Cauliflower Cheese Soup

This post really goes hand in hand with one I had recently - there is just so much to do with cauliflower.  Combine that with this rainy, cold, dreary, dark weather, and it is definitely soup season.

Cauliflower Cheese Soup

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 head cauliflower, trimmed and chopped
  • 8 cups veggie or chicken broth or stock
  • 1 cup cream
  • 8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

In a large pot, sweat celery, carrots, and onion and a pinch of salt with butter over medium heat for about 12 minutes.  Sprinkle with flour and mix very well and let cook about 2-3 minutes.  Slowly pour in broth/stock and cauliflower and bring to a light boil.  Season with some salt and pepper.  Let cook with a very low boil about 40 minutes.  Once veggies are tender, puree soup either in a blender in batches or in the pot with an immersion blender until very smooth.

Return to stove and turn heat to medium  to medium low (you don’t want soup to boil at this point because the cream could make it break).  Add cream and cheese and whisk together and let melt.  Season with any additional salt and pepper and let flavors come together.  Serve with a little grated cheese on top.

Roasted Chicken Caesar Salad with Parmesan Crostini

I’m not one much for white chicken. I feel like it usually ends up dry and tasteless.  But, if you cook just right, that can help retain moisture, tenderness, and flavor.  We have Amish free range chickens readily available year round, so I picked up a whole chicken, and decided to use the breast meat to make a hearty Caesar salad.  Plus, I had some extra chicken left over to make a quick chicken salad!

Roast Chicken Caesar Salad

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced capers
  • 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • about 1/4 cup olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • about 1 cup Parmesan Cheese
  • Couple slices sturdy good bread – I used an Asiago loaf
  • 1-2 bone-in chicken breasts (depending on if you want leftovers)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 head romaine, chopped

To roast chicken, heat oven to 325 degrees.  In an oven-proof pan, melt butter and oil over medium to medium-high heat.  Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Sear chicken skin side down in pan for about 2-3 minutes.  Turn and cook on other side another 2-3 minutes.  Pour off excess butter and oil and place pan with chicken into oven.  Roast for about 18 minutes depending on size, until just cooked through.  To check for doneness, cut into chicken with a knife – if juices run clear, chicken is cooked. Let cool a bit, and then pick all meat off bones and roughly chop with a knife.  Set pan aside aside with chicken juices and reserve for later.

For dressing, in a medium bowl, add egg, capers, mustard, and garlic and whisk.  Slowly whisk in olive oil until dressing becomes nice and creamy.  Add another tablespoon or two of olive if need be to reach desired consistency.  Whisk in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

To make crostini, place bread in pan with chicken juices and let sop up juices on each side.  Sprinkle one side of bread with some cheese until just covered and toast in a 350 degree oven for about 4 minutes, or until cheese is melty and just starting to turn golden.

While bread is toasting, assemble salad.  Mix Romaine, remaining cheese, and about a heaping cup of chopped chicken, and some salt and pepper with about 3 heaping tablespoons of dressing (you will have leftover dressing) in a large bowl.   Taste for plenty of seasoning and dressing and add more if necessary. Serve salad with crostini.

Nashville, Trip #2

Well, the hubs and I made a last minute decision to do a whirlwind weekend trip to Nashville.  We saw on Monday that some bands were playing in Nashville over the weekend that we would love to see that were not going to be in our area anytime soon.  By 9 pm Wednesday night, we decided we had to go.  We took a half day from work Friday, and by 1 pm we were on our way.  Unfortunately, I was a horrible picture-taker over the weekend, and I don’t have much to show for it, but I’m providing lots of links as to what we did, so I would just encourage you to click on them (because, lets face it, those pics will be much better than anything of mine anyway!)

Friday

After driving like crazy, we got into Nashville around 6 pm and checked into our hotel that was in the Vanderbilt University area, and ended up being just one block from the concert venue, the Exit/In.  We had done some quick searching on the way down to determine our dining destinations, and Friday we decided on The Patterson House, a cocktail bar that was recently ranked in Bon Appetit magazine as being in the nation’s top ten new cocktail bars.  Similar to the Holland House from our last visit, but very close to the area we were staying in.  Dimly lit (in a good way), speakeasy vibe adorned with lots of old books and pretty glass.  Cocktails are all $12, which might take people aback, but for the amount of work and the quality of the ingredients that go into them, I have no problem with it.  I did at least attempt some pics on the iphone here, but it was so dark, and sometimes I feel kinda intrusive with flash, so unfortunately no pics, but check these out here to give you some ideas.  I had a Fall Sidecar and a Ramos Gin Fizz, both amazingly beautiful and tasty.  Food did seem to be an afterthought there and did not live up to the high quality of drinks, but overall I was very happy.

After dinner, we were on to the Exit/In to see Hillbilly Casino, the Supersuckers, and Reverend Horton Heat.  Hillbilly we have seen several times and love them, but it was my first time seeing Supersuckers and RHH live.  Supersuckers were good, and Reverend Horton Heat  was AMAZING.  Great show, and an excellent venue to see music.  After the show ended, we took a cab downtown to Layla’s as Hillbilly Casino was playing until 2 am.  A late night for sure!

Saturday

Saturday morning consisted of sleeping in/sleeping off a hangover!  We finally got rolling around 11 and went to the Farmer’s Market.  We had been there on our last trip and loved it, so we decided to go again.  Purchases included goat’s milk, goat cheese,  a pumpkin whoopie pie, and a carrot cake cupcake with cream cheese icing.  Next, we went to Swett’s , a soul food “meat and three”, where my only pic occured.  A pig-out of my fried chicken, stewed green beans, mac and cheese, and fried okra ensued.

My only pic of trip - the cure to my hangover!

The day was gorgeous, so we just wandered around outside where we could.  We went by Yazoo brewing company and had a beer on their patio. We then went to the Historic Hillsboro Village area and roamed the streets, weaving in and out of little shops.

For dinner, we decided on Flyte, and we definitely made a great choice.  Top-notch service and wonderful seasonal dishes in a very pretty atmosphere with a great wine and drink list.  We went the all appetizer route. As the name indicates, you can do “Flytes” of wine, but also of soup and salad, which allowed us to sample 3 soups and 3 salads, including a smoked pumpkin soup and a golden beet salad with an orange dressing.  Other appetizers included butternut ravioli, braised pork belly with boiled peanut hummus, and the highlight of the night, Halibut cheeks with mushrooms and bok choi in this Asian-type broth. So delicate, tender, and moist!  We decided to skip dessert and just order drinks since we had snacks at our hotel from our Farmers’ Market visit, and I loved the “Sunflower” I ordered – vodka, liquor 43, orange juice, and nutmeg.  But, as we got to talking to our very lovely server, Tracy, she told us about the food truck that she and the hostess from the restaurant run called Sugar Wagon, and she just happened to have some items from it there at the restaurant!  We ended up taking back to the hotel two  ice cream sandwiches of hers, one being salted Bourbon caramel ice cream with chocolate chip cookies and the other oatmeal cookies with cream cheese ice cream.  We wolfed them down as soon as we got to the hotel, and they were awesome!  And, she told us her Sugar Wagon had recently won 2nd place in Nashville’s first food truck competition.  How great is that?

Since we had such a late night on Friday, and already had a wonderful day and dinner, we decided to call it a night after Flyte because we were getting up early to head home on Sunday morning and soon face the realities of work on Monday.  But, it was most certainly another successful trip to Nashville, and I can’t wait til our next visit!

Roasted Cauliflower

Cauliflower seems to be under-appreciated.  I think most people think of two main things for it – raw as a snack or steamed with some butter or cheese sauce.  Not that there is anything wrong with either option (because I’m certain I have NEVER said no to a cheese sauce), but there really are so many options.  Soup, cooked and pureed for a great side, baked in a gratin, battered and fried, pickled, the list goes on an on.

For this, I roasted it with some olive oil, salt, and pepper.  The roasting brings out some of its natural sweetness, and then I mixed it with toasted walnuts, golden raisins, and sherry vinegar.  A great side or a nice addition to a small plates theme.

Great warm or at room temp

Roasted Cauliflower with Walnuts and Golden Raisins

  • 1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • olive oil

Toss cauliflower with some olive oil and salt and pepper and spread in one layer in a sheet pan.  Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 10 mintues.  Turn cauliflower and roast another 5 minutes.

Roasty Cauliflower

In the meantime, heat a saute pan over medium high heat.  Add walnuts and toast for about 5 minutes or until starting to smell fragrant.  Add raisins and toss for a minute.  Reduce heat to medium and add sherry vinegar.  Stir to combine and let cook down until nuts and raisins are well coated.

Combine cauliflower, walnuts, and golden raisins in a bowl with a few tablespoons olive oil.

Fried Catfish with Hashbrowns

So, I got my big jar of pickled veggies all ready, and wanted something awesome to eat it with.  I remember a dish I had at City House in Nashville that was cracker-crusted fried fish with pickled veggies, and so I decided to attempt something that may be close.  I did not have any crackers at home that I thought would work well for this, so I went with my normal crust of cornmeal and flour.

The hash browns are kind of hiding under there.

Fried Catfish with Hash Browns and Pickled Vegetables

  • 2 fillets of catfish
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon red pepper
  • vegetable oil
  • 2 potatoes, scrubbed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 cup pickled veggies, plus some of the vinegar/juice for drizzling

Combine milk and egg in a shallow bowl and whisk together well. In another shallow container, combine cornmeal, flour, red pepper, and salt and pepper to taste.  Heat about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a cast iron pan over medium heat.

In the meantime, shred potatoes.  I shredded mine on the shredder attachment on the food processor, but just use a grater if you prefer.  Put into a colander and toss with a little salt.  Press down on potatoes with a paper towel to remove any excess water.

Heat a pan (ideally a really heavy bottom one like a cast iron) over medium heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter.  Add 1/2 of onions and let cook until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes.  Add half of potatoes, mix well with onions, season with salt and pepper and spread in pan into thin layer, pressing onto potatoes to make a kind of large potato “cake”.  Let cook for about 4-5 minutes or until beginning to brown.  In sections, flip potatoes over and let brown on other side about 4-5 mines.  Transfer to a plate, cover with a paper towel to keep warm, and repeat whole process with remaining onions, oil, butter, and potatoes.

Put fish fillets in egg wash and coat.  Let excess drip off, dredge in flour mixture, and place in heated pan to fry.  Fry about 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown.  Use care when turning fish so as not to rip the fillets.

Serve fish and hash browns with pickled veggies and drizzle plate with some of the vinegar from the pickled veggie jar.

Pickled Veggies

Well, the farmers’ market is done, and our garden is gone.  But, I was able to stock up the last few weeks, and with the remaining beautiful summer veggies, I made a big jar of pickled vegetables.  Though I’ll list what all I put into it, it really is just up to personal preference and what is available.  I made sure to let mine “pickle” in the fridge for at least 5 days before I started eating on them, and they should last for about a month.

You can see some other things I pickled in the background - baby cabbage with sweet red peppers and the other is cherry tomatoes.

  • 1/4 head cauliflower, chopped small
  • 1/2 cup green beans, trimmed and cut in half
  • 1/2 cup zucchini, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 sweet peppers, chopped
  • 5 radishes, quartered
  • 3 whole garlic cloves, 2 minced, 1 cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper corns
  • 1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • white vinegar (enough to fill half of the jar you are using) – I used a quart sized jar
  • 2/3 cup sugar (if using a quart)
  • 3 tablespoons salt

Blanch cauliflower and zucchini in a pot of salted boiling water for about 3 minutes.  Blanch beans in a pot of salted boiling water for about 5 minutes.  Drain each batch and shock in an ice bath.

Add enough vinegar to jar you are using to reach halfway.  Fill up remaining area in jar with water.  Pour into a medium-sized saucepan and add sugar and salt and bring to a boil.

In the meantime, add peppercorns, coriander, cumin, and garlic to jar.  Add all vegetables.  Pour vinegar mixture over and seal.  Let “pickle” in fridge for at least 5 days, and will keep for about a month in the fridge.

Meat Loaf with Creamy Onion Gravy

My dad is a sucker for meatloaf.  It is usually my go-to meal for him if he’s coming over…or if he did something really awesome for me like help me with a fix-it project around the house that is beyond the hubs and I’s skill set (which is often).  I normally go the traditional tomato/bbq base meatloaf, but I had just happened to get in the mail the new Food and Wine and they had this recipe in it.  Figured it was as good as time as any to try out a new approach – with just a couple very minor changes as we halved the recipe and went without cheese in our loaf. We also served ours with mashed potatoes and  sauteed Swiss chard.

I'd like to reference a Will Ferrell quote from Wedding Crashers here, but it's a bit inappropriate as it utilizes the F bomb.

Meat Loaf with Creamy Onion Gravy

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/ 4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ground beef chuck
  • 1 pound ground pork

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a medium skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a very large bowl and let cool. Add the panko, eggs, mustard, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper and stir to form a paste. Using your hands, work in the ground meats.

Line a large roasting pan with parchment paper or put in a deep Pyrex dish. Firmly pat the meat mixture into a loaf, about 10 inches long. Cook in oven until lightly browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the loaves registers 150°, about 35 minutes. Let the meat loaves rest for 15 minutes, then cut into thick slices and serve with the Creamy Onion Gravy.

Creamy Onion Gravy

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large white onions, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, melt the butter in the olive oil.  Add the onions and stir to coat.  Cook over medium heat until the onions are soft, about  10-12 minutes.  Stir in the flour and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add the chicken stock and cook, whisking frequently, until the gravy is thick, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the heavy cream and simmer gravy for about 5 more minutes.

Transfer the onion gravy to a blender and puree until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper and place back to pot on stove and let simmer about 5 more minutes.