Roasted Cauliflower Leaves

Can we talk about cauliflower leaves for a second?

Historically, I've thrown them out, or when I'm mindful added them to a stock pot. I've never been served them at a restaurant. I've never had a friend cook them for me. But a while back after reading enough Dan Barber, Tamar Adler, Deborah Madison, and Alice Waters I started to think about cooking cauliflower leaves. Then I saw this article. The thing is, neither I nor thekitchn invented roasted cauliflower leaves, but when you make them for the first time if feels like a crazy new world discovery.

The other week at the farmers' market I stopped by the Finley Farms Stand (so good!). They had the most beautiful, delicate, tiny little cauliflower heads. Each one was about the size of a baseball and covered with beautiful bright green delicate leaves.

One of the women who worked at the stand and I talked about roasting the leaves... she always does it and she described how they turn kind of "marshmallowy" when cooked. The thick stems do have this amazing soft texture when roasted, and they are rich and sweet in flavor. But the leaves! They get crispy, peppery, and brown and taste better than any kale "chip" I've ever had.

You can roast them alongside the cauliflower (I like cutting the cauliflower into neat flat cross-sections about 1/4-1/2-inch thick, as opposed to florets... they caramelize beautifully and evenly this way - see above photo). Or you can roast them separately. If roasted together you should keep an eye on the leafy parts... the leaves cook more quickly than the florets. You may need to remove them from the pan while the rest of the cauliflower cooks... but also burnt leaves are kind of the best.

For these to taste delicious all they need is salt, pepper, and a generous amount of oil.

Roasted Cauliflower & Roasted Cauliflower Leaves

however much cauliflower you like, leaves still on heads
cauliflower leaves independently of the cauliflower they hailed from
generous drizzles of olive oil or melted coconut oil
generous sprinkle of salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut up your cauliflower and cauliflower leaves into even-sized pieces. You can do these at any thickness or size... but you want them as even as possible so that they all roast at the same rate.

On a parchment lined-sheet pan (or two) evenly spread out the cauliflower/cauliflower leaves. Make sure they are not too crowded and they'll brown better that way. Generously drizzle them with your preferred oil. Toss with your hands. You want them to be evenly coated with the oil, glistening. Generously season with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes. Check on them, flip them over, rotate the pan and let them roast until they are golden brown, roughly another 5-10 minutes (it depends on your cauliflower so check on it every 5 minutes or so. Serve immediately or even at room temp.

Easy Homemade Vegetable Stock

There's nothing like homemade stock. That boxed kind from the store is certainly useful, and can be a necessary evil, but it usually just makes me disappointed with its sad, dull and muted flavors. Of the store bought stocks I've often found that veg stock is the worst in terms of flavor. The brands wildly differ in taste, and some of them are just straight up bad.

I think making stock seems daunting, but while it take a few hours of simmering it's pretty much one of the easiest things to make and the pay off is huge.

The other bonus of stock is that it can utilize a lot of the odds and ends of veggies that you normally throw out (or compost?). I hate seeing bags of green things go into the trash. When I'm prepping veggies during the week, I keep a bag of trimmings and stuff I know I won't use: leek tops, cauliflower ends (not the leaves which are great to eat), carrot ends, parsley stems without the leaves, green onion roots, celery leaves, veggies that are a little wilted and past their prime. I keep a lot of those guys in one bag and at the end of the week I fill a pot with water and dump the veggies into the pot. I also usually add a few whole onions or shallots with the skin still on too. Onion skin gives stocks a lovely rich brown color.

Basically, stock is about throwing a bunch of stuff in a pot, letting it simmer in a lot of water for hours, or until the stock reduces by half so that the flavor gets concentrated and yummy, and then you strain it using a mesh strainer (or cheese cloth if you're fancy).

Once the stock is done, I store some in the fridge for immediate use, but I also like to keep mine in pint size freezer-safe glass mason jars labeled with the type of stock and the date. Then I take them out and defrost as necessary. Stock keeps for about 3-4 months in the freezer and about 1 week in the fridge.

Also, while you're making stock, if there are some veggies you want to blanch that day, you can throw them into the pot too. They'll add extra flavor to the stock, and the stock will add extra flavor to them. It's a win a win for all the veggies involved (see pic of cabbage below).

And, the smell of simmering stock on the stove always makes everything feel cozier and like delicious things are on their way...

Easy Way to Clean Out the Fridge and Use Up Veg Scraps Stock
Makes half of whatever amount of water you add
  • 1-2 onions, cut in half with peel still on
  • 1-2 shallots (if you have them), cut in half with peel still on
  • 2-3 celery stalks with leaves
  • 2 carrots, or a bunch of carrot ends 
  • Any of the following: fennel outside layers (or whole fennel), leek tops (or whole leeks), parsley or parsley stems, dill stems, garlic, cabbage, 10-12 crimini or shitake mushrooms (will make richer browner stock), green beans (in moderation), parsnip ends (or whole)... pretty much any veggie you like... beets will make everything pink so I usually don't use that. Also broccoli florets are too strong of a taste for me, but sometimes I include the stalk which I find doesn't have the same broccoli-ish taste...  but play around and see what you like...
  • 3-4 quarts water
  • salt to taste - I only throw in a few big  pinches so that I can control sodium levels later when I use the stock
Fill a large stock pot with water (at least 3 quarts/12 cups). Throw all of your vegetables into the pot.
Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1.5-2 hours, or until the liquid reduces by half. Once simmered and reduced, strain the stock through a fine-meshed sieve, or a cheesecloth-lined sieve.

Use immediately or store for later use.

Flourless Almond Cake (Gluten and Dairy Free)

Passover always inspires me to try new flourless cake recipes. This year I wanted to make something classic, simple, and light for seder. This recipe comes from Claudia Roden, the acclaimed author of multiple Jewish cookbooks (among other accomplishments).

I served this almond cake with a mix of berries that had been macerated in a little Chambord (raspberry liqueur) and honey. I also served it with whipped coconut cream. The mild creamy coconut goes really well with the subtle almond flavor in the cake... but don't get me wrong, this cake is good all on its own.

The cake is crispy and delicate on the outside, and kind of gooey and crumbly on the inside. It makes a really wonderful crackly sound when you cut into it. As it bakes, the top puffs up and as it cools it sinks back down into the cake. The recipes is very similar to how one makes a flourless chocolate cake.

If you do not like the combination of almond and citrus I would omit the zest from this recipe. I think you could also get away with adding other flavorings to the batter (maybe coconut extract, actual coconut, or even cocoa powder/chocolate).

The recipe for this cake comes from Spain, and it is perfect for any meal that requires a dessert without flour, dairy, or too much work.

Flourless Almond Cake
Recipe ever so slightly adapted from Claudia Roden's
Serves 10-14

1/2 lb. blanched almonds (or 1 3/4 cups), finely ground
6 large eggs, separated
1 1/4 cups superfine sugar
zest of 1 orange
zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon almond extract (or less depending on your preference)
powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Finely grind the blanched almonds in a food processor. Don't grind them too fine or they will start to form a paste.

Line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper (11-inch works too). Grease the pan really well (I used non-dairy Earth Balance... you could also use margarine, butter, or even coconut oil to grease the pan).

With an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until a smooth pale yellow cream is formed.
Add the zests and almond extract and beat some the mixture until everything is well-incorporated.

Mix in the ground almonds.

Using a stand-mixer, electric mixer, or whisk, and using a very clean and dry bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks (like you would for classic meringue).

Carefully fold the egg whites into the egg yolk and almond mixture.

Pour the batter into the greased pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the cake is firm (no jiggle), and golden brown. Let the cake fully cool in the pan.

Just before serving, dust with powdered sugar if desired.

The cake actually tastes even better the next day and can be made 1-2 days in advance.