Roasted & Spiced Cabbage Slabs

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Sometimes plain. Sometimes not.
Sometimes spiced, making it hot.

This little rhyme reminded me of an old commercial for chocolate bars. 
'Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don't.' 

I realized it's exactly the same when adding spices. Sometimes you feel like spicing things up a bit while others times not.  It got me thinking about the last few recipes I posted.  In the category of 'sometimes plain', my recent post for a quick, pull together stir fry didn't utilize any spices. That recipe was all about letting the vegetables do the talking.  In the 'sometimes not' category, my recipe for cauliflower was all about zinging up the veg and making them sing.

Although I'm not feeling like a nut, I am definitely yearning more spice lately.  It could just be 2018, as many things are being spiced up for me this year. My 2017 was a bit bland, but 2018 is shaping up to be banging.

So with that, here's another spiced up idea for slabs of vegetables.  Given the recent slabbing of cauliflower and dousing with spices, the heads of cabbage were destined to meet the same fate.

Normally, my first 3 thoughts for using cabbage are:

  1. Slaw
  2. Soup
  3. Stir fry

On first viewing, I see cabbage and think of slaw. Hence being at the top of the list.  Then soup, then stir fry.  Since slaw is usually cold food/warm weather food- scratch that.  Number two on the list is soup and that completely fits the cold weather/warm food criteria, and was actually my intention when I bought them.  However, I just wasn't feeling soupy. And third on the list was stir fry.  And as you know, of the three cabbages I bought, the Savoy cabbage actually did make it into the stir fry recipe. But now I had two other heads staring back at me.  My need for variety coupled with my recent desire for spice was screaming at me, 'You can't make stir fry again!'   

Which forced me to add #4 to my hit list...

Roast it, baby!

Hey, this is not such a far fetched idea.  I roast everything.  Much like the cauliflower, it was time to heat things up both in temperature and flavor.

Once again, not wanting a big fuss because I had no idea how this would turn out or what I would serve this with, I kept the prep fairly simple.

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Ingredients

1 small purple cabbage, cut in 3/4 - 1" slabs
1 small green cabbage, cut in 3/4 - 1" slabs
1 rounded t each of cayenne, turmeric, paprika
1 t salt
¼ t red pepper flakes
1 heaping T freshly grated ginger
1 heaping T grated garlic
4-5 T olive oil

Instructions

Cut the cabbage in thick slabs and place them on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2 T oil.

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In small bowl, mix the cayenne, turmeric and paprika. Then sprinkle the mixture on both sides of the cabbage slabs.

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In another small bowl, grate the ginger and garlic, add the red pepper flakes, salt and oil.  Mix and then brush on each slab.

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Roast in a 425 degree oven until soft in the middle and a little crisp on the edges, turning them to ensure they are well roasted on both sides. 

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Once they were done I will admit I wasn't sure what I would do with big spicy slabs.  Certainly, they could be served as a side dish with jasmine rice and grilled chicken or fish.  This would be great with Tikka Chicken and a cucumber yogurt sauce. But I didn't have any of that made, so I packed them up and stored them in the fridge.  As the next day dawned, these spiced cabbages solved a lunch dilemma.  I decided they would be the feature in Indian inspired tacos.  I sautéd some spinach and warmed the cabbage. Grilled corn tortillas melting some cheese on them. Then filled them with the vegetables and topping it with sour cream.  Quite the tasty bite.

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Sardinian Style Spaghetti

Rich with flavors from the sea balanced with sweetness from the tomatoes paired with Spanish wine from Menica,  Petalos

Rich with flavors from the sea balanced with sweetness from the tomatoes paired with Spanish wine from Menica, Petalos

One Sunday morning after getting home super late from a wonderful night out with friends, we rolled out of bed at 10am. Indeed, we slept in uber late, waking up still sleepy and without much motivation for anything. But given that we hit our pillows at 3:30a, I feel you understand. We ain't no spring chickens anymore.

So after our morning coffee and a little work, starving pangs hit our stomachs and brains at the same time. JC was jonesing for pasta, and no big surprise, so was I. It was Sunday after all.  Our pasta day.  I do feel quite responsible, and delighted at the same time, as I take full credit for conditioning him to crave pasta on Sundays. The two just go together.

We truly had zilch in the house. Not even parsley, which is considered a constant round these parts. I do, however, try to keep some staples in the pantry for just these occasions.  Knowing we had anchovies, sardines, garlic, red pepper flakes, I suggested a Sardinian style pasta from our stash. When I yammer on about creating something from nothing, this is exactly it.  Scrounging around the pantry, and fridge to see what might be viable options.  It's moments like these that having quality pantry items can be your hunger pangs' salvation.

JC was up for the challenge and immediately ran to carry out our plan.  I must say, he executed this perfectly, creating a spicy, salty mix reminiscent of that sexy Italian island.

Now, there are tons of recipes for Sardinian style pasta.  Some incorporate raisins and spices and other combinations which are all fantastic. And I implore you to experiment with them. But when you want pasta fast, easy and without having much in the fridge, but still delivering bold flavors, then try this one.  It will knock your socks off.  Again, the key is the quality of the canned ingredients. The ones we used truly enhanced this dish to the max. Since I work at Despaña, I have access to some delicious products. (And you can too, the website here ships all across the country.) These tiny tins pack so much flavor that you barely need to add anything else.  I will say that both the Spanish and the Italians have a knack for producing some of the best jarred and canned products. 

JC and me in the Italian countryside. Montespertoli, Tuscany

JC and me in the Italian countryside. Montespertoli, Tuscany

So with Spain providing a healthy boost to create the sauce, and Italy providing the idea of combining them together for pasta, it was a lovely marriage that resembles the one between this Italian American gal and her spicy Spanish man.

 
These Spanish fishes are canned at peak freshness and are absolutely delicious.  Despaña carries them both in their stores and website.

These Spanish fishes are canned at peak freshness and are absolutely delicious.  Despaña carries them both in their stores and website.

Ingredients

 

1 - 4 oz. tin sardines in olive oil
1 - 4 oz. tin sardines in hot sauce
1 - 4 oz. tin Baby Surimi Eel
2-4 anchovies, optional
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3/4 c roasted tomatoes
1 T capers, drained and wash in water
pinch red pepper flakes
pinch dried oregano
2/3 c olive oil
1/2 lb spaghetti

 

 

Instructions

Start by slowly heating up oil, red pepper flakes, oregano and garlic.    

Add the two tins of sardines with their liquids and eels, but draining the tin of baby eels first.

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Add the roasted tomatoes and let the sauce warm through.  That's all it takes.  You should not need to add salt to this dish, but always taste and season according to your taste bud.

This may look strange, but these roasted tomatoes keep in the fridge for weeks due to the amount of oil.  It keeps them cured as it congeals protecting them.  Use some of that oil in the sauce, too.  

This may look strange, but these roasted tomatoes keep in the fridge for weeks due to the amount of oil.  It keeps them cured as it congeals protecting them.  Use some of that oil in the sauce, too.  

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Spoon some of the sauce on the bottom of the bowl, swirl the spaghetti on top, then spoon more sauce and add grated cheese.

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Honestly, this couldn't be simpler. It's all about using a few good ingredients and warming them up so they can swim together.  Pour yourself a big glass of red wine. We choose a Mencia wine, Petalos from the Bierzo region of Spain. This was the perfect way to stave off the hunger pains and soothe our European souls.

Viva Italia, and ok Spain helped too.

 

Print Friendly Recipe

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P.S. Happy birthday to my fellow Piscean friend, Dianne., who is loyal reader and supporter. And although she may not be a fan of sardines, it's still appropriate in honoring the glorious versatility of fish!

Cauliflower: Spiced & Roasted

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I'm not sure which came first the cauliflower ideas or the idea to use cauliflower to mark the anniversary of this blog.  If have you been reading this blog from its inception you will recall that I launched the blog with my Faux Creamy Cauliflower Soup recipe, and then ended that year with a Creamy, Cheesy Cauliflower Dip.  Clearly, I like cauliflower and make it during the winter months. I love having that creamy soup on a cool fall or cold winter's day. As you know, I am also a fan of roasting. So the remainder of the time, I roast cauliflower. Just some plain Jane roasted cauliflower. (Poor Jane, we have no idea whether she was plain or not but she sure does get the short end of that stick.)

So instead of plain Jane roasted cauliflower, this time would prove different.  I have spices and I like to use them.  I especially like using turmeric because of its anti-inflammatory benefits.  With my cauliflower's need to not be plain and my need for variety, I opened the spice cabinet. 

I literally just pinched a little of this and a little of that right onto the sheet pan with oil and mixed it all around.  Then smushed (yes, the very technical term for imparting all that flavor onto the vegetable) the cauliflower around making sure the entire surface was covered with the tiny particulars of flavor.  While it was roasting, I decided to make a 'salsa' for a finishing topping. 

ingredients

1 head of cauliflower, sliced in slabs
3 T olive oil

pinches of:
cayenne
paprika
turmeric
salt
black pepper
red pepper flakes

Topping (optional)
1/4 c basil leaves
1/4 c mint leaves
1 medium garlic clove
1/8 t coarse sea salt
1/4 c olive oil

Instructions

As I mentioned, this was as easy as pour the oil on the roasting sheet and then add the spices and mix until you get a pasty mixture. 

Spiced oil mixture.  Basil, mint standing by to become a 'salsa'.

Spiced oil mixture.  Basil, mint standing by to become a 'salsa'.

Cut the cauliflower in slabs so you get a tree like slab. 

Cauliflower 'trees'

Cauliflower 'trees'

Place them on the pan and make sure they are fully coated with the spice mixture. Roast at 425 degrees, turning once to make sure both sides get a good suntan, back and front.  No one wants a tan on the front and a milky white backside. While the cauliflower is roasting, use a mortar and pestle to crush the basil, mint, garlic and salt together to form a paste. Then add the oil to create a salsa like mixture. (You can also use a mini blender.)

Swimming around in spices, these cauliflower slabs are ready for roasting.

Swimming around in spices, these cauliflower slabs are ready for roasting.

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I think this side dish would be a nice addition to a Meze platter. A perfect side dish to fish or steak.  Of course, any Indian inspired food would be a natural plate partner.  I served myself a slab alongside some sautéd kale, and garlic mashed potatoes.  I dabbed a bit of the mint/basil oil on top. It gave it more of a kick.  Jill and JC liked the cauliflower all by itself.  I venture to say that if you added yogurt to the basil/mint that the cream and fat content would be a lovely complement to that mixture.  As far as the roasting, this method can lead to a variety of other spice mixes.  Try it with oregano or Chinese Five Spice.  Whatever tickles your spice fancy.

Glorious Grains Moroccan Style

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I think I might have a starch addiction. I am drawn to anything that provides that hearty, hulky texture.  Pasta, rice, potatoes, grains.  All these top my "I'll eat these anywhere, anytime" list.  Since I tend to consume all of the previously mentioned starchy delights a lot, I am always searching for different flavor combos to add to my repertoire.  I am not a huge fan of savory foods being too sweet, but I do enjoy countering tangy, sour, spicy flavors with cooling herbs and hints of sweet notes.  That's why this recipe, mixing grains of varied flavors and textures with herbs and other 'condiments', hits the bull's eye, satisfying those goals. Another great plus to this combo is that these grains pack a powerful protein punch.  Flavor, nutrients, festive looking... What more can you ask of your food?

When I first made this dish I was still eating wheat, so couscous was one of the 'grains' I used.  If you are not gluten free then go ahead, stir it in. For those who are gluten free, just eliminate the couscous as I do now.  You can add another grain or replace it by doubling up on one of the others already being used.  I used another 3/4 c of quinoa as a replacement.

What a heavenly and earthy mix. Also, notice my favorite little bowls that serve me so well for prepping dishes like this. If you want your own, check out   Miller Pottery

What a heavenly and earthy mix. Also, notice my favorite little bowls that serve me so well for prepping dishes like this. If you want your own, check out Miller Pottery

Ingredients

Simple, but perfectly balanced dressing line up.

Simple, but perfectly balanced dressing line up.

1 c uncooked Kasha (Buckwheat)
1 c uncooked Quinoa
1 c uncooked Couscous (eliminate to be gluten free)
1 c uncooked Millet
1/4 c chives, chopped
1/2 c chopped parsley
1/4 c mint, chopped
3/4 c dried apricots, diced
3/4 c Medjool dates, diced
1/2 c red onion, diced
1 c scallion, sliced
1/2 c almond slivers
(orange wedges would add lovely fresh component as an option)

Dressing
1/2 c lemon juice
1 T lemon zest
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1.5 t salt
3/4 c olive oil

 

Instructions 

Cook each of the grains separately, according to the package. 

Glorious grains. Millet, quinoa, kasha (which is also known as buckwheat)

Glorious grains. Millet, quinoa, kasha (which is also known as buckwheat)

While those are cooking, chop and prep all the remaining ingredients and have ready to mix together.   

Parsley, dates, scallions, red onion, almonds, dried apricots, chives, mint. Oh, these are going to love dancing together.

Parsley, dates, scallions, red onion, almonds, dried apricots, chives, mint. Oh, these are going to love dancing together.

Once the grains are done, drain and mix them together, adding the dressing before all the other ingredients.

Cooked kasha, milliet, quinoa.

Cooked kasha, milliet, quinoa.

Pour the dressing on first and let it all soak in.

Pour the dressing on first and let it all soak in.

Then add in all the remaining ingredients and toss until well combined. 

A bounty of textures, flavors and nutrients all in one big bowl.

A bounty of textures, flavors and nutrients all in one big bowl.

You see that big LOVE sign. That's right, stir this up with huge amounts of Love. (See below about the new sign.)

You see that big LOVE sign. That's right, stir this up with huge amounts of Love. (See below about the new sign.)

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This dish can be served slightly warm, room temp or even chilled.  Since it has a nod to Moroccan flavors it will pair with lamb or chicken dishes quite well.  I ate mine with ripe heirloom tomatoes and French feta cheese.  The rest of our gang enjoyed it with roasted chicken.

 

You may have noticed that my LOVE in the background of some my shots has grown.  Indeed, it has.  There are moments in my life that continue to remind me of the many blessings bestowed on me.  Friends are at the top of my list.  One of my best friends extended her love by sending me some of hers in the form of that huge swirl of emotion.  Thank you Dominique for sharing this with me and for your eternal friendship, support and of course, Love.  My heart grew 3 sizes that day!

Gremolata on Grilled Eggplants - Dana style

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Last summer I happened upon long, white eggplants that motivated me to grill them and top them with a feta cream concoction.  I, and my guests, loved the combo so much that I was again inspired by the zesty, tangy flavors of feta, herbs and lemon. This time wanting to create more of a gremolata style topping. 

Ok, before the emails start coming asking, "What is gremolata" ? (Although trust me, I never mind getting your email questions or suggestions.)  Gremolata is an Italian condiment, if you will.  Super basic, but like many things Italian, it makes a powerful statement.  It's a zesty garnish of chopped herbs. The classic version consists of lemon zest, garlic, parsley and anchovy and is often used as to complement such dishes as Osso Buco alla Milanese, providing a final flavor zip to a rich meat dish.  

Classic style is great since most of those ingredients are common to every kitchen, and it creates a wonderful go-to topping to liven up any dish.  However, fear not of veering off the common path. I implore you to go ahead and venture out. Mix and match to design your own gremolata.  Think other citrus fruits such as lime, orange, grapefruit.  Mix up the herb type either substituting or adding to the parsley with cilantro/coriander, mint, sage. When it comes to the spicy zing of garlic, ponder anything zingy: finely grated fresh horseradish, grated ginger or minced shallot. Some chefs even throw in Pecorino Romano cheese, anchovy, toasted pine nuts or grated bottarga.  So, no big surprise that I would riff off the classic gremolata to create a garnish that was destined to brighten up another batch of long, white eggplants. 

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I quickly began compiling items for my dana version.  The key to a great gremolata is FRESH ingredients. No jarred herbs or citruses allowed.

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ingredients

1/4 c chopped parsley
3 T chopped Moroccan or oil cured olives
1 T chopped fresh, mint
2 T chopped oven dried tomatoes*
1/3 c crumbled feta
1/4 t red pepper flakes
3 T minced shallot
1 T lemon zest
3 T olive oil

*I made my own oven dried tomatoes and packed them in oil. Recipe is linked above but can also use sun dried tomatoes

Instructions

Grill or prepare the meat or veggie of your choice.  As I mentioned, I grilled white eggplants and onions.

Chop, prep all the above ingredients and combine together.  A true gremolata does not include the oil. But you can add it to the mix or drizzle it over top the final dish.

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This adds such a bright, summer fresh flavor to grilled anything.  Heck, I bet this would be banging on a grilled hamburger.  Skip the ketchup, and pile on the gremolata!!

Another fringe benefit to using gremolata on vegetables is that you rake in all the fresh, brightness of citrus without turning your green vegetables brown. I also tried it on spaghetti squash and it definitely imparted a different flavor profile.  Now that's amore!

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