Buffalo Cauliflower with Cool Ranch Dipping Sauce

Buffalo Cauliflower with Cool Ranch Dipping Sauce
Even though Buffalo wings had become bar food standards before I turned vegetarian, I’ve never had them. The smells of blue cheese dressing (I can’t stand blue cheese) and Buffalo sauce combined turned me off completely, as did chicken wings in general.

Then 25 years or so after I’d written off Buffalo anything entirely, a recipe for veggie balls in Buffalo sauce, served with ranch dressing instead of the dreaded blue cheese, popped up in my newsfeed. The recipe’s Buffalo sauce had a high butter to hot sauce ratio and I ended up not liking the butter overload and upset stomach that resulted.

Resolved to avoid Buffalo sauce for the rest of my life, I reluctantly decided to try it again after reading rave reviews of the Buffalo “wings” at a newly opened vegan restaurant in St. Paul. Having a few days left of our recent vacation, Pete and I enjoyed a weekday lunch date at J. Selby’s, which as far as I know, is the only vegan St. Paul restaurant. Based on those reviews, we started with the Buffalo “wings,” which were made from cauliflower. So delicious, and we both had to exercise restraint in order to not finish the entire order before our entrées arrived. With vegan meaning no “real” butter, there was neither a butter overload nor an upset stomach—yay!!

"Cheddar" Cauliflower

Battered Cauliflower

At home in my fridge’s crisper was a head of orange, also called cheddar, cauliflower and thoughts of making my own version began to percolate (the color doesn’t change the taste–it’s the same as white cauliflower). After looking at several recipes, I adapted one from the Frank’s RedHot Sauce website, mainly because their hot sauce was supposedly the secret ingredient in the first ever Buffalo Wings to come out of Buffalo, New York.

Baked Cauliflower

This recipe called for less butter than the ill-fated one referred to earlier, and to make it vegan like J. Selby’s, I replaced that butter with a combo of vegan margarine and non-hydrogenated shortening.

White or brown rice flour could be substituted in place of the wheat flour for a gluten-free option. I include a recipe for ranch dipping sauce, but if you want traditional blue cheese, go for it (while I stifle a gag).

Of course, these crispy, spicy, cauliflowery nuggets will make an awesome appetizer at your next party, but they also will stand in just fine in place of dinner while you absent mindedly eat the entire batch you made to test the recipe on a Tuesday night after work. Don’t ask me how I know. Enjoy!

Crispy Buffalo Cauliflower

 

Buffalo Cauliflower with Cool Ranch Dipping Sauce

Adapted from this Frank’s RedHot Sauce recipe

½ cup whole wheat pastry flour (substitute brown rice flour for gluten-free)

½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour (substitute rice flour for gluten—free)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup water

1 medium head white or orange (also called cheddar) cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets

½ cup Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce

2 tablespoons vegan butter, such as Earth Balance, melted

1 tablespoon non-hydrogenated shortening, such as Spectrum Organic, melted

Cool Ranch Dipping Sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly oil a large baking sheet or line it with parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. Whisk in water and continuing whisking until very smooth. Dump in your cauliflower florets and stir until evenly coated.

Using tongs, move cauliflower pieces to prepared baking sheet, shaking off excess batter into the bowl as you do so (I had some batter left over). Make sure florets are evenly spread out on baking sheet, in a single layer. Bake for 20 minutes, until coating is golden, rotating baking sheet at about the 10-minute mark for even browning.

Meanwhile, mix Frank’s RedHot Sauce together with the melted butter and shortening.

Remove florets from the oven and drizzle with sauce mixture and toss with a spatula to evenly coat. Return to the oven for about 10 more minutes, until cauliflower begins to crisp.

Remove cauliflower to a platter and serve with ranch or blue cheese dressing. Makes about 6 appetizer servings.

Cool Ranch Dipping Sauce

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt, regular or vegan

1/3 cup mayonnaise (I use vegan Earth Balance Mindful Mayo)

¼ cup milk of choice (skim, almond, soy, etc.)

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ cup chopped fresh herbs (I used a combination of chives, garlic chives, and parsley)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Whisk yogurt, mayo, milk, lemon juice, and mustard together in a small bowl. Stir in herbs, salt, and pepper. Chill until ready to serve.

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Spicy Giardiniera

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In the seemingly endless world of condiments, I have found yet another to obsess about. Giardiniera (pronounced jar-deen-YAIR-uh, Italian for “from the garden”), is a spicy, pickled mélange of vegetables, marinated in a zesty cocktail of oil, vinegar, herbs & spices and it’s my new “must have” in the refrigerator.

What sparked my recent obsession is a pizza enjoyed at a little restaurant in the tiny burg of Willernie, Minnesota, which is surrounded on all sides by another small town, Mahtomedi. Willernie’s quaint main street is home to Roma Restaurant and Wine Bar,  a cozy Italian place with authentic food and atmosphere, plus there’s a quality craft beer list to please Pete and generous wine pours to please you-know-who.

Appropriately, the pizza I referred to is a wood-fired beauty called The Giardiniera, comprised of marinara, onions, mushrooms, peppers, olives, roma tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and the star of the show, spicy giardiniera.

Shortly after I had this pizza for the first time, I saw a recipe for giardiniera on New York Times Cooking, one of my go-to sources for recipes that always work. And of course, me being me, I had already thought, “I must make some!” Great timing, dontcha think?

The recipe is easy, adaptable, and delicious! The only hard part is waiting a few days for the flavors to meld and mellow a tad. You can vary the veggies and level of spiciness (next time I think I’ll add onions) and it keeps for weeks in the fridge. Serve as an addition to sandwiches, on top a vegan Caesar salad, as part of an antipasto platter, or on pizza (yes, please!). Enjoy!
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Giardiniera

Slightly adapted from this New York Times recipe by Cathy Barrow
If, like me, you end up with extra veggies, make a little extra dressing in a pint jar and add the vegetables

4 serrano peppers, thinly sliced, with seeds removed

2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

3 celery ribs, sliced or julienned

3 carrots, sliced or julienned

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into small florets

½ cup kosher salt

2 cloves garlic, slivered

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon celery seeds

1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns

1 cup white vinegar

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup grapeseed or canola oil

In a large bowl, using your hands, mix the vegetables and salt until well combined. Cover the vegetables with water. Cover the bowl and allow the mixture to sit, unrefrigerated, for 8 to 12 hours.

Drain the vegetables in a colander and rinse thoroughly. Sterilize 2 quart-size glass jars, with lids, in the dishwasher or by submerging them in boiling water for 10 minutes.

In one sterilized jar, combine the garlic and all the herbs and spices; add the vinegar and oil and shake well to emulsify the dressing. Pour half the dressing into the other jar.

Pack the vegetables into the jars. If vegetables are not completely coated, make and add more dressing. Screw lids onto jars and refrigerate. Allow the mixture to mellow for a couple of days before serving. Fills two quart jars (I ended up with extra veggies, so I made a little extra dressing in a pint jar and add the vegetables).

Mushroom & Spinach Farro Risotto with Roasted Cauliflower

Risotto Bowl
One of our favorite restaurants is the Chilkoot Café and Cyclery in Stillwater, MN. A charming neighborhood café, in a delightful, historic small town neighborhood. By day, it’s an order at the counter, freshly-roasted coffee, local scratch-made comfort food, mouthwatering dessert, and wood floor cozy place. In the evenings, they bring out the linens and offer table service, with a diverse menu. A nice wine list and truly quality tap beers round things out. And per the name, there’s also a small customer-focused bicycle shop onsite.

The food is always outstanding and in a recent menu change, they added a mushroom & farro risotto with seasonal vegetables. I’ve had it several times, and it’s one of those restaurant dishes that you crave for days afterward. After both Pete and I had this risotto Friday night, I started thinking about making my own version. I had farro on hand and picked up mushrooms, spinach and cauliflower at the store and got to work. The end result was exceptional, with Pete saying it was one of the best recipes I’ve ever made. With that kind of praise, how could I not share?

Because this takes a bit of time, it’s a recipe more suited for a special weekend dinner, like Valentine’s Day, perhaps. It does fall on a Saturday this year! Enjoy!
Risotto

 

Mushroom & Spinach Farro Risotto with Roasted Cauliflower

1 cup  farro, soaked in cool water for 1 hour, then drained

½ cup chopped onion

3 cloves garlic minced, divided

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 ½ tablespoons butter, divided

1 ½ cup sliced cremini (baby portabella) mushrooms

A couple handfuls of spinach, chopped

¼ cup dry white wine

4-5 cups vegetable broth/stock

¼ cup grated parmesan

¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Roasted cauliflower (recipe follows)

1 teaspoon truffle oil

Salt & pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a cast iron or other heavy skillet. Add about 1 teaspoon butter. When melted, add half the garlic and the mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms release their liquid. Add spinach and cook until spinach wilts. Keep warm.

Heat broth/stock in a covered saucepan until simmering; then keep it at a simmer. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. When butter is melted, add onion and remaining garlic. Cook several minutes until onion starts to soften. Add drained farro and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes. Add the wine and cook until the wine is absorbed. Add broth, 1 cup at a time, and cook, stirring occasionally until broth is absorbed before adding the next cup of broth. Continue until broth is gone and farro is cooked. Reduce heat to low and stir in parmesan until melted. Stir in chopped parsley. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add mushroom mixture and cauliflower. Drizzle with 1 tsp. truffle oil and stir. Serves two as a main course and 4 as a side dish.

Roasted Cauliflower

½ head cauliflower, cut into florets

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Salt & pepper, to taste.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet. Toss cauliflower, garlic, and lemon juice in bowl. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with a little salt & pepper. Roast on baking sheet for 25-30 minutes, until edges are browned and caramelized.

Creamy Cauliflower Wild Rice Soup

 

Soup above

Yep, another soup recipe. Just can’t help myself—it is soup season after all! This recipe came about after we returned from a cabin trip to some cauliflower and potatoes that were soon to hit the far side of prime.

The trip was wonderful, with fall colors stunning on the way there. Even at the cabin, where a lot of the vibrant leaves were gone, there was color—scarlet sumac and dogwood, bright golden tamaracks, and I never realized how beautiful the leaves turn on the wild rose bushes along the shore. No matter the time of year, you can always find color to make a bouquet! And the chives were still thriving so I was able to bring home a bagful.
BouquetBouquet in vaseFire and rose bushes

Otis came along and while it was jacket weather for us, he still loved playing in the frigid waters of Lake Superior! He’s getting a little better at quieting his excitement on the drive there and back too, but he’s not quite there yet. He definitely brings a different level of fun though!

Otis in Lake Superior

Otis by cabin

Fall and winter get me craving a wild rice soup spiked with sherry, which seemed good compliments to the must-use-soon veggies. Shallots and garlic provide a flavor boost, along with creaminess from your milk of choice (buttermilk, skim, almond, cashew, evaporated—whatever floats your boat), and a comforting meal is born. Add a fall-themed salad such as this and some crusty whole-grain bread and your lunch or dinner is complete. Enjoy!

Soup side

Creamy Cauliflower Wild Rice Soup

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or unsalted butter

½ cup sliced shallots

1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

½ head cauliflower, cut into 1” pieces

2 medium gold or red potatoes, chopped

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 cups vegetable stock

1 cup milk (buttermilk, skim, almond, cashew, evaporated—your choice)

2 cups cooked wild rice

2 tablespoons dry or medium dry sherry

Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Chopped chives and additional wild rice, for garnish

In a stockpot, melt the butter or heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and cook for several minutes. Add the garlic and cook about another minute. Stir in the cauliflower and potatoes and cook for about two minutes. Add the wine and increase heat to medium high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine has pretty much cooked off. Add the vegetable stock, cover, and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until potatoes and cauliflower are tender.

Using an immersion blender, purée soup until it is completely smooth (alternately, cool soup a bit and purée in a blender, in batches, and return to pot). Over low heat, stir in the milk, wild rice, sherry, and salt & pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with chopped chives and a bit of wild rice. Makes four meal-size servings or six appetizer servings.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

Pizza sliced
I love pizza! For its comfort, for its versatility, for its downright deliciousness and its ability to pretty much make everyone happy by a tweak of the toppings. Quite a few variations are in my pizza repertoire, but almost all of them have been built upon a whole wheat crust. Till now.

My dear Swedish “niece” Sarah shared a recipe on Facebook the other day from a blog called The Iron You. Intrigued by the title, I poked around the blog and found a bunch of mostly vegetarian recipes, many vegan, and lots of them gluten-free. Other terms listed next to recipe titles were Paleo (which I’ve heard of) and Primal (which I have not). A paleo, gluten-free pizza with a crust made from cauliflower just had to be made.

I deviated little from the crust part of the recipe (but did bake it on a stone instead of a baking sheet), and changed up the toppings, but since everyone has their favorites in that regard, the real takeaway is the crust. Very thin, crispy and beautiful, I think it will stand up best when lightly topped, and you’ll feel so good inside knowing that funny looking, but oh so healthy vegetable you probably turned your nose up to as a kid, is the star of the show!
Cauliflower CrustPizza

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

Crust:
1 head cauliflower
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
½ teaspoon oregano
Freshly ground black pepper

Topping:
Pizza sauce (homemade or good quality store-bought)
½  of a medium onion, finely chopped
½ of a medium green bell pepper, finely chopped
½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
A sprinkling of pizza seasoning
Crushed red pepper, to taste

Place a pizza stone on middle oven rack and preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Remove leaves and core from head of cauliflower and roughly chop into like sized pieces. In batches, process in food processor until the consistency of rice. Put cauliflower “rice” in a microwave safe, non-plastic container and microwave uncovered for 8-10 minutes, until cooked.

Dump cooked cauliflower onto a clean tea towel. Spread it out a bit and let cool for a few minutes. Bring corners of towel together and twist it to squeeze the moisture from the cauliflower. There will be a lot of water to squeeze out. And when you think you’ve squeezed it all out, squeeze some more. If you don’t get enough of the moisture out, you won’t end up with a crispy crust. Once the cauliflower has all the liquid squeezed out, transfer it to a bowl and mix in the egg, mozzarella, salt, oregano and pepper.

Lightly oil a sheet of parchment paper. Place cauliflower mixture onto parchment and press it into a very thin 10-12” round. Carefully transfer to the pizza stone and bake for 15 minutes, turning once half-way through baking time for even browning.

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Add toppings, except for crushed red pepper flakes. Bake 5-7 more minutes, until cheese is melted and crust is nicely browned. Remove from oven, sprinkle with red pepper flakes and cut into wedges. Makes 2-3 servings. Enjoy!