So Hot Right Now

Passover is almost here, but before I start sharing my growing stash of Pesach recipes, I need to talk about these spiced cauliflower muffins I became slightly obsessed with last month. I’d been looking for something interesting to bring to the Tot Shabbat potluck, and since Lilli was the cover girl in the article in the local paper about the program, I felt like I needed to bring it.

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This recipe taps into two hot food trends right now: cauliflower and turmeric. It seems 2016 was the year of the cauliflower, with recipes for its meaty “steaks” and cauliflower flatbreads. (More to come on those). But it was also the year of turmeric. I admit to being a little late to this one. My Aunt Bev brought my mom an enormous stash from her recent trip to Israel. She talked all about its healing properties, all of which I was completely unaware of. My only associations with turmeric up to that point had been stained clothes from Indian food. But then I started seeing recipes calling for it all over, and then the inevitable backlash as the wave crested. Sigh.

I made this recipe the very day I clipped it. It’s by the Israeli couple Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, who helped Yotam Ottolenghi grow his empire and now run the bakery Honey & Co. in London. Their second cookbook Golden: Sweet and Savory Delights from the Ovens of London’s Honey & Co. reminded me that I have a sweet spot for Israeli-run bakeries, be it the Tatte empire in Boston, or Breads in New York City. The recipes, like the shops, are a mix of savory and sweet, with flavor touches like tahini and cardamom that I love.

This recipe is dead simple; no heavy equipment needed. Although the recipe calls for six enormous “trees” for six muffins, I used small florets and ended up with many more. The first time I baked these I used a mini muffin pan, and the batter was the perfect amount for all 24. I had more steamed cauliflower left after that batch, so I made a second round in regular-sized tins. That made nine perfect regularly-sized muffins.

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I ground the cumin and coriander seeds together in a spice grinder I picked up for $15 at Ocean State Job Lot a decade ago. I have the white pepper in the house specifically for hot and sour soup, so I was happy to finally have another use for it. I have seen turmeric everywhere from “international” stores, Whole Foods, and even Target. I have yet to find my pumpkin seeds since we moved, so I skipped them. The muffins were great without.

The muffin is this wonderful mix of warm spice and sweet, and then there’s the soft bite of cauliflower. I stored these in a plastic container on the counter but I have no idea how long they are good for because they fly pretty quickly when they’re around.

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Spiced Cauliflower Muffins from Golden: Sweet and Savory Baked Delights from the Ovens of London’s Honey & Co. by Itamar Srulovich & Sarit Packer.

1 small head of cauliflower
3 cups (700 grams/milliliters) water
1 teaspoon table salt

For the muffin batter
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (40 grams) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon table salt
A pinch of white pepper
4 eggs
5 ounces (150 grams) unsalted butter, melted

For topping (if you like)
3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese

1) Break the cauliflower into florets, making sure there are at least six large “trees.” (You will most likely have more than six; cook them all and save the unused florets to eat another time or use them for more muffins.) Put the water and salt in a large pan and boil the cauliflower in it until soft (this will take 5–10 minutes). Check to see whether it is done by inserting a knife tip into the stem; it should penetrate without resistance. Drain well and set side.

2) Preheat the oven to 375°F/350°F convection and butter six muffin molds. Mix all the dry ingredients for the batter together. Add the eggs and use a spoon or spatula to mix until combined, then slowly mix in the melted butter and fold until it has all been incorporated.

3) Place a spoonful of batter in the center of each mold and stand a whole floret stem-down in each. Cover with batter to fill the molds to the top. Mix the pumpkin seeds and cheese, if using, sprinkle on the muffins and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the tin and eat while still warm — they are best this way.

 

Miles to Go Before I Sleep

Babies, I am learning, as more and more of our friends have them, do not care about your carefully constructed plans for their arrival. They do not care if you’ve decided they will only wear cloth or Seventh Generation diapers; if it’s not working for them, they’ll be sure to let you know.

Our friends Amanda and Quentin hosted us for a fabulous vegetarian Mexican meal at their house in August. Amanda was due in mid-October, and we heard about their wonderful midwife they had chosen, the birthing center across from the hospital where Amanda would birth their son. We also discussed their plans for spending the last few weeks of September and early October cooking freezable meals to be eaten at a later date, because cooking with newborn babies is not something that happens.

Well, as it turned out, Miles Timothy had other plans. He zipped into the world, at one in the morning on September 29th, in their bedroom! Practically perfect in every way, Miles, and his new mother and father – who delivered him! – were escorted to the hospital by some very nice firefighters.

Everything worked out, although Miles’s surprise entrance meant that all those meals that were to be cooked before his arrival never got made. Knowing their time was going to be limited for the next few, well, 18 or so years, I spent a little time on Sunday whipping together some freezable meals for the new parents. Amanda is a vegetarian, so I felt that making a casserole, although filling and definitely freezable, wouldn’t necessarily have the protein she’d be needing. Although some babies have trouble digesting their mother’s milk if she’s eaten legumes, I decided to go with chickpeas and brown rice.

Rice, as well as quinoa, freezes and reheats without any trouble.  So when I started making the dish, I tossed a few cups of brown rice with water, a ratio of 3:1, in the rice cooker. Easy peasy. I dug around my cookbooks for a good recipe for something chickpea-based, but came up short. As it turns out, Deb from Smitten Kitchen, went through the same chana masala quest a few years ago and ended up blending a few recipes. I used hers with a few adaptations.

In order to drop the temperature of the dishes without having them sit out and collect bacteria, I placed the cooking vessels in ice water. After the chickpeas and rice were cooled down, I placed them into freezable plastic containers, and brought them to the new parents. We had a quick visit and got to meet Miles in all his perfect tininess.

Chana Masala

Adapted from a Deb from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe, which had also been adapted.  This was a perfect pantry recipe, as I had everything on hand.

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

2 medium onions, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 fresh chili pepper, minced (Deb called for a hot green one, I found a random Hungarian pepper in the bottom of my crisper and just went with it. Feel free to use whatever hot pepper you enjoy, or leave it out if heat’s not your thing.)

1 Tablespoon ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 15 ounce can of whole tomatoes with their juices, chopped small (you’ll need 2 cups worth if you’re using fresh)

2/3 cup water

4 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 (15 ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

½ teaspoon salt

½ lemon, juiced

Directions

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion, garlic, ginger and pepper and sauté over medium heat until browned, about 7 minutes. Turn heat down to medium-low and add the coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, paprika and garam masala. Cook onion mixture with spices for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes and any accumulated juices, scraping up any bits that have stuck to the pan. Add the water and chickpeas. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, then stir in salt and lemon juice.

Wednesday Morning

At 7:53 Wednesday morning, I took the photo over here on the left. I’ve read that many bloggers prefer taking their pictures in the morning light, but I must admit that I wasn’t thinking about the sunlight. All I could think about was my lunch. It had been the third day in a row of the exact same thing and I could have eaten it all week. The day before, my lunch only lasted in the work fridge until 10:30, then I had to go and get it. So I’ve decided it’s time for a new category on Cheap Beets: My Lunchbox.

Lately, I’ve fallen into bean salads. I soak a cup of beans overnight in a bowl on the counter, cook them in the pressure cooker, and once they’ve cooled down, store them in the fridge until I need them. Of course, you could just open a can of white beans and be done with it.

That cup of beans was enough for three separate lunches for me, so whenever you are ready to make this — it can be packed the night before — I’d suggest using about six ounces of beans.

To those beans, depending on the season, toss in what veggies you have lying around, about a quarter of a cup. Maybe some halved cherry tomatoes, chopped cucumbers, or some steamed broccoli. On top of that I added about a quarter of a red onion which I toasted in the toaster oven at 400F for 8 or so minutes, as I’d learned from Abby’s amazing Tarragon bean salad.

But on top of all that — and what had me digging out the camera at that hour — I draped these zucchini pickles. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with these when I saw the recipe, but I knew they had to be made. Sweet, sour and salty, these chartreuse pickles would work well on a burger, meat or veggie. I had seen these tossed by their creator, Jason Neroni of L.A.’s Osteria La Buca, with radicchio (which he soaked to take out some of the bite), mint, parsley, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and olives.

The dressing for the whole bean, veggie and roasted onion salad was a very simple vinaigrette, two parts olive oil to one part red wine vinegar, a chopped clove of garlic, pinch of salt, teaspoon of agave nectar, shaken with a dash of mustard to emulsify.

Bread and Butter Zucchini Pickles

From The Tasting Table, which adapted this recipe from Jason Neroni of L.A.’s Osteria La Buca


1 zucchini, sliced into 1/8 inch-thick discs (a mandolin works best for this)

1 cup white wine vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon turmeric

1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds

1/4 cup salt

Place the zucchini in a heat-proof, lidded container (I use a cleaned out pickle jar, as a matter of fact)

In a medium saucepan, combine the white wine vinegar, sugar, 1/4 cup salt, turmeric and mustard seeds and bring to a boil. Pour the hot mixture over the zucchini slices. Cover the container and refrigerate the pickles overnight.