Cauliflower Fried Rice

Skip directly to the Cauliflower Fried Rice recipe, or for loosey-goosey cooks, the step-by-step.

cauliflower-fried-rice
Cauliflower fried rice accompanies West Lake Fish,
a recipe I need to get up online because it’s really tasty.

I love rice: long grain, short, jasmine, sticky, wild (which isn’t really rice, btw). But I find I’m eating it less and less. Maybe it’s aging; despite my previous admission to loving carbs, I find I’m eating them less.

Now fried rice has long been a comfort food for me, using real leftover rice, and especially if I’m watching something on TV or a movie (and these days, is there a difference??) and somebody busts out the Chinese take-out. But because I eat less rice anyway, the chances of me having a leftover batch to fry up are close to zero. Cauliflower fried rice works as a natural, super-easy substitute.

But look: Cauliflower rice can easily taste like b.s. Real rice squashes under your teeth in a pleasant way. Cauliflower rice, particularly if you go too crazy with the food processor, gets mealy. I don’t buy the frozen version, because the freezing process plays havoc with the water content of foods. So something naturally prone to mealiness will only get more so.

The trick for me is to roast the coarse cauliflower rice ahead of time. Then, at the end, simply toss it with some veggies that you’ve sauteed while your “rice” roasts. Voila: Cauliflower rice with very little hands-on time.

Cauliflower Fried Rice: The Step by Step

First, heat your oven to 400º. While it preheats, chop up your cauliflower florets in a food processor. Before processing, cut the florets to be fairly  uniform size. Don’t overprocess so that they become crumbly or actual rice-sized if you want them to have some texture. Toss the “rice” in a bowl with some sesame oil, spread on a parchment covered sheet, and roast for about 20 minutes, until they get some color.

cauliflower-fried-rice

As the “rice” roasts, get your veggies ready: sliced scallions (keep the white and green parts separate), minced ginger and garlic, and julienned or chopped carrots, peppers, and snow peas. (Or other veggies you have in the fridge and want to use up; just be sure to cut fairly uniform shapes.) About 7-10 minutes before the cauliflower is finished roasting, heat your pan, then add oil. Peanut provides classic Chinese flavor, but a taste-free oil like canola or avocado also works nicely. (Don’t use olive.) Add the scallion whites, garlic,  ginger, and the julienned stuff. Add soy sauce and sake, which will bubble up and be all steamy and fragrant.

Right about the time you achieve maximum bright colored, still crisp sauteed veggies, your timer will ring. Dump the roasted rice right into the pan. Add chopped cilantro (the stems are really nice here; no need to separate them from the leaves if you don’t want to) and scallion greens.

You can top with toasted sesame seeds, peanuts, or cashews. Cauliflower fried rice makes a lovely vegan main, or a light, healthy side for the protein of your choice, particularly if you’ve done a classic Chinese-inspired cooking treatment (like this tea-smoked chicken, for instance). Below, note the radish and pea shoot salad on the side: just thinly sliced radish and pea shoots, no dressing, and you’re good to go. Enjoy.

Cauliflower Fried Rice: The Recipe

miso soup

Miso Soup: Ultimate Comfort Food

I warn you right off the bat: this post does not contain a recipe for miso soup. Because….you don’t need one! I also warn you that I’ll be using other people’s photos because I’m on the road this week, and can’t snap all sorts of gorgeous pix of my own miso soup. So I shall steal gorgeous pix of other people’s miso soups, providing full credit, natch. Let’s start with this one from Great Eastern Sun, an excellent purveyor of miso and other Asian ingredients. And check out that styling!

miso soup
Photo from Great Eastern Sun

Final warning: I’ve set myself a challenge, and am broadcasting it here for accountability purposes. I’m going to tackle a post a day.  Whether this means 5 or 7 posts a week, I don’t quite know yet, because sometimes a woman needs a weekend. But I’m weary of being flummoxed by the massive amount of work that goes into a recipe post to the point that it’s obviously stifled me (since I haven’t posted in close to a month). Frankly, I’ve not been able to lift a finger in the kitchen other than to reheat leftovers since Thanksgiving, so extensive were the preparations. I mean, I love to cook, and I just have been done.

So anyway…..miso soup. Stop 1 on the current journey has been a day to hang out with the kid in Ann Arbor (Steve is away). He and I grab take-away from the little sushi place near us on occasion, last night to accompany our viewing of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, which is brilliant, by the way. And the kid loves his miso soup. It’s cold here in Michigan. He slurped a spoonful and said, “Is there anything more comfy than miso soup on a cold day?”

And….well, it’s not like I jumped in to contradict him.

Miso Soup: The Method

Miso soup was one of the first things I learned to cook. When my first husband was diagnosed with AIDS, we decided to go macrobiotic. I’m just gonna link you to find out about macrobiotic because this post is already pretty long. Anyway, next to all the not so delicious things I subjected him to, miso soup was a downright gourmet treat.

You start it like you do all soups: Sauté savory vegetables in oil. Onions are the go-to, but you could also use leeks, and you could add celery if you want. Classic miso soup would NOT use olive oil; the flavors don’t work. If toasted sesame oil isn’t too strong for you in a big dose, you could use that, or use mostly a taste-free oil like grapeseed or avocado with about a teaspoon of sesame oil for flavor.

The cook who taught me simmered some wakame (that’s seaweed) in some water. She then poured the flavored water in on top of the sauteed onions. (Macrobiotic cooks keep it minimal in the extreme.) A good vegetable stock can also work, and if you want to do a hot sour variation, go for chicken broth.  Below, one way to buy wakame.

miso soup ingredient

Let the soup simmer with the onions for about 10 minutes. Then remove a cup of the broth from the pan and stir in a tablespoon of miso. Boiling will kill all those lovely probiotic properties that you’re after, so don’t just dump the miso into a boiling pot, and don’t boil your soup once the miso’s added.

Miso Soup: Finishing

The classic miso soup garnish is cubed tofu and chopped scallion greens, with a few shreds of wakame—familiar to anyone who eats miso soup at a sushi place. But you can get very creative. Shredded vegetables of all kinds can make your miso soup a very happy bowl indeed. Particularly favorites are radishes, carrots, and baby bok choy. The photo below is one I took for a stir-fry recipe, but I’d pretty happily add anything on the board to a bowl of miso, just letting it simmer long enough so that the veggies kept their texture but were no longer raw. Under the photo, and for those who prefer to be told exactly what to throw in the pot, are links to a few favorite riffs.

miso soup

Miso Soup: Other People’s Recipes

Here’s a thorough and precise miso soup primer from the Chopstick Chronicles blog. Jump straight to the recipes for exact proportions, but the pictures leading up to it provide some interesting visual info about possible add-ins like mushrooms and—great idea—shiso leaves, if you can get them. You will have the rather bizarre experience of seeing a pop-up ad for Reese’s Pieces float up under the tofu picture—but only if you’re a lucky duck like me. I don’t have enough subscribers for pop-ups to be an option. You’re welcome!

miso soup ingredients
photo by Chopstick Chronicles

I love The First Mess blog; it’s an extravaganza for the eye, and Laura’s writing and recipes are reliably wonderful and don’t devolve into that “Oh. My. God. You. HAVE. TO. EAT. THIS!!!!!” blog speak that makes me want to curl into a fetal position and hit my head against a chalkboard—oddly, at the same time. This miso soup recipe accomplishes the seemingly impossible: insanely good for you with absolutely decadent amounts of flavor. And go buy Laura’s cookbook, because she is one of the best vegan chefs out there.

miso soup
Photo by Laura Wright, The First Mess

While this Egg Drop Soup with Shiitakes and Mushrooms recipe from Clean Eating isn’t strictly a miso soup, there’s no reason you couldn’t stir a tablespoon in, cutting back on the soy sauce. It delivers the same miso-esque goodness and comfort with hot and sour accents, and I do love me a great pork-free hot and sour soup.

miso soup
Photo by Ronald Tsang for Clean Eating

Finally, if you’re wondering what else that container of miso is good for, I recommend you visit this round-up from Cookie and Kate for vegan ideas, and this more omniverous (but still veggie-centric) list from Bon Appetit. Enjoy.

Cold Miso Sesame Noodles from Bon Appetit, photo by Heidi’s Bridge

Autumn Greens Salad

Jump to the Autumn Greens Salad Recipe

Jump to the Autumn Greens Salad Step by Step

autumn-greens-salad

I’ve found that there are times when I just kind of go off salad. I think that’s an easy thing to do, because….well, it’s salad. It’s raw greens, some raw veggies—usually a cucumber that you’re not really that interested in eating but that you have in the fridge for some reason—and there’s dressing. Meh.

This type of thinking makes me die inside just the teeniest bit. I mean, I’m all about that health. I need zero convincing that a salad a day is key to all manner of wonderful processes getting fired up in the body: hearty elimination, antioxidants and enzymes from raw food doing all that scrubby work they do, detoxification on a manageable scale.

But I have to admit to succumbing more and more often to salad ennui. It’s cold out; I don’t want raw, crunchy stuff. It’s a pain in the ass to clean all those greens, even though some of them are already clean in the big ass clamshell that they came in because I bought them that way. I mean the laziness appalls me, particularly with my industrious northern European “me? have feelings instead of produce stuff?” upbringing.

I’m convinced one of the absolute best use of recipes is for salads, because I for one desperately need that little joggle to get me out of my rut. This little gem of an Autumn Greens Salad was adopted from this original version in the November 2018 issue of Cooking Light (different name there. I’m not being coy. My primary changes are in technique, but I pretty much thugged the ingredient list, though I played fairly dramatically with amounts. And it IS autumn, and these readily available ingredients in Michigan in November; at least, this year).

autumn-greens-salad-ingredients

Autumn Greens Salad: The Dressing

My primary change from the original is in constructing the dressing and the salad itself. I wanted to keep the olive oil separate here, so I measured off the amount into one good-sized bowl. Then I mixed everything in the main salad bowl, the one in which I’d toss the final assemblage of ingredients.

I chopped some garlic first, then salted it (you don’t need much). Initially,  I grated on just a smidge of orange zest (for photos I forgot that step). Then a little mustard and honey, and finally my acids: in this case, a tad bit of lemon juice and cider vinegar. I chose cider over rice vinegar as in the original because these greens are so sturdy and I like the complexity of the subtle apple flavor. Rice vinegar flavor is so subtle, I prefer it for more delicate greens. This is, alas, my native Californian palate talking, and may be a little over the top in the “Pretentiously Discerning Tastes” category. In other words, use the vinegar you have on hand. But if that’s balsamic, I’d skip the lemon juice.

autumn-greens-salad-dressing

Finally, I added the slivered raw onion and some chopped sour cherries. (The original recipe calls for Zante currants, but…like…what even are those?)

autumn-greens-salad-dressing

Let all of that sit while you go on to the next step.

Autumn Greens Salad: The Greens

I’ve said it approximately 8,000 times, which may surprise you given the low content on the blog: Massage raw kale. This step, mystifyingly, was left out of the original, like you’re just going to eat a bunch of torn kale, happily chomping away like some sort of hominid. I repeat: after destemming your kale, cut it in ribbons, then massage it by dropping it in that bowl where you put the olive oil. Rub the kale through your hands for about 2 minutes.

You’ll be adding this to the salad bowl on top of the dressing ingredients in a minute.

For your other greens: We had some really nice curly endive on hand from the farm. It’s unlikely you’ll find this is a box; rather, it’s going to come in a big old-fashioned head, probably a little (or a lot) dirty around the roots. Separate the leaves, wash it well—3 times is a good rule of thumb, but just keep dipping it in water until the water is completely clean. Spin it dry, wrap it in paper or cloth dish towels, put it in a big plastic bag, and you’ve got a pleasantly bitter green for a month.

I cut the endive in small pieces because, while not as sturdy as kale, it’s still pretty toothy.

Autumn Greens Salad: The Bling

I followed the original recipe by using both a blood orange and a navel orange. Grapefruit in combo or on its own would also work nicely. (Citrus with dark greens falls on the “food magic” continuum for me, something I just made up but that I think we need.)

Cut away the peel, rather than simply peeling it; this gives you something to hold onto when you cut out the sections. Put the round side in your hand, then very carefully, with a curved blade knife, remove the sections from the membranes. (Here’s my full tutorial on how to do this.) Cut the orange over the bowl with the dressing to capture that wee bit of juice that results. Add the oranges to the bowl.

Now, scrape the kale into the dressing bowl, using a spatula to make sure you get all the oil. Chopped endive goes on top. Then I throw on a handful of a baby green or two; we always have a big old clamshell of something. Arugula is my favorite, though I didn’t have any the day I made this.

Finally, I put fresh parsley leaves on top. Basil leaves are superb here, but I had fresh parsley and it worked nicely. Fresh herb leaves really make excellent salad greens, something I learned from Yotam Ottolenghi, who I think should be canonized or something. 

Finally, I tossed the whole thing. You may initially feel like you need more oil, but just toss for a good minute; there’s enough oil on the kale leaves that will eventually coat the other greens. Of course, I’m fond of a fairly light touch with oil, so do add more if you need it.

autumn-greens-salad

Shave some Manchego on top. You know what would also be good? Those Mercona almonds you get from Trader Joe’s. Yep, those are going on for Thanksgiving. But I didn’t have any. And it was still super yummy.

Autumn Greens Salad: The Recipe

oven polenta

Oven Polenta with Roasted Veggies

Jump straight to the Oven Polenta with Roasted Veggies recipe.

I love corn, I love cornmeal, and I adore polenta. Steve wants nothing to do with it. So more for me.

polenta with roasted veggies

But everyone knows that polenta is a giant pain in the ass because of all that blasted stirring. I’ve made it in the crockpot; it eliminates the stirring, but also stiffens up the polenta so it’s like those little tubes you buy of ready made polenta at the store. This, my friends, is not the polenta of the Italian grandmother you may have had, or in my case, pine for on occasion. (I had a German grandmother on one side who could bake but preferred riding horses, and a French/Danish/Irish one on the other, who made weird multicolored popcorn balls and sauerkraut. Never polenta.)

Bon Appetit was one of my early cooking teachers, and it remains one of my favorite arrivals. I still like print magazines and probably always will. Leafing through the October issue, I saw what looked like a lovely bowl of polenta and a pan of roasted mushrooms. Most intriguing, the polenta was baked in the oven right alongside the veggies. The recipe subhead reads: “Call it cheating—we call it 30 minutes you don’t need to spend standing at the stove.”

Count me IN.

Oven Polenta with Roasted Veggies: The Prep

Look, why just roast a pan of mushrooms when you also have some eggplant and red bell pepper to use up? And why only add thyme when you also have some rosemary growing in a pot? These are questions I ask myself frequently, especially after a recent mild talking-to that Steve and I gave to ourselves about better using the virtual fruit of the refrigerator.

oven polenta with roasted veggies

I cubed the eggplant and pepper; I’d bought the shrooms sliced, so they were good to go. Roasting veggies is not a recipe thing, people. You put them in a bowl, add some oil, fresh herbs and garlic if you’re so inclined, seasonings. Then spread them on a sheet pan and roast them.
One new wrinkle that the recipe provides, and that I decided to give a try: Begin the roasting process at a measly 325º. I typically go for the max carmelization delivered by a hotter oven, but….why not?

oven polenta with roasted veggies

Veggies in oven, I heated broth and water together to a boil. The recipe specified water only, but long ago I learned that if you can sub something for the water, do it; more flavor.

I whisked in the polenta, covered the pot, then put it right in the oven. The nice low temp ensured that the polenta would cook gently all by itself. Then I sat down and played the piano for a while, because that is an amazing thing to be able to do while you wait for the timer to ring.

Oven Polenta with Roasted Veggies: Finishing

After about half an hour, the polenta was ready to come out. When I looked at it and shook the pan, I thought….this cannot be! The polenta was still liquid. But then I stirred it and found that it had indeed started to thicken to the perfect polenta consistency. I removed it, gave it a good whisk, and left it on the stove top.

oven polenta with roasted veggies

Now I cranked up the oven—the recipe actually instructs, “Crank up the oven”—to its highest temp, which on mine is 550º. Zoinks! The vegetables crisped up after about 10 minutes.

Then we went on a walk for about 40 minutes, with of course everything out of the oven. In that time, the polenta had set up beautifully: pourable, but not a soup, just that wonderful hybrid of liquid and solid that means ideal polenta. Without the walk, I would have kept the stove on its very lowest setting to give the polenta just a little more incentive to thicken.
But seriously, it was lovely.

oven polenta with roasted veggies

Oven Polenta with Roasted Veggies: The Recipe

stuffed acorn squash

Stuffed Acorn Squash

stuffed-acorn-squash

Jump straight to the Stuffed Acorn Squash recipe.

It’s squash season. Bright orange pumpkins of all sizes, ecru butternut, forest green acorn, mad scientist-y turban, and all sorts of weird warty things. What to do with this bounty? Stuff it! This adaptation of a Clean Eating recipe, which I made the other night, changed up my game big time.

And why was that game so changed? Well, I’ve made stuffed squash before and always felt like it was kind of meh. It’s been a while, and I freely admit that I could have been doing a lot of things wrong. But my memories were a sort of bland, healthy filling and a squash that was a little stiff and not perfectly baked, and also—again—just sort of boring.

Stuffed Acorn Squash: The Squash

The beauty of this technique is how simple it is. You know, the “why haven’t I done this all along?” kind of simple. Heat up your oven, cut the squash in half, season it….

stuffed-acorn-squash

….wrap it in parchment, and bake it. The recipe calls for foil, but I don’t trust it. (This same issue of the magazine has a bunch of myth-busting, one of which is that it’s ok to cook in aluminum, but still….parchment makes a cool noise!)

Stuffed Acorn Squash: The Stuffing

While the squash bakes, you make up your yummy sauce. As usual, I improvised off the recipe recommendations. I sautéed onions and mushrooms—onions and any sautéeable veggie you have on hand would work. Bell peppers are a natural this time of year, as are carrots and celery in any season. I added a spicy chicken sausage I had on hand, having been recently chastised for not using turkey sausage in time (man, does that stuff get funky quick). This subbed for regular old ground turkey in the recipe, and if I’d used that, I would have upped the spice quotient, because it, too, can be super blandorama. (I realized crumbled tempeh would have worked great for a meatless version as well, and there are enough spices in this that it wouldn’t taste like b.s., which tempeh does if you don’t spice it up.)

stuffed-acorn-squash

Speaking of spices, I used the recommended ones from the original recipe, and also doubled the tomato paste quantity. I realized afterward I have some red pepper soup sitting in the fridge that would have also been a dynamite substitute for tomato sauce. Next time. And you could easily make this southwestern by using cumin, oregano, chili powder, and just a pinch of cinnamon.

By the time I’d finished putting the sauce together, the squash had 25 minutes to cook—exactly the amount of time the sauce needed to simmer.

After that, I just took the squash halves from the oven, unwrapped them—they were wonderfully soft, perfectly cooked…

stuffed-acorn-squash

…and filled them with sauce. Oh, at the last minute, I stirred some nutritional yeast into the sauce.

stuffed-acorn-squash

Big flavor, a little more texture. I strewed some fresh basil across the top.

Wow, what a great fall dinner. And even greater is that I finally learned how to do a stuff squash that is both yummy and virtuously healthy. Enjoy.

stuffed acorn squash

Stuffed Acorn Squash: The Recipe



autumn-sweet-potato-kale-curry

Autumn Sweet Potato Kale Curry

Jump to the Autumn Sweet Potato Kale Curry recipe.

chickpea-curry

So before proceeding to the evolution and execution of this Autumn Sweet Potato Kale Curry, I must take a moment to pay homage to my guy, Tim Gunn.
For the rest of you: I love Tim Gunn.

I’ve suffered through many a grim episode of Project Runway just to watch him stroll into the studio, impeccably dressed, marvelously discerning and insightful, and most of all, respectful. I’ve been trying to mastermind a Tim Gunn for President of the World campaign for, like, ever. Sigh. Tim, you will also be the secret to making the world fabulous, better dressed, and kinder in my book.
Now a lot of times on Project Runway, one of the contestants will come up with a real Fashion Don’t. And Tim will say, “I’m concerned,” and the way he says it…

…you know that he is the only thing between that contestant and an icy and heart-freezing look from Nina Garcia…

….who would disdainfully raise her eyebrows if Botox hadn’t robbed her of that ability long ago in a way that is all the more soul-destroying because in that moment, said unfortunate contestant realizes that he/she/they simply don’t exist for her and never did.

And then Tim will say, in this wonderfully hearty and stirring way, “This is what we call a Make It Work Moment!!”

Autumn Sweet Potato Kale Curry: The Mistake

Well, making this Sweet Potato Kale Curry was a total Make It Work moment for me. Because I did a very dumb thing, which was: I didn’t get all my ingredients out before hand. I say why one should never do this. Physician, heal theyself!! Or be forced to get through a Make It Work Moment.

I got my new (October 2018) issue of Clean Eating, and there’s this awesome article on spice blends. And there’s also a recipe for Squash, Spinach, and Chickpea Curry. (I’d give you the link here, but the recipe’s not online yet.)

Well, just a couple of days ago, Steve went to visit our friends at Frog Holler Farm, and he came home with this lovely butternut squash. Also, that morning, he mentioned we had some kale just kind of sitting in the fridge, and I nearly always sub kale for spinach, because the texture holds up better. Chickpeas? Tons of cans lying around. Ditto coconut milk.
Also, it was an overcast rainy day and so really perfect for some curry.

So I start merrily following the recipe. First up: A really terrific homemade turmeric blend. This is a direct copy of the original recipe at Clean Eating (and I’ll link to it when it’s available); I’ve reproduced it below in half the amount.

curry-spice-blend

There’s a little blurb in the magazine on the joy of turmeric, and this particular blend is generous with a bunch of other stuff, so mainly the turmeric adds color, because on its own it’s got kind of a weird dusty flavor. So I mixed that up straight away.

I heated the coconut oil, chopped up half an onion. We’re going gangbusters so far.

curry-sauteed-onions

Autumn Sweet Potato Kale Curry: The Joy of Improv

Then I say, “Hey, babe, did you bring in that squash from the farm?” 
“It’s in my car.”

I start to exit stage left—and then remember we left the car in Ann Arbor (the details are not that interesting). With the squash in it.

But I did have some sweet potatoes on the counter. So I thought, ok, a sweet potato will Make It Work. Phew! I peel and cube one, throw it in the onion pot that already also has some garlic and the spice blend in it, and add some broth. Everything’s bubbling away making a cozy sound.

Off to the garden to pick a bunch of basil, then wash it along with the kale. I happily chop my troubles away as the sweet potatoes cook up on the stove.

It’s time to add half of them to the blender with a can of coconut milk. Which…we don’t have.

Dammit!

How can this be? I’ve looked a at least 4 cans of coconut milk in my pantry for ages, thinking, why did I think I would use a small case of of coconut milk? (Because I was at Costco, that’s why. That place makes me think I’d better stock up for that army of epicures who are bound to kick down my door, demanding facsimiles of southeast Asian delicacies.)

I search my pantry and my apoteca, which is this kind of cool roll out door that holds the stuff that won’t fit in my smallish pantry, increasingly wild-eyed. There is no damn coconut milk.

Bauer, you can Make It Work! I told myself, feeling plucky despite my trembling lower lip. Quickly, I improvised. I had frozen a bunch of buttermilk in little 1/4 cup batches in the fridge. I threw four in the blender, along with a handful of shredded, unsweetened coconut, and a little almond milk. I blended in the sweet potatoes.

It actually worked. The buttermilk is thick and not out of place in a curry. The almond milk and coconut lent some nuttiness and sweetness.

So that was cool. I poured my coconut milk substitute into the sauce pan, being careful not to boil it (so it wouldn’t curdle), added the kale, and went to find the chickpeas.

vegetarian-curry-sauce

Autumn Sweet Potato Kale Curry: Continued Thrills

You probably saw this coming. I had dried chickpeas for days, which frankly were not going to do me a damn bit of good. But a can of cooked chickpeas? You know, one from the batch I’d bought at Costco that took forever to get rid of?

Forever, apparently, passed me by. Not a cooked chickpea in sight.

But in my frantic can search….what to my wondering eye should appear?
Oh, for pity’s sake.

canned-coconut-milk

Well, I had a half cauliflower on hand. So I roasted it…

cauliflower

….because at this point, the dream of sweet potato kale curry for lunch had evaporated and I just ate some sort of snack.

cauliflower-curry

I also had packs of rice and quinoa from Costco, which are just sitting there like all the six packs of things I get from Costco, so I threw one of those in.

chickpea-curry

My Make It Work Moment tended to be just like the ones on Project Runway—about an hour long. But I did make it work. 
I don’t recommend you reproduce my angst. Please get ingredients out ahead of time. Making It Work is gratifying, but slightly stressful. Then again, sometimes that frisson of panic is exactly the seasoning a dish needs. Bon appetit.