Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cauliflower with Orange Sauce

By ( [CC-BY-SA-2.0 ( or CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables. Unlike green vegetables, it's nearly impossible to overcook. You have to intentionally cook it to death to even make it mashable, which has become a popular preparation of late. That bullet-proof cook-ability  makes it the perfect vegetable for new cooks. You overcook broccoli and it's gross. You overcook cauliflower? It still tastes just fine.

This recipe is a riff on a richer orange sauce. That sauce contains lots of butter and it's thickened with a roux*, which explains all that butter. This is lighter, which is fine for most of us. We don't need quite that much butter - there is still some for flavor but I used a cornstarch slurry for thickening. Chinese stir fries are thickened with cornstarch, and it's a great technique for thickening sauces without a lot of fat (in fact, you could use no fat).

Though there are folks who believe that we should all eat our vegetables unadorned by fat, I find this is rather spartan. My philosophy is a little bit of tasty fat, like butter, goes a long way to making our vegetables more tasty. If that small bit of richness gets you to your vegetables, I'm all for it!

Cauliflower prices vary a bit. This week, I can get a pound for 88¢. Last week, I couldn't find it for less than $1.59/pound. The recipe cost reflects the higher price.

Cauliflower with Orange Sauce
(serves 4-6, costs $3.50)

1 head of cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cored and cut into florets
juice of 1 orange (should yield about ¼ cup juice)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
¼ cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 Tablespoon cold water
½ Tablespoon butter
salt and black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the cauliflower for 8-10 minutes, until tender.

Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened. Add the garlic and coriander. Cook for another minute. Drain the cauliflower and add to the pan. Raise the heat to medium high and add the orange juice. When the juice comes to a boil, add the cornstarch+water. Boil until the sauce thickens and coats the cauliflower. Add butter, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

*Roux: flour cooked in a fat, often butter. Used as a thickener in sauces and soups like chowders and gumbos.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Split Pea, Barley, and Vegetable Soup

Cold, cold, cold! It's been more than a little cold here in Colorado. Soup is what you need when it's cold. This vegetarian soup is easy and adaptable. And, it makes a lot. Sure to warm your belly.

The recipe calls for turnips, but you can use rutabaga (a large yellow turnip), or daikon (an Asian turnip). You could use cauliflower. You can even use celery root, which is rather exotic for most folks. It works great here because it is a hardy vegetable that holds up to long cooking but its flavor is subtle, like a very mild celery. You need to peel it and cut away all the brown rough parts which results in a fair amount of waste. That makes celery root a somewhat expensive vegetable. But, this recipe is very inexpensive because it contains no meat, so splurge a little on the veg if you want to experiment with a new vegetable. You can also mix up the turnips/rutabagas/celery root/cauliflower in any proportion you have. I used ½ pound daikon and ½ pound celery root because that's what was in my fridge.

Split Pea, Barley, and Vegetable Soup
(serves 8, costs $6)

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced (or 2 medium leeks, white and light green part, thinly sliced)
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
¾ cup diced red pepper (about ½ a pepper, can use frozen)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotle chile in adobo, seeded and minced
1 Tablespoon ground coriander
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
10 cups water
1 cup dried split peas (yellow or green)
1 pound turnips, peeled and cut into 1" dice
½ cup pearl barley
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 ¼ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon vinegar, lime or lemon juice

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and chile. Sauté for 10 minutes. Add coriander and cumin. Stir to combine and cook for 1 minute. Add water, split peas, turnips, barley, oregano, thyme, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce to low to maintain a simmer. Cover and cook until split peas are tender, at least 1 hour 30 minutes, or longer, if you prefer them softer. Add salt and vinegar or citrus juice. Stir  and taste. Add more salt, if needed. Freezes well.

Adapted from Lean Bean Cuisine by Jay Solomon, 1995, Prima Publishing.