Ottolenghi’s Cauliflower Cake

by Anne Maxfield on October 30, 2014

Accidental Locavore Cauliflower CakeThe Accidental Locavore is probably in a small minority that doesn’t swoon every time there’s a new Ottolenghi book. Not that I don’t own most of them, it’s just that I often find there’s something in the recipes that makes me think–really? However, what I’ve seen of his new book, Plenty More, is starting to make me a believer. Case in point, the cauliflower cake, which hit some of the big food sites last Friday. Besides looking pretty adorable with its red onion polka-dots, the idea of a savory cake was intriguing. Give yourself some time for this. Although there’s nothing difficult, you need an hour for baking and cooling. Probably serves 8 as a side dish, 4 as a main course with a salad.

  • 1 small cauliflower, outer leaves removed, broken into 1 ¼” florets (about 1 pound)
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
  • 6 jumbo eggs
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 5 ounces coarsely grated Parmesan
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Melted unsalted butter, for brushing (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon nigella seeds

Accidental Locavore Cauliflower Cake MixPreheat the oven to 400°. Place the cauliflower florets in a saucepan and add 1 teaspoon salt. Cover with water and simmer for 15 minutes, until the florets are quite soft. They should break when pressed with a spoon. Drain and set aside in a colander to dry.

Cut 4 round ¼” slices off one end of the onion and set aside. Coarsely chop the rest of the onion and place in a small pan with the oil and rosemary. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until soft. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Accidental Locavore Sesame SeedsWhile the onion is cooking, line the base and sides of a 9 1/2-inch/24-cm spring-form cake pan with parchment paper. Brush the sides with melted butter, then mix together the sesame and nigella seeds and toss them around the inside of the pan so that they stick to the sides. Set aside.

Transfer the onion to a large bowl, add the eggs and basil, whisk well, and then add the flour, baking powder, turmeric, Parmesan, 1 teaspoon salt, and plenty of pepper. Whisk until just smooth. Add the cauliflower, stirring gently (try not to break up the florets).

Accidental Locavore Cauliflower Cake TwinsPour the cauliflower mixture into the pan, spreading it evenly, and arrange the reserved onion rings on top. Place in the center of the oven and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown and set; a knife inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean. Remove from the oven and leave for at least 20 minutes before serving. Serve just warm or at room temperature and enjoy!

My verdict: Gotta love it just for its looks! Tasted awfully good too! It turned out to be a bit of a project, but mostly for my screw-ups, not the recipe. The frost the night before killed all my basil, so I had to wait for Frank to arrive with it. Another problem was no baking powder (always check the expiration date) also until he showed up. A stupidly long search of the house turned up no spring-form pan, so I improvised with two 6″ cake pans. Muffin tins might be fun if you wanted to do individual ones. And try finding nigella seeds outside of Manhattan. Since I had them, black and regular sesame seeds were called into play. Poppy seeds or black mustard seeds would work too.  We had the cake as a side dish with some simply grilled steak, but it would be fine on its own with a salad as a light dinner, lunch or brunch dish. You might be tempted to swap out broccoli for the cauliflower, but its flavor (and color) isn’t as subtle as the cauliflower, so let it shine in its own dish.

 

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Discovering Cheese Heaven

by Anne Maxfield on October 27, 2014

Accidental Locavore MagnifiqueThere’s a place in Paris that the Accidental Locavore’s husband used to refer to as shoe heaven and I always said, “if it was really shoe heaven, all the shoes would be free.” Well, the other day, I may have stumbled into cheese heaven.

Accidental Locavore MimoletteThe French Dairy Organization has decided that Americans don’t eat enough French cheese, and to remedy that are backing a nine-year operation to get us into eating plus de fromage. It starts with a slick new store on 39th Street in Manhattan—the French Cheese Board.

Accidental Locavore Blue CheesePart store, part gallery (photos of good-looking French women eating cheese), part tasting area, along with a soon-to-be cooking school and other educational projects or, as they say, the “first international event space dedicated solely to the deliciousness of French cheese.” The website has beautiful photos of cheese, along with pronunciation guides, wine tips and some interesting-looking recipes–all to help you “make it magnifique”.

Accidental Locavore Cheese Tasting TableThis fall, in partnership with the Cheeses of Europe, they’re doing three Friday pop-up events. I went to the first one around lunch time. It sure didn’t look like New Yorkers needed their arms twisted into eating French cheese! The place was jammed and it was easy to see why. At tables lining both walls were the participating producers, each with big platters holding tasting samples of their products. There was even a wine bar, if you needed a little palate cleanser, or just wanted to feel more French. The fromage ran the gamut from butters to triple crèmes to blues, chèvres and everything in-between. I ate most of them. And I bought a lot of them!

Accidental Locavore Bag of FromageMy favorites were pretty typical for me–a terrific triple crème and a Saint Marcellin (also pretty creamy and a little bit stinky–in a good way). The French feta is lovely and makes a great addition to my lunch salads, and the Raclette made a fantastic “potato salad” with a recipe I got from the website. Since I also picked up a couple of butters, it may be time to do another butter tasting (so I can stock up in November).

There will be two more tastings before the end of the year, on November 21st and December 12th. They run from 11-7, but it seems to be a good idea to get there early–less crowded, shorter lines to check out, and more selection. And don’t forget, there’s a Maison Kayser just a block away (that’s where all the great bread they used came from). Look for me there!

 

 

 

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(Not Really) Potato Salad, but Better! Way Better!

by Anne Maxfield on October 23, 2014

Accidental Locavore Raclette and ButterAs prep for a visit to the pop-up shop at the French Cheese Board, the Accidental Locavore was looking at the recipes on their website and came across this one for what they call “Warm Potato Salad With Raclette.” It looked easy and delicious so I gave it a try the other night. It was indeed easy and delicious, but in no way would I call it potato salad—see the notes at the end for why. Serves 2-4 depending on how gluttonous you are.

 

  • 1 pound waxy potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, peeled
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter (in 1 tablespoon pieces)
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup Raclette, chopped and lightly warmed in the oven

Preheat the oven to 350°F. You can put the Raclette in an ovenproof dish to warm while the oven is heating.

Accidental Locavore Raclette PotatoesIn a large pot of salted water, bring the potatoes to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until they are tender when pierced with a fork. Drain them and transfer to a large bowl.

Using a fork crush the warm potatoes. Add the salt, butter, mustard and Raclette and stir well to combine. Scrape the potato mixture into a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Accidental Locavore Raclette Mashed PotatoesMy verdict: These may be the best mashed potatoes ever! What’s not to like – good potatoes from our CSA, French butter and Raclette? There might have been a smidge too much Dijon, and going forward, I might use both smooth and grainy mustard. The recipe originally had dill sprinkled over it at the end, but since our dinner plans got messed up, we decided to just treat it like we normally do with Raclette and served the potatoes with slices of prosciutto, my smoked pork tenderloin and cornichons – magnifique!

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A Visit to Hudson Valley Distillers

by Anne Maxfield on October 20, 2014

Accidental Locavore HV DistillersIf you’re anything like the Accidental Locavore, you’ve probably chatted with your best friend about any number of potential business ventures and never pulled the trigger, figuring the friendship was more valuable than the business idea. This isn’t the case with Hudson Valley Distillers, a new venture founded by two best friends who literally decided to buy the farm.

On the farm, now named Spirit Grove Farm, Chris and Tom are making small batch, artisanal applejacks and an apple-based vodka. Even more important than the booze, these two, friends since college, are having a great time! People always talk about doing something you love, and if what I saw the other day is any example, this pair is doing exactly that!

Accidental Locavore OnataThey’ve converted a 150 year old barn into the distillery and tasting bar. Something you probably don’t know about the Accidental Locavore is that I’m a sucker for gleaming pieces of machinery, and Hudson Valley Distillers have some beauties! Did you know that all stills need to have names? Onata (meaning “spirit of field and grain”) has a main piece that “cooks” the fermented apple cider, which gets filtered into the side pieces, condensing it, and the result, an extremely potent vodka or applejack, goes into a tank. From there it’s diluted (all alcohol is, otherwise you’d be drinking the liquor equivalent of pure heroin), the vodka gets bottled and the applejacks are put into small oak barrels to age.

Accidental Locavore Oak BarrelsLike a lot of things at HVD, the barrels have their own story. Currently, they’re using two types of oak barrels, both from the Midwest, but Chris and Tom are working with a cooper in upstate New York to produce the first New York oak barrels since the 1900’s. It’s part of their mission (and a NYS directive) to source at least 75% from New York State, making this a very locavore distillery.

In keeping with the local edict, Chris is experimenting with growing his own sugar cane, and citrus trees, hoping to start producing their own rum along with the gin that is already in the works. Also on the drawing board are bourbon and whisky, using corn, rye and barley grown just down the road.

Accidental Locavore SpiritsRight now there’s a tasting bar (open weekends), where you can sample the two applejacks and the vodka. If you like your vodka straight-up, this is the vodka for you. Smooth with a slight apple nose, this is a perfect sipping vodka, with none of the nasty alcohol taste or smell of lesser vodkas. It would probably make a formidable martini, too.

Of the two applejacks, my favorite was the Hardscrabble. It had a lovely butterscotch and apple nose, and while you could smell the oak from the barrels, it wasn’t overwhelming (like some California chardonnays). The taste was lovely, a cross between a good bourbon or scotch, but again, without any overpowering alcohol.

If all this is tempting to you (I bought the last bottle of Hardscrabble), hurry out to a local (currently only New York State) liquor store or restaurant. Chris and Tom are in the enviable spot of being sold-out of most everything right now. But not to worry, there are barrels aging now, getting ready for the holidays. Plans are in the works for a small café/tasting room, serving local cheeses and charcuterie along with all the Hudson Valley Distillers products, straight-up or in cocktails. Enjoy!

 

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