Sunday, March 16, 2014

Roasted Cauliflower & Garlic Bruschetta

***This would be an excellent addition to your St. Patrick's Day party menu!!!


I love cauliflower. Always have. I even love it raw. (That might not be a big deal to some folks, but I don't really like other cruciferous veggies that aren't at least lightly blanched or steamed) But I digress. As much as I love it, for some reason, it's not something that I buy very often. And we eat a lot of veggies. Well, I was perusing the produce aisle at one of my favorite local grocery stores a couple of weeks ago and they had THE most gloriously creamy white, tightly packed and almost perfectly round heads of cauliflower I'd ever seen; all stacked up neatly in between the broccoli crowns and heads of "broccoflower". (Which, by the way, I've never tried... maybe it's the bizarre neon green color?)

I wasn't exactly sure at that moment just how I was going to prepare it, but I knew that at least one of those perfect little beauties simply had to go in my cart. I also thought it might make a nice addition to our St. Patrick's Day menu. (I now know that would be a definite YES!) And who knows?? To make the dish even more "festive" you might even be able to substitute the above mentioned "broccoflower" which I would imagine should result in a more green bruschetta topping! LOL


When I arrived home, I carefully placed it in the fridge with the rest of my veggie haul, but I knew that if I wanted to take full advantage of it's nearly perfect state of fresh cruciferous goodness, I would have to do something with it as soon as possible. As loath as I am to admt it, I've thrown away far too many heads of yellowish grey broccoli or withered bunches of spinach, that I'd allowed to linger a day (or ten) longer than they should have in my vegetable crisper.

That's when it hit me! (it = culinary brilliance, just in case you were unsure. hee hee) In actuality, I simply spotted the loaf of "bake at home" bread and the fresh head of garlic that I'd also just purchased, sitting on the counter. Hmmm, a little olive oil, some whole cloves of that garlic, a generous bit of salt and freshly ground pepper and a 400 degree oven, could turn that lovely head of cauliflower into an interesting and (hopefully) delicious bruschetta-like topping on that (soon to be) fresh from the oven bread. What happened next was, well... just pure awsomeness! The Hubbers and I could not stop eating the stuff. I mean, the platter never left the kitchen counter. Yeah. It was that good.

And this is how easy it is to do...

Roasted Cauliflower & Garlic Bruschetta
  • 1 Large Head of Cauliflower, rinsed, drained and separated into florets
  • 1 Whole Medium Head Garlic, broken apart into cloves and peeled
  • 1/4 Cup Light Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper
  • 1 Small Loaf French or Italian Bread, sliced
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Aged Balsamic Vinegar
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. (375 degrees, if your oven tends to run really hot)

Rinse the head of cauliflower under cold water and set it aside to drain/dry while you separate and peel  the garlic cloves.

Once they're separated and peeled, slice off any dark brown or "off color" spots on the outside of the garlic cloves and with the tip of a sharp paring knife, remove any bright green cores/centers, if necessary.

**Tip** Those green strips (roots/eyes) in the center of a garlic clove are generally a sign that the garlic is getting old, but in my experience, they can be present even in what looks and feels like a very fresh head. They're not technically harmful as far as I'm aware, but if you don't remove them, they can make the garlic taste bitter.

Along those same lines... Fresh garlic should always be stored in a cool, dark place that's low in humidity ~ and while I have known some folks who keep theirs in the fridge, in my opinion, not only is the environment in the average fridge too high in humidity, it's also too cold and that can basically leach the potency and flavor out of fresh heads/cloves.

Just a quick tutorial on "how to cut up or disassemble a fresh head of cauliflower".










Now, on to the head of garlic...



For the sake of time and my tendency to get up on my little old soapbox, I won't go into my opinion of "pre"chopping and storing fresh garlic right now. Trust me, it's just better this way. Let's just leave it at that. :)


When you have the cauliflower and garlic cloves prepped, you're ready to start cooking!.
If you've never blanched food before, here's another quick little tutorial:

Fill a medium to large pot about half way with water. Add a liberal amount of Kosher or sea salt. (about a teaspoon of salt for each quart of water) Bring the water up to a rolling boil over medium-high to high heat, then turn it down to what I'd call a "slow simmer". (just tiny bubbles here and there)

Once the water's down to a simmer, add your vegetables (or in this case garlic cloves) to the pot and cook until they've just started to soften a bit or what's commonly referred to as "crisp-tender". This generally takes no more than about 2-3 minutes.

I've found that the easiest way to blanch small items like these garlic cloves, is to use a large, fine mesh strainer ~ if you have one. (see the next few photos)

If you're blanching larger items, like whole florets of broccoli or cauliflower, a standard sized metal colander meant for draining things like pasta or potatoes works very well. This way, you're not rushing like crazy with say... a slotted spoon to fish out every piece and that, in turn, prevents some pieces from cooking more or less than others.







The reason that it's important to blanch the garlic before roasting it, is to keep it from burning on the outside and remaining raw in the middle. You do not need to blanch the cauliflower first.

Add the blanched garlic to the mixing bowl, drizzle the 1/4 cup of light olive oil over top and season with a good amount of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. (approx. 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper) Toss this mixture together, so that all of the cauliflower and garlic are well coated with the oil and seasonings.





Pour the mixture out onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, making sure to keep it all in a single layer. This just ensures that all of the ingredients cook and brown evenly.



Place the baking sheet into your preheated oven and roast for (depending on how hot your oven runs) anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes.

After the first 10 to 12 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and turn the cauliflower and garlic to ensure all over golden brown color (and flavor!).


Place the pan back in the oven for another 10 minutes or so, until it's a deep golden brown on the edges and just fork tender.


I've gotta say that this "bake at home" bread was prett awesome! And it couldn't have been any easier! We had fresh, hot, just out of the oven bread in a matter of minutes, instead of hours! We'll most definitely be doing this again! I believe there are 5 different styles to choose from, so we'll be trying more of them for sure! For their website, which does have a store locator tab/option, click HERE. (**Please see the note a bit farther down in this post)



**Please Note** I was not  paid or compensated in any way for a review or endorsement of Ecce Panis bread. Any/all opinions expressed in my posts about particular products are my own and/or that of my family members and friends.



The garlic cloves are soft enough to spread out on the bread if you want to. We did this on some pieces and left them whole on others. Either way, the bruschetta was just as delicious!



You can add a little extra virgin olive oil over the top, just for added flavor.


Or, sprinkle on a bit more salt and/or pepper.


Or, add a lovely drizzle of a good aged balsamic vinegar.




Enjoy!

Mary





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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Time For More Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!



Hello friends....
(Before we begin, I want to let you know right up front that even though there isn't a recipe in this post, you really might want to make sure and read it all the way through... just sayin')

Since the time changed over just few hours ago here on the East Coast, I figured it would be a perfect time to post about some changes going on around here as well.

Depending on when it is that you're reading this, then you likely just arrived on a very different looking blog and you probably thought/did one of the following:

1) Knew right away that I'd been bitten by the old "blog re-design bug" and never had any doubt that you were in the right place.

2) Intended to come by and see what I was up to and somehow accidentally ended up on the wrong blog but figured what the heck... why not stick around to see if there's anything interesting here.

3) Never really noticed the old graphics and/or layout and just went straight to the side bar to look for a favorite recipe.  OR,

4) Have never been here before and just assumed that this is what the blog has always looked like.

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