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Archive for February, 2010

I vividly remember my first taste of roasted cauliflower. At the tender age of 23, I had just started my First Big Cooking Job, and among my marching orders was to help prep the sides that went with main dishes. One of these was honey garlic cauliflower, roasted at high heat until caramelized, and it tasted like candy.

Sadly, I’m the only one in my household who really likes cauliflower, which means I cook it rarely – and even then, I have to cook it with enough other stuff so that Andy can begrudgingly eat one or two pieces and then eat something else. Tonight, while cooking dinner, I found a small head of cauliflower calling out for my attention, and I decided to improvise.

With awesome results. Look at those caramelized bits!

 

This could be considered a kind of cheater’s Aloo Gobi. You par-cook the veg, toss them into a mix of curry-spiced yogurt, and roast until crispy and golden brown. Even Andy agreed they were fantastic. I plan to make this again and again.

 Indian-spiced cauliflower and potatoes 
Serves 4 as a side dish; takes approx. 45 minutes from start to finish

Heat the oven to 450F.

1 small head of cauliflower, cut into large florets

1 large potato, cut into 2-inch chunks

¼ cup yogurt

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. curry paste (I used Patak’s Madras Cumin and Chili sauce)

½ tbsp. turmeric

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2-inch piece of ginger root, minced

generous pinch salt

pinch cayenne

Fill a medium-sized saucepan with water, add a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and cauliflower; the cauliflower will float to the top, making it easier to remove (since it cooks faster.) After the cauliflower has cooked for 5 minutes, remove them from the pot and set aside. Continue cooking the potatoes until they can be easily pierced with a fork.

While this is happening, grab a large mixing bowl and combine the yogurt, oil, curry paste, turmeric, garlic, ginger, salt and cayenne.  Toss in the semi-cooked cauliflower and potatoes and toss to combine. (It should smell heavenly.) Spread the vegetables out on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Mix them up about halfway through the cooking time so they can brown evenly.

They should look like this:

Devour at will.

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Spice-crusted rack of lamb

Let’s face it: I am a cooking addict. One of my favourite ways to spend a Sunday afternoon is in the kitchen tending several pots that will not only make dinner and a few weekday lunches, but a pot of stock or a hearty soup that can live in my freezer and serve as an emergency weeknight supper. But since I got pregnant (and made it through the first trimester), my addiction has gotten a little out of control.

Behold,  the freezer of a mad pregnant lady:

Which brings me to Valentine’s Day, when I feel called upon to make something especially tasty for my lovely husband. Enter, the rack of lamb bought on sale at Loblaws just before Christmas. We bought tons of it at the time, planning to have it as an unorthodox Christmas dinner, and even then we had some left over. Now I’m all for using less expensive cuts of meat as a rule, but as a quick-cooking, delicate, delicious dish, something that’s sophisticated and elegant and downright special, you simply cannot beat a rack of lamb.

And although one might feel some pressure not to mess up an expensive ingredient, the method for cooking it is easy. Put a tasty coating on it, sear it, then finish cooking it in the oven at high heat.

In this case, the coating is an unorthodox mix of cumin, coffee and cocoa. I worried at first about how these might taste together, especially when I first caught the combined aroma. But the application of heat works wonders, and the result is a gentle, rich and dark flavour that doesn’t overwhelm the taste of lamb.

This is adapted from a recipe at Epicurious.com.

Spice-crusted rack of lamb

Serves two

1 Frenched rack of lamb

pinch kosher salt and black pepper

1/2 tbsp. each: cumin seeds, coffee and cocoa powder 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a coffee grinder, grind the cumin seeds and coffee together until very fine. Mix in the cocoa, and spread the mixture onto a plate.  On the stovetop, heat a cast-iron frying pan until smoking hot. This will take a while to heat, so let it sit on the stove while you get the meat ready.

To get the meat ready, wrap the bones in a piece of tin foil to prevent burning. Sprinkle the meat with a pinch of salt and a grind or two of black pepper. Then, coat the meat in the spice mixture – I like to do this by picking it up by the bones and rolling it around in the mix. 

When the pan is smoking hot, sear the rack meat side down, moving occasionally it to prevent sticking, until the crust is a deep brown –  about 2 minutes. Flip to sear underside in the same way, about 2 minutes more.

 Transfer the meat to a small roasting pan, then stick it in the oven and roast approximately 20 minutes, until a meat thermometer registers about 130F for medium-rare. Remove it from the oven, and let it rest about 15 minutes before slicing.

The end result, accompanied by some mashed sweet potato and a simple spinach and orange salad:

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