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A Bite of Spring: Cauliflower and Caper Pasta

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Photo by Sandra Ramos

Photo by Sandra Ramos

 

Growing up I only ate raw cauliflower drowned in ranch dressing or boiled within an inch of its life dripping in cheese sauce. I had no idea how glorious cauliflower could be or that it came in so many shapes and sizes.

A few years ago, a local chef made me a cauliflower pasta dish and I suddenly understood the beauty of cauliflower. I love it roasted, in curries and in pasta with briny capers, salty parmesan cheese and a few spicy red pepper flakes. If you get a little crazy and buy the purple or Romanesco (the green pyramid shaped cauliflower) you can create a truly beautiful spring dish that will have your guests begging for more.

Enjoy!

Tip: use a light touch (don’t bear down hard) with a vegetable peeler to shave the cheese into thin strips, rather than your typical grated cheese.

Cauliflower and Caper Pasta

Serves 4

Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

2 tbps olive oil

1 pound of cauliflower

1/4 cup capers

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp red pepper flakes

12 ounces of pasta

2 ounces parmesan

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the cauliflower and garlic and sauté for 7-8 minutes until the cauliflower. Add the capers and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the cauliflower is tender.

While the cauliflower is cooking, cook the pasta in boiling water according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving a 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Combine the pasta, reserved pasta water and cauliflower mixture. Season with the salt and red pepper flakes, then shave the parmesan onto the pasta.

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Make It Seasonal Recipe: Asparagus, Radish & Fennel Salad

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Asparagus, fennel and radish salad

 

I am so inspired by this seasonal recipe series! Thanks to everyone who voted last month to help me pick ingredients for a new dish. The winning produce was (drumroll, please) fennel, asparagus and radishes.

I immediately thought of a salad, which felt a little like a cop out. I could hear Tom Colicchio in my mind “But, you didn’t really cook anything, did you?” I decided to ignore my inner Tom and follow my instincts. I love a salad with crisp spring vegetables, and this recipe promised big flavor and crunch.

The dish is simple to make, but there is a little bit of knife work. I don’t care for big chunks of fennel so I used a mandoline to slice the fennel into thin disks, then cut those with a knife into strips. I sliced the radishes thinly and cut my already thin asparagus on a diagonal. If you have thicker asparagus, you can shave it with a vegetable peeler.

I used my vegetable peeler to shave the parmesan into long thin strips. The trick is to use a light touch so that you get strips thin enough to see through. If that seems like too much work, you can grate it instead.

The result is a tangy, crunchy, peppery salad that was the perfect bite of spring. Enjoy!

And, don’t forget to vote for April’s ingredients: April Recipe Mashup Ballot.

Asparagus, Fennel and Radish Salad

Prep time: 20 minutes

Serves 6

1 bulb of fennel with fronds (the leafy green part)

juice of 4 lemons, approximately one-half cup

1 bunch of thin asparagus

1 bunch of radishes

1/2 cup of olive oil

1/2 tsp salt sea salt

1 wedge of Parmesan

Separate the fennel bulb from the fronds and, if needed, clean up the bulb. Set the fronds aside.

Using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, shave the fennel into thin disks. Using a knife, cut the fennel into long strips.

Place the fennel and 1/4 cup of the lemon juice into a shallow bowl or dish to allow the fennel to soak up the juice.

While the fennel is soaking, slice the radishes and asparagus. If your asparagus is thick, you can shave it into long ribbons using a vegetable peeler.

In a small bowl, combine the other 1/4 cup lemon juice, salt and the olive oil. With a whisk or fork, whip the dressing until the juice and oil thicken. Taste and add salt, if desired. I did not add pepper because my radishes were very peppery, but feel free to add it if you have more mild radishes.

Combine the fennel, radishes and asparagus in a bowl, slowly add dressing to lightly coat the vegetables. Lightly shave 8-10 ribbons of parmesan into the dish. Pinch fennel leaves from the fronds and sprinkle over the top of the salad.

Serve and enjoy!

P.S. Don’t trash the fronds. You can save the fennel stalks to use in fish stock or to make fennel pesto. Here’s a great post from The Kitchn on 5 ways to use fennel stalks and fronds.

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Make It Seasonal Recipe Mashup

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MakeItSeasonalMashup

When I started this blog in 2008, I had no idea that I would still be writing it seven years later. Thanks to followers like you, I have been on and amazing food adventure and have learned more than I could have imagined about farms, food artisans and chefs.

I’ve also had the incredible opportunity to write for others, which has, at times, distracted me from the blog (paychecks will do that). I realized last year that I really missed cooking for the blog, which is how I got started in the first place.

In the spirit of the seven year itch and mixing things up, we are starting two monthly features for the blog. The first, Our Favorite Things, is a monthly profile of our new finds. We kicked off that series in February.

The second is a little game I like to call the Make It Seasonal Recipe Mashup, or Stump the Chump farmers market style. I led a version of this exercise at a UT Nutrition Club meeting last year to help the students understand how you can adapt a recipe for each season. It was a blast and I thought it would be fun to bring it to you.

Each month, I’m going to become your guinea pig. Readers will vote for three seasonal ingredients and I will create a dish that incorporates all three, sharing the finished recipe to the blog.

So, here we go! Pick 3 seasonal ingredients for March on this survey by Tuesday, March 17th. I’ll create a dish and share the recipe by the end of the month.

Thanks for seven amazing years and cheers to many more!

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Our Favorite Things: Grapefruit, Toast & Roast, Fixe, Cooking Classes & Meridian Hive Meadery

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John Coltrane’s version of My Favorite Things is one of my favorite songs – a tune I seek out to soothe my soul and center me on hectic days. As I listen, I make a mental list of things that make me happy. Anyone who knows me would tell you that raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens wouldn’t make my list, but a lovely grapefruit sorbet or fun new restaurant is very likely to appear.

Lillian and I decided it was high time to start sharing the culinary side of that list. Each month, we’ll share some of our favorite recipes, bites and finds from the previous month. And without further ado, here are a few of our favorite things from February.

Grapefruit

I love grapefruit and am thrilled when Sweet Scarlets, Ruby Reds and Rio Stars appear in Austin markets. While you may not want ice cream on this chilly day, this Grapefruit and Mint Sorbet recipe is a perfect way to save the last of the season grapefruit for the hot days to come. Enjoy!

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Wine & Food Foundation of Texas Toast & Roast

toast and roast

I was lucky enough to spend last Friday afternoon visiting a few Hill Country wineries and was reminded of how outstanding some of our Texas vintages are. You can sample some of Texas’ best next Sunday, March 1st, at the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas’ Toast & Roast event. Sip Texas Monthly’s Best Wines of Texas and nosh on food from Chef John Bates of Noble Sandwich Co. I’m expecting an epic Texas afternoon.

Fixe

It’s not often that I’m completely surprised by a restaurant. When I was invited to a media dinner at Fixe, I accepted, but wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew Chef James Robert has Southern roots and that the early word was positive, but not much more than that.

Then, Chef Robert and crew wowed me. Everything from the food to the service to the atmosphere was fantastic, and not just because I was at a media dinner. I watched other tables who were clearly enjoying their evening and every bite. I can’t wait to go back and encourage you to put it high on your list.

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Cooking Classes

Several folks have asked me where they could learn to cook and I’m delighted that I can direct them to a growing number of outstanding classes, many with a seasonal focus. The Sustainable Food Center has increased their offerings and added a knife skills class, something every home cook can benefit from.

If you prefer spicier flare, Chef Jam Sanitchat offers classes at her South Austin restaurant Thai Fresh. I learned so much from her in my class that I was inspired to buy her cookbook.

And, of course, I’m a huge fan of the Central Market classes, offered across the state. Not a day goes by that I don’t use some trick or technique that I learned in one of their classes. I’m particularly looking forward to the upcoming class with Chef Virginia Willis, no relation, but a friend and great Southern chef. She’ll be offering classes in all 5 Central Market cities.

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Image courtesy of SFC

Meridian Hive Meadery

One of my favorite things to do on Friday evening is to pop by East End Wines for their free wine tastings to meet a new wine maker or learn about an unusual varietal. On a recent Friday night, Meridian Hive Meadery was sampling their mead wines.

To be honest I was scared to try it, not being a lover of sweet wine, but I was delighted I did. Meridian Hive has the most balanced mead wine I’ve ever tried and even the “sweet” Haven had a spicy bite of ginger to counteract the sugary peach. It was delightful and refreshing, and I look forward to trying it again.

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Image courtesy of Meridian Hive Meadery

What have you nibbled or sipped that you loved this month? We’d love to hear about your favorite things.

 

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