Mouthwatering Cauliflower Steaks…No, Seriously

PaqDbSO - Imgur I was a super weird kid. I loved tomatoes–my favorite part was the slimy, seedy bit–and broccoli has been one of my favorite foods since I can remember. In high school my friends called me the Produce Aisle because my lunches generally consisted of the chopped version of just about every vegetable…and I called sliced cucumbers “cookies.”

When I was 5 or 6 years old, my grandma and grandpa had taken my brother and sister and I on an outing to the California Science Center. Apparently this was a long journey for kidlets of our ages, so we stopped at IHOP along the way to rest and refuel. In addition to the colossal plate of chocolate chip pancakes I consumed, I took it upon my tiny, hyperactive, ridiculously high-metabolismed self to help everyone at the table finish their meals as well. The pickle that came with my grandma’s sandwich, the tomatoes that my brother and sister pushed aside as refuse, and probably whatever other rabbit food was left behind. Aside from the amount of food I’d devoured in relation to my body weight, what was especially memorable to everyone at the table that day was the many types of food I was choosing to eat at a typically picky age.

There was one vegetable that I wouldn’t touch, though: cauliflower. I just didn’t get it. It was crumbly in the worst mealy sort of way, it tasted absolutely horrible in its raw state, and it was bland. I couldn’t find the draw. This is all probably due to the fact that I hadn’t yet taken a liking to roasting, so every time I’d try to eat cauliflower, it would have been boiled or steamed or prepared by whatever other method sucks for cooking cauliflower. The flavor of vegetables, or anything for that matter, reduced to carbon by way of incomplete combustion simply wasn’t appealing to me back then. But now in adulthood I truly, madly, deeply appreciate that purposeful char. I can therefore say with an air of I’m-a-big-kid-now pride that I eat all my vegetables!

Since my interest in cauliflower is pretty fresh, I’m still eager to explore it on a deeper level. So when I saw a Pin about cauliflower steaks, I was way intrigued. I did a little research to learn how it’s done. Then I added some serious friggin’ whimsy to my own version. I brushed the cauliflower with olive oil and a bunch of crushed garlic and seasoned them with sea salt, freshly ground rainbow pepper, and Herbes de Provence. Then I smothered the steaks in a red wine tomato sauce. This is the most bad-ass, delectable cauliflower I’ve ever eaten, and I swear you’ll think so too.

CAULIFLOWER STEAKS WITH RED WINE TOMATO SAUCE

Ingredients

Cauliflower

  • 1 large head cauliflower, trimmed
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 heaping spoonfuls crushed garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence

Red Wine Sauce

  • 1, 25 oz jar tomato sauce (I used Arrabiata)
  • 2/3 cup red wine (merlot or cabernet)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Pour yourself a glass of wine. Prepare a few cookie sheets with foil or parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Start with a whole head of cauliflower. Cut off the leaves and stem, but leave the core in tact. Use a large knife to slice the cauliflower, starting in the center, from top to base into 1-inch-thick “steaks.” Some of the cauliflower crumbled into baby fractals, like regular roasted cauliflower chunks, so I roasted them as such.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil and crushed garlic. Using a basting brush, paint all sides of the cauliflower steaks and pieces liberally. If you run out of garlicky oil, mix up some more and keep painting.
  4. Sprinkle all the painted steaks with Herbes de Provence, some sea salt and freshly ground rainbow pepper to taste (I prefer rainbow peppercorns over black pepper because the flavor is more mild and won’t overpower the cauliflower).20150305_194518
  5. In a large skillet sear the steaks over medium-high until golden brown. The caramelization of the cauliflower and garlic is going to give you all your flavor, so don’t be afraid to allow the cauliflower to get pretty dark (don’t actually burn it). Cook about 2-3 minutes on each side.
  6. Pour yourself another glass of wine. Transfer steaks to prepared cookie sheets. Align in single layer, so the cauliflower can crisp a little and caramelize further in the oven. Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes.fSJZbg5 - Imgur
  7. Flip cauliflower and return to oven for another 10 or 15 minutes.
  8. While cauliflower is roasting, combine tomato sauce, fresh garlic, onion powder, basil, oregano, and red wine in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Stirring occasionally, bring sauce to boil. Reduce heat to low and cover. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is done.20150305_194326
  9. Plate cauliflower steaks and top with red wine sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan if you like, or leave it as is for a clean, vegan dish.PaqDbSO - Imgur
  10. Pour a glass of wine and enjoy the meal!

TOVKrNh - Imgur

Advertisements

Buffalo Chicken Cup(not)cake

cupnotcake 1

The element of surprise is a key component of my personality and drives me in many of my creative endeavors. Everyone who knows me closely knows there is much more to me beneath the surface that others tend not to expect. This holds true in my kitchen, too. I like to surprise people by getting as creative as possible, by embracing the Weird and loving the Quirky. That’s what Whimsy Kitchen is all about, after all.

As a baker, my life is a whirlwind of sweets. Sugar is always on my mind, and when starting a new project I generally assume what I’m going to make will be of the confectionary persuasion. After all, one of my biggest motivators for baking is the joy I get from making people happy by sharing something that literally and figuratively sweetens their lives. It’s finding a way to turn an ordinary dessert into an extraordinary, unique creation that really gets my gears going, though. I’m talkin’ booze in cupcakes, bacon in cookies!

But there is so much room for creativity beyond the boundary of sweets, too! Savory baking is a twilight zone brimming with the potential for imagination and ingenuity. While basic breads and cheddar scones are delicious and should not be discredited in any way, the space for creativity within savory baking is infinite. I’ve decided it’s time I take advantage of this savory realm of opportunity. I can improve my skills, expand my repertoire, and more fully master my craft by baking more savory dishes.

I was sitting on the train when the idea struck me. What sorts of savory pastries could I make? There’s the quiche–classic and delicious and totally malleable. How about biscuits? I can fix ’em up, make ’em more interesting. No. No, these ideas are all good, but they just weren’t right. Then, all of a sudden it occurred to me: I was still thinking inside the box, and I needed to break out of it. So as I was reaching into the corners of my mind for ideas, it dawned on me.

Buffalo. Chicken. Cup(not)cake. Looks like dessert. Tastes like dinner.

IMG_1624

So what is it (besides sheer genius and magic), you ask? Cheesy, tangy, spicy shredded chicken fills a soft and crispy pizza crust “cupcake” that is baked to golden brown perfection then “frosted” with blue cheese mousse.

The Cup(not)cake is the appetizer you want in your Super Bowl spread. It’s the celebratory treat at your fun-loving, raucous friend’s birthday party. It is your ice cold beer’s new best friend. It is your new favorite (not)dessert.

Buffalo Chicken Cup(not)cake

Ingredients

  • Pizza dough (use whatever recipe or prepackaged dough you prefer)
  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked (salt sparingly and pepper to taste) and shredded
  • 1/4 cup Frank’s RedHot Buffalo Wing Sauce
  • 1/4 cup extra sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 4 oz blue cheese crumbles
  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped to firm peaks

I took the semi-homemade route with the Cup(not)cake by using store-bought pizza dough. I rolled out the dough and cut out circles with a cup, saving a little less than half for the tops. I pressed the circles of dough evenly into the cups of the cupcake tin, like little pie crusts. I seasoned the chicken breasts with a little salt and pepper and cooked them in a pan on the stove. I shredded the cooked chicken and stirred in the buffalo sauce and cheddar cheese. Then I filled each dough cup with the shredded buffalo chicken and cheddar cheese mixture (2-3 tablespoons). I topped each chicken cup with a pizza dough top. According to the pizza dough instructions, I baked the cupcakes at 400° for about 18 min, until the crust was golden brown.

While the cupcakes were baking, I blended the cream cheese and blue cheese until very smooth. I whipped the cream in a large glass bowl. Then I folded in the pureed cheese mixture into the whipped cream until well combined.

Once the cupcakes were finished baking and had cooled for a couple minutes, I used a piping bag to frost the them with the blue cheese mousse. If you don’t have a piping bag, simply transfer the mousse into a ZipLoc baggie. Cut the tip off 1 corner of the plastic bag, and squeeze the mousse through the hole.

And there you have it: the Buffalo Chicken Cup(not)cake!

cupnotcake

Be weird and enjoy!

Thanks for the Memories… and the Coastal Kale Salad!

20140511-155415I spent my university years in Santa Cruz, California, the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. How blessed I feel to have been able to call that wonderful gem land my home for nearly 5 years. Never before had I lived in a place for which I was consciously grateful every single day. The landscape of Santa Cruz is awesome, in the fullest sense of the word. Not only do you have the majestic ocean waves crashing up against the wondrous cliffs, the truly enchanting redwood forest, and the magnificent mountains. The beauty of Santa Cruz transcends nature and carries into the culture and society of the region. Santa Cruz is a hub for counterculture. Walking through the sweet little town feels like a time warp back to the Summer of Love. The community is socially and politically progressive, with a laid-back bohemian, beachy vibe. Basically, it’s a hippie haven.

Part of that wonderful hippie culture is a love and appreciation for fresh, local, handgrown, nourishing food. Farms and produce gardens take the place of flowers and lawns in many homes, and a visit to the local farmers market is community-wide activity. Many of the grocery stores even embrace this spirit of fair trade and sustainability by carrying goods from local farmers and craftsmen. One of my favorites was New Leaf Community Market.

This phenomenal neighborhood food market really lives up to its title. Aside from always providing cool, delicious products, the store’s atmosphere was always incredibly welcoming and inspiring, with creative seasonal recipes in the newsletter, exclusively organic produce, and an overall environmentally conscious, friendly and pro-sustainability aura. New Leaf even donates a portion of its profits to help fund nonprofits (Homeless Garden Project, Save Our Shores, Clean Ocean Project, Save the Frogs, etc.) in the surrounding local community. It was this hippie-foodie mashup that got me hooked on New Leaf markets. And then there was the Coastal Kale Salad, which kept me always coming back for more. This prepared salad is one of those meals that make you feel clean inside. You know you’re getting what your body needs with nutrient-packed Kale, the seeds provide you with the protein that will keep you going strong, and the citrusy dressing brings a level of freshness that uplifts you.

I used to buy the biggest container of this salad I could find almost every single day when I lived in Santa Cruz, until I figured out how to make it myself. Now I continue to make this salad just about every single week, and it brings a little reminder to me of the love I have for my beautiful college experience in stunning Santa Cruz. It’s a very simple recipe that just gets better with time, so make a big batch in the beginning of the week, and eat up in health and style throughout.
COASTAL KALE SALAD
Ingredients: 
  • 10 ounces precut kale/1 bunch curly kale, stripped and cut into bite-size pieces.
  • 1/2 red onion-julienne cut
  • 1 oz. sunflower sprouts (optional, if you can find them)
  • 1/4 C. sunflower seeds-already shelled
  • 1/4 C. pumpkin seeds
  • 1/8 C. sesame seeds
  • 3 tablespoons Bragg Liquid Aminos
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:
-Toss all ingredients in a gallon Ziploc bag.
-Close tightly and shake well to combine ingredients.
-You can massage the kale to tenderize it more quickly.