Thursday, November 1, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower

Cauliflower is not everyone’s favourite. But in my opinion, it’s underrated. It doesn’t really have a lot of flavour on its own, which means that you can add flavour easily – we’ve all heard of mashed cauliflower substituting in for mashed potatoes, and how parents puree cauliflower and then hide it in macaroni and cheese without their kids even knowing. Consider it a blank canvas.

It’s not the healthiest vegetable, the vegetables that are healthier are generally brighter in colour (think leafy green, or broccoli), but it’s definitely not unhealthy. I did a quick search online to see what the nutritional content is. Here’s what I found:

½ cup (1”pieces), boiled and drained: calories 14, fat 0g, carbohydrates 3g, fibre 1 g, sugars 1g, protein 1g, vitamin C 46% of your daily allowance, calcium 1% of your daily allowance, and iron 1%. Cauliflower fills you up too so if you’re watching what you eat, fill up on this instead of bread.

I personally like roasting my cauliflower which gives it a nice, nutty flavour. There are many different spices and flavours you can add to it before you roast it – try sesame oil and chilli peppers for a spicy option, or cumin and turmeric for an earthy, Indian-influenced side dish. You can cut it into florets if you’d like individual bite-sized pieces, or mash it up and serve it like a hash. In all recipes you need oil or some kind to encourage the browning, but you don’t need a lot.

My friend Saro gave me his recipe, which I have modified slightly for this blog (I added the onions and garlic for an extra flavour boost). Here it is. I’d love to hear your suggestions for other versions of roasted cauliflower so I can expand my recipe book!


1 head cauliflower
Olive oil – about 3 – 5 tbsp
Salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese (freshly grated, to taste – I used about 1/3 cup)
Panko or other breadcrumbs (about 1/3 cup)

1 large sweet onion, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Grapeseed oil – about 2 tbsp


Cut the green leaves and stems off the bottom of the cauliflower. Do not cut into florets. 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and place the entire head of cauliflower in the pot. Blanch (boil) for about 4 minutes, then flip the cauliflower over to blanch the other side (4 minutes). If your pot is larger than mine, you might not need to do the flip over. So just blanch for about 7 minutes. Remove from the pot and drain in a strainer. If you want to, you can save the water and use it for soup. Or you can toss it.

Place the entire head of cauliflower onto a baking sheet. Drizzle 3 – 5 tbsp olive oil over it, and grind some fresh salt and pepper on top. Place it in the oven at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes. Pull it out and flip it over. Bake for another 20 minutes.

While the cauliflower is roasting, slice your onions and crush your garlic. Heat the grapeseed oil in a saut̩ pan and put the onions in. Leave the heat on high for about 1 Р2 minutes or until the onions start to brown around the edges. Reduce the heat to low and let the onions cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for another 5 Р10 minutes until nicely caramelized. Set aside.


Now, remove the baking tray from the oven, mash the cauliflower using a potato masher.

Sprinkle with half the parmesan cheese. Then sprinkle the panko on top. Cover with the rest of the parmesan and some more freshly ground black pepper. Taste it – if it needs salt, add a tad.


Raise the oven rack to the second from the top level in your oven. Pop the cauliflower back in the oven, this time on broil (500 degrees).  Leave it in there for 10 minutes. Remove the baking tray and spoon onto plates.

Serve with the onions and garlic on top as a garnish. 
Adding toasted slivered almonds or pine nuts would also add some nice texture (and nutritional value!).

Then send me a note and tell me I just changed your life.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Really Good Cake (also known as Chocolate Chip Squares)

My kids and I are currently reading Harriet the Spy – it’s actually our second time reading it together. It’s my copy from when I was a child and it’s falling apart, but that makes us love it even more. In the book, Harriet gets to have cake and milk every day after school. The cake is served to her by the cook, who is not named in the book but is simply called “Cook” (at least it’s capitalized). I didn’t often come home to cake and milk, it was more like an apple or a banana. But there was definitely always something homemade for dessert after supper.

This is one of my favourite cakes from my childhood, and I think my brother would agree. It’s easy to make, and it’s fun for kids because there’s a neat thing to do at the beginning of the baking process. The recipe came from one of my Mom’s friends: Esther Feldman. I still have the piece of paper she wrote the recipe on – it’s probably 40 years old.

As you might have noticed, I sometimes fool around with recipes to try to make them healthier. The only thing I have been able to do with this cake is cut the sugar down. I tried to cut the fat (using applesauce, then trying Greek yogurt) and it just didn’t work – the cake didn’t rise enough and the bottom portion was way too dense. So trust me – just leave this one alone. It’s ok to sin every once in a while.

¾ cup butter (softened)
7 ½ tbsp brown sugar & 7 ½ tbsp white sugar (I just use 10 tbsp brown sugar – no white sugar at all)
1 tsp cold water
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 ½ cups plus 3 tbsp white flour
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
Just over ½ cup cold water
½ cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9” x 9” square pan with cooking spray.


Cream together the butter and sugar (about 2 minutes on high speed). Add the tsp of cold water and the vanilla and beat for about 1 minute. Add the eggs and beat until creamy and light (about 2 minutes). Meanwhile, mix the dry ingredients together.

Add the dry ingredients with the mixer on low speed – stir until flour is just combined, then add the water. Beat for about 2 minutes until nice and light.


Pour into the prepared pan.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. 

Put the cake into the oven for 2 minutes, and then remove it. Use a knife to swirl the chocolate chips into the cake (to give it a marbled effect). 


Put it back into the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Let it cool in the pan. Cut into squares, and enjoy! 

I think you’re going to love it. As you can see by the photo below, my family did.