Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Roasted Cauliflower with Walnuts

Let me first say, yum! You need to eat this!

Many vegetarians don't get enough Omega-3 fatty acids, and tend to rely on pre-packaged convenience foods when strapped for time and ideas on a weeknight. And I don't know many people, veg or otherwise, who eat what I would consider to be an adequate amount of fiber. Add the cancer-fighting benefits of cruciferous vegetables, and you have a nutritional powerhouse on your plate.

This simple dish is good for your heart, perfect for those following an anti-inflammatory diet, and easy to throw together for a weeknight dinner. It's also very savory, filling, and just plain delicious. I served it with lentil stew (from the freezer) and brown rice, for a "30 minute meal" without all the fat, hot dogs and stupid catch-phrases.

This will serve four as a side dish if you have a reasonable appetite. The two of us ate all of it, and after dinner, I scurried back into the kitchen to scrape what was left from the sheet pan onto a spoon.

1 small head cauliflower, cored and roughly chopped into florets
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss all ingredients on a large sheet pan, and roast for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower begins to brown and is cooked the way you like it. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Linguine with Mushrooms

I guess I should preface this by saying that one could make this dish much more decadent, if that were necessary. Feel free to squander all of your dried porcini, truffle oil or whatever else you have lying about if you must. But there are times when it's not in the cards to spend $25 or two hours on a plate of pasta with mushrooms. Sometimes you just need dinner, now.

I think many people labor under the delusion that everything a chef makes is going to be luxe, full of expensive ingredients and hours of work. I, for one, don't believe that gluttony makes me a good citizen of this planet, and so on most days, we eat very simply, but very well. Next time you are pressed for time and beaten down by the universe, try this quick and easy dinner. Served with a salad (I love arugula, which, believe it or not, we found a winter crop of in the back of the garden last week!) and a glass of red wine, or eaten directly from the pan while standing over the stove, it is delicous, cheap and comforting - three things I think we could all use right about now.

Gather the following:

1/2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in:
1 cup very hot vegetable stock (water will do as well)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
10 oz. baby bella or white button mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced or run through a garlic press
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
salt and pepper

1 lb. linguine, cooked al dente

While your dried mushrooms are soaking, slice the fresh mushrooms, chop your parsley, and put a large pot of water on to boil for your pasta. Have ready a large saute pan that will accommodate your mushrooms as well as all of the pasta.

Heat the saute pan over medium-high to high heat (it really depends on your stove), then begin adding the fresh mushrooms, a handful at a time. This is the one part of the recipe that you want to take your time with - if you add all of the mushrooms at once, they will steam rather than saute, and you will not develop any flavor. Add a little extra olive oil if you need to. Once the mushrooms are becoming nice and brown and sizzly, add the garlic and saute for another minute or two. Drain your porcini mushrooms, reserving the liquid, and chop. Add them to the pan, too. Deglaze with 1/4 cup dry white wine, and cook until the liquid evaporates. Add the reserved stock that you soaked the mushrooms in, as well as the parsley, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Reduce the heat to low.

By now, your pasta water should be boiling. Salt it generously, and cook your pasta until done, but a litte firm to the bite. Reserve about 1/2 cup of cooking liquid from the pasta. Now drain the pasta, turn your saute pan heat to high, and add all at once to the mushroom mixture. Toss well for about a minute. If it looks dry, add a little of the pasta water and toss again. Remove from heat and toss with a little more olive oil and freshly ground pepper.

If you do the cheese thing, here's where you'll want to add a little freshly grated Parmigiano. If you do the vegan thing, add some fresh bread crumbs tossed with olive oil and toasted in a 400 degree oven. If you're fancying it up for a dinner party, increase the amount of dried porcini to a full ounce, drizzle a few drops of truffle oil over the finished product, make a batch of fresh fettucine instead of using dried pasta, or seek out some fresh wild mushrooms.