Sunday, November 25, 2012

CAULIFLOWER PUREE

That's one sexy cauliflower, I said to myself.  And I just had to have it.  It was living at my local supermarket, on a display counter, nestled between all its other sexy cauliflower friends. But this one had to be mine.  It had come to the supermarket on a truck filled with heaps of scrumptious vegetables.  All of them would eventually have the same final destination.  It would be reached after some compulsory service on the kitchen counters of the neighborhood.  But let's get back to my cauliflower.  Truthfully, I was impressed with its quality.
Cauliflower and I had not always been friends.  Until I was about twelve years old, I didn't even want to be in the same room with the stuff.  But then, somehow, its taste grew on me.  I liked a version that an aunt urged me to taste: a simple salad made up of boiled cauliflower, flavored with olive oil and lemon.  It was Lent, and we were fasting.  Perhaps that's why I liked the cauliflower so much.  To me, fasting meant and still means to be hungry on a continual basis.  That long ago day, my aunt's cauliflower tasted unexpectedly good, and it made my stomach very happy.  I've since cooked similar salads many times, but my favorite new way to prepare cauliflower is to make it into a puree.  It makes an excellent low fat, low carb side dish, and a really healthy and lighter alternative to mashed potatoes.
My kitchen rooster approves!  Can you see him?

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 heads cauliflower cut up into florets
2 or 3 garlic cloves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
about 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
about 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon butter (optional- only if company is coming)

Directions:
Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Add the cauliflower and garlic and stir to coat with the oil.
Season with the salt and pepper and the herbes de Provence. 
Add the milk and the mustard and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the cauliflower is tender, about 20 minutes.
Using an immersion blender, puree the cauliflower with the cooking liquid until the mixture is smooth and thick.  Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed.  Add the butter if using, and mix well.
The presentation would have been nicer if I had garnished the dish with some chopped chives, but I didn't think about it until too late. Next time though...
Transfer to a serving bowl and serve as a side dish with poultry or fish. This cauliflower puree can be made a day ahead, refrigerated overnight and reheated in the microwave the next day.  Try it, and you’ll be enjoying a healthy and delicious treat!

So there's the cauliflower puree.  To really enjoy it, you have to enjoy cauliflower.  That's a prerequisite.  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

VELVETY BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

This year we had this lovely soup as part of our Thanksgiving dinner.  It was truly delicious, with a superb velvety texture.  Not a lot of ingredients in it, not a lot of spices to flavor it with, nothing to interfere with the subtle buttery taste of the squash.  Its simplicity contributed  to its scrumptiousness.  The recipe is based on one from Jaques Pepin, chef extraordinaire.
To make the soup, I took the easy route and bought my squash peeled and chopped, ready to cook.  Also, as a special treat, I substituted some of the milk with cream, considering that this was Thanksgiving.  We made it a few weeks ago just to test the recipe, and we used whole milk in it.  I must admit the soup tasted great both times!
 So easy to cook with  butternut squash when it's been peeled and chopped by the supermarket! 

 Ingredients:

4 cups chopped butternut squash
4 leeks, cleaned well and chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup coconut milk
1½ cups whole milk 
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

There were lots of us sitting at the table.  The day was relaxed, quiet and enjoyable.  Nice weather, nice family, nice food.  I am thankful.  
Directions:

In a heavy soup pan heat the olive oil.   
Add the onions, ginger and leeks and sauté for about 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the squash, and half the pepper and sauté for 3 more minutes, stirring.
Add the chicken stock and coconut milk.  Cover the pot and simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes, until the squash is soft.
Cook until the squash is soft.

Add salt to taste, and then add the rest of the black pepper.  Taste and let boil for about one more minute.
Let cool slightly and blend with an immersion blender until the soup is smooth. 
Add the milk and cinnamon and stir until well mixed.  
Serve hot.  The soup can be made ahead the day before and warmed up before dinner.  It will taste just as good, if not better!



Happy Thanksgiving!!!

This was a wonderful soup. Now it's part of our Thanksgiving menu repertoire.