Taco Friday: Roasted cauliflower and black beans

I have fallen in love with cauliflower.

Cauliflower is the new kale

Lately I have been putting it on a baking sheet, drizzling it with olive oil and roasting it in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes or so. Right before serving I shake on sea salt and a couple of turns of freshly ground pepper. Yum.

Last Sunday night after the Packers won the NFC Championship, Dan and I took our now traditional ‘Packer March’ to the Laurel Tavern for a quick victory celebration. Upon returning home famished, we ordered my favorite take-out in town, Burrito Drive. I always get the same order (they even have it in the computer): Build your own tacos- flour tortillas, black beans, asadero cheese, red pickled onions, romaine lettuce, green salsa, and seasonal vegetable. When the delivery man arrived with our food, I squealed with delight to discover that the ‘seasonal vegetable’ was cauliflower.

After a Thursday night out at Alchemy for dinner and a couple of acoustic sets by Dan and Pat (Clovis Mann duo), Dan and I decided to have a mellow Friday evening at home. Inspired by my tacos from Burrito Drive, we made roasted cauliflower and black bean tacos. I can’t quite call this a recipe, more of an assembling of ingredients- just in case you want some suggestions, these are my favorite tortillas, fillings and toppings:

Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Tortillas, Eden Black Beans and cheese

Red cabbage, avocado, onions, and yellow bell peppers

Roasted cauliflower

Sour cream, fresh Willy Street Co-op salsa and sriracha

I like to mash up the avocado with chopped onions and fill the tortilla with the veggies, shredded cheese, black beans (that have been heated up), and avocado mixture. On Friday we decided to assemble the tacos and then grill them in a non-stick pan:

Right before eating, pile on the sour cream and salsa (and hot sauce- if you are into the heat- which I am). Enjoy.

Happy Sunday.

You light up my life, B.J. Raji

Yesterday this happened… and the heaviest man in the history of the NFL to score a touchdown in the playoffs was described as “prancing” around in the endzone. B.J. Raji, watching you run the football for a touchdown like a giant baby keeping candy away from a pesty kid on your block was one of the best moments of the season. And then you put your hands on your hips and shook your behind. And now the Packers are going to the Super Bowl. B.J. Raji, you light up my life.

In addition to lighting up my life, you and your ball club have been dominating my weekends lately, not that I’m complaining. But who’s got time to worry about a week’s worth of lunches when the Packers are playing in the NFC Championship? Not this fan. And so this is how I found myself in the predicament that I did today- no lunch for school and famished by the time I got home at 5:30. A stroke of desperation/ genius led me to a jar of peanut butter, a banana and a honey bear. I love this sandwich so much, but I often forget to make it for myself. In case you have forgotten how delicious it is, I wanted to remind you, too.

I bet B.J. Raji likes this sandwich

Take a couple of pieces of whole wheat bread, spread on some all-natural peanut butter, slice up half a banana and pour on the honey. Mmmmmm.

Luckily I had some leftover lentil soup in the fridge that Dan and I heated up for dinner that was made all the better by grating (Wisconsin) parmesan cheese on top. I served it with steamed kale that I doused in lemon juice and sriracha- this was a revelation. And a delicious loaf of country bread from the Madison Sourdough Company. Basking in the afterglow of the Packers’ victory, it was a fine winter dinner.

Go Pack Go.

Quickie

Do I sound like I am 177-years-old if I say that I still don’t totally understand how to work my ipod? Because I don’t. Seriously. Is there a way to turn it off?
I also could not get a VCR to work today. I think that I am losing my technological edge. And to think that my parents use to be so proud of me because I could program the clock in their minivan.

P.S. TGIPN
Thank. Goodness. It’s. Pizza. Night.
Pictures to follow….

*UPDATE*

I present to you the Trioliverate pizza.

Served with spinach from the Willy Street Co-op fresh out of my new salad spinner, Ale Asylum Ambergeddon and The Flying Burrito Brothers station on Pandora. And now it’s time for cribbage!

Under the weather

At some point over the long weekend I had that sense of impending doom where you know that you are about to get clobbered over the head with a cold.

View from my chair at Mickey's Tavern

Before the cold hit I enjoyed a lovely Friday evening at Mickey’s Tavern with Dan (due to a rare Clovis Mann bye weekend) where I mowed a wedge salad with blue cheese dressing (minus the bacon) and macaroni and cheese (sans the kielbasa) and discussed politics and pets with our friend, Dr. Hotbody (who showed up part way through our meal). It was snowy outside and cozy and warm inside the bar- especially with the amount of cheese that I consumed.

Java Stout at Alchemy

After dinner we walked to Alchemy where we enjoyed Pearl Street Lava Java Stout and I amazed a new friend with the contents of my large bag (“Look, I even carry a cribbage board in here!”) and bequeathed him my green tea breath mints which I believe had been in there untouched since 2008.

Saturday belonged to the Packers. Dan and I performed our pre-game rituals and gathered, as tradition states it (unless we are at Lambeau), in front of my 13-inch television. We ate green olives and Wisconsin cheddar cheese, drank Hinterland Pale Ale from Green Bay (via Star Liquor on Willy Street) and cheered our Packers on to the NFC championship game. It’s going to be one hell of a game on Sunday.

By Monday I was in the thick of it. Ransacked with a cold I sat on the couch and stared out the window at the fat snowflakes. I wondered about the origin of the term “under the weather” and drank tea. I felt sorry for myself and listened to sad songs by Merle Haggard, Gram Parsons and Hank Williams. Finally, I baked banana bread. And you should, too.

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This recipe comes from the book, A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg

Banana Bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger

6 tablespoons butter

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon slat

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (from about 3 large ripe bananas)

1/4 cup well-stirred whole-milk yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Set a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a standard-sized (about 9 by 5 inches) loaf pan with cooking spray or butter.

Put the butter in a heatproof bowl and melt in the preheated oven. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the chocolate chips and crysatallized ginger and whisk well to combine. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork. Add the mashed banana, yogurt, melted butter, and vanilla and stir to mix well. The same fork works fine for this.) Pour the banana mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir gently with a rubber spatula, scraping down the sides as needed, until just combined. Do not overmix. The batter will be thick and somewhat lumpy, but there should be no unincorporated flour. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top.

Bake until the loaf is a deep shade of golden brown and a toothpick insered into the center comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour. If the loaf seems to be browning to quickly, tent with aluminum foil. Cool the loaf in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Then tip it out onto the rack, and let it cool completely before slicing- unless you absolutely can’t help yourself, in which case, dig in.

Note: Fully cooled, this bread freezes beautifully. And it tastes delicious cold, straight from the freezer. To protect it from frost, wrap it in plastic wrap and then again in aluminum foil.

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I also added some chopped walnuts. It was delicious and is getting better with time. I think I will have a thick slice for breakfast with some medicinal tea. Here’s to getting back out into the weather.

Frazzled

My mind is a bit frazzled this morning. There is fresh snow on the ground and I feel like what I should be doing is getting some air and schlepping through the snow on my old cross-country skis, but instead I am furiously checking craigslist, facebook, email and text messages, drinking coffee, starting to do the dishes, stopping cleaning the dishes to go back to the computer…

It’s been awhile since I have needed to look for a new place to live and I have forgotten how much this stresses me out. Dan and I found an upper flat in one of my favorite neighborhoods with hardwood floors, a dishwasher, a deck but for some reason I just can’t fully commit. Now I am looking at houses outside of the city and wondering how much I would mind having to drive an hour a day… Much of this deliberation has to do with not knowing if either Dan or I have any chance of having a permanent job next school year. Let’s just say that our school district has a vague hiring policy with many different opinions on how one goes about getting a job… I’m also wondering whether or not it’s more important to have a yard in the boonies or a sweet deck in a central location. Is it better to have a house all to yourself or risk co-habitating in a two-story home with strangers with potential strange habits? Making decisions is not my strong point. And these are the places my mind is visiting this morning. Sorry to bring you along for the ride.

Cauliflower with onion-ginger sauce

Here is what I do know: I made an awesome new vegetarian Indian dish last night for dinner and I think you should try it too. My mom passed this recipe on to me from The Splendid Table. I made the recipe as printed (I used olive oil) except that I used cilantro stems instead of the coriander, I made it in my Le Cruset instead of a skillet and I decided to garnish it with fresh cilantro and lemon (there are an abundance of lemons in my fridge right now). I served it with brown rice, shredded carrot and lemon juice salad and Sierra Nevada Torpedo India Pale Ale beer. It was delicious- fresh-tasting, tangy, crunchy and hearty. Yum.

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Cook to Cook: The cauliflower can be steamed a day ahead and reheated before serving. The onion sauce could be made ahead as well (without the final touches of lime, coconut and cashews). It holds in the fridge for 4 days and for 6 months in the freezer. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, yams, green beans, tofu, chicken and seafood take to this sauce, and you could combine any of these at will.

Cauliflower with Ginger-Cashew-Onion Sauce

Copyright  2010 Lynne Rossetto Kasper. All Rights Reserved
Serves 4 to 6 as a main dish with rice and Indian breads, or 6 to 8 as a side dish

Canola oil or good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
1 whole jalapeno chile, minced (with the seeds for greater heat)
8 stems fresh coriander, finely chopped
1/3 cup raisins
1 25-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup vinegar (rice, cider or wine)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1 large cauliflower, cut into large flowerettes
Salt
Juice of 1/2 large lime or lemon
1/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 cup salted cashews, broken into large pieces

Film the bottom of a 12-inch skillet with oil and set over medium-high to high heat. Add the onions, salt and pepper. Saute over high heat, stirring often, until onions begin to color.

Onion pile

Stir in the garlic, ginger, chile, coriander, raisins, and chickpeas. Stir over medium- high heat 2 minutes then add the vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all the vinegar has evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Chickpeas entering the mix

Jalapeno, ginger, cilantro stems and garlic- into the pot!

Mmmmmmmmm

Push the saute to the sides of the pan so the center is empty and add the tomato paste. Saute about 30 seconds, then add the water and combine with the paste until smooth. Now blend everything together, cooking another 2 or 3 minutes. Taste for seasoning and set the saute aside. (It could be refrigerated overnight at this point).

Set a collapsible steamer in a 6-quart pot, add several inches of water, cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Add the cauliflower, sprinkling it with a little salt. Steam until the cauliflower shows a little resistance when pierced with a knife. With long tongs remove the cauliflower to a large shallow bowl.

Heat the onion saute until hot then spoon it over the cauliflower, using any liquid in the pan. Squeeze the lime or lemon juice over the saute then scatter the coconut and cashews on top. Serve hot or warm.

Eat it before it disappears!

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That’s all for now… too frazzled to try to end this post wittily.

Transcendent eggs

Okay my friends, this is going to be a quickie because I have a Packer playoff game to get ready to watch, but I made something so delicious for breakfast this morning (afternoon technically) that I feel that I need to share it right away. I don’t think that I have ever seen Dan so excited about something that I have made to eat before- he even declared that it transcended eggs and cheese and became a “miracle.” Whoa.

My mom got this recipe from her college roomate and it is called “Baked Roquefort Eggs.” My mom would make them for me when I was growing up when I begged her to… they are not the healthiest, but so delicious!

Ready to go into the oven

Here is how my mom wrote the recipe in the cookbook that she made for me about 10 years ago: “You need an oven proof dish- custard cup size. I put about a tablespoon of butter in the dish. Add 1/4 teaspoon spaghetti sauce seasoning. Then I put this in the oven briefly until it melts. Then crumble bleu cheese or roquefort cheese (amount is your choice) into the melted butter. Crack the egg and add it to the dish. Put a little more butter on the top (optional), salt and pepper and let it bake 10-12 minutes in a hot 450 degree oven. The 12 minute time will give you a hard yolk. This is good with toast.”

When I woke up this morning I knew that I wanted to make these for breakfast- Dan gave me four custard-size dishes for Christmas for the purpose of making these eggs- but I had neither bleu cheese nor spaghetti sauce seasoning. Instead of running to the store, I decided to adapt the recipe. My first instinct was to use a hard parmesan cheese that I had purchased at the Willy Street C0-op. Then I grabbed a softer white cheese and pondered that for a moment before finding a container of shredded parmesan that my mom had left behind in our refrigerator. Upon discovering that the shredded cheese was from Illinois I disgustingly put it back in the fridge- you do not use cheese from Illinois on Packer game day. Searching further I opened some moldy-looking feta (when my mom comes for Christmas from Oklahoma she brings the contents of her refrigerator to merge with our fridge here and always leaves me some goodies behind), threw it away and returned to my original plan of the Wisconsin parmesan cheese. It was a good call. Instead of the spaghetti sauce seasoning, I found some Country French Vinagrette seasoning from Penzey’s Spices. Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly as written (except I used about half the amount of butter).

Ready to eat

We enjoyed these eggs with a piece of whole wheat toast, as my mom suggested, and coffee. Cue Dan declaring the bit about these eggs transcending food. Yum. I am off for a quick run to burn off some of that butter and then it is Packer time. Go Pack Go. Happy Sunday!

Love is close dancing, Part 2 or I am allowed to drink booze

We had breakfast (homeade blueberry pancakes, Wisconsin maple syrup, fake sausage patties and lots of coffee) with our good friends Derek and Lanore this morning before they hit the road for Virginia (I was supremely jealous as I watched them drive away). Derek, a fantastic singer/ songwriter who has collaborated with Dan (including on this song– one of my favorites), was in town to play a show at The Frequency last night. In addition to “Old Fashioned,” Derek wrote an anthemic song about the Pine Cone truckstop off of I-94 between Madison and Milwaukee and can do a soul-bearing cover of Neil Young’s “Helpless.”

Derek and Dan at Isenroo 2010

Unfortunately Dan and I missed Derek’s set last night because we had an important task to do, which I will share in a future post…. We did however catch a set by The Snowbirds, a band out of Green Bay and Milwaukee. They were a little bit country (the good kind of country- like Willie Nelson or Merle Haggard) and even covered a song by one of my new favorite old bands, The Flying Burrito Brothers. It was a really good show- I enjoyed watching Gary doing a lot of foot stomps and rocking out on acoustic guitar and Dan was enamored with the pedal steel guitar. But one of my favorite parts of the whole evening was when I got home from the show and realized that the wrist band I had received at the door declared, “I am allowed to drink booze.” Well I suppose I am.

This morning Derek requested that I post that recipe for whole wheat pasta that I mentioned in my previous post. So I will start with that for my continued list of holiday highlights.

Highlight #4: Pasta dinner with my parents and Dan…

Whole wheat pasta with zucchini and goat cheese

The night after my parents arrived from Oklahoma my mom and I made this recipe from The New York Times. We served it with a loaf of good bread and roasted cauliflower and laughed hard about the time that my dad and his friend were watching Dairyland Jubilee and drove to the local tv station in an attempt to polka dance with Miss Whithee Bell. The story gets better from there but I think I might get in trouble if I say anymore. Here’s the recipe for the pasta (we doubled it for four people). It was delicious- I can’t wait to make it in the summer when the zucchini and basil are in season (and possibly grown in my garden).

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This is a recipe from the Dining section of The New York Times, October 12, 2010.

Creamy Pasta With Roasted Zucchini, Almonds and Basil

2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 cups)

1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons slivered almonds

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 sprig basil, with leaves and stem

3 tablespoons goat cheese

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

6 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti or linguine.

 1. Heat oven to 500 degrees. Toss the zucchini and oil with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Arrange zucchini on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast, tossing occasionally, until golden and tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, toast the almonds in a skillet over medium heat until golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.

3. Simmer the cream and basil sprig in a small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 7 minutes. Whisk in the goat cheese until the sauce is smooth. Remove from heat; stir in lemon zest and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and keep warm.

4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain well. Toss the pasta with the cream sauce. Serve topped with the zucchini and almonds.

Yield: 2 servings.

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#5: Our trip to Evanston, Illinois a couple of days after Christmas to visit friends.

In an extremely cozy house built a very long time ago we drank champagne and ate roasted brussel sprouts and cauliflower. Despite being told that they were vegan, I abstained from eating the ribs, but I heard they were delicious.

Brussel sprouts ready to go into the oven

We finally made our way to bed after a sing-along with Dan and Pat. A good time was had by all.

#6: Our Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve Scrabble games.  

Christmas Eve Scrabble game

We started playing Scrabble again a couple of years ago. We usually abide by the rules but we have had some ridiculous games (usually to accommodate my sister who used to become frustrated easily while playing, but has recently greatly  increased her gameplay) where we allowed words like “jaxed” (as in, “Oh man, you just got ‘jaxed’), “manrib” (?) and “epain” (pain received via the internet).

Dan is generally in charge of naming the competitors and this particular game was a grueling battle between Groggy, Cold and Clean! For once I, Cold, was victorious!

Cold is the winner!

We also honor a tradition established with my cousins at a family reunion in Montana: After the game everyone holds up the number of fingers of their finishing ranking and must have a look on their face that reflects their position. And then we take a photo which is usually pretty entertaining.

#7: Making owl-shaped Christmas cookies in the likeness of Green Bay Packers players.

Clay and Aaron

It was our friend Maggie’s idea and I think she is full of good ideas. Do you think “fans” of other teams do this? I don’t. Go Pack Go!!!!!!!!

Gilbert

Driver, Raji and Gilbert

#8: Last but not least, Christmas Day.

Christmas Day officially started at my sister’s friend’s parents’ house where we sat around the fireplace and sipped on rum and cokes. My sister and I walked home at about 3 a.m. through the perfectly quiet and snowy streets of our neighborhood. It was one of those nights where you just want to walk through those streets forever. Sneaking in the house around 3:30 we were greeted by our father who has had to deal with our late nights for a very long time. The next morning we opened stockings and a few presents at home and then we were off to our aunt and uncle’s house where we enjoyed mimosas, coffee, egg frittata and fruit salad. In the afternoon we took our traditional trip to the street where my dad grew up to visit his friend’s mom who is 102-years-old this year and an incredible woman.

After that was Christmas dinner at our friends’ house.

Sitting around a familiar wooden table in a candlelit dining room with Japanese rice paper windows we popped open Christmas crackers, laughed at our fortunes and wore colored paper crowns. We ate spinach, citrus salad with pomagranate seeds, potatoes and peppermint stick ice cream pie. We drank wine and cheersed to being together. And at one point our host put on his golden lame suit bequeathed to him by his dear friend and put on a song and dance routine. It was a magical evening.

After dinner we went across the street to the neighbor’s house where people from the neighborhood have started to gather on Christmas night for an outdoor fire. We sipped a  little whiskey, listened to a little banjo, and had a grand ol’ time. After we left the fire Dan, my sister and I were off to the Laurel Tavern to see who would show up and to catch up with some old friends. I knew it at the time, but in retrospect, it really was quite the day.

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Happy 2011. Here’s to a healthy, peaceful and happy year with lots of highlights.

Love is close dancing

Happy New Year, everyone. I spent my first night of 2011 sleeping in Dan’s new van which I am hoping is a good omen that I will be spending lots of time on the road this year. I definitely can be a homebody, but I was bitten by wanderlust the first time my parents strapped me into the ’77 pinto. And my mind keeps wandering to places like Montana, Wyoming, Washington, the redwoods of California, Maine…

Probably listening to Bob Seger right now...

The last two and a half weeks have been filled with many high and some low points. I have decided to focus on the highlights… My January page of my new Snoopy calendar declares that “Love is close dancing,” so I’ll start there-

Highlight #1: Dancing with Dan to Steve Winwood’s “The Finer Things” in his parked van shorty after midnight after his New Year’s Eve show. I had almost forgotten how much I love that song until Dan found the cassette tape when cleaning out his beloved old Chevy Astro.

#2: Dan’s New Year’s Eve show off the interstate in Oconomowoc. Due to the fifty-degree weather and rain, the ski hill was abandoned but the music was rocking!

#3: Two trips to Lambeau Field (both ending in victories for the Packers)…

Headed to the playoffs

The New York Giants game was crazy fun (including befriending a man from Wales who was seated in front of us and had no idea about how the game of football worked but was pumping his fist and high-fiving us by the end of the game) and the Bears game was really, really tense (at one point I had to lecture a Packer fan- who was from Illinois- about how we do not ever boo the Packers at half-time) but I always love going to Lambeau.

More highlights, including high-stakes Scrabble games and a recipe for whole wheat pasta with zucchini and goat cheese, to come….