Roasted Cauliflower with Olives & Capers

by Caroline

The deeper the Giants play into the post-season, the more excited my family gets. I stuck to my promise to make caramel corn for the pennant games, and this weekend (despite the approaching candy-bonanza of Halloween) I will make It’s-Its to cheer on our World Series chances. But a family has to eat dinner, too, and we can’t eat black bean and sweet potato enchiladas every day. When I found an orange cauliflower in our CSA share last week, it seemed like a sign, so although the cauliflower loses its orange tint when you roast it, I’m posting this recipe again; it’s a great dinner, it’s black and orange(ish), and it’s easy to prep ahead of time and pull together, if you need to, between innings.

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower

1 large head of cauliflower

1/3 c pitted olives, very coarsely chopped (or more, to taste)

2-3 tbsp capers (again, more or less depending on how salty you like things)

1 pound of pasta

olive oil

freshly ground black pepper, grated Parmesan cheese, and chopped parsley to taste; toasted bread crumbs would be a nice addition, too, if you happen to have them

Preheat the oven to 400 and put up a big pot of water to boil.

Break the cauliflower up into bite-sized florets (this is the most time-consuming part of the recipe). Toss the cauliflower onto a large baking pan, with the olives and capers, and drizzle a couple tablespoons of olive oil over the lot. Roast, stirring once or twice, for about 20 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender and starting to brown a bit around the edges. You can do this much ahead of time and then leave the cauliflower out until you’re ready to cook the pasta. The cooled cauliflower will warm quickly if you toss it with the drained pasta in your still-hot pasta cooking pot.

Toward the end of the cauliflower-cooking time, boil the pasta. When it’s done, drain, reserving a half cup or so of the pasta water. Toss the pasta back into the cooking pot with the roasted cauliflower, olives and capers. Add some of the pasta water if it seems too dry. Serve with lots of freshly ground black pepper, grated cheese, a sprinkling of parsley, and some bread crumbs.

Giant Enchiladas

by Caroline

On Saturday, we made a black and orange dinner — black bean and sweet potato enchiladas — to cheer on our black and orange team, the Giants, who won their game against the Phillies. On Sunday, we ate sushi and our team lost. Yesterday, I ate the leftover enchilada for lunch and things went better for the Giants. Good as these are, I don’t think I can commit to the same meal every time the Giants play, but I present the recipe in the hope that you can help root on our team with a team colors dinner.

This recipe is an adaptation by Tony of one he read years ago in a vegetarian cooking magazine, and I offer it here just as he wrote it down for me. It scales well, so you can make a couple pans to feed a baseball-watching crowd:

3 sweet potatoes, medium-sized
1 15 oz. can black beans
10-12 flour tortillas
1 package jack cheese, grated (grate it as big as you want — truly whatever is fastest and easiest… it’s all going to get melted)
1 big (28-32 oz.) or 2 small (~15 oz.) cans of plain tomato sauce (just not “Italian flavored”)
1 jar of salsa … thinner is actually better than thicker — I use “Mrs. Renfro’s” which is in a lot of supermarkets
(or if you find a can of “enchilada sauce” that would be fine too)
ground cumin to taste
dash of cayenne pepper or hot sauce, if desired

Peel 3 medium sweet potatoes. Cut them into large chunks and boil them until you can easily stick a fork in them. You’re going to mash these, so they’re pretty forgiving.

Drain the water, and put them back in the pot or into a big bowl. Mash the potatoes well, with a fork or potato masher.

Drain most of the water from a can of black beans and add them to the sweet potatoes

Add a liberal amount of cumin (maybe 2-3 tablespoons? Start with two and you can taste it and add more if you like )

If you’re so inclined, you could add a little heat — a dash of hot sauce or cayenne pepper. That’s the filling.

The sauce I usually just make from plain old canned tomato sauce (since it really kind of wants to be thin… not all homestyle-y like a good homemade pasta sauce). But you do want some kind of Mexican flavor in there… so essentially I just spike it with something…

Some salsa from a jar (Mrs. Renfro’s, enchilada sauce, or some other not-too-chunky salsa) It doesn’t need a ton –just a little something, maybe 1/2 to 3/4 cup. As far as quantity goes, for a big dish of enchiladas, you probably want like a 32 ounce can of sauce to start with. That’s the sauce. NOTE: you don’t even have to cook this… just mix the plain tomato sauce and whatever you’re spiking it with into a bowl.

Then it’s just putting filling into flour tortillas (I’m sure corn would be great, too, but we usually do flour just for size, if no other reason) — maybe 1/4 cup or so… add a little bit of grated cheese (jack is what we usually use), roll ’em up and tuck them in real close to each other in a big rectangular baking dish with the seam down.

It’s nice to have a tight fit… sometimes I use baking dish that’s a little smaller than the tortillas and just slice of 1/2 inch from two sides of the tortillas to “square them off” –but that’s not really necessary. Pour the sauce over and around… add some more grated cheese on top.

You can easily split this into two pans if need be… I probably get maybe 8 enchiladas in a big baking dish.

Then just bake it until it’s nice and bubbly… maybe 30-40 minutes at 350 or so… it’s all cooked, so you really just need to get it nice and hot.

I usually start with it covered with foil and then sometimes finish it with a few minutes under the broiler to let the cheese get nice and brown. The broiler’s not necessary, but you could at least just take the foil off for the last 5 minutes or so.

We usually have this with Slammin’ Rice — a really simple spanish/mexican rice.

I’m showing 3 cups of rice here, which is a lot… good if you’re serving 8.

3 cups plain-old white rice… ideally medium or long-grain rather than short grain like you might use for a stir fry
1/2 onion chopped fine
1-2 cloves garlic chopped fine (if you want)
olive oil
3 cups veggie stock
2 1/2 cups plain tomato sauce (just like above for the enchiladas)
1/2 cup “thin” salsa, enchilada sauce, Mrs. Renfro’s — again same as above… you’re just “spiking” the plain tomato sauce with a little flavor.

(the key is 6 cups liquid for 3 cups rice… and you’re essentially doing half veggie stock and half spicy tomato sauce…)

So, this starts out like risotto, but just gets a lot easier because you don’t have to stir. Essentially you’re just making plain rice with 1/2 stock and 1/2 tomato sauce instead of water.

In a good size pot, saute the onion in olive oil (medium heat) until it starts to get brown. Add the garlic, if you’re using it and just saute that for a minute. You might need to add a touch more oil when you put the garlic in so it doesn’t stick.

Add the rice to the onion and garlic… stir them together and cook for 15-20 seconds.

Add all the liquid: stock, tomato sauce, and whatever you’re using to spike it (the key is to use 6 cups liquid total)

Cover the pot, turn the heat to medium high until it starts to boil, give it a good stir (Scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon and make sure nothing’s stuck) and then turn the heat really low and cook for 20 minutes with the lid on.

After 20 minutes, take the lid off, give it a good stir and scrape and see if the rice is cooked. If it seems like it needs a little more time that’s fine… once the rice is all cooked you can just leave this on the stove with the lid on and it will stay hot for awhile.

You can garnish this with the obvious — sour cream, guacamole, chopped cilantro — whatever sounds good.

On the Fly

Or, Not Such a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Dinner or Day After All…

By Lisa

It’s 4 pm and I have no desire to cook dinner nor do I really feel inspired.  I have lots of options: tofu, kielbasa, any variation on the egg, many variations on pasta, tacos…However, it’s 90 degrees, October, and I just have that in-between/nothing- feels-just-right feeling. That, plus we have 2 great parties to go to this weekend, so I am, perhaps, starting my cooking-holiday a day early, psychologically speaking.

But we do have to eat, especially the kids, and eat soon.  And the plan is to get this one:

The 8-year-old

together with this:

My late in the week refrigerator: salamis, cheeses, lettuces, green and yellow beans,

tofu, sausages (in freezer), lots of fruit, leftover french toast, eggs…

She’s been asking to cook dinner for a while now, so I’m going to let her–with supervision. Stay tuned.  In a few hours, I imagine she’ll have something from the following list:

  • eggs, scrambled or omelet
  • fresh bread
  • white beans
  • salad
  • yellow bean vinaigrette
  • charcuterie plate
  • pasta with fried egg
  • mystery meal?

I’ll post the result before the end of the night…

6:16 PM

One 3rd grader’s homework done, one Lincolon Log cabin, and one major meltdown over conflicting building priorities  later, we took the easy way out:

Egg sandwiches on the sesame buns left over from the panelle, yellow beans & shredded carrots w/olive oil and red wine vinegar, and padrones.

Finn set the table.

I made the beans, but Ella–with close supervision–fried & served the peppers.

She cracked two eggs–but the yolks broke so they became test cases. I cracked the two more (since they were the only two left), and she gently fried and successfully placed the eggs on the buns without breaking the yolks.

And she took the final photo of a perfectly successful dinner that is pretty much their version of comfort food. It’s certainly not fancy, but it was fast and fresh, and well, some dinners are like that. (Here, and probably in Australia, too.)  It was a nice way to bring the three of us back together and around the table.

Another One for the Team: Panelle

by Lisa

I found this recipe watching one of the 13 episodes of Lidia Bastianich’s television show, Lidia’s Italy, taking up space on my tivo, and it’s exactly the reason why I love her & her show.

I had never heard of panelle, nor could I have made this up. It’s a regional street food of Palermo and it is unusual for an American kitchen but it’s one of the most fun, satisfying and delicious things I’ve come across in a while. It’s also sort of addictive.

Basically, panelle is fried chickpea polenta made from chickpea flour, water, olive oil, and salt served on fresh sesame bun.  You cook the polenta, pour it onto a baking pan, then refrigerate it.

Then you cut it into small squares and fry in olive oil.

That’s it.  I’ve made it twice now, so I know that the kids enthusiasm for it is no fluke. They love it. We love it. It’s one of those things that when, they ask “What’s for dinner?” and I say “panelle,” they cheer. And not just because they get to watch baseball while they’re eating it.

Panelle is an easy, healthy, high protein, fun, vegetarian dinner. It makes great leftovers.  And it’s a simple, no mess, satisfying food that ‘s perfect for eating in the living room while your baseball team battles it out for the pennant. Add salad, dessert, a festive beverage inspired by your team, and you’re set.

It takes a bit of planning because the polenta needs to chill for at least an hour, and frying anything can be a little messy, but it’s basically a simple and stress free process. Below is the recipe taken exactly from here, which is exactly what I saw on TV.


  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 lb chickpea flour
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt.
  • A rimmed baking sheet, rubbed with olive oil.

***NOTE:  Chickpea flour is available at my local Italian deli, and it may well be available at yours.  Try specialty stores, well stocked markets, and if you can’t find it, you can make your own by grinding dried chickpeas into a very fine, well, flour.***

  1. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk chickpea flour into water, olive oil, and salt. Try to get it as smooth as you can.
  2. Over medium high heat, cook chickpea polenta until it thickens and pulls away from the sides of the pan as you stir.
  3. Quickly pour the polenta into the baking sheet and with a wet, offset spatula or knife, spread smooth. The polenta should be fairly thin and in a smooth even layer.
  4. Refrigerate for one hour or over night.
  5. Cut the panelle into squares, about 3 x 3 for sandwiches.
  6. Pour enough olive oil into a frying pan to cover to about 1/8″ depth, and fry pieces until they are golden brown. They will puff slightly.
  7. Drain on paper towels and serve on fresh, soft, untoasted plain old sesame buns. Adults can eat 2 panelle per sandwich, the kids will eat one larger one.

Pizza Now

by Caroline

If you’ve followed this blog any length of time you know that I am no purist. I don’t make particularly complicated food, but I combine multiple recipes, I tinker, I replace fat (and sometimes eggs) with ground flaxseed meal. I experiment, but not in a scientific, note-taking, Cooks Illustrated kind of way, refining a recipe until I come to the Ideal Version. I like to start with recipes (unlike my children) and then, usually after I’ve baked it as written once or twice, I start making adjustments.

Banana bread is one of those evolving recipes for me, granola is another (these days I’m leaving out the cinnamon and tossing in some shredded coconut right at the end; I suppose it’s time to post an update!). And now pizza crust is another. Usually I make this crust that I first read about in Catherine Newman’s Wondertime column; Lisa’s family makes pizza regularly too (and, like me, is not above using store-bought pizza crust since so many good ones are available). But when I saw this recipe it looked worth a try, even though I know, deep in my heart, that a good pizza crust requires nothing but flour, water, yeast, olive oil and salt. And heat. Lots of really fierce heat.

So we made the pizza, exactly as the recipe is written. And it’s pretty good, though that could be as much the result of the second rise as the beer (I’m not sure how best to work out the timing so that the crust gets warm beer and the cook gets a cold one without any beer going flat or wasted.) Really, I think the main lesson here is to turn your oven (or grill) on both earlier and hotter than you really believe is necessary, because the main thing your pizza needs is heat.