Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto

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I was so excited to finally get The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook from my library after being on the waiting list for over a month! My sister, of course, has it as well as many friends who all highly recommend it.  It’s a great book for small kitchens, and for people that love vegetarian options for dinner (with a lot of cheese).

It’s a hit for me because I (1) have a tiny kitchen, (2) love cheese and don’t always need to eat meat and (3) have a little baby just like the author of the book had when she wrote it. There are many dishes I’m going to be trying over the next month (if I can keep the book out that long) and the first one I tried was Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto.

The author, Deb Perelman, was inspired by a dish at Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan.  I have never been to this restaurant, but have always wanted to go as it’s one of those “must-go-to” places in the city.

This is also a good recipe to make in stages. With a little one around, it was easy to stop and start. I was able to make the pesto in the afternoon and then not make the pasta until about a half hour before I had dinner. In Deb’s book, she even talks about how she made this dish especially when she had a newborn. I thought it quite suitable to start out with this recipe first.

Cauliflower Pesto Pasta
Recipe Type: Vegetarian/Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Author: Deb Perelman
Ingredients
  • salt
  • 1 small head of cauliflower (trimmed, cored, and cut into large chunks)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup of pine nuts (or almonds)
  • 2 oz chunk romano or parmesan
  • 4 sun dried tomatoes (dry variety; if oil-packed, be sure to drain and mince them by hand before putting them in the food processor)
  • 1 tbsp drained capers
  • few tbsp of parsley leaves
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp sherry vinegar (to taste)
  • 1 lb of linguine
Instructions
  1. Set a large of salted water to boil.
  2. Prepare pesto: Pulse half the cauliflower in a food processor until it looks like mixed sizes of couscous. Transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl, and repeat with the second batch, adding it to the same bowl when you are finished.
  3. Pulse the garlic, pepper flakes, almonds (or pine nuts), cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and parsley in a food processor.
  4. Transfer to the bowl with cauliflower and add the olive oil, the smaller amount of vinegar, and some salt and stir until completely combined. (If you do this step in the food processor, it becomes an unseemly paste. Best to do it by hand.)
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed–either by adding salt, pepper or remainder of vinegar. (start out with about 1/2 tsp of salt but go up to nearly a full tsp)
  6. Assemble Dish: Once water is boiling, add the linguine and cook until al dente.
  7. Reserve a cup of the cooking water then drain rest.
  8. Immediately toss the hot pasta with the cauliflower pesto and half of your reserved cooking water, until everything is nicely dispersed.

In her cookbook she recommends cutting up the cauliflower chunks by hand that don’t easily cut in the food processor, but I found no problem with this.  You will know the pesto is ready when it looks like “course breadcrumbs.”  The recipe can be modified to fit your tastes and if I make this again I will probably add more pine nuts (only because I love them) and maybe a couple more splashes of sherry vinegar which adds a nice bite.

The recipe does request you mix the pesto immediately with the pasta and water, but I had to refrigerate mine (not sure this was necessary) for a couple of hours before I served it, and I think it tasted just fine. I did have to work harder to make sure the ingredients were dispersed evenly, but other than that I was satisfied and so was my husband who can sometimes picky! It was fabulous for leftovers.

Pesto Cauliflower

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Kim Boyce’s Ginger Peach Muffins, lightened up

To start things out, I’ll admit that I can be a bit repetitive.

Ginger Peach Muffins with Oat Flour (6 of 8)

First, you’re right that I have made ginger peach muffins before (even if I didn’t report about it on this blog).  My co-worker certainly remembers this:  when I brought the muffins in this post into work to share,  she asked, “are these the ones from the blog that are really cupcakes?”  They aren’t–and I like to think these muffins I am about to tell you about are a lot healthier, and just as delicious.

Secondly, you’re also right that I’ve been caught enthusing about Kim Boyce in this space.  Enough that the last time that Molly was over and looking to borrow some cookbooks she said “I know you won’t lend me this one as you’re always using it.”  She was right.

Ginger Peach Muffins with Oat Flour (1 of 8)

A few weeks ago, when Marie was visiting with new baby M, I bought a few peaches at the grocery store.  Some were nearly ripe, others still unappealingly green and firm around the pit.  I was roasting some eggplant and threw these in the oven at the same time, each half with a pat of butter in the hollowed out pit, and with a light drizzling of honey.  (I threw in some apricots that were about to go for good measure).  A perfectly ripe peach may be impossible to improve on, but a roasted peach, caramelized around the edges and lusciously soft in the center, comes close. It also perks up the less ideal specimens, which let’s face it, is often what you get at the grocery store (or if you just can’t be patient enough to let them fully ripen).

Ginger Peach Muffins with Oat Flour (3 of 8)

When Molly asked me the next day for some ideas for oat flour–her email started out, “Hey Quirky Flour Lady”–I was reminded of this recipe.  (I’m sure Molly was not shocked to have me bring up Kim Boyce again.  Since the exchange was over email, maybe she even shook her head a little).

Ginger Peach Muffins with Oat Flour (4 of 8)

I don’t know what Molly’s made with her oat flour, but I immediately knew what I was doing with the leftover roast peaches, despite the fact that in the same email exchange I told Molly that I had declared a muffin moratorium due to my sons’ messes while eating them.    Not a lot of willpower there on my part.

Ginger Peach Muffins with Oat Flour (2 of 8)

I’m evidently the Quirky Flour Lady, so I already had the oat flour, but if you don’t, you can also made it quite easily by running oatmeal through the food processor.  In fact, I had all the ingredients in hand except for the sour cream, but I had another acidic dairy product in my fridge:  low-fat kefir.  Suddenly I realized (due to no virtuous impulse on my part, but rather luck) that these were going to be a “lightened up” version of the recipe in Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours:  roasted peaches rather than peach slices sautéed in butter, low-fat kefir instead of sour cream.

Ginger Peach Muffins with Oat Flour (5 of 8)

As you can see, they turned out perfectly.  Kefir, I’ve noticed, seems to produce an exceptionally lofty rise in baked goods (though I’d happily have used buttermilk or yogurt as well), and the blackened edges of my roasted peaches nestled in the crumb ensured my muffins were as pretty as they were delicious.

Ginger Peach Muffins with Oat Flour (8 of 8)

Kim Boyce’s Ginger Peach Muffins, lightened up
Author: adapted from Kim Boyce’s [url href=”Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours “]Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours[/url]
Ingredients
  • For the Roast Peaches
  • 2 ripe but firm peaches peaches, ripe, but firm
  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 T. honey
  • Dry mix:
  • 1 c. oat flour
  • 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. dark brown sugar
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 3/4 t. kosher salt
  • Wet mix:
  • 3 oz (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted, then cooled slightly (just melt the butter first, and let it sit while you do everything else)
  • 3/4 c. whole or 2% milk
  • 1/2 c. plain kefir (substitute buttermilk or plain yogurt)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 T. finely chopped crystallized ginger
Instructions
Make the roast peaches
  1. Preheat the oven to 425. Slice the peaches in half around the equator and remove the pits. Line a rimmed (preferably) baking sheet with parchment paper (this will substantially speed cleanup). Place the peaches, cut side up on the baking sheet and divide the butter between the hollows of each half. Drizzle lightly with honey (but remember that the oven will bring out the peaches’ sweetness). Roast for 25-30 minutes, until tender. Remove, and when cool enough to handle, slice each half lengthwise into 6 slices.
Make the muffins
  1. Reduce the heat of the oven to 350. Rub your muffin tins with butter or line with muffin cups.
  2. Stir the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  3. Stir the wet ingredient together in another bowl, and add these to the bowl along with the chopped candied ginger and stir together gently until combined. The batter will still be lumpy. This is ok.
  4. Scoop the batter into 11 muffin tins using a spoon or ice cream scoop. The batter should be slightly mounded over the edges. Lay a couple of peach slices over each muffin, nestling them gently into the batter.
  5. Bake for 24 to 28 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. The muffins are ready when the they smell nutty and are golden. Take the tin out of the oven and as soon as you are able, twist the muffins and lay them to cool on their sides in the tin. This allows the muffins to cool without getting soggy.

 

 

 

Book Review: Consider the Fork

We haven’t done book reviews on Three Clever Sisters before (at least, not books that don’t have recipes in them as well) but Bee Wilson‘s Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat seems like an appropriate departure.  This book, which I first read about in the New Yorker, is the latest by the British food writer and academic (and prior author of The Hive: The Story of the Honeybee and Us and Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud, from Poisoned Candy to Counterfeit Coffee).  Lest you think that the word ‘academic’ is code word for this being dry and boring, fear not:  While the book is certainly well-researched and packed with information, Bee Wilson’s engaging style and voice shines through, and you are not reading history so much as listening to an enthusiastic friend.

For me, one of the clearest takeaways is how new and novel the idea of cooking-as-recreation is, and just how much of a luxury this concept is:  for those of us who like to cook, part of what makes it so is the fact that it’s not required–either because of the abundance of processed food.  In fact, despite this little world of food blogs where people are making their own kimchi or mars bars, it’s no secret that home cooking is on the decline.  But enjoyment in cooking is a luxury for other reasons too:  as much as people thin it takes too much work to cook nowadays, the fact is that what many see as overly-onerous “from scratch” cooking is vastly less taxing (and significantly less dangerous) than historically.  And the author’s perspective is more far-reaching than our collective great-grandmothers.  Further back, the labors of the kitchen were as far removed as possible from the delights of the table, and with good reason–cooking was a smoky, ashy, overly hot and dangerous business:  cramped, sweaty, oppressive.  Today the ultimate status symbol is a spacious, modern kitchen (that may or may not have a veneer of the rustic, authentic), for however much it is actually used in fact.  For the medieval European nobility, status meant kitchens that were built separated from the main house, despite the inconvenience of the daily ferrying of food to table.  Kitchen fires being so common, the inconvenience of a soup that may be lukewarm by the time it completed its journey to table was preferable to having the whole castle burn down.

Being wealthy enough to construct a separate kitchen annex on your property was the most visible way of indicating wealth, but what you served was perhaps just as important.  For example, serving purees was a subtle indication of just how many invisible hands you had in your kitchen:  just imagine all the work that it took to press something into a smooth, silky paste with no food processors or blenders.  Imagine how tired one’s arm would get beating egg whites into a stiff meringue–it takes 5-6 minutes in my powerful stand mixer alone!  In contrast, in today’s world where much manual labor has been replaced by electronic gadgetry, Wilson posits that the chunky textures of “rustic peasant” style food (Alice Waters et al) is making a new kind of statement, by advertising the fact that the meal was prepared by hand (mortar and pestle!) not by machine (no inauthentic magic bullets!).   Of course, I’d have to add one addendum to Bee Wilson’s observation about modern trends:  the ability to make perfectly smooth purees may still subtly be communicating a status message:  Vitamix blenders (and thus the green smoothie lifestyle) do not come cheap.

The book is not just an “upstairs/downstairs” exploration, however.  Wilson takes on a variety of topics–how much longer it took for refrigerators to catch on in Europe versus the United States, how shipments of ice from New England could make their way to Calcutta on 19th century shipping vessels, and how the Chinese shun knife is perhaps one of the most versatile pieces of kitchen equipment.

And some of the facts are truly bizarre:  like the theory explained in the New Yorker‘s review of this same book (which is what piqued my interest in the first place):  how the mild, orthodontically correct overbite is a result of tableware (be it chopsticks or cutlery):  cutting food into small pieces (rather than, presumably, gnawing at drumsticks the way we’d imagine Henry the VIII going about it) may very well be altering our anatomy.  As the daughter of a dentist, perhaps this is a fitting place for me to wrap it up.

In short, I enjoyed this book–I love trivia like this, particularly when it’s delivered through Bee Wilson’s witty voice.  But more than just a collection of fun facts, Wilson draws on her sweeping historical journey to make thoughtful observations and to raise interesting questions about what cooking, and how we eat, means today.