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. 


Celeriac and Potato Soup w/Mushroom, Walnut and Celery Leaf Salad

by Maja Lukic


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This is a cozy, smooth little soup to usher in a season I only fully appreciate in this city. As much as I'm a beach devotee, fall in New York is a stunning array of rich colors and sweet scents. Union Square Greenmarket in October when every stand is overflowing with sweet, crispy apples and pears (and the entire place smells like hot mulled apple cider and fried apple cider doughnuts) is everything.

Fall is when my mind turns to roasted dishes and earthy root vegetables - things from the ground. After a summer of salads and juices, my body, too, craves something warm, cooked, and comforting. This soup is it for me.

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I have never really worked with celeriac (or celery root) much in the past but I'm pretty sure my mom has made celeriac soup a few times over the years. Celeriac is a type of celery that is cultivated for its edible root, rather than its stalks and leaves, according to Deborah Madison's Vegetable Literacy. It is very low in carbohydrates and is a good substitute for potatoes, if you are following a low-carb diet. It is also a great source of vitamins B6 and C, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus. It will discolor when peeled and cut so immediately place pieces of celery root into some lemon water as you work.

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The only downside to celeriac is that it is not really feasible to use the whole plant. The root has a pleasant, mild flavor, and the root is what you want. The gorgeous stalks and leaves are reminiscent of celery but, unfortunately, taste far too aggressive to be used in large quantities. Deborah Madison suggests using the stalks and leaves "judiciously" in soup stocks or as seasonings in a dish. I tasted a leaf and found it a bit too strong for my liking but I am saving the stalks in the freezer for a possible vegetable stock. If you know of a great way to use them, please let us know in the comments.

Celery root has this clean flavor redolent of fresh celery stalks but, although it is a root, it does not taste as sweet as other root vegetables, like parsnips or carrots. Because of its delicate flavor, it works best with other similarly mild flavors, like apples and pears. And that, in my opinion, makes it the perfect fall vegetable. Celeriac is also delicious mashed with potatoes or other root vegetables or even served raw in a salad.

Because it is so well matched with potatoes, I took some liberties here with the original recipe, adding a few potatoes for a more substantial soup. Then I added some mushrooms and a Dijon vinaigrette to the salad component - once I open the door to one beloved ingredient, others are quickly incorporated, too, I guess.

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The mushroom-walnut salad is actually pretty delicious on its own and there are countless uses for it: serve it on grilled or toasted bread with a little bit of goat cheese, toss with greens and more vinaigrette, fold into an omelette, stir it into cooked quinoa, millet, farro, or wild rice, or serve on its own with a poached egg. The salad cleverly highlights celery leaves, which are deeply flavorful and yet so often tossed or disregarded. Here, they assume a starring role.

When the temperatures start to drop and you begin reaching for sweaters and scarves, keep this soup in mind.

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Celeriac and Potato Soup w/Mushroom Walnut & Celery Leaf Salad (v/gf) 

Adapted from Vegetable Literacy, p. 24

Serves 4

For the Soup: 

1 tbsp olive oil (or other cooking oil)

2 medium shallots, finely diced

2 celery roots

juice of 1-2 lemons

4-5 medium Carola or Yukon Gold potatoes (about 2 lbs), peeled

2 celery stalks, chopped

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup white wine

6 cups homemade or store-bought vegetable or chicken stock (or water) sea salt

For the Salad: 

1 tbsp olive oil

3/4 lbs cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced

1/3 cup walnuts, roughly chopped and lightly toasted

celery leaves from two bunches of celery (about 1 cup)

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2 tbsp walnut oil (see Note below)

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

sea salt, black pepper

To Prepare the Soup:

Squeeze the juice of 1 to 2 lemons into a large bowl of cold water and keep it close by as you work with the celery root. To clean the celeriac, trim the leaves and the stalks (set them aside for another use, if you wish). Peel the rough, gnarly skin by cutting a slice off the top and the bottom (the way you would peel a melon or pineapple). Then, carefully slide your knife down the sides, taking the peel off as you go. Cut the celery root into 1/2-inch cubes and immerse the slices into the lemon water as you work.

Peel and dice the potatoes. Because the potatoes require slightly more time to cook than the celery root, be sure to cut the potatoes into roughly the same size or smaller. Chop the celery stalks into thin slices (and if they have leaves, trim and save the leaves for the salad below).

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Drain the celeriac (discard the lemon water) and then add the celery, celeriac, potatoes, shallots, and parsley to the soup pot. Cook, stirring from time to time, until the vegetables develop some color - about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, wine, and 1 teaspoon sea salt, and cook for a few more minutes until the wine has reduced. Add 6 cups of stock (or water) and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Take the soup off the heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a blender.

Blend or pulse the soup very briefly until smooth but leave a good amount of texture. Potatoes also tend to get gummy if blended too long.

To Prepare the Salad:

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard, and 2 tbsp walnut oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

Trim celery leaves from two bunches of celery. Rinse and dry the leaves and then set them aside.Toast the walnuts lightly.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. When the olive oil becomes fragrant, add the mushrooms and sautee for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until they become brown and begin to release some water. Add 1/4 tsp sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper and cook for a few more minutes, stirring often, until the mushrooms are fully cooked through. Toss the mushrooms, walnuts, parsley, and celery leaves with the Dijon mustard vinaigrette.

Serve the soup warm and top each bowl with two heaping tablespoons of the salad. Both the soup and salad will keep in the fridge overnight. The soup may be safely stored in the fridge for up to three days.

Notes: If you don't have walnut oil, substitute truffle oil or just plain olive oil - no need to purchase a whole bottle of walnut oil for this one recipe. But if you do, it makes for some delicious vinaigrettes. 

I listen to melancholy music 95% of the time (it makes me happy, weirdly) and fall is no exception. In fact, this is when I am most likely to indulge in the saddest of the sad stuff. This week, it's vintage Bonobo:

 


Simple Kohlrabi Salad w/Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette

by Maja Lukic


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I am in love with this little summer salad. I didn’t think I would be because it’s so simple but that really is its charm.

It's so light and refreshing that I now keep it in the fridge and snack on it throughout the week. It's the perfect summer meal on a warm night. You need this, maybe some wine or good, crusty bread, and very little else. If you need something more substantial, though, I imagine it would complement grilled seafood very well.

I was inspired to use kohlrabi after reading about it in Deborah Madison's very excellent Vegetable Literacy and, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that this is my first time working with it. I'm an instant fan. It's such a light and crisp vegetable that it really makes for the ultimate salad ingredient.

The vinaigrette is adapted from Vegetable Literacy. In her book, Madison suggests Meyer lemons, which I did not have but if you do have some, please use them. If the dressing seems a little too tart and lemony at first, don't worry - the kohlrabi really needs a bright dressing. It has this subdued flavor that can stand up to bright citrus, mustard, and herbs.

Simple Kohlrabi Salad w/Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette (v/gf)

Serves 2 as a meal or 4 as an appetizer

Salad:

1 lb kohlrabi (3-4 medium or 4-5 small kohlrabies)

1 large tomato, chopped

a large handful of flat-leaf parsley, stemmed and chopped 1 avocado, chopped (optional)

sea salt, to taste

Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette:

juice and zest of 1 lemon

1 medium or 1/2 large shallot, finely chopped

1-2 tsp Dijon mustard

3-5 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp sea salt

To prepare the vinaigrette:

Put the chopped shallot, lemon zest, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Let the mixture stand for about 10 minutes and then whisk in the mustard and olive oil.

After about three tablespoons of oil, start tasting the vinaigrette and adjust to suit your tastes. You will probably find that 4-5 tablespoons is sufficient. I tend to use less oil because I like brighter vinaigrettes. I would not add more oil than that, however, because, as I mentioned above, the kohlrabi is fairly subtle (reminiscent of broccoli stems or raw cauliflower) and needs a citrusy dressing.

Same with the Dijon mustard: I prefer more mustard so I usually add 2 tsp but do a taste test. If 1 tsp is already offensive to your nostrils, friend, do not go further!

To make the salad:

If the kohlrabies are young and tender, you do not have to peel them according to Madison. If, like the kohlrabies I had, they are older and less than tender, you should slice off the skins. Cut the kohlrabies into fine julienne (or as fine as you can). The easiest way to do this is to slice them thinly first and then stack the slices like a deck of cards, cutting them into matchsticks. If you have a mandoline and, unlike me, are not afraid to use it, do that.

Toss the kohlrabi with the tomatoes, parsley leaves, and vinaigrette. You probably will not need all of the vinaigrette but you will use at least half. The avocado is optional but it adds a nice creamy element and makes for a more substantial salad. Taste for salt, then serve.