IT’S CAULIFLOWER SEASON!
But here’s the problem with this wonderful and versatile vegetable: the heads are big and awkward, and they takes up too much room in my fridge. So when I’ve gone a little overboard (bought 2-3 heads because they’re cheap as all get out), my instinct is to cook immediately and purée.
This dish occurred because, in addition to cauliflower, I already had half-a-microwaved sweet potato and cooked quinoa on hand. Why not throw them all together, add some onion and Indian spices, and see what happens?
The result? A new and interesting taste for me and the spouse: spicy in a curry-ish way with a slightly onion-y crunch and an undercurrent of sweetness. We ate it last night with chicken sausages and…yum!
Now, you might find this dish too bland because I am always catering to my sensitive stomach. Therefore, I suggest you mix all the main ingredients together and then spice to taste. You could also play around with the amounts of cauliflower, sweet potato, and quinoa, depending on what you have.
This delicious, crunchy, and easy-to-make potato salad happened because of two things.
One: I was seduced into buying a large bag of small potatoes (no peeling, hurray!) at Costco—the place where you always buy more than you actually need. So…lots of potatoes in the fridge.
Two: I had a lightbulb moment that involved broccoli slaw. To date, potato salad has been out of my caloric reach, and I hadn’t been able to think of a vegetable to add that would be easy to prepare in a large quantity. Broccoli slaw to the rescue!
This salad is wide open to imaginative variation in quantity and type—from vegetables to spices. The basic issue is to have, at the very least, as much vegetable as potato. In this version, I had 4 cups of cooked potatoes and, after adding my vegetables, I ended up with 8 cups total.
Okay? Here’s how it goes…
Spicy, tomato-y, and yummy. I made this dish with a pork tenderloin that had been in the freezer too long, but it would also be great with pork chops. I served the meat and sauce over spaghetti squash with a side of broccoli florets.
This dish is also very easy to make but not quick to cook, because it requires braising—a cooking method that requires low heat and long, moist bakes. Out of curiosity, I googled “braise” to learn why this method makes meat so tender.
According to The Reluctant Gourmet, the braising “process breaks down the tough connective tissue in meat to collagen. Through time, the moisture and heat build and the collagen dissolves into gelatin. Heat also contracts and coils the muscle fibers. Over time, these fibers expel moisture and the meat becomes dry. Given even more time, these fibers relax and absorb the melted fat and melted gelatin.”
The result is that the meat, no matter how cheap the cut, becomes tender, moist, and tasty.
Now, theoretically, the meat should be seared in oil before the baking, but I confess to skipping this part because of the oil. Does it make a difference? I haven’t a clue. Maybe someone out there has an answer?
Recently, I posted a Cauliflower “Pizza Crust” recipe in which raw cauliflower florets are food-processed until they are the size of “tiny pebbles.”
That culinary metaphor seemed okay at the time, but it didn’t turn my imagination in any other direction.
Then I made more pizza and had cauliflower pebbles left over—three cups, in fact.
What to do with all that cauliflower? While staring at it, another metaphor came to mind: “coarse breadcrumbs.”
Now dieters can only make limited use of real breadcrumbs—too many carbs, too many calories. But why couldn’t I substitute cauliflower “breadcrumbs” instead?
It was one of those “aha” moments.
So I had a topping. Now what about a base? That choice was easy: one of readers’ favourite recipes on this blog is Cauliflower-Carrot Bake. I decided I’d do a carrot “something” and this was the result…
Q: I want to eat a healthy diet/lose some weight/keep those pounds off. I know I have to eat lots of vegetables. But how do I get beyond raw carrots, steamed broccoli and salad, salad, and more salad?
A: Have a wide variety of vegetable dishes at your fingertips.
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t grow up learning how to be innovative with vegetables. In fact, they were generally just a humble afterthought, plopped down next to the good stuff—meat and potatoes—and followed by the highlight of our family dinner—dessert.
Hurray! After some interesting experimentation, I have arrived at a delicious, extremely low-cal vegetable pie. It’s rich with mushroom flavour that is complemented by the tang of romano cheese and is filled with interesting textures from soft to crunchy.
Makes 4 servings
Recipe update: I recently added 4 oz. of soft, herbed goat cheese, spread just above the mushroom layer, when making this dish for a dinner party. Very, very delicious. But remember, if you do this, to add to the Weight Watcher points value.
- 1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced
- 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
- 2 ripe tomatoes, sliced
- ½ yellow onion, sliced into onion rings
- ¼ cup (2 oz.) sheep romano cheese, grated
- Garlic powder, to taste
- Dried thyme, to taste
- Cooking spray
Creating the pie crust
- Spray 10″ pie plate with cooking spray.
- Create pie crust with eggplant slices (see picture).
- Spray interior of pie crust with cooking spray, particularly the scalloped top edges of the eggplant. This will keep them from wilting and turning brown.
- Fill pie with sliced mushrooms.
- Sprinkle generously with garlic powder and thyme.
- Layer onion rings over the mushrooms.
- Layer tomato slices over the onions.
- Again, sprinkle generously with garlic powder and thyme.
- Add a top layer of grated cheese.
- Bake in 400° oven for 30 – 40 minutes until the eggplants are thoroughly tender.
- Cut pie into 4 pieces, using a serrated knife.
- Remove 1 piece and then drain mushroom liquid out of pie plate.
- Ready to eat or store for the next day.
For Weight Watchers: Only the cheese has a points value in this pie for a total of 2 points. This makes a ¼-pie serving worth .5 point in both the Points and PointsPlus plan. (If you have points to spare, consider doubling the cheese.)
This pureéd soup is a pale green and has a lovely, delicate flavour. It’s good enough for a dinner party. Just before serving, I add a tablespoon of plain yogurt to each bowl in the center and then swirl it slightly so that it makes a slender white spiral. Not just delicious but pretty too! You can also add soy milk or sprinkle it with softened goat cheese.
Eggplants Learn Good Soup Behaviour
One key to this recipe in terms of taste is the sweet onion. I’ve tried both yellow onions and leeks as well but without the same success. The second key has to do with thickness. Most recipes that feature eggplant as the only vegetable also include cream to make it richer and thicker. My strategy is not to add too much broth. The less liquid you add, the thicker your soup will be. (See cooking tip below.)
- 2 large eggplants, peeled and cut into thick chunks
- 2 tbsp. minced garlic
- 1 large sweet onion, cut into thick chunks
- 4 or more cups of chicken broth, to cover
- Salt and pepper to taste
Cooking tip for making a thick and creamy soup: The correct amount of broth is tricky because vegetables often shrink and also contain their own liquids. To ensure that the soup will not be too thin, remove 1-2 cups of broth after the cooking is finished and before you start blending. After a first blend, you’ll know if it needs more broth. Add in ¼ cup increments until you reach the desired creaminess.
- Pour three cups of broth into a large pot.
- Add garlic, onion, and eggplant.
- Add broth to barely cover the vegetables. (The eggplant pieces will float so push them down to figure out if they are “covered.”)
- Bring to a boil.
- Cover and reduce to a simmer.
- Cook for 30 minutes.
- Cool and then puree in a blender or by using a hand blender.
The quantity should be about 6-8 cups depending on the size of the eggplants and the amount of broth.
For Weight Watchers: 0 points on both the Points and PointsPlus plan.