper, and chopped garlic. This should take about 8-10 minutes. Let cool.

wp-15901152595804362252043218218745.jpg

Grate 1/4th of reserved cauliflower and place into a large bowl. Add the chopped greens, seeds, rice/grains, and everything else when they’re cool enough to not soften the fresh herbs.

wp-15901152606346165560253461645785.jpg

Season with lemon, drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, and allspice. Toss til everything seems evenly dressed. Pop in the fridge for at least a 1/2 hour before serving. Then add your optional nuts and feta.

My mom allows me 1 serving, while she eats all other servings available.

wp-15901137718264090827405017744627.jpg

baby carrot salad and a warm hello

baby carrot salad and a warm hello

It appears I’ve taken a blog-writing hiatus without ever having planned on it, but let’s chat. After being diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia half a year ago, a rare condition that has left me, to this day, not able to use the right side of my mouth without flinching in very strange, fiery pain, I fell into a depression that led me to holding a camera more often than using words and seeing friends. Believe me, I am still obsessed with food. The obsession is quiet, though. (And mostly on Instagram.)

But I am eating. Mostly softer foods, veggies, grains, and poultry. I am slowly cutting out red meat. I am even trying to cut out dairy (say what!?) but that’s a challenge. I’m not chowing down on a wedge of cheese anymore so I do consider that progress, though a friend of mine did tell me the parmesan in my fridge is no danger to me at all in the realm of lactose. And another friend suggested I make her ginger and ghee tea for a special, satisfying indulgence. (THANK YOU, FRIENDS. I fuggin love ghee). I use oat milk now for coffee. And a lot of this is just trying to figure out what my body cannot have anymore. I bloat my way to 4 months pregnant, and my immune system went nuts on me the last time I tried to exercise and change my diet (enter trigeminal neuralgia, sciatica, and a psoriasis flare-up all at once, a week after these sudden changes.) Managing all of this plus having a hard time at work has left me stressed the fuck out. Yes, I am cussin’. This is really just to say, expect some changes on the blog. I feel I ought to be talking more about mental and physical health, and how food is a major part of that conversation. I hope you will join me.

My social life has suffered a great deal during my quiet, and now those with an autoimmune disease are being warned not to have a social life because we are at risk of getting real sick, along with elderly, far worse than those with no preexisting conditions. Which I already knew, but wonderful. Excuse me while I take my frustration out in the kitchen. (I think everyone should practice some caution. Just sayin’)

I’ve cooked so much during this time away so instead of going crazy choosing which to share, I’ll just talk about what I made last.

Baby carrot salad with a Middle Eastern flare

-3 bunches of baby carrots, washed, halved if bigger than others, greens set aside
-6-8 red pearl onions, halved
-drizzle of olive oil, salt n pepper, cumin optional

Add ’em to a hot pan, only moving them around once or twice. You want them to soften slightly and caramelize. Then set aside in a bowl.

Add:
-2 cups wild rice variety with grains that were cooked in vegetable stock
-1/2 cup or more of fresh parsley, dill, and/or cilantro, chopped
-carrot tops, chopped, optional but do use them for something else if not here
-handful of toasted almonds
-feta, optional

Then add a dressing made of
-juice of 1 small lemon
-long drizzle of olive oil
-about a tsp of pomegranate molasses
-salt n pepper, to taste

Always to taste. Serve warm or cold.

If anyone else is struggling today, let’s have a chat, or just know that I’m right there with you. While I’ve suffered from severe lack of confidence since I got sick, I will say I’m just starting to welcome some food opportunities that have come my way. Baby steps. It may sound ridiculous to some that I’ve ignored food photography jobs or cooking class opportunities these last few months, but I have. I’ve literally disliked half the stuff I’ve put out into the world lately, but I think I’m ready to take better care. Be kind, y’all. Be safe. Eat well. All that jazz.

heirloom tomatoes with fried caper dressing

heirloom tomatoes with fried caper dressing

If anything can make me feel better after a couple of weeks of emergency after emergency, it would be the sight of tomatoes. That, to me, is summer dressed in it’s finery.

lrm_export_99257345268996_20190724_1646217232473620748729696502.jpeg

Being absent from the greenmarket was FELT. A single step outside of Union Square train station and I was already overwhelmed with the beauty of it all. At least 8 farmstands showcased my loves. I saw super tiny yellow ones called currant tomatoes and I almost lost my mind. And all my money.

I came home with yellow and blushing heirlooms and I wanted to have them simply. I would’ve just took a bite out of one if I was not sharing with a few others (that’s how simply I wanted to have them). But I aim to share.

The dressing is an infused olive oil with fresh orange, herbs, garlic, and capers that become so crispy you could snack on them alone.

If you can do without the fresh orange juice, add a bit of white balsamic instead. Be sure to give the capers a good rinse, to dull down the salt, then lay them out on a paper towel to dry before frying them. You might have some infused oil left over, which isn’t a bad thing. Save it for something else. As for the tomatoes, they’ll be gone by the end of the meal (or before).

Heirloom Tomatoes with Fried Caper Dressing – Serves 4

-2 tbs capers, rinsed
-1/4 cup good quality olive oil
-3 long strips of orange zest
-2 leafy sprigs of oregano or thyme (or 4 if small/thin)
-1 garlic clove, smashed
-couple of fresh squeezes of an orange
-3-4 heirloom tomatoes, sliced
-feta, fresh herbs, optional for serving

Heat a small pan and pour in your olive oil. When ready, add your capers, herbs, and garlic. Saute for about a minute before adding your orange zest. Here’s an in-action shot:

lrm_export_98068453447314_20190724_1617409982760617207372468702.jpeg

Fry til the capers begin to burst (this happens quickly so keen an eye out). Take off heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the capers to a bowl or plate lined with a paper towel. In another bowl, pour in the infused olive oil. When cool, add a couple of squeezes of orange juice or white balsamic. You can dress the tomatoes ahead of time but save the capers for when everyone’s ready to dig in.

lrm_export_93672358112637_20190724_1404269516519472074639172612.jpeg

I haven’t had the nerve to slice the heart-shaped tomato yet. I’ve 3 heirlooms left and I might just dress them in the leftover infused oil, or take that selfish bite.

lrm_export_93784633084626_20190724_1406192262176165416839140459.jpeg

grilled cabbage tabbouleh

Ever wake up one day to discover you’ve exhausted your head of red cabbage? I mean, you open the fridge and find a wedge left, yawning at you from the comfort of it’s crisp drawer, as you return it’s stare and remember how you used it to begin with: garnishes to make your every dish pop. All week long. Actually, TWO weeks long. Ex: lentil and sweet plantain chorizo soup. That’s just straight rude. It’s deep color deserves the spotlight, and if you want an eye-catcher without having to break a sweat, this is it. All my favorite food-colors in one, gorgeous salad. (Is it red? Is it purple? It’s both, says cabbage experts.) I say it’s according to mood.

I’ve had plenty of tabbouleh in my life, but never this one, and never grilled. It’s got your usual bulgur and finely minced greens. Fresh lemon juice and cumin ties it all together as it always has…but then you have still-crisp charred cabbage, with moments of pomegranate seeds bursting in your mouth. And then the crunch of pistachios! I can’t. It’s a lovely experience and that wedge in your fridge will stop giving you dirty looks–promise!

Grilled Cabbage Tabbouleh

-1/2 head of medium red cabbage, sliced thin, about 3.5-4 cups (or from one tiny head!)
-1/2 cup bulgur wheat
-boiling water, 1 cup
-1 cup tightly packed herbs, finely chopped (parsley, dill, mint)*
-1 tsp ground cumin
-1/2 tsp allspice
-juice of one small lemon
-drizzle of good quality olive oil
-1/2 tsp pomegranate molasses (optional)
-salt and pepper, to taste
-1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
-1/4 cup unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped

In a heatproof bowl, add your bulgur and boiling water. Let stand for 1 hour. It will double in size.

Meanwhile, heat a cast iron grill skillet (or any cast iron skillet) to highest temp. When very hot, add cabbage. Grill for two minutes without stirring/turning them over. Then do just that and grill for about a minute more.

Transfer them onto a big plate to cool down (pop it in the fridge if you’d like). Then work on your herbs.

Note: be sure to thoroughly dry your herbs before chopping them. It’s tedious but worth it! You don’t want soggy greens. After I’ve picked them (also tedious), I lay them on paper towels. Pat dry, remove towels, then chop away. What else is there to do as your bulgur does it’s thang for an hour? ha!

Once the bulgur is ready, transfer them to a mesh colander to make sure all excess water is gone. Then transfer them to a bowl along with everything else but the pistachios. Toss and season to taste. Keep in fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving, preferably. But serving at room temp is fine as well.

Add pistachiossss last min.

Wow your guests.

grilled escarole, cabbage, and apple salad

grilled escarole, cabbage, and apple salad

After a week of celebrating Dan’s birthday and graduation with beautiful Syrian, Mexican, Chinese, Ramen, Italian, and Peruvian food OMG, I severely missed a home-cooked meal. A healthy-and-grilled one please. While dipping fresh tortillas in a cast iron full of 3 cheeses and chorizo is spectacular, I have to admit, I don’t feel that spectacular afterwards.

Bring on the simple veggie platters!

This was the first thing I made when I got home, and it took all but 20 minutes to put together. The addition of feta on the slightly bitter greens with a squeeze of that grilled lemon was beautiful. But I encourage you to take a knife to the greens and cabbage, and get yourself the perfect bite of sweet apple and onion along with the salty-and-creamy feta. You won’t regret it.

img_20190618_082922_818892365261786971998.jpg

-1 head of escarole, quartered lengthwise & cleaned well
-1/2 a head of red cabbage, sliced into wedges
-1 red onion (or half vidalia), wedges
-1 big apple, cored and cut into wedges
-about 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
-salt and pepper, to taste
-1 lemon, halved, for serving
-feta, for serving

After giving your escarole a good bath

(it seriously needs one), place them in a large bowl and drizzle some of the olive oil onto the leaves and season with salt and pepper. Massage the leaves a bit. In another bowl, add your sliced cabbage, onion, and apple, and gently toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.

In a cast iron grill pan under medium-high heat, sear cabbage, apples, and onion til grill marks occur on both sides, about a minute a side. You may need to do this in 2 batches. Lay them on a platter when done and start grilling your escarole, about a minute a side as well. You’ll want to see them charred and tender but still a bit crisp. Plate them.

img_3630-18392060460518439242.jpg

Serve with grilled lemon halves. Maybe a little tahini. Maybe some grilled meat if you’re into that. OR beans. I’m into that.

img_3576232828818724270992.jpg

Braised Cranberry Beans (Enjoyed Two Ways)

I’ve a confession to make.

I left these beauties in the fridge for at least a week before getting down to business.

img_20190409_123602_6167171573901135990154.jpg

How dare I, I know. It’s just that I’ve been overly excited about Spring’s arrival, and with that comes some major irresponsibility on my part. I am buying way too many things at the farmers market and I can’t keep up with it all. When I looked in the fridge today, I had bags of three kinds of radishes, thyme, chives, forgotten carrots and onions, cauliflower, purple cabbage, ridiculously expensive cherry tomatoes, 5 kinds of cheeses…the list goes on. But can you BLAME ME?

Anxiety started to build up last night. I stayed up late brainstorming what I wanted to make the next morning. Mind you, everything I thought of had zero things to do with cranberry beans, because I actually forgot I had them. I went to bed with more ideas than a solid plan for 8 AM. When I opened the crisp drawer next morning, there they were, a gloriously pink reminder of their existence.

lrm_export_103364852243821_20190409_181322520386047234991768800.jpeg

It was clearly time to sit down, and start shelling. I had no idea what would happen after I revealed what was inside each pod. That’s what makes this recipe special to me. I felt how I used to when writing a poem. The first step is to begin. Begin somewhere, anywhere, and let it transform into something unexpected and beautiful. That’s what happened here. It began with a braise.

lrm_export_104977775092111_20190409_190053055-11660845009360801091.jpeg

And then it became a salad of some of the things I couldn’t bare to neglect any longer.

img_18605112793112295812821.jpg

Braised Cranberry Beans

for boiling them first
-fresh cranberry beans, shelled, about 1 1/2 cup
-1 garlic gloves, smashed
-sprig of thyme or other herbs

for the braise
-1/4 cup good quality olive oil, or enough to cover beans half-way in small pot
-1 tsp toasted cumin seeds or powder
-1 garlic clove, smashed
-orange or lemon peels (optional)
-generous amount of Aleppo pepper (or other red pepper)
-salt, to taste

for the Braised Bean Salad (basically, your market haul) I used:

-braised cranberry beans with oil
-cherry tomatoes, quartered
-3-4 radishes, all the colors
-small bunch of fresh chives
-leaves from 1 thyme sprig
-salt and pepper, to taste
-fresh drizzle of olive oil
-fresh squeeze of lemon
-ricotta salata cheese (or other cheese)

Directions

Braised Beans: After the beans have been shelled, put them in a sauce pan with enough water to cover, and let it simmer for 20 minutes with aromatics. Drain. In the same pan, heat the olive oil and begin to saute the garlic, cumin, and red pepper for about a minute. Add the beans and cover, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes under low heat (or until the beans have softened and some have turned a golden color.)You want that braised-crisp look on the outside, but creaminess on the inside.

received_628765917571874.jpeg

At this point, you can serve as is. Spoon it over beautiful bread. Maybe add some grated parmesan.

But if you’re lookin’ for something more, continue on and make the salad. Add all the spring things and toss. Season with salt and pepper and dress it with fresh lemon juice. Use what you have on hand but be sure to have something in there that provides a good crunch. I love the addition of radishes in here for that very reason. Maybe uncooked green beans! Parsley would make another nice, green addition.

lrm_export_96627620113371_20190409_1438225238909613495488860417.jpeg

And here’s a friendly reminder: keep an eye out for the beautiful at your local market. They may come in very tiny bundles. The stuff of poems.

20190409_1523263283236783273526568.jpg

lrm_export_129533162336801_20190410_1536587091724025460541172357.jpeg