It’s that blah mid-winter time of year and, for me, a bumpy patch on the meandering path of discovery.
The obvious antidote: cooking up a storm in my compact Kensington Market kitchen.
Much of this culinary cure for whatever ails my troubled soul is inspired by recipes from cookbooks and food magazines, both of which are on-and-off addictions.
So dear readers, as is my wont, I am about to share the fruit of my labours. In this case, it’s two recipes.
First, a superb dish called Roasted Cauliflower “Steaks” with Crunchy Parsley-Pine Nut Bread Crumbs from a big, gorgeous new cookbook called “Roasting” by Molly Stevens. These are so delicious, I wonder where this clever idea has been all my life. I now keep extra amounts of the crumb topping in my fridge to spinkle on all manner of cooked veggies, salad, soup, meat, fish – almost anything except dessert.
Second is the delectably gooey, chewy Macaroni and Cheese with Roasted Butternut Squash that appeared on the cover of the February, 2012, issue of Chatelaine magazine. This is not a low-cal dish by any means but it is a tad healthier than most versions because of the chunks of roasted squash that inundate it.
Here are the recipes, in both cases slightly tweaked by me. You’re welcome!
Roasted Cauliflower “Steaks” with Crunchy Parsley-Pine Nut Bread Crumbs
I make extra bread crumb mixture to scatter on any dish that could use it and use whatever bread I have on hand, whirred in the food processor, to make coarse crumbs. I used fresh coriander instead of parsley and dried cranberries in place of raisins – I find both ingredients add extra zip. I streamlined the method by toasting the crumbs and pine nuts in a skillet instead of in the oven. Adapted from “Roasting” by Molly Stevens.
1 medium head cauliflower
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup fresh (i.e. home-made) breadcrumbs
3 tbsp pine nuts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or coriander
3 tbsp golden raisins or dried cranberries
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
Preheat oven to 450F.
Remove leaves from cauliflower. Cut core from base so it is slightly recessed but do not remove. Stand cauliflower upright and cut in slices about 3/4-inch thick. (Pieces will likely crumble off; don’t worry.) Place slices and crumbled bits on baking sheet lined with silicone liner or parchment paper. Drizzle with 1/4 cup olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn to coat.
Roast cauliflower in oven, turning once or twice to brown evenly, about 30 minutes or until tender.
Meanwhile, make crumb mixture. Add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to medium or large skillet. Add bread crumbs; cook over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Place pine nuts in small skillet; cook over medium-low heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Cool crumbs and pine nuts.
Place pine nuts, parsley, raisins, lemon zest and a pinch of salt in food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Transfer to bowl. Add toasted crumbs; stir to combine.
To serve, transfer cauliflower to warmed serving platter. Just before serving, sprinkle with crumb mixture.
Makes about 4 servings.
Macaroni and Cheese with Roasted Butternut Squash
From February 2012’s issue of Chatelaine magazine. I roasted the squash slightly longer than the recipe prescribed, 30 instead of 18 minutes. You could use any short pasta.
About 3 cups (half a medium) peeled, finely diced butternut squash
1 tsp olive oil
2 cups dry elbow macaroni
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
1 cup grated white cheddar
1 cup grated mozzarella
1/2 cup grated gruyere
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 400F.
Toss squash with oil on baking sheet. Bake in oven about 30 minutes or until tender, stirring halfway through.
Cook macaroni in pot of boiling water until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain.
Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour. Gradually whisk in milk, Dijon, salt and cayenne. Stir until mixture comes to boil. Remove from heat; stir in macaroni. cheese and squash. Transfer to baking dish. Sprinkle with panko.
Place under broiler until top is golden brown, about 3 minutes.
Makes about 6 servings.