Monday, February 18, 2013

Favorite Things #3

I can't believe that almost a year has passed since I last posted a collection of my favorite things.  Each post I write is actually a favorite thing.  In between the main posts I'm cooking up something that's tasty but doesn't seem to contain enough information to stand on its own.  Or maybe it does - I seem to like to crowd up the posts with lots information. Have you noticed?  It's kind of the way my house is too - full of lots of stuff.  I keep throwing things away, having yards sales, and giving it away - but it just keeps growing.  It's like this stuff has spores. 
Sometimes the inside of my refrigerator  starts to look like my bedroom - a jumble of things that I forgot that I have.  The reason that I purchased the products in the first place, is, well, because they are favorite things.  If I'm lucky I'll get to that head of cauliflower before it needs to be tossed.  
The easiest and tastiest dish that I make with the cauliflower is Roasted Fragrant and Spicy Cauliflower:  

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F; separate the head into florets; spread them out on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, sprinkle some fennel seeds, red pepper flakes , sea salt flakes, and olive oil over them and toss to thoroughly coat; roast, turning from time to time until deep gold - 30 - 40 minutes - depending on your oven.  If you have the capability to use a convection setting - you may not even have to toss them, and they cook more quickly.   Serve the roasted cauliflower as a side to anything.  I ate about half the head with a piece of Adirondack cheddar cheese and found it to be a most satisfying meal.

One of my Christmas presents from my sister, Laura were two winter squashes from her fabled garden.  I call them pumpkins - because that's what they look like - but she reminded me that we're not in England or Italy where they're are called pumpkins.  Oy.  A squash by any other name.  However, they were in fact an Australian Butter squash and a Speckled Hound squash.   They both have very hard skin and I think are quick dangerous to peel as you risk seriously slashing your hand if the knife slips from the skin.  Which it's sure to happen when the skin is so hard.  I baked the Australian Butter squash in order to remove its flesh and continue with my recipe - Seychelloise Pumpkin (!) Chutney:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F;  remove the stem end from the squash; stab it in several spots all around (to keep it from exploding in the oven!); place it on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet; bake until a tester easily passes through the skin and the flesh seems to be tender - 45 minutes to an hour; meanwhile, caramelize two thinly sliced red onions in canola oil; remove the cooked squash from oven and let cool to the touch;  cut it into quarters and use a soup spoon to remove the seeds- if you're ambitious you could rinse the seeds, let them dry out then roast them with a bit of salt - then remove the flesh from the skin and place it in a bowl; add the caramelized onions, the juice of a very juicy lime, hot pepper flakes and salt.  Stir to combine.  Serve at room temperature as a side dish to anything.

I've extolled the pleasure of Sunday lunch with friends, and was pleased to be able to recently share  another with the same friends I wrote about in that post.  This time it was at their house where Bert cooked a plant based meal that started with a  colorful, and emphatically-flavored beet and orange salad on radicchio leaves (for my salad, Bert added some shards of ricotta salata).   The main dish was a super-savory mushroom farrotto.  Farrotto is made with same method as you use for risotto - just a different grain, farro instead of rice.  Bert used mushrooms two ways to achieve deep, layered flavors in his dish.   He hydrated dried porcini mushrooms in warm water, and in the meantime sauteed - no, more like pan-fried little cremini mushrooms in olive oil until they were crispy and deep brown.   The farrotto was started by sauteing chopped red onions and the hydrated mushrooms in olive oil, in a large saucepan, until translucent.  He added farro to the pan and let it dry out for about a minute.   He used the water in which the porcini had hydrated as the liquid to cook the farro.  Basically, add the liquid a few cupsful at a time and cook until evaporated, and then add more until the farro is cooked.  Bert added more water to the mushroom water in order to finish the dish.  The fresh mushrooms were added to the pan just as it finished cooking. As the photo shows - the finished dish is wet - what the Venetians call, all'onda - like a wave.  Now, if this weren't a strictly plant-based dish you might want to use chicken broth in combination with the mushroom water and finish the dish with a shower of grated Parmesan cheese.   Either way, it's the perfect dish for a chilly winter's day.

Even Allegra was treated to a warm lunch.  Lucky dog.

SUSANSIMONSAYS:   Starting this Friday, February 22nd, my weekly column in The Register Star, Hudson's daily paper, and The Daily Mail, Catskill's daily paper will begin.  If you don't have access to a real paper you can find it at  .   It's called SUSAN SIMON SAYS - FOOD FOR THOUGHT   Should be easy enough to remember??**!!!  Yes, the information for the column will be different from the blog.


  1. The farro lunch was delicious,as a second in th "plant based" Sunday afternoon lunches! I love cauliflower so I'll be roasting up some your way to snack on. Hugs to Allegra!
    SURPRISE, a comment!

  2. Hi Susan,
    Just started perusing your blog. Very inspiring! We have a couple of great ethnic farmers markets here in Atlanta so hopefully I will put some of your ideas to the test soon. Take care!
    Kim Vogel

    1. thanks Kim - out of curiosity - how did you come upon my blog?

  3. Congratulations on your new column! I can't wait to read it!

    1. grazie Giorgio the column begins on February 22nd and will appear every Friday