Tag Archives: garlic

first dinner married

Ok, so technically our first dinner married (not counting the actual reception) was some carryout from Thang Long. But our first home-cooked meal- cooked as a joint effort, no less- was a simple but satisfying meal of grilled rib-eye steak, a green salad, some sliced heirloom tomatoes (left over from the wedding), and roasted cauliflower with garlic, parsley and lemon. (Oh, and a bottle of Zinfandel, also left over from the wedding, if you can believe it.)

It’s an understatement to say I’ve never been drawn to cauliflower. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I hate it, but it’s certainly not a favorite, especially when steamed or raw (allow me to insert an immature “blech“). So it was pretty uncharacteristic of me to pick up a head of it while we were shopping for dinner. But leave it to New York Times food writer and cookbook author Melissa Clark to make something as unsexy as cauliflower sound appealing. I’ve been making my way through her book In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite as bedtime reading, and came across a section where she talks about roasting vegetables- when in doubt, crank the oven to 425°, give the vegetable(s) a sheen of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt, and in 40 minutes or so, you’ll have roasty caramelized goodness. I’m no novice when it comes to roasted vegetables, but sometimes it takes someone else’s enthusiasm to reignite interest in a tried-and-true method.

Coincidentally, that morning I had come across an article in this month’s issue of Saveur by Lesley Porcelli entitled “The Soft Approach”, about cooking vegetables past what common kitchen wisdom would deem done. As someone who has never appreciated, say, the overly vegetal, grassy taste of a near-raw green bean, I recognized a kindred spirit. Porcelli talks about cooking vegetables as her Italian grandmother did, to the point where their sweetness develops; a stage many would call overcooked. This is exactly what I planned to do with my cauliflower: heat-blast it into submission.

I preheated my oven and cut my cauliflower into bite-sized florets. Into a large bowl it went, tossed with olive oil and salt, and then dumped on a baking sheet. If I’d been at home, I might have sprinkled on some additional seasonings at this point as Clark does in her recipe, like smoked paprika or even curry powder, depending on what I was serving it with. I put the cauliflower in the oven for 10 minutes before adding whole peeled cloves of garlic and chunks of red onion (also tossed in oil and salt). In retrospect I probably could have added the garlic from the beginning, but I wasn’t sure what the timing would be and didn’t want to risk it burning. When the onion and cauliflower were done, the garlic was soft and cooked through but not browned at all. Still, smashed and smeared on a piece of rare rib-eye and dragged through the tomato juices on our plates, neither of us was complaining.

To finish the dish, I sprinkled on some fresh chopped parsley and squeezed a bit of lemon juice over everything to brighten the flavors. Next time I might follow my friend Evan‘s lead and add capers and a dash of good-quality vinegar (a combination which I raved about in this post). For someone whose attitude toward cauliflower has been ambivalent at best, I was more than pleased at my results and would definitely repeat the experiment. In fact, if I’d had enough left over, I would have played around with a roasted cauliflower & garlic soup. Note to self: next time put an additional tray of veg in the oven to be used for this purpose!

All photos this post courtesy of the hubs. Check out his sweet new website.

Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic, Parsley & Lemon
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You can change this recipe up in a dozen different ways- substitute a sweet onion for the red, or leave it out altogether; ditto for the garlic (although… roasted garlic!). Add spices as you see fit, or finish the dish with the simple parsley/lemon combination I used. In her version, Melissa Clark uses whole spices cumin, coriander and mustard seed for an Indian-influenced dish, adding sliced almonds in the final 5 minutes of cooking. I was away from home and didn’t have my spices, so I settled on this simpler version.

1 head cauliflower
1 large red or sweet onion (optional)
cloves from one head garlic, peeled (see note)
about 3 Tablespoons olive oil (less if not using onion)
salt
1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
juice of half a lemon, or to taste

Note: If garlic cloves are on the small side, add them with the onions after the initial 10 minutes of cooking so they do not burn.

Preheat oven to 425°. Rinse cauliflower and trim away any brown spots. Cut into small bite-sized florets, about 3/4″ to 1″. Place cauliflower in a large bowl with the garlic cloves and toss with just enough olive oil to coat. Toss with sea salt to taste, about 1 teaspoon, and pepper or other spices if desired.

Spread cauliflower and garlic on a baking sheet large enough to hold it all without crowding; ideally, there should be a little space between all the pieces so they roast and don’t steam. Place in the oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the onion into 1″ pieces; toss with olive oil and salt. When the 10 minutes is up, give the cauliflower a stir and add the onion. Cook for another 10 minutes and stir again. Continue cooking for a final 10-15 minutes or until cauliflower has plenty of browned spots (see photo). Transfer to a bowl and finish with the lemon juice and parsley to taste. Sample and adjust any seasonings as needed.

venturing

When my band plays live shows, it’s common for us to play certain songs faster than the tempo we record or rehearse them in.  There’s an energy to a live performance that incites you to do everything louder, faster, harder.  For some of the songs that are already up-tempo, the live versions are sometimes performed at breakneck speeds that make you feel as if you’re on a runaway train that could careen off the tracks at any moment.  It’s nerve-wracking to think it could all fall apart, but exhilarating at the same time when you finish the song, looking around at your bandmates like “Did we really just pull that off?”.

This is the feeling that sums up my September- a frantic, energetic, delirious blur.  It bums me out that I’ve gone the entire month so far- over three weeks- without posting here, even though I had the first week of the month off (the pork loin shown above was cooked up north over Labor Day weekend, the last couple leisure days I’ve had).  Rest assured,  I haven’t been neglecting this space out of laziness or lack of interest.  I’ve become involved in a few different new projects that are kicking into high gear and keeping nearly every free moment occupied, so I do feel a bit neurotic.  But like that song that just manages not to self-implode, I’ve been holding it all together by the skin of my teeth and feeling, for the most part, immensely satisfied.

A month ago, I convinced my job to let me cut my work week to 32 hours so that I could have some extra time for entrepreneurial pursuits.  I was a little nervous about the reduction in pay, but I knew it was something I had to do and was ready to take a bit of a risk. Since then, I have started making products for a small business with a friend (more on this soon!) and have written my first freelance article for Model D (out 9/28). I’ve also been working on getting this blog redesigned and moved over to a new domain, which I hope to have done in October in time for its 2-year anniversary.

Meanwhile, my cooking has fallen a bit to the wayside.  I’ve largely been subsisting off salads, bread, cheese, and very simply cooked vegetables from the farmers’ market- nothing to write home about, but nourishing to the soul as well as the body.  As summer grinds to a halt, I’m spending massive amounts of free time processing various fruits and vegetables, something I haven’t done on a large scale before.  I hope to get my blogging mojo back soon, but for the moment my other projects are demanding just about all of my attention.  I hope you’ll bear with me as I transition into these new and exciting ventures!

Grilled Pork Loin with Garlic & Rosemary

I haven’t really made anything requiring a recipe in the last month, but I did make the grilled pork loin pictured above with my favorite sous-chef, my brother Jesse, on Labor Day weekend up north.

Take a pork loin and cut it for a roulade (or have the butcher do this if you don’t know how).  Generously season the meat on both sides with salt and pepper. Lay flat. Make a paste out of generous amounts of garlic and rosemary with a little olive oil; smear this liberally on one side of the meat.  Roll it up and secure with butcher’s twine. Grill over high heat until it begins to color and brown, then transfer to indirect heat and grill, covered, until internal temperature is 145°.  Allow to rest for about 10 minutes tented with foil; slice and serve.  We served this with a “sauce” made of fresh Michigan peaches peeled and macerated with a small amount of sugar, and the grilled sweet corn pictured in the new masthead.

garlic shrimp pasta ($2-a-serving challenge)

A few weeks ago I posted a challenge to come up with a $2-per-serving menu to challenge the notion that healthy food is “too expensive” or that you need to resort to convenience foods to have time to sit down with your family for dinner.  Ironically, what with trying to run holiday-related errands after work most days, and having a plethora of parties, shows, rehearsals and other stuff, I haven’t been cooking much! (I did make a big batch of lamb & bulghur stew last weekend and have been pretty much subsisting on those leftovers all last week, but it wasn’t particularly blog-worthy.)

The other night I was staring at the fridge with the glazed-over and rather desperate look of a person who hasn’t been to the grocery store in recent memory, when inspiration struck.  I had a bag of frozen shrimp in the fridge, a package of pasta, and enough pantry items to make said shrimp and pasta into a quick and very flavorful dinner.  Crisis averted.

Let me detour here to say that I do regret that my $2 meal was not more local– apparently there is a shrimp farm in Okemos but my shrimp were from Trader Joe’s.  I don’t eat a ton of shrimp because of the overfishing issues, but as a person who lives alone, there is a great advantage to a food which you can keep in the freezer and remove a few at a time for a single serving. This recipe may also not fall under some people’s definition of “healthy”, but it does use all natural ingredients and that’s my usual guideline.  As I had not been to the store I didn’t have any fresh vegetables in the house, but I would certainly encourage adding a green veg to make this a more balanced meal.

Here’s my cost breakdown: Shrimp: ½ bag @ $8.99/1-lb bag= $4.50; butter: 2 oz @ $2.89/lb= 36¢; 1 lb spaghetti= 99¢; 1 lemon= 50¢ (mine actually cost less since I had bought a bag of them, but I think that’s how much they are if you buy a single one); 4 cloves garlic= approx. 25¢; 1 tsp red pepper: negligible, but let’s say 15¢ (or get it free next time you order pizza!).  Total= $6.75 and serves 4, so $1.69 per serving.   That leaves $1.25 to spend on 4 servings of the veg of your choice-  a plain green salad, some sautéed zucchini,  or some steamed broccoli, perhaps?- and still keep it under $2.

Garlic Shrimp Pasta
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1 lb. dried spaghetti or linguini
½ lb. shrimp (should yield 4-6 shrimp per serving depending on shrimp size)
4 Tbs butter
4 large cloves garlic
1 lemon, halved lengthwise
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 handful chopped flat leaf parsley, optional
kosher or sea salt

Notes: Feel free to embellish and throw in other random items you may have in your pantry or refrigerator… a spoonful of capers, perhaps, or some grated Parmigiano.  I happened to have some parsley in the fridge so in it went.  This recipe is also very easily divisible/ multipliable- I originally made 2 servings, not 4- so it’s a good recipe if you’re just feeding 1 or 2 people.  The dish can be prepared in about 30 minutes, and 10 of that is just waiting for the water to boil.  You’ll want to work very quickly to get the sauce on the pasta before anything gets cold.

Directions:  Put a large pot of well-salted water to boil.  Rinse and pat dry the shrimp, salt lightly on all sides and set aside.  Mince the garlic.  Juice half the lemon; cut the remaining half into four wedges.  Chop the parsley, if using.

When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook according to package directions, probably 8 minutes or so.  You’ll want to try to time it so the pasta and shrimp are just getting done at the same time.

Select a saucepan in which the shrimp will just fit in one layer.  Melt the butter over low heat.  Add the garlic, keeping the heat as low as possible.  Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring and making sure the garlic does not brown.  (If the butter is foaming too much, add a splash of olive oil.)  Add the pepper flakes and stir.

Add the shrimp to the pan in one layer.  Cook gently until they appear opaque halfway up the sides, then flip and continue cooking until fully opaque.  Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a covered dish on the stovetop (so they remain warm).

Meanwhile, drain the pasta when done, reserving about ¼ cup of the cooking water.  Add the juice of half the lemon and a little of the pasta water to the butter/garlic mixture and increase the heat slightly, stirring.  Cook for 30 seconds or so, stirring to emulsify.  Toss the sauce with the cooked pasta.  Add any other ingredients at this time such as the parsley, capers, etc.  Taste the pasta for salt, adding as needed. If it seems too dry, add a bit more of the pasta cooking water, and/or a little olive oil.

Plate the pasta in warmed shallow bowls or plates, garnishing with the shrimp and a wedge of lemon.