Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Paprika-Yogurt crust

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Cauliflower has quickly become one of my favorite vegetables.

I mean, it’s such a great “blank canvas”. Similar to cabbage (and also a cruciferous vegetable!), it’s a great vegetable that picks up an accent; think bacon, curry paste, lime juice, or cheddar cheese. And so many people have taken to cauliflower as a healthy substitute lately! It’s used to healthify mashed potatoes; to form a pizza crust; to replace buffalo wings; and to even soak up a sauce like good ‘ol white rice would! (hint hint click through for some awesome recipes)

Now think about taking this humble vegetable upscale. Dramatic. An appetizer, or even, a vegetarian entree. Lately I’ve been eyeing a TON of recipes of a whole roasted cauliflower. Not in little florets, nope, this is full-fledged cauliflower amazing.

Based on all the recipes I read, I amalgamated them all into something that would be easy to make but still delicious! Serve this at your next dinner party as an appetizer, or just whenever you feel like some charred, delicious vegetables. I served it alongside some homemade shwarma and flatbreads (I’ll post a recipe at some point, except the bread… that one I just eyeballed).

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Paprika-Yogurt Crust

  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, washed
  • 1 cup of greek yogurt (I used nonfat)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika OR regular paprika

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit.

Bring a large pot to a rolling boil. Add about a tablespoon of salt. Carefully load the whole head of cauliflower into the pot, and reduce the pot to a simmer for about 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender enough to poke with a fork. Carefully take the cauliflower out of the pot with a strainer spoon or tongs. Set onto a tray lined with foil.

In a small bowl, mix the yogurt, salt, pepper, and paprika. With a spoon or rubber spatula, spread the yogurt mixture over the cauliflower (not the leaves) on top of the foil.

Roast the cauliflower for about 40 minutes, until evenly charred throughout. Take the cauliflower out and cut into large wedges with a knife. Serve as a vegetable side or appetizer. Enjoy!

New Ingredient: Cherimoya

Look at this cool fruit! Scaly green skin, with teardrop shaped, hard seeds throughout the flesh. The pulp is sweet, a little tangy, and creamy. It’s called a cherimoya, and it’s one of my favorite tropical fruits!

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The cherimoya is a fruit thought to be native of the Andes or Central America. Today, cherimoya is grown throughout South Asia, Central America, South America, Southern California, Portugal, southern Andalucia [La Axarquia] and South of Italy (Calabria).

The fruit flesh is white and creamy, and has numerous dark brown seeds embedded in it. Mark Twain called the cherimoya “the most delicious fruit known to men.” The fruit is fleshy and soft, sweet, white in color, with a sherbet-like texture, which gives it its secondary name, custard apple.

Some characterize the flavor as a blend of banana, pineapple, papaya, peach, and strawberry. Similar in size to a grapefruit, it has large, glossy, dark seeds that are easily removed. When ripe, the skin is green and gives slightly to pressure, similar to the avocado. Many people often chill the cherimoya and eat it with a spoon, which has earned it another nickname; the ice cream fruit.

(Wikipedia)

My mom grew up eating tons of these in Vietnam. Unfortunately, now, we’re lucky if we can find one or two good ones a year. On our travels, we’ve seen varieties in Hawaii, Vietnam, and Jamaica.

IMG_0066As mentioned in the above description, these are ripe when they have a bright green skin color and are soft, like an avocado. Be careful with this tip! My mom has brought home so many that didn’t ripen, instead they turned black and became very firm. The fruits sold over here in the United States are picked so green for shipping that they lose a chance to ripen correctly. So pick a good cherimoya, if you do see them at the store!

IMG_0067While it is good to simply cut the fruit in half, remove the stem & core, and eat it chilled or frozen with a spoon, my mom and I like to cut them in wedges, down the skin, and eat them almost like sliced oranges or mangos. It’s such a treat on a hot day, with an amazing, creamy sweetness and tropical flavor. 

So there you go, the cherimoya! If you stumble upon it in your travels, or even at your local produce store, try one! But make sure that it’s ripe!

Whole Wheat Chocolate Cake with Coconut Ganache

Screen shot 2014-02-12 at 6.06.57 PMSo this Wednesday, February 12th, was my birthday!

Over the years my tastes for birthday cake have most definitely changed. Ice cream cakes from Cold Stone Creamery; flourless fudge cakes from Cosentino’s Italian Market; dark chocolate cakes garnished with beautiful fresh strawberries from Whole Foods. Chocolate clearly is a recurring theme here. I am and always will be a dark chocolate fan 🙂

However, this year I decided I wanted to make my own birthday cake. I mean, what better time to try out a new recipe? If it gets messed up, or it takes all day, or you lick the spoon, or you burn it, who cares, because it’s your birthday!

I chose to try out a healthy chocolate cake recipe so that I could eat it all week without getting sick of it, or feeling overly indulgent. Sneaky, huh? Therefore, I picked a recipe using whole wheat flour, that’s nearly fat free (in the cake base), and allowed me to try out a new AMAZING ingredient that I just bought, coconut oil, in the ganache! You guys should check out ifoodreal for the whole spiel 🙂

The coconut oil, I will warn you if you’re not a coconut fan, does retain some of the floral-coconutty notes. However, I really like coconut oil’s melting point and how incredibly luxurious it tastes. It melts on your tongue instantly – yet hardens when it cools like a true ganache. Heaven!

Also, it’s crucial for this cake that you have a spring form pan so that the ganache stays on the sides when you pour it on. This eliminates the need to spread on the ganache, because you can just drizzle it over the top; so much easier!

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Using my own creativity (and inspiration from admiring Momofuku’s birthday cake), I made the cake a layered one with a cake “crumb” filling, much like Momofuku’s. I didn’t use any butter in the entire recipe, so it’s definitely not as rich as theirs, but hey, it looks beautiful and I had a lot of ton making it! If you’re not used to low-fat cakes, it’ll take some getting used to. But, as my mom remarked, “you could eat this for breakfast!”

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Whole Wheat Chocolate Cake with Coconut Ganache 

(from ifoodreal)

Ingredients

Cake: 

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used 1%, even nut milks should work, though)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Crumb Filling/Soak: 

  • Baked cake from small pan
  • 2 Tbs milk (or any liquid, rum would be nice!)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I used Guittard 62%)

Ganache: 

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder (I used hershey’s extra dark)

For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease or spray either an 8′ or 6′ spring form pan. Also grease a small loaf sized pan or about 3 ramekins to make the cake “crumbs”. The size of pan doesn’t matter too much, but do keep in mind baking times may vary because of this.

Mix the liquid ingredients in one bowl, until well combined. In a separate bowl stir together the dry ingredients. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix with an electric mixer on medium-low or by hand until just combined.

Pour about a half cup of the batter into the loaf pan or ramekins, and put the rest of the batter into a greased cake/spring form pan and put in the oven for about 20 minutes. Take the small portion of cake “crumbs” out of the oven and set aside. Leave the rest of the cake in the oven for about 20 more minutes. Add additional time if necessary, in five minute increments, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Immediately put the cake (in its pan!) in the freezer for about 1 hour to firm up. Leave the crumbs at room temperature.

For the Ganache: Melt the coconut oil in a measuring cup in the microwave for about 30 seconds, or over the stove for about 1 minute. Stir in the cocoa powder and agave. Chill in the fridge for about 1 hour, until the ganache is the consistency of melted chocolate. Waited too long to chill, and now it’s too hard? Put the ganache in the microwave to soften it up.

For the Filling: Put the cake crumbs in a large bowl and break the cake up into large crumb-size pieces. Mix in the 1 cup of chocolate chips, and milk with a spoon, until it forms a moist crumbly mixture. Set covered in the fridge.

For the assembly: Take the cake out of the freezer and carefully run a knife around the edges to unmold it. Slice the cake into three even rings, ignoring the “dome” topped shape. We’re not going to trim this off – it gives the cake character and height!

Now put one layer on the bottom of the cake mold. Add a quarter of the cake crumbs in an even layer, and drizzle about a quarter cup of ganache. Repeat until their are no more cake disks and the “dome” layer is on top. Press the dome layer down, gently, to secure the other cake layers. Now pour the remainder of the chocolate ganache over the cake, allowing it to drip down the cake INSIDE of the mold.

If you feel the ganache will overflow, press down the layers of the cake firmly so that there is enough edge on the cake mold to not overflow. Sprinkle the remainder of cake crumbs over the cake, cover, and let chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour. When ready to serve, carefully remove the sides of the spring form pan and transfer to a plate. Good Luck!

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Happy birthday to me!

It’s my birthday! The big 1-8. Weird, I guess I’m legally considered an adult?

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So far, I have been a very ambitious new adult and have done the following:

  • rode my bike without a helmet (because it’s not against the law!)
  • called myself in sick to school (I’m a senior… and I have good grades. I can justifiably take a day off)

Okay maybe not that exciting. No cigarettes or piercings yet though! Just kidding, I don’t want to make any stupid mistakes 🙂 Oh, and on my relaxing day off I also managed to make myself a cake! Originally my dad was going to pick one up from work, but my sister said she likes my cakes better than the store bought ones. How sweet! I like baking anyway, so I’ll take any chance I get to bake something delicious.

I won’t be posting the recipe just yet, but here’s a sneak peak of the cake! It’s a momofuku-inspired chocolate cake… more to come in a future post!

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Simple Tabouli

tabboulicloseupParsley can be so under appreciated. I used to think it had no flavor – it was just a garnish to add color to a dish. Little did I know, parsley is an herb with some real attitude!

The first time I really had parsley, and tasted it, I realized that it was often what was missing in my cooking. It has an earthy, fresh, slightly bitter (but good bitter!) flavor, that’s perfect for completing a dish with all of the five flavors (salty, sweet, sour, bitter, umami).

So don’t forget the parsley next time you’re cooking! Think shrimp scampi, swedish meatballs, steak and a parsley chimichurri, chicken soup with parsley, or, the recipe that I’m going to present with you today, tabouli! 

Tabouli (tabbouleh, tabbouli), a mixture of bulgur wheat, parsley, mint, lemon juice, olive oil, and chopped tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers, is a dish from Levantine cuisine (eastern mediterranean). It’s typically served as a meze, or small plate, alongside  other dishes. I love the way that it marinates well, so leftovers are still good the next day!

tabboulioverheadBasic Tabouli

Adapted from the Food Network

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of boiling water
  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 3 finely minced tomatoes (use nice, firm tomatoes; no watery heirlooms!)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-3 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper

Put bulgur in a medium bowl with 1/2 tsp. salt. Add 1 1/2 cups boiling water, cover, and let sit 20 minutes. Drain if necessary after the 20 minutes.

Add the chopped herbs and vegetables to the bowl of bulgur. Drizzle olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper over the mixture. Toss well, cover, and chill in the fridge. Enjoy!

Note: Feel free to be more adventurous with your tabouli! Use quinoa if you’re gluten free, use less mint and more parsley if you don’t like mint, break out that balsamic vinegar! Also, feel free to add in cucumbers if you have any on hand.
tabboulilevel

New Ingredient: Basil Seeds

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These are NOT chia seeds!

Yeah, they look a lot like them, don’t they? However, these are basil seeds. Commonly an ingredient in cold Asian drinks, they swell up in liquid and have a jelly-like, chewy texture. This is characteristic of the seeds of several varieties of basil species (sweet basil, thai basil, italian basil…). The seeds are about the size of a sesame seed.

While basil seeds do not have the same healthy fat benefits as the recently-popularized chia seed, they are still just as fun to play with in drinks! And bonus: they’re much cheaper! A bag of basil seeds typically costs me about $2, while I’ve seen chia seeds at health stores for about $8.

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But don’t be weirded out! They are amazing little seeds to add to a sweet drink. Often they are components in faluda,  and I like to add them to Sam Bo Luong (or Ching Bo Leung).

Faluda/Falooda

Faluda/Falooda

Sam Bo Luong/Ching bo Leung

Sam Bo Luong/Ching bo Leung

Unfamiliar with these names? All of them are refreshing, sweet drinks from South Asia that are eaten with a spoon. They all contain many types of jellies of differing textures, so it’s a lot of fun to eat! Faluda is creamy, while Sam Bo Luong is tea-like.

IMG_0071How do you use basil seeds? Simply soak them in a liquid for 1-2 hours, and they will expand and become gelatinous. 1 tablespoon is probably enough to add to a drink.

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They have pretty much no flavor; it’s all about the texture! I bet they’d also be cool to add to raspberry-flavored jello 🙂

If you’re feeling adventurous, you have to try these! They are fun ingredients that are often sold in bags (the one I bought was in a shaker though, how convenient) at most Southeast Asian groceries. They are awesome!