January 18, 2012

Lemon Roasted Cauliflower

Roasted cauliflower is my go-to, no fail veggie side dish. In fact, I love it so much, I will sit there happily eating an entire bowl all. by. myself.  No guilt.  This dish is open to variations. I've been wanting to incorporate anchovies into the mixture and I think capers plus the juice would go well.  I've tried adding the lemon juice and found that I don't enjoy the overly tangy flavor it brings out in the cauliflower.  I like them slightly crispy and salty.

Roasted Cauliflower
Serves 4 as a side

1 head of cauliflower
3 garlic cloves (smashed)

1/4 cup olive oil (I use just under a 1/4 cup)
Generous pinch of salt and pepper
Zest of half a lemon

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Break the cauliflower into florets, wash and thoroughly dry. Place on a baking sheet. 

2.  In a bowl, I like to smash the garlic with a fork - if you don't like garlic much, only use one or two. Mix together with the lemon zest and the olive oil. If you like a more pungent lemon flavor - zest the whole thing. Pour over the cauliflower on a baking sheet. Using tongs or your hands, make sure each is evenly coated. Sprinkle a good amount of salt and pepper.
3. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cauliflower starts to brown.  Those tiny florets that are just a little extra crispy?  Don't toss them, they are the best part!  Best served warm but I won't lie. I've eaten these cold from the fridge as a snack!

January 12, 2012

2011 Christmas Recap

For Christmas, we typically have two holiday meals. On Christmas Eve, we have a seafood dinner typically with lobster with some sort of side, and then for Christmas dinner, we have hot pot. This year was no different. 

Vodka Pasta: This was a request from my sister who has fallen in love with the vodka pasta from Sfuzzi in Dallas. It's a simple recipe and I've grown fond of Giada's version.  Check out my recipe here.  In an effort to add some sort of veggie to our meal, I sauteed up a bunch of spinach and added it to the top of the pasta.

Steamed Lobster: A lobster for each! Simply clean the lobster and then steam with some water until cooked. If you want to make another dish out of this, keep the lobster steamed water and lobster shells after you clean it of the meat. With just a little bit of broth making with the shells and some veggies, I was able to make a seafood risotto the next day for lunch.  Recipe to come soon.
Oven-baked Drum: Look at the size of this!  Even more impressive, my mom caught this fish! It seems like my parents go fishing at least once a week and the a few days before Christmas, my mom caught this enormous drum. When my mom called me with excitement about catching this fish, I actually had no clue of the kind of fish. Quick google and here you go. My mom seasoned the fish, added lots of butter and slices of onions. Baked in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes.
Russian Tea Cakes: To cap off the night, Russian tea cakes for dessert! Recipe can be found here.

And to end this post, my little booger of a niece, Sophie. She did take a few bites of the pasta (hooray!) and a few nibbles of the fish. The lobster, not so much, and much rather preferred salty seaweed snacks...

January 10, 2012

Mussels with Sun Dried Tomato & Basil Bread Crumbs

I've attempted steamed mussels once before and it was fine. Nothing earth-shattering, nothing so incredible that I've filed the recipe as "the recipe" and apparently not memorable in that I haven't tried again in the whole year.  I saw this recipe on a weekend Barefoot Contessa show and it seemed different yet simple.  It probably had nothing to do with the fact that I hadn't eaten anything that day and everything she made seemed delicious.

Fresh mussels are a must for this dish. Don't try this dish with the mussels in the frozen section as what makes a great mussel dish (in my personal opinion) is the sauce. Yes, the great sauce where you sop up all the juices with slices of bread or scoop extra juice in the mussel shell to loudly slurp. To get that seafood-y flavor and juices, you need fresh mussels and seem to find a good selection at Whole Foods.

Mussels with Sun Dried Tomato and Basil Bread Crumbs
Recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa

3 slices of toasted bread (a few more if you like to eat your mussels with bread)
3 cloves of garlic (whole)
1/4 cup olive oil
9 sun dried tomatoes
Juice from 2 lemons 
Zest from 1 lemon
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup white wine
2 lbs fresh mussels
2 tbsp butter

1. Toast the bread and cool.
2. Put the bread, garlic cloves, lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil into a food processor. Quickly grind.

3. Add the basil, pine nuts and sun dried tomatoes along with a dash of salt and pepper. Pulse quickly.
4. Make sure your mussels are cleaned.
5. Put the olive oil and white wine into a large pot big enough to hold the mussels.  Bring to a boil.
6. Once boiling, add the mussels and then cover.  Keep covered for at least 5 minutes.  Take a look and your mussels should be all opened and smelling delicious.  Toss in two tablespoon of butter. Turn off the heat and toss any that have not opened.
7. Take the bread crumb mixture and add to the top of the mussels. Give it a good toss with the mussels.
8. Serve with some toasted slice bread to soak up the delicious sauce.

January 08, 2012

Russian Tea Cakes / Mexican Wedding Cakes

I think I may have found a new favorite cookie. When I tell others my excitement over these cookies, I get a "oh yeah! those are good."  I'm disappointed. Why am I the last to know about these delicious cookies?

I originally found them as Russian tea cakes and after some reading, found they are more commonly known as Mexican wedding cakes.  These are similar to a crumbly, melt in your mouth shortbread cookie.  After making these a few times with different nuts, I recommend pecans over the walnuts.  Toasting the nuts is also very important as I made a batch without doing so and they definitely did not taste as good.

Mexican Wedding Cakes / Russian Tea Cakes
Makes about 3 dozen
Recipe adapted from Joy of Baking

1 cup pecan (can use walnuts, hazelnuts, etc.)
2 sticks unsalted butter (room temp by leaving out on counter for 2 hours)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon 

1. Toast your nuts in a pan on the stove until they slightly brown and you get that awesome nutty smell.  Put in a bowl and let it cool completely.  This is important as if you grind the nuts while they are still warm, it will start to clump together into more of a paste instead of the ground nuts you need.
2. Once cool, put in a food processor. Take your two cups of flour and spoon two tablespoon into the food processor.  The rest of the flour will be used in the next step.  Grind until finely ground. 
3. In a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and the powdered sugar until very well blended.  I let the processor run for a good 4-5 minutes, stopping periodically to scrap down the sides. 
4. Add in the vanilla extract and blend. 
5. Add in the flour (which is less by two tablespoon for the nuts) and the salt. Mix well for another 3-4 minutes.
6. Add in the ground nuts into the mixture.
7. Once incorporated, scrape down the sides/clean the paddle and cover the container. Put it in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes or so.
8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and start rolling the dough into small balls. I take a tablespoon and use that to measure each one.  These cookies do not spread much so you can place them fairly close together. 
9. Bake for 13-15 minutes or when you start to notice the edges starting to brown. Take them off the sheet and let them cool. When they are ready to be coated in the sugar, put the powdered sugar and the cinnamon in a bowl. Using a fork, use it to fluff the sugar to help roll the cookie in the sugar.  Note, don't roll the cookies right out of the oven or the heat from the cookie will melt the powdered sugar.