Root and Kale Sauté

This is one of those recipes that you can make quickly, easily, and happily. The finished dish is as colorful as it is healthy (unfortunately, the picture below doesn’t come close to doing it justice, but you can trust me on this one). It makes a great main dish for a light dinner, and can also be served as a side dish: the choice is yours!

It requires little to no explanation. Please feel free to substitute your favorite root vegetables and greens for the potatoes, parsnips, and kale: as is true for most stir-fry-type dishes, this recipe is adaptable and forgiving.
Root and Kale Sauté

  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 purple potato, in bite-sized pieces
  • 1 butter potato, in bite-sized pieces
  • 1 parsnip, peeled, in bite-sized pieces
  • pinch cayenne
  • 3 cloves garlic, minched
  • 1 red bell pepper, in thin slices
  • 1/2 bunch kale
  • 1 T chopped fresh lemon thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Heat 2 T of the olive oil over high heat in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the onions and sauté, stirring frequently, until the water released from the onions has evaporated. Turn heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until transparent and sweet.
  3. Meanwhile, toss the potatoes and parsnip in the remaining oil with the cayenne, 1 t of salt, and 1/2 t of pepper. Bake on a cookie sheet until fully cooked and lightly browned (about 30 minutes), stirring every 5-10 minutes.
  4. When the onions are soft and caramelized, increase the heat to medium-high and add the garlic and bell pepper strips. Cook for a few minutes before adding the kale and the thyme. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the kale is cooked. Stir in the roasted potatoes and parsnip. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
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Grandmother’s Texas Cauliflower

I had this a lot while I was growing up. My grandmother made it, my dad made it, my stepmother made it, I made it. We all made because it is simple, and it is good.

They all called it Texas Cauliflower: I assume that is because my grandfather grew up in Texas, and maybe had a lot of it while growing up (just like I did), and so that became its name. Though to tell you the truth, I don’t know for sure. I never asked, which is actually a little strange because I just spoke with my grandmother on the phone yesterday.

Why didn’t I ask her while I was standing there, talking on the phone with her, while I made it? Truth is, I didn’t think of it until just now. This is partly due to the fact that I never called it Texas Cauliflower. Ever since I was a kid, surrounded by a family who call this dish “Texas Cauliflower,” in the quiet recesses of my mind I always thought of it as Pizza Cauliflower.

I think, while typing this, that Pizza Cauliflower doesn’t sound very classy or gourmet. But, then again, when I think of adjectives for Texas, I can’t say that “classy” and “gourmet” are two of the first words to pop into my mind. I don’t know. Call it whatever you want to: the bottom line is that it is simple, and it is good.

Grandmother’s Texas Cauliflower

A big mound of easy-to-make cheesy yumminess
  • 1 large caulflower
  • 1 jar marinara, bolognese, or vodka sauce (or you can make your own, but c’mon, it’s a simple cauliflower dish. Take it easy on yourself.)
  • 8-12 ounces sliced cheese, either mozzarella or sharp cheddar
  1. Cut the tough end of the stem out of the cauliflower. Wash and rinse the cauliflower thoroughly. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Steam the cauliflower stem down 10-15 minutes, until a fork inserted into the stem end goes in easily, but with some resistance: do not overcook, or you will have a bland, unappetizing lump of gooey mush.
  3. Place the cauliflower in a deep-dish pie pan. Cover with the sauce, then lay the slices of cheese over the surface. If desired, sprinkle some salt and freshly ground pepper over the top.
  4. Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted and slightly browned.

Eggplant, Smoked Mozzarella and Basil Rolls

So, the first time I made these, I sliced the eggplant and tomatoes too thick, and I ended up with blobs of what was basically Italian baba ganoush. It was very yummy, but not exactly what I was hoping for aesthetically. The second batch turned out much better.

The moral of the story is: size matters, but not always in the same way. Don’t get over-enthusiastic: make your  slices thin.

Ready to roll!

Eggplant, Smoked Mozzarella and Basil Rolls

  • 1 large eggplant
  • olive oil
  • 6 oz. smoked mozzarella cheese, sliced into 8 thin pieces
  • 2 plum tomatoes, each cut into 4 thin slices
  • 8 large basil leaves
  • balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Cut the eggplant lengthwise into 10 thin slices and discard the two outermost slices. Sprinkle the slices with salt and leave for 20 minutes. Rinse, then pat dry with paper towel.
  2. Preheat the broiler and line the rack with foil. Place the eggplant slices on the grill rack and brush liberally on both sides with olive oil. Broil for 8-10 minutes until tender and golden, turning once.
  3. Remove the eggplant slices from the broiler, then place a slice of mozzarella and tomato and a basil leaf in the center of each eggplant slice, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Fold the eggplant over the filling and broil, seam-down, until heated through and the mozzarella begins to melt, about 5 minutes. Serve drizzled with olive oil, if desired, and a little balsamic vinegar.

Caramelized Red Onion Tarts with Goat Cheese

So, my fiancee, Lee, is in hir first year of law school. This is exciting, for all the many opportunities it will open up for hir and for us. However, it is also very difficult because, not only is ze busy all the time, ze is also spending several nights a week away from home: the law school is about a 1 1/2 hours’ drive away from our home, and it is easier for hir to just stay there on nights when ze has classes the next day.

So, this last Sunday, I was having fun planning the night’s menu. I wanted to make something special, because Lee was leaving the next day for several days, and I wanted to send hir off with some delicious leftovers to carry hir through the next week.

The night’s meal ended up being some eggplant, smoked mozzarella and basil rolls; my Grandmother’s recipe for Texas Cauliflower; and two kinds of cookies: milk chocolate chunk and butterscotch chip (recipes to follow in later posts). A good, warm, comforting fall meal line-up, if I do say so myself. Couple it with a salad made from dark greens and a red bell pepper, and you’ve got a healthy, delicious mealtime experience.

But there was still one recipe that I just couldn’t say no to: Caramelized Onion Tarts with Goat Cheese. So, I sheepishly looked up from the page of the cookbook in which I found the recipe (Vegetarian, edited by Nicola Graimes) and said “Sweetie, you know, I think I might make this one, too.” I sheepishly pointed down at the recipe.

“Of course you will, Boo,” said Lee, grinning. “You are such a gay boi.”

I laughed heartily: I couldn’t deny it.

I am glad that I am such a gay boi that I couldn’t resist the alluring, summoning call of these goat-cheese-and-caramelized-onion-tarts, because they turned out so well. Seriously. Make this recipe. You will be glad you did.

Note: I never make recipes exactly as they appear in books. What I will be posting on this blog are the recipes as I make them, with any hints and tips worked into the instructions, in the hope that even difficult-sounding recipes can be easy to make with success.

 Caramelized Onion Tarts with Goat Cheese

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 T butter
  • 1 oz. aged goat cheese (I recommend Drunken Goat, available at your friendly neighborhood Wegmans store), grated

 For the filling

  •   1 T olive oil
  •   1 T butter
  • 3 red onions, very finely sliced
  • 8 oz. young goat cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 T light cream
  • 2 oz. firm goat cheese (like Drunken Goat), grated
  • 1 T fresh tarragon, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. To make the pastry, sift the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in the cheese and just enough cold water to make a dough.  Knead lightly, put in a plastic bag and chill. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper, then cut into eight rounds using a 4 1/2″ pastry cutter, and line eight 4-inch tart pans or ramekins. Prick the bottoms with a fork (four or five pricks per tart, and no laughing at that, because it’s true…) and bake for 10-15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 F. Set aside.
  3. Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium high heat. Add the onions, stir quickly until they are evenly coated, and reduce heat as low as possible. Cover and cook, stirring every few minutes, until they are soft  and deep golden brown: this can take from 30 to 60 minutes. Be sure to stir often enough to prevent burning. 
  4. Beat the young goat cheese with the eggs, cream, firm goat cheese and tarragon. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the onions.
  5. Pour the mixture into the partially-baked pastry shells and bake for approximately 25 minutes, until golden. Serve warm or cold with a green salad.