Mustard Roasted Cauliflower

by Maja Lukic


Keep this elegant dish in mind for your holiday table - or any table, really. Because it's pretty awesome.

My natural tendency is to downplay everything -- my standard response is a mixture of aloofness and indifference. And by nature, I am an insane perfectionist. I will shoot and reshoot food photographs. I will write, rewrite, revise, rewrite the revision, revise again, and, if I'm dissatisfied, delete everything and start over. I mean, #selective. It goes without saying that it's very hard for me to be effusive or excited about anything. But this cauliflower thing? This is actually pretty good. 

I love this recipe so much that I "tested" it more times than I needed to to actually get the quantities down. It's indescribably delicious, with a double dose of mustard, warm and pungent vinaigrette, sweet and lightly-pickled shallots, crunchy roasted cauliflower, briny olives, and chewy pistachios. My advice: you can never add too many pistachios to a dish. In fact, disregard the stated quantity and add as many as you like. That's not to even speak of the tiny cauliflower florets that naturally break off and become perfectly crisp in the oven. Those little cauliflower bits are the best part -- they soak up the vinaigrette and become sour and salty. I mean, it's pure lechery. 

All different colors and varieties of cauliflower are now on display at the local markets. Know that if you buy purple, orange or lime green cauliflower, it will retain its beautiful color throughout the cooking process. According to Deborah Madison (my unassailable authority on all vegetable-related matters), the different-colored varieties offer different antioxidants, too. For example, the purple cauliflower produces anthocyanins and the orange heads contain much more vitamin A than the white.

The flavor of this dish consists of three essential elements: spicy and pungent mustard, a sweet vinegar, and a roasted cruciferous vegetable. Beyond that basic formula, you can take the recipe in several different directions. Instead of, or in addition to, cauliflower, try broccoli, cabbage, or Brussels sprouts. For a sweeter dish, leave out the grainy mustard and the green olives. If you don't like pistachios, substitute walnuts or pecans. If you don't like olives, omit them and try capers or nothing at all. If you don't have white balsamic vinegar, try red wine or champagne vinegar. It's a terrifically adaptable recipe. 

Happy roasting. 

Mustard Roasted Cauliflower (v/gf)

Serves 4

1 large head cauliflower

2 tbsp olive oil, divided

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp wholegrain mustard 

2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar

1 large shallot, finely chopped

1/3 cup pistachios, raw and unsalted

1/3 cup green olives, sliced

sea salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 F degrees.  

Prepare the vinaigrette. Whisk together the shallot, Dijon mustard, wholegrain mustard, and white balsamic vinegar. Let the vinaigrette sit for at least 15 minutes and preferably while the cauliflower is roasting. 

Optional move: dry roast the pistachios for 5 to 7 minutes or so in the oven or in a skillet over medium-low heat. (I prefer to eat them raw). 

Cut the cauliflower into medium-sized florets and peel and slice the stem into 1-inch pieces. Spread the cauliflower out evenly on a large baking sheet. Toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the cauliflower for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring and rotating the pan halfway. 

Whisk the remaining tablespoon of olive oil into the vinaigrette and toss with the cauliflower as soon as it comes out of the oven. (It's important to dress the cauliflower while it is still warm.) Add the pistachios and green olives and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve immediately.

 

Note:  I used two heads of cauliflower for the photos and doubled the vinaigrette -- always an option if you're serving a crowd. If you do not have white balsamic vinegar, substitute red wine or champagne vinegar. For a sweeter dish, omit the wholegrain mustard and the green olives. 


Spiced and Caramelized Sweet Potato Fries

by Maja Lukic


It's not always about juices, hemp seeds, and kale salads here. Sometimes a girl just needs fries. Sweet potato fries, to be exact.

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Actually, I seem to go through a lot of sweet potatoes every week. They're a great pantry staple to have on hand for easy and comforting but healthy meals. I almost never do more than slice them into rounds and then roast with a little bit of olive oil and sea salt. If I'm feeling inspired, I'll throw in some curry powder and turmeric but, generally, I keep it pretty simple.

This recipe is the one exception to the rule but it's still embarrassingly simple. It requires a handful of ingredients you probably already have on hand (perhaps not the coconut oil but it is available everywhere now) and it always works. Every single time.

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There is something tantalizing about the combination of slightly sweet coconut oil and sweet potatoes and the maple syrup gives the fries a sticky, caramelized coating. It's just good comfort food.

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There is not much else to say about this little snack. It's absolutely delicious and can feed a crowd. Just double or triple the ingredients, as needed.

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Spiced and Caramelized Sweet Potato Fries (v/gf)

Adapted from Tara Stiles' Candied Sweet Potato Fries

Serves 2 to 4

2-3 large organic sweet potatoes, any variety, scrubbed but not peeled

2 tbsp maple syrup

2 tbsp organic virgin coconut oil, melted

a dash of cayenne pepper

sea salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Scrub the sweet potatoes well but leave the skin on. Slice them into thin French fries. Anything too thin because will dry out in the oven but if you cut them too thick, their texture will be soggy and soft. Try to cut them into a uniform thickness so that they bake evenly.

In a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup and melted coconut oil. If the coconut oil is solid (which is its normal state at room temperature), simply pop it into the microwave for a few seconds until it becomes liquid.

It's best to do this next step on the baking sheet you'll be using to bake the fries. Spread the fries on the sheet, pour the maple-coconut mixture over them, and then, using your hands, distribute the maple-coconut mixture over the fries, coating them evenly. This is the part where you have to work quickly because as soon as the coconut oil hits the cold maple syrup and the potatoes, it will start to solidify again, making your task a little bit harder.

Lightly dust with a little bit of cayenne pepper. And I do mean "lightly." Don't be a hero - that stuff is potent and can be overpowering. We're aiming for just a hint of spice.

Sprinkle sea salt over the fries. The salt plays off the sweetness and is indispensable, in my opinion. Think of the combination of sea salt and dark chocolate or sea salt on the best chocolate chip cookies you have ever tasted. That is what we're going for here, too.

Bake the fries for about 20 minutes. Check them halfway to make sure they're not burning and give them a stir. After about 20 minutes, the bottoms should be browned. Turn your oven's broiler on and broil for the last 2-5 minutes, depending on the strength of your oven. Make sure they do not burn or dry out too much. They should be sticky, caramelized, and browned when they're done.

Hit them with a dash of sea salt as soon as they come out of the oven and serve right away. You could eat them the next day, of course, and the flavor will be there but they will definitely be day-old fries. Eating them right away should not be too difficult of a task, though. ;) 

And the track I can't stop listening to lately?

Dr. Dog have a sweet new song out. I've missed Dr. Dog but now they have a new album coming out in October.