Cauliflower Salad with Roasted Chickpeas and Olives

Fried Cauliflower Salad with Crispy Chickpeas and Olives | Cooked and Devoured

There isn’t really a story to tell about this dish. I unceremoniously found this recipe while flipping through Food Network Magazine a few weeks ago, made it for lunch one day, and didn’t really love it. I’m really selling it aren’t I? But even though there were parts of it that seemed off, these are the type of flavors that I absolutely love, so I refused to give up on it and knew it only needed a few changes to be spectacular: more spice, more vinegar, and a few adjustments for better texture.

Fried Cauliflower Salad with Crispy Chickpeas and Olives | Cooked and Devoured

The recipe was in one of those tear-out booklets that FNM seems to have in most of their issues. The tear-outs normally contain a ton of really short recipes that may work better as tweak-able ideas than recipes to follow exactly. Sorry FNM – we can still be friends and I still enjoy your magazine, but a lot of these seem a bit thrown together. The original recipe calls for the cauliflower to be roasted with paprika, then mixed with uncooked chickpeas, parsley, piquillo peppers, and sherry vinegar. Instead, I fried the cauliflower, roasted the chickpeas, and added olives.  I can’t get behind throwing uncooked chickpeas into just about anything, and frying makes everything better. This was actually the first time I’ve roasted chickpeas and I’ll definitely be doing it again soon.

Fried Cauliflower Salad with Crispy Chickpeas and Olives | Cooked and Devoured

Making these few changes added a lot more flavor to this dish overall. The result was delicious and it’s actually an extremely versatile dish that I think can work in a variety of ways. As a main on its own, or topped with a runny egg also sounds great. It would be wonderful on crostini with a small ball of Burrata, and I’m certain (though I haven’t tested this) it would be excellent with some small bits of smoky Spanish chorizo and toasted pine nuts mixed in.

Fried Cauliflower Salad with Crispy Chickpeas and Olives | Cooked and Devoured

And actually I wish I had done that last bit for this version. I think I’m off to buy some chorizo…

 

Fried Cauliflower Salad with Crispy Chickpeas and Olives

Adapted from and Inspired by Food Network Magazine ( I can’t seem to find a link to the original recipe online. If I find one later, I’ll be sure to add it here!)

The original recipe calls for Spanish Smoked Paprika, which is great here. I used half-sharp because I ran out of smoked, and either works quite well. I would also avoid canned olives.

For the Chickpeas:

One 14 oz can of chickpeas
1.5 teaspoons of half-sharp paprika
1/2-3/4 teaspoon of salt
4-5 coarse grinds of pepper
2 tablespoons of olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400F. Thoroughly rinse and drain the chickpeas, then combine all the ingredients together in a small bowl and mix. Spread onto a baking sheet in one layer and roast at 400F for 30 minutes. When they’re done, they should be firm and have a bit of chew, but not so hard you can’t bite down on them.

For the Cauliflower Salad:

2 tablespoons of olive oil
2lbs cauliflower florets
3-4 fat cloves of garlic, well minced
1/2 cup of pimento stuffed green olives
½ cup fresh chopped parsley
3 tablespoons of olive brine (from the jar of olives)
3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
Olive oil to drizzle and salt and pepper to taste

While the chickpeas cook, chop the cauliflower into smaller florets if you have heads of cauliflower or if your florets are giant. Finely mince the garlic cloves, olives, and the fresh parsley and set aside.

Preheat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the cauliflower (if you have too much to add at once, work in batches so you don’t crowd the pan). Stir the cauliflower into the oil and add a pinch of salt. Now leave the florets alone for a good 4 to 5 minutes so they can develop a bit of color, then stir them up again and turn them over to the uncooked sides and cook them for 3-4 more minutes until they are substantially brown on all sides.

If the pan is a little dry at this point, add a little more olive oil. When the florets have shrunk down a bit and are browned on all sides, add the garlic cloves and stir for one minute (to keep from burning), then remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes.

Your chickpeas should now be just about done. Remove them from the oven and let them cool for a minute. Combine the cauliflower mixture, the chickpeas, and all remaining ingredients (olives, parsley, olive brine, and vinegar) into a large bowl. Taste for salt and drizzle with a little extra oil if it seems to need it. I didn’t add any more salt at this point, though it may need a bit more salt and pepper.




Honey and St. Germain Ice Cream with Meyer Lemon

Honey and St. Germain Ice Cream with Meyer Lemon | Cooked & Devoured

When I lived in Bucktown, there was a place called Duchamp around the corner from me that I’d go to every so often. It had mixed reviews and ultimately closed a while ago, but I always thought the food was decent (if not mildly over-priced). Their attractiveness was improved by the fact that I lived within 100 feet of their door. I think their real selling point was the combination of their awesome drink list and their outdoor seating in the summer, (which continues to be gorgeous for The Red Door, who took over the space). I’m not much of a drinker in general, but they had great cocktails. One in particular has stood out for me for awhile but I can never remember the name of it. Gin, St. Germain, Lemon, and probably a few other esoteric ingredients – I’ve recreated it at home, but always a bit differently. The other day when it got very warm for a few days in a row it got me thinking about it again.

Honey and St. Germain Ice Cream with Meyer Lemon | Cooked & Devoured

I’ve had this Ice Cream maker for years and I barely use it at all. For the last few years, when spring rolls around I make grand plans to make ice cream constantly once it finally becomes regularly warm and that sort of thing is desired. This might seem strange to you, and actually, it’s also a bit odd to me because truthfully I don’t really eat that much ice cream. There are desserts with “cake” and “pie” in their name that rank far higher for me, and yet I still make this resolution every spring, so apparently I have some creative need that isn’t otherwise being fulfilled. However, wanting ice cream is a spur of the moment decision that doesn’t usually include simmering cream and separating egg yolks. It isn’t a terribly difficult process, but it does fall into that special category of recipes that are also projects that require some small amount of planning for them to be ready when you want them (something I’m also generally not great with).

Honey and St. Germain Ice Cream with Meyer Lemon | Cooked & Devoured

But once the idea of making an ice cream version of this drink went into my head I was pretty much unstoppable, and it turned out fantastically. It’s complex, rich, and has a great honey flavor. The drink translates incredibly well into this form; it’s unexpected but welcome and refreshing. It isn’t the type of thing you’d eat on top of a waffle cone, but it’s a nice light summery dessert. I can’t credit myself as a recipe-genius though, the book gives a lot of very helpful guidance for adjusting their base recipes.

Honey and St. Germain Ice Cream with Meyer Lemon | Cooked & Devoured

Honey and St. Germain Ice Cream with Meyer Lemon

Adapted from The Ultimate Ice Cream Book by Bruce Weinstein

There are many varieties of honey and the flavor here will change based on the type of honey you have around. I used Clover honey and it was great in this. I actually think a bit of a darker honey works well. Too light and everything about this recipe would be a bit too floral. I realize that we are long out of Meyer lemon season, but I used some juice that I had frozen. If you use a regular lemon you may want to use slightly less juice, add an extra tablespoon of sugar, or add a mix of half lemon and half orange juice.

1/4 cup honey
3 large egg yolks
1 and 1/4 cups of light cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice (see head notes)
2 tablespoons of St. Germain Elderflower Liqeur

In a medium sized mixing bowl, beat the honey with the egg yolks until slightly thickened. Bring the cream to a simmer in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. It will have very slight bubbles around the edges, no boiling! Wisking the entire time, slowly pour the hot cream into the egg mixture to fully incorporate, then pour the entire mixture back into the pan and place over low heat. Stir the mixture constantly with a wisk until it thickens a bit (don’t let it boil or you will have scrambled eggs).  Remove from the heat and pour the custard through a strainer into a clean bowl. Allow the custard to cool slightly, then stir in the vanilla. Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight

When you’re ready to make the ice cream, remove from the fridge and mix in St. Germain and lemon juice. Stir the custard well, add to your ice cream maker, and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The ice cream will be soft but ready to eat after freezing. If you’d like it to be firmer, freeze it for at least two hours before serving.

Sweet and Spicy Pickle Chips

Sweet and Spicy Pickle Chips | Cooked and Devoured

When we first moved to our house about six months ago, so much was going on that we temporarily started eating dinner much later than normal. Not that we were burning any midnight oil, but Steve was regularly getting home from work at 8:30p.m. or later, and if by that point we hadn’t figured out what we were having for dinner (which did occasionally happen because lets be honest, I’m not winning any awards for organization) we were completely screwed. That is, unless we’re interested in Denny’s or IHOP (we weren’t).  It was even our personal experience in that time that some places that are supposed to close by 9pm will regularly close even earlier without notice if they feel like it.

Sweet and Spicy Pickle ChipsSweet and Spicy Pickle Chips | Cooked and Devoured

Real Urban Barbecue is just down the street from us and was one of the only places we could reliably count on to stay open until 9pm that wasn’t a fine dining restaurant (of which there are many) or a bar (of which there are few, many of which are attached to fine dining restaurants). This was the main reason we went there the first time, but now we keep going back because it is actually just a great place that has delicious food. We love their pulled pork and that they always have a variety of sauces (plus whatever their seasonal sauce happens to be at the time). They also serve “Brain Buster Pickles,” which are basically sweet and spicy (emphasis on the spicy) pickle chips that are incredibly addictive. I’m generally more of a dill pickle girl — my Jewish heritage requires me to feel this way. But even I can’t deny how great they are, and Steve loves these. Possibly more than anything else there.

Sweet and Spicy Pickle Chips | Cooked and Devoured

This lead me to try to come up with a reasonable copy at home, with the spice dialed down a bit. I can do some spice, and I prefer these to have some, but really the overpowering heat just prevents me from eating as many as I’d like, which is more than two. I think I managed to get the flavor to be a pretty spot on replication. You can always add more spice to taste, but you can’t take away, so I erred toward a lighter dose of red pepper flakes which gets spicier over time.

Sweet and Spicy Pickle Chips | Cooked and Devoured

Sweet and Spicy Pickle Chips

Inspired by the Brain Buster Pickles at Real Urban Barbecue

If you have a mandolin slicer, you can use this to slice the cucumbers really quickly, but it isn’t necessary. You can add some cayenne pepper to make these hotter, but tread lightly, as the brine will get more spicy the longer it sits in the fridge.

2 lbs of pickling or mini cucumbers*
2 cups of Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 cup of water
1/2 cup of sugar
1 heaping tablespoon of honey
2 tablespoons of salt
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric
1/2 a teaspoon of red pepper flakes

Slice your cucumbers, then place in a large bowl or a mason jar. In a saucepan, heat the cider vinegar, sugar, honey, water, salt, mustard seeds, turmeric, and red pepper flakes to a boil. Let boil for one minute, then remove from the heat and pour over the sliced cucumbers. Cool for a few minutes, then cover and place in the refrigerator. The pickles will be ready to eat after about two days. The longer you let them sit, the more spice will develop, but I’m betting they won’t last very long.

* If you end up having more cucumbers than pickling liquid, you can add a bit of water (1/4 cup at a time). It will dilute the liquid a bit, but because they’ll sit for a few days in the fridge anyway it doesn’t make a ton of difference.

Grilled Asparagus and Chicken Salad with Blue Cheese and Baby Kale

Grilled Asparagus and Blue Cheese Chicken Salad | Cooked & Devoured

In the last two or three years I can count the number of times we’ve used our grill on one hand. I don’t really know why because my love for BBQ and grilled things in general knows no bounds. For some reason it always seems like a bigger deal to me than it really is. Translation: We’re lazy. It’s all the way outside and we’re all the way inside, with a stove.

But recently that all changed when we began the demolition of a wall off our kitchen. This was a necessary renovation that we’ve been planning and patiently awaiting for months, and as renovations go, it has gone really smoothly. There haven’t been any major surprises, and the only thing pushing the the timeline further right now is this incessant rain Chicago is having. I’m now cringing as I write those last few sentences hoping that I’m not jinxing us.

Grilled Asparagus and Blue Cheese Chicken Salad | Cooked & Devoured

I was so excited that this project finally got underway that I completely forgot about what happens when you have construction in your house. Everything is a mess all the time — there is no escape and there is no hope. Try as you might, the dust and filth is everywhere. At the end of the first day I went into the kitchen thinking about dinner, and realized that every surface, item, tool, cutting board, you-name-it, was covered in about 1/8th of an inch of brick mortar dust. Fun times.

At that point it was a bit late and we were starving. We wanted to minimize cleaning and the amount of time between us and dinner, and the grill seemed like the simplest solution. It worked out beautifully because we have a gas grill and this amazing salad was done in about 20 minutes.

Grilled Asparagus and Blue Cheese Chicken Salad | Cooked & Devoured

So what can I say about this? It’s insanely delicious. It’s a snap to pull together (especially if you have a gas grill). It has the correct mix of textures and flavors. It is everything I want all the time in the summer. It manages to be clean and refreshing while also being savory and rich. It feels like a pretty classic and/or obvious combination to me but I guess salads like this usually contain steak and don’t usually contain asparagus (or kale for that matter). Those salads are really missing out.

Grilled Asparagus and Blue Cheese Chicken Salad | Cooked & Devoured

Oh, and the dressing is my favorite vinaigrette. It is my go-to salad dressing at this point. The cider vinegar provides just enough acidity without being overpowering, and the honey balances the mustard out beautifully. And of course, I suppose it even gets a few points for being red, white, and blue at a particularly appropriate time. If you wanted to add some more crunch to this salad, I think some sunflower seeds, walnuts, or fresh radishes would be a great addition, but not at all required.

 

Grilled Asparagus and Chicken Salad with Blue Cheese and Baby Kale

Make sure your chicken breasts are an even thickness before putting them on the grill. This will prevent you from overcooking the outside while the inside is finishing. More detail here, but you really don’t have to go this crazy for this recipe.

*We have a gas grill, so making this was extremely fast for us. If you don’t, I understand you’ll probably not want to set up charcoal just to make this dish, but this salad is also a great addition to whatever else you might have in a bigger spread. This would be a lovely side salad with the chicken left out.

Dressing recipe adapted from Bon Appétit, January 2012

1 5oz package of baby kale greens
2 Boneless Skinless chicken breasts
¼ red onion, diced
1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
4-5 oz blue cheese, crumbled (gorgonzola also works)
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed 

For the Vinaigrette:
1/3 cup olive oil
1.5 tablespoons of cider vinegar
1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
1 heaping tablespoon of honey
Plenty of freshly cracked black pepper

*Preheat your grill. Place the kale, red onion, tomatoes, and cheese into a large bowl and set aside. Put all the vinaigrette ingredients into another bowl, wisk them together with a fork, and set aside.

Place the chicken breasts in a resealable plastic bag and pound them a bit, until they are about 3/4 of an inch thick. Take them out and put them on a plate, then season them on both sides with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Trim the asparagus and place them on another plate, then toss with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Grill the chicken for 2-3 minutes on each side, until they have a bit of golden crust and some char. They won’t need very much time, and chicken tends to get dry really fast, so err on the side of less time. They will continue to cook for a bit after you remove them; just make sure they aren’t pink when you cut into them.

Remove the chicken from the grill to a clean plate and add the asparagus spears. These really need barely any time to cook. Check them very regularly to see that they have some char and keep turning them until they’re cooked on all sides (about 2-3 minutes), and remove them back to their plate when they’re done. After they’ve cooled slightly, chop the asparagus and the chicken into bite sized pieces and toss them into the bowl with the kale salad mixture. Cover with as much vinaigrette as you prefer and mix everything well. Serve immediately while everything is still warm.

Butternut Squash Soup with Butter Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Butternut Squash Soup with Butter Toasted Pumpkin Seeds | Cooked & Devoured

For Valentine’s day two years ago, Steve surprised me by buying us two seats in a cooking class at The Wooden Spoon in Andersonville. The class was actually the weekend before Valentine’s day since we had made reservations at a restaurant in the city we’d been wanting to try for a while on real V-Day. We had a wonderful time at the class, and not as wonderful a time at the restaurant. In general my experience being out on Valentine’s day has been that there are huge crowds out for the night, and the food quality lessens overall because the kitchen is trying to pump out many courses as quickly as possible for loads of people. But of course–who are we to actually change our actions based on experience? This didn’t stop us from making a reservation at a Michelin starred restaurant otherwise known for its excellent cuisine. That totally absolves it from normal holiday-related restaurant clichés right?

Butternut Squash Soup with Butter Toasted Pumpkin Seeds | Cooked & Devoured

Wrong-o. I have no doubt that this restaurant is a fantastic place under normal circumstances that we fully intend to return to at some point (which is why I’m purposely not revealing the name) but I think we’ve officially learned our lesson. Needless to say, we opted to stay in this year and I wanted to cook something meaningful. As relatively food obsessed people, we’ve had many meaningful meals, but making something from our previous Valentine’s day cooking class was obviously nostalgic and relevant.

Even though our dinner out wasn’t great, the class was really fun and we made some fantastic food; the menu was: Salad of Fried Mozzarella with Arugula, Prosciutto, and Homemade Breadsticks, Butternut Squash Soup with Butter Toasted Pumpkin SeedsPork Tenderloin Scaloppini with Roasted Potatoes and Grilled Asparagus, and Chocolate Mousse with Whipped Cream.

Butternut Squash Soup with Butter Toasted Pumpkin Seeds | Cooked & Devoured

The class was completely full — a group of 10 or so couples, and different parts of different recipes were given to each couple to eventually create all the courses. As someone who cooks a lot, I was hoping to get assigned something that I had never done before and not end up doing some boring part of the meal like chopping 50 shallots and then standing there watching everyone else. Luckily, everyone was engaged the whole time, and everyone got a chance to do a lot of different things. My husband and I actually ended up making all of the pork tenderloin, which was great because I have leaned vegetarian for much of my adult life and have little experience with cooking meat. It did, however, require that we chop about 50 shallots.

Our instructor was very knowledgable and everyone in the class seemed to really enjoy themselves. But the most important part: the food was superb. Most everything was something I would make again, but the butternut squash soup was special. Yes, this was the very definition of butternut squash soup.

Butternut Squash Soup with Butter Toasted Pumpkin Seeds | Cooked & Devoured

And in the case that you’re not as picky about your squash soups as I am, you might be wondering exactly what that definition is. I love butternut squash soup, but there are definitely bad versions. Some are so sweet that the squash flavor is gone, some are chunky instead of smooth, some bizarrely call for white onions (which are way too strong). As you could guess, all of these have been made by me previously. For some reason I could never find a recipe that had the exact balance of smooth/savory/creamy and with a hint of sweet flavor that made up the model in my mind for what it should be. This soup manages to hit all these notes perfectly.
Butternut Squash Soup with Butter Toasted Pumpkin Seeds | Cooked & Devoured

Definitely do not skip the butter toasted pumpkin seeds – they add depth and richness (along with a drizzle of sour cream or Crème fraîche, if you please).

Butternut Squash Soup with Butter Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Butternut Squash Soup with Butter Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

As I mentioned above, the internet is loaded with butternut squash soup recipes and I have tried many of them — in my opinion they all pale in comparison to this one. You could lessen the cider by about 1/4 – 1/2 of a cup if you’re concerned about the sugar and I don’t think it would make a huge difference.

Lightly adapted from The Wooden Spoon in Chicago

For the Soup:
2 tablespoons of olive oil
3 tablespoons of butter
2.5 pounds of butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 6 cups)
3 medium leeks, diced (white and light green parts only)
2 small carrots, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
2 small Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
2 teaspoons of dried thyme
1 tablespoon of minced fresh sage leaves (or dry)
5 cups of chicken or vegetable stock (or use water)
1.25 cups of apple cider (I used Knudsen No Sugar Added)
3/4 cup of heavy cream or half & half
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
pinch of allspice
Creme Fraiche for garnish

For the Pumpkin Seeds:
1 cup of pumpkin seeds (Pepitas)
2 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
pinch of cayenne

Melt the butter and oil in a dutch oven or heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the squash, leeks, carrot, and celery. Saute until slightly softened, about 15 minutes, then mix in apples, thyme, and sage. Add the stock and cider and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and then cover and simmer until apples are tender, stirring occasionally (about 30 minutes). Let cool slightly before you attempt to puree the soup.

While the soup is cooling a bit, make the toasted pumpkin seeds. Heat the butter in a small skillet, then add the pumpkin seeds and cook over medium – medium-low heat until they are lightly browned and begin to pop. Transfer them to a paper towel to drain the excess butter. Mix the sugar, cinnamon, and cayenne together in a small bowl and then pour over the hot seeds. Stir to fully combine.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender and then return to the pan, or make your life much easier and use an immersion blender (seriously, just buy one already. It will improve your life, I promise). Stir in the heavy cream, cinnamon, cayenne, and allspice. Enjoy your soup with a sprinkling of seeds and a dollop of creme fraiche.