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.

Roasted Chickpeas and Sweet Potato Spinach Salad

My dear friend and business partner and I are teaching a class on vegetarian cooking, and for the class we wanted to share a recipe for roasted chickpeas. Roasted chickpeas are super easy to make and are a great snack all on their own. They are satisfying, crunchy, and they can be flavored a bunch of different ways.

Roasted chickpeas are a crowd pleaser, and great for kids, but we also wanted to find a way to incorporate them into another dish. My sister in law found this Melissa Clark recipe and made it for an outdoor BBQ the other weekend. I fell in love with this salad, and I knew that I had to put it into my salad repertoire ASAP. Yes, I'm posting two salad recipes in a row... but this salad is more of a meal than a salad. It's addictive and has one of the best dressings ever. It's one of those salads that really surprises you with how good it actually tastes.

I've adapted the recipe slightly to fit my own preferences. I'm using plain whole milk yogurt instead of Greek; I find it creamier and smoother. I also added a generous amount of za'atar to my dressing. Za'atar is a generic name for a family of Middle Eastern herbs, and it is also the name of a common spice mixture frequently used in the Middle East. The spice mix usually involves some combo of ground thyme, oregano, marjoram and sesame seeds. If you can't find za'atar you can substitute any type of herb (dried or fresh) that you like. Dill or parsley would be nice here. A mix of ground thyme and oregano would be good, too. You can also just omit the herbs entirely; the dressing is good with just the yogurt, oil, lemon juice and garlic. 

Roasted Chickpeas

2 cups cooked chickpeas (1 15 oz. can or from 1 cup dried chickpeas)
1-2 teaspoons of your favorite spice (paprika, cumin, coriander, chili powder, or a combo of any)
pinch of salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

If you are using canned chickpeas, start by rinsing and draining the the chickpeas.

If you are starting with dried chickpeas, soak them in cold water overnight or  for at least 8 hours. Drain them then add them to a pot, and fill the pot with water (at least 4 cups of water for every 1 cup of chickpeas). Let the chickpeas and water come up to a boil then simmer until the chickpeas are tender and fully cooked. Timing varies depending on the chickpea, but if they are presoaked the chickpeas should cook in about an hour and a half.

Spread the chickpeas in an even layer over clean kitchen towel or over paper towels. Pat the chickpeas dry. Transfer the dried chickpeas to a sheet pan and add the the spice, salt, pepper and oil to the chickpeas. Toss until the chickpeas are evenly coated in oil.

Roast the chickpeas for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.  If you are making these chickpeas for the salad recipe below, you can roast them at the same time that you roast the sweet potatoes.
In a small bowl or mason jar, combine the ingredients for the dressing. Whisk the ingredients together or shake the jar until they are fully incorporated. Add the dressing to the salad and lightly toss everything together until all of the ingredients are well coated. The salad can be dressed up to 1 hour before serving.

Roasted Chickpea and Sweet Potato Spinach Salad with Yogurt Dressing
Adapted from Melissa Clark of The New York Times
Serves 4-6

for the salad-
2 cups roasted chickpeas (see recipe above)
1½ lbs.  or 3-4 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1-inch pieces
drizzle of oil
salt and pepper, to taste
6-8 cups spinach
4-5 green onions, thinly sliced

for the dressing-
¾ cup plain whole milk yogurt (European-style)
1 garlic clove, finely minced
juice of ½ a lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon za’atar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Peel and cube the sweet potatoes into 1-inch pieces. Place the cubed sweet potato onto a baking sheet and drizzle with oil (about 2-3 tablespoons). Season with a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast the sweet potatoes for 25-30 minutes or until browned, tender and cooked through. The sweet potatoes can be made at the same time as you roast the chickpeas. Once cooked, allow the sweet potatoes to cool slightly.

Add the spinach to a large salad bowl. To the spinach add the cooled roasted chickpeas and sweet potatoes. Top with sliced green onion.

In a small bowl or mason jar, combine the ingredients for the dressing. Whisk the ingredients together or shake the jar until they are fully incorporated. Add the dressing to the salad and lightly toss everything together until all of the ingredients are well coated. The salad can be dressed up to 1 hour before serving.

Stuffed Pumpkin

This is the ultimate slightly-indulgent, festive, holiday dish. It's hard to go wrong with bread, cheese, garlic and heavy cream. Frankly, you don't need much else to make something delicious (maybe butter). 

To describe this as a "crowd pleaser" puts all understatements to shame. And the recipe is so easy that it almost feels like cheating. Yes, it's delicious (see bread, cheese, and cream), but this is a dish that looks incredible uncooked as well as out of the oven. 

The pumpkin gets soft and delicate. The cheese makes everything good. The garlic and herbs cut through the richness, the cream adds a velvety texture. 

This recipe comes from the queen of all good things, Dorie Greenspan. Every recipe of hers that I've ever tried is both 1) delicious 2) works as written. I'm particularly fond of Around My French Table, but she is very well known for her desserts, and even has a new book on the topic. There's also a great interview with her in the current issue of Lucky Peach.

I only tweaked the recipe slightly. By tweaked, I mean I more or less eye-balled amounts as opposed to filling each pumpkin exactly as directed. Plus, we used smaller pumpkins than the one's Dorie uses. I like these sweet little pumpkins. We served this at Thanksgiving, amongst an abundance of other rich dishes; but if you're using the smaller pumpkins, you could even serve one per person. These were gone in minutes. Zero leftovers. 


Stuffed Pumpkins à la Dorie Greenspan
Slightly adapted from this
Serves 4-6 (The recipe can easily be doubled and tripled; I tripled the recipe)

2 1.5 lb. pumpkins 
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 lb. GOOD quality stale bread, cut into .5-1-inch cubes (crusts can even be left on)
1/4 lb. Grueyére and/or cheddar (I used both!), cut into .5 1-inch cubes (same size as bread)
2-4 garlic cloves, roughly minced
1/4 cup chopped chives
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (removed from stem)
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1/3 cup heavy cream
freshly grated nutmeg, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 
Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil. If you're using a big pumpkin, you'll want a casserole dish or something that will hold the pumpkin in place. These little guys held up perfectly on a baking sheet. 
Using a very sharp large nice, CAREFULLY, cut off the top 1/4 of the pumpkin. You want to cut far enough in that you get to the opening with all its seeds, but not too far as to halve the pumpkin. You're making a lid for the pumpkin like you would for a Halloween Jack-o-Lantern. Scoop out the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside of the pumpkin. Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper (this is your chance to season the meat of the pumpkin!).
In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes, cheese cubes, garlic, and herbs together. Season with more pepper. Fill each pumpkin with the bread and cheese mixture. You should have plenty, but you can always make more filling if the pumpkins aren't full. You want them full, but don't force/pack it in... just gently fill each one fully. 
In a liquid measuring cup, combine the heavy cream with freshly ground nutmeg. I love the flavor of nutmeg, but if you don't you can omit it. Pour a little cream into each pumpkin. You just want to moisten the mixture, but you don't want it to be too soupy. 
Put the cap back on top of the pumpkin and bake for 2 hours (checking on it after 90 minutes). For the last 20 minutes of cooking, remove the cap so that the inside can brown a little. You want the pumpkin flesh to be completely tender and for the cheese to be bubbling. 
When the pumpkin is ready, very carefully bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you'll bring to the table.
I served these whole, and people scooped out the pumpkin and cheese and bread filling. You can also cut it into big wedges (that will ooze out cheese). This is perfect for a holiday meal, or a cold winter night. 

Simple Roasted Artichokes

I can never say no to an artichoke. They are easily my favorite food when they are in season. They are also extremely versatile. They can be cooked in a myriad of ways, and they are the perfect vehicle for condiments (the raison d'etre).

I grew up with boiled artichokes. They're not that bad, because they're still artichokes. Because I grew up eating artichokes that had been cooked in water, I too continued to cook my artichokes in water. Sometimes I steamed them, but mostly I just simmered them. The major downside of artichokes cooked in water is that they turn out waterlogged, and waterlogged foods can be improved upon.

I've made and had grilled artichokes, fried artichokes, and pan seared artichokes, and all are lovely. Those preparations involve a grill, or lots of oil, or lots of care. I wanted to make a crispy, super easy to cook artichoke in my own kitchen. I remember hearing about roasted artichokes, and I have no idea why it took me so long to try out this method.

Roasted artichokes are genius. I will never steam or simmer an artichoke again. Seriously. These are sooo good. The leaves become soft and tender, and crispy on the edges. As an added bonus, they look golden and beautiful. They're good on their own, and even better served along with your favorite artichoke dipping sauce. This is a perfect elegant spring and summer dish.

Roasted Artichokes
Serves 4, 1 artichoke per person

4 medium globe artichokes (or 2 large) cleaned, trimmed, choke removed, split in half
1 large lemon, cut in half
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Line a baking dish (9 x 11) with foil or parchment paper.

First things first, you'll need to clean and prepare your artichoke for roasting. Here's a great tutorial from Mark Bittman. Get a bowl of cold water ready. Squeeze half a lemon into the bowl of water, and then toss that lemon into the bowl. Reserve the other half of your lemon to serve with the artichoke once its cooked. To prepare the artichokes you'll need to trim and peel the ends of the artichoke, remove the tough outer leaves, trim the prickly tops, slice each in half, and remove the choke. Once you've cleaned and halved an artichoke, immediately place it in the lemon water so that it doesn't brown. Move on to the next artichoke and repeat the process.

Once you've prepared and halved all of your artichokes, remove them from the water (it's fine if they are a little wet), and lay them cut side down in a lined baking dish. Any baking dish will do, as long as they all fit in a single layer.

Take the lemon that was sitting in the bowl of water, and squeeze its juice over the artichokes. The lemon should be extra watery. Add a few tablespoons of the lemon water from the bowl into the pan as well. I add a little (not too much) liquid to the pan so that the artichokes slightly steam as they roast. By the end of the cooking process, the water will evaporate, and the artichokes will start to brown. Next, drizzle the artichokes with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover your baking dish tightly with foil. Roast the artichokes in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the artichokes are tender and browned. You can check their doneness by removing them from the oven, unwrapping the foil, and testing a few leaves or piercing the stem. If they seem too al dente or not browned, just rewrap them and place them back in the oven. Cooking time will depend on the size and moisture content of the artichoke.

Once they are cooked, season with more salt and pepper. Serve warm with sliced lemon, or with a dipping sauce.

Some dipping sauces include: melted butter, melted butter with garlic, mayo mixed with lemon juice, or mayo mixed with lemon juice herbs/spices.