Purple of Sicily Cauliflower

Snow Crown has been my go-to cauliflower for the past several years because it’s been so easy to grow for spring and fall harvests. Next year, though, I’m adding Purple of Sicily to my cauliflower-planting schedule.

P of S headMy friend Carol gave me some starts of this heirloom cauliflower in mid July and now, at the end of October, I’ve just harvested the first few heads.  It’s my new favorite cauliflower.  Not only is Purple of Sicily beautiful, it’s more delicately flavored and tender than Snow Crown.  And, based on this first try, it might even be easier to grow than Snow Crown.

P of S garden

Territorial Seed Company carries seed for Purple of Sicily and provides this description:

90 days. Heirloom quality, exceptional flavor, super nutrition, insect resistance and astounding color all in one cauliflower. It’s no wonder Purple of Sicily has been handed down from generation to generation. Big 2-3 pound heads are brilliant purple in the garden or on the fresh veggie platter, changing to a striking green when cooked. The curds are loaded with minerals and have a sweet, delicious, refined flavor. Its natural insect resistance means healthier plants and better success in the garden.

As predicted, the purple outer layer of the cauliflower head turns rich green when cooked.

P of S raw

P of S roasted

Purple of Sicily also cooked more quickly than Snow Crown. Roasted at 375 in olive oil, salt and pepper, it was softening in twenty minutes rather than the usual forty. I also tasted the raw florets as I was preparing Purple of Sicily for roasting and found them more tender and sweeter than white cauliflower, which can taste chalky when raw.  I may end of serving more raw cauliflower in the future.

Further research into Purple of Sicily suggested that not just the cauliflower head but also the leaves and stems are edible.  It’s true!  The first time I cooked Purple of Sicily, I saved out a pile of leaves as I sliced the head for roasting.

P of S greensAs predicted, the leaves and stems are delicious sautéed. They taste like collards but cook more quickly.

For our first Purple of Sicily cauliflower dinner, I added strips of roasted sweet peppers and sautéed shallots to the sautéed cauliflower leaves and stems and arranged them on a plate with red quinoa and fans of roasted, now green, cauliflower, then garnished all with toasted hazelnuts and yellow raisins.  It was a delicious Purple of Sicily meal with more to come, both this fall and next spring.

P of S meal

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Fall Cauliflower

I’m coming to the end of my early fall cauliflower crop, six lovely heads that have matured from seeds I started in early June. I wrapped the leaves around the just-forming heads in mid-August, and, protected this way, beautiful full cauliflowers formed a month later.

Cauliflowers tied

Cauliflower head 9:18

The last time I wrote about cauliflower was early summer, 2012 when I explained how I coddle along this challenging-to-grow vegetable and offered my favorite way to cook cauliflower: simply roast it.  Roasting is still my favorite way to prepare cauliflower because the caramelizing that happens as cauliflower roasts in olive oil brings out its earthy but delicate sweetness.

So of course I had to roast the first few heads I harvested.  For a party, I followed my go-to recipe, slicing large pieces into ¼ inch wide fans, arranging them on a sheet pan, brushing them with olive oil, sprinkling on salt and pepper and roasting them at 375 until they were soft and caramelized.

Cauliflower fans roasted

With six heads of cauliflower, though, I decided to branch out a little bit, looking for recipes that still called for roasting but added other flavors.  I should have done this branching out years ago because I found some great recipes.  In Yotam Ottolenghi’s 2014 cookbook Plenty More he offers a roasted cauliflower, grape and cheddar salad that totally suits this fall season.  I was even able to use the Canadice grapes ripening on our arbor.  The raisins marinated in the vinaigrette complement the fresh grapes and the crumbled bits of Cheddar cheese and the chopped hazelnuts add richness. Best of all, though, the flavor of roasted cauliflower comes through.

Cauliflower Ottolenghi salad

Roasted cauliflower, grape and cheddar salad

1 large head cauliflower broken into bite sized florets

6 tablespoons sunflower or other light oil

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon honey

1/4 cup raisins

1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and roughly crushed

2/3 cup seedless red grapes, halved

3 oz aged Cheddar cheese, coarsely crumbled

2/3 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 425°

Toss the cauliflower florets with half of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast for 20-30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

To make the dressing, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons oil with the vinegar, mustard, honey and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add the raisins and let them marinade for at least 10 minutes.

Just before serving, transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl and add the hazelnuts, grapes, Cheddar and parsley. Pour the raisins and dressing over the top, toss together, transfer to a large platter, and serve.

Inspired by the success of this move from plain roasted cauliflower to other flavors, I was ready to take on a Food 52 recipe that appeared in my email last week. Titled Roasted, Spiced, Almond-y Cauliflower, it’s a slightly modified recipe from Melissa Clark, one of my favorite cookbook authors.

Nicholas Day, creator of this version, introduced the recipe as: lightly adapted from Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite. Her version has whole cumin, coriander and brown mustard seeds. It’s a spice mixture that’s very adaptable, obviously; my current version is below. Also, if you don’t have sliced almonds, substitute some chopped almonds or cashews.

Cauliflower spicy almond

large cauliflower, cut into inch-sized florets
1/2teaspoon coriander seed
1/2teaspoon ground cumin
1/2teaspoon ground cinammon
tablespoons olive oil
1/2teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 425° F. With a mortar and pestle, or the flat side of a chef’s knife, lightly crush the coriander seeds. Add the crushed seeds to a bowl along with the cumin, cinnamon, olive oil, and salt. 

Scatter the cauliflower florets over a rimmed baking sheet, then toss them with the oil-and-spice mixture. Roast for 15 minutes, then stir and roast for 10 more minutes. Sprinkle on the almonds and roast for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cauliflower and the almonds are nicely browned. Serve hot, warm, or cold.

This combination of cauliflower, spices and nuts makes a great side dish warm or cold.  I also used it hot the other night as part of a pasta sauce, adding grapes and hazelnuts in a nod to Ottolenghi and thinly slicing a bunch of succulent fall arugula leaves and tossing it in to the hot pasta and spicy cauliflower so it wilted slightly.  With grated pecorino cheese, this pasta with cauliflower made a hearty fall dinner.

I have one more cauliflower left in the kitchen garden. I’ll need to decide soon how to prepare it.

Early Spring Salads

The early spring kitchen garden continues to offer salad greens from the sturdy plants that provided greens throughout the winter. Arugula, red mustard and kale all came through the cold snaps of December, January and February and now with the longer light of March and April are sending out new growth.

Arugula is starting to bud and blossom but the new leaves that are growing too are tender and spicy.

Spring arugula 4.18

Red mustard is sending out succulent-stemmed, horseradish-spicy leaves.

Spring mustard 4.18

And kale, the year-round champion, is bursting with sweet, tender leaves.

Spring kale 4.18

We eat kale salads for lunch nearly every day and lately we’ve been adding red mustard leaves to the bowl, their hot crispness a perfect balance to the tender sweet kale. Olive oil, a little salt, fresh lemon juice and grated Pecorino cheese meld the flavors of the two together into a perfect salad.

Spring mustard, kale 4.18

Spring kale mustard salad

Arugula makes a great salad with the same dressing, but for the past few months, I’ve been using Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe for arugula with roasted red onions and walnut salsa from his 2014 cookbook Plenty More.

Red onion Walnut salsa recipe

It’s so good! The thick slices of red onions roast, soften and caramelize. Redwing is my favorite storage onion, a variety I’ve grown for years. Served warm over a bed of arugula these roasted onions are delicious and beautiful and would be a fine just with the arugula, but what really makes this salad is the walnut salsa. Modifying Ottolenghi’s recipe slightly, I marinate minced garlic in red wine vinegar with a little salt for an hour or so then add coarsely chopped walnuts and finely diced poblano peppers I’d roasted and frozen last summer. Thawed they are perfect for this salsa.   Flavors of sharp vinegar, pungent garlic, crunchy walnuts and spicy poblanos make a salsa that I’m happy simply to eat with a spoon. Tossed into the salad it’s great too. Another modification I make is to use much more arugula than the recipe suggests, making this a dinner salad rather than an appetizer.

Red onion walnut salsa salad

These early spring salads are exactly what we need as we wait for warmer weather and the first lettuce of early summer.

Parsnip Chips

The days are getting longer and winter roots in the kitchen garden are responding to the increased light by sending out new growth. Though they are covered with hay mulch to simulate darkness, even the remaining parsnips are starting to show a few green leaves. There are lots of ways to cook these sweet winter parsnips before too much new growth reduces their sweetness. One technique I’ve just begun experimenting with is turning parsnips roots into parsnip chips. They are easy to make, full of sweet parsnip flavor and definitely make me happy that there are still a few parsnips left in the kitchen garden.

A Google search for parsnip chip recipes yields some helpful techniques. All suggest using a mandoline or a food processor to create very thin slices. Recipes that recommend baking instead of deep-frying suggest lightly oiling the slices and arranging them in a single layer on a sheet pan. For cooking temperature, there is a lot of variation, from 300 to 425 degrees with cooking times varying by temperature.

In my experiments, I used a mandoline to slice the unpeeled parsnips into 1/8-inch (35mm) thick rounds. Mine is a Swissmar Borner V-1001 V-Slicer Plus Mandoline.

Parsnip chips mandolinThen I brushed a light skim of olive on a sheet pan, arranged the parsnip rounds on this oiled surface and brushed a little more olive oil over the surface of the rounds.

Parsnip chips rawFinally, because 300 degrees seemed too low, I put the pan in a 425-degree oven and set the timer for ten minutes. After ten minutes, many of the rounds were starting to curl and brown at the edges though the centers remained soft.

Parsnip chips curledI removed the pan from the oven, turned the rounds with a thin spatula and returned the pan to the oven for another ten minutes. Keeping an eye on them, I found that before the second ten minutes was up, some of the chips looked brown enough to remove. Leaving them another ten minutes resulted in some chips that had turned black and bitter. Cooking at this high temperature made tasty chips but did require vigilance.

Parship chips plates

The next time, I used a 300-325 degree oven. While the cooking time was much longer, 45 minutes instead of 20, none of the chips burned, I didn’t need to be quite so vigilant, and all chips became just as crisp as those cooked at a higher temperature. For future batches of parsnips chips, I’ll probably use the lower temperature unless I’m really in a hurry.

Parsnip chips have turned out to be a hit as an appetizer. Fresh from the oven, crisp but still a little warm, sprinkled lightly with salt, they are all gone by the time the main course is ready. They may keep well in a tightly closed container, but I haven’t found out yet.

Meals from a Bitter Cold Alert

Vancouver Island garden writer Linda Gilkeson regularly emails “Linda’s List” to her many subscribers in the Maritime Northwest. Her most recent subject line, Bitter Cold Alert, definitely caught my attention and sent me to the kitchen garden to follow her advice: “Given how cold it could be, I suggest you harvest as much of the above ground crops (leeks, cabbage, kale, Br. sprouts, chard, etc.) as you can stuff in your refrigerator and cover everything you can’t harvest.”

Heading out into the cold and blustery but sunny late morning, I started with the leeks and quickly filled a wheelbarrow with the last 12-foot row of these special winter alliums, about six dozen leeks. Next I went to the Brussels sprouts and cut off at the base the fullest remaining stalks, six little trees of sprouts. Leaving these two crops to clean later, I turned to the chard, collards and kale, filling bags with the biggest leaves of each and packing them into the refrigerator. Then it was time to cover what remained. I piled extra mulch on the carrot and parsnip beds. I also piled extra mulch around the tall kale plants before moving hoop houses over them and over the chard, securing a small cloche over the mache and closing the cold frame over the mustard and arugula. Finally, I trimmed the leeks and popped the Brussels sprouts from their stalks, filled gallon bags with both, and found more room in the fridge.

Garden covered 2:18

Happily, I was able to start using this emergency harvest right away. At a dinner party that night, I shared a platter of sautéed leeks and Brussels sprouts and at another dinner a few days later, I shared a platter of sautéed leeks, chard and Brussels sprouts. For the first, I sliced the leeks lengthwise and then crosswise into inch-long pieces, then sautéed them in a little butter. I sliced the Brussels sprouts into eighth-inch rounds and sautéed them quickly in butter as well. Finally, I added a little heavy cream to the final sautéing of both the leeks and the Brussels sprouts, not really necessary but very tasty.   The warm green and yellow tones of both vegetables looked lovely against a dark brown stoneware platter.

For the second dinner’s platter of leeks, chard and Brussels sprouts, I sautéed the leeks and Brussels sprouts in butter as before though I left out the cream. Then I braised the dark green chard in a bit of water until it was tender. On a shallow yellow rectangular platter, I arranged the vegetables in sections, leeks then chard then Brussels sprouts forming a winter vegetable harvest flag. I missed the opportunity to get photos of each of these dishes but they were as beautiful as they were delicious.

Still working my way through bags of leeks and kale, a few nights later I made a large dish of Boerenkool to serve at a birthday party we were hosting. This classic Dutch dish combines mashed potatoes, sautéed leeks and wilted kale into a wonderfully satisfying winter mash. With roasted carrots and a pork leg roast, it made a festive dinner.

Boerenkool parts & carrots

Boerenkool

The cold has abated, but there are still bags of leeks in the fridge along with bags of collards, Brussels sprouts, arugula, radicchio and parsley.  And the roots and greens covered and left in the garden survived the cold.  We’ll use them all for parties ahead, warm times with friends as we move from winter to spring.

Winter Vegetable Mash or Hash

Winter vegetables 2017

There’s something so appealing about a pile of winter vegetables. Maybe it’s the mix of colors: orange, yellow, white and purple carrots, green striped Delicata squash, rosy rutabaga and green Gilfeather turnip contrasting with brown potatoes, white celery root and parsnips. Maybe it’s their compactness, these solid, densely textured vegetables. Or maybe the appeal is the anticipation of their flavors, richly sweet carrots, parsnips and squash, pungent rutabaga and turnip, earthy potatoes, nutty celery root, delicious individually but even better mixed together.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with ways of mixing the colors, textures and flavors of these winter vegetables. Mashing is one technique, creating smooth purees or chunky blends from two or more cooked vegetables. Hash is another, dicing vegetables into small, same-sized cubes and roasting or sautéing them together so that the pieces crisp and the flavors blend. Mash and hash both make comfort food for this time of year.

Last weekend, a friend invited us for dinner. She was serving slow-braised beef and we agreed that some sort of mash would be a great accompaniment. Keeping it simple, I settled on potatoes and rutabaga, peeling, quartering and steaming the potatoes, peeling, cutting into chunks and boiling the rutabaga, then mashing the two together with some buttermilk and butter, salt and pepper. The rutabaga gave just the right pungence as well as a pretty yellow tone to the potatoes and the buttermilk added a touch of sharpness.

Another favorite mash combines potatoes, celery root and Delicata squash. With garlic and thyme infused cream and butter, this mash is smooth, richly sweet and beautifully orange.

Celery Root puree

In contrast to this smooth mash, there’s a chunkier one I first made several years ago, sautéing all the vegetables together in a pot then mashing them into a coarse mix for a pretty side with pork chops and leeks.

Roots mash in pot

Roots mash on plate

I often roast chunks of winter vegetables, but when making hash, I dice the vegetables into smaller cubes. Roasted at 400 or 425 until they are soft and beginning to crisp, they result in a hash that’s perfect as a side dish for pork or lamb. Lately, though, I’ve been pairing winter vegetable hash with eggs, once for dinner and once for breakfast.

Hash and eggs

I could eat this tasty combination for lunch too. Potatoes alone make a fine hash but hash with rutabaga, turnip, and Delicata squash is three times better.

A few nights ago I turned some leftover winter vegetable hash into a free-form baked pasta dish. Following a recipe that called for broccoli but substituting hash, I tossed boiled and drained pasta and hash together on a sheet pan, spooned ricotta across the mix, sprinkled on a mix of bread crumbs, grated parmesan cheese and lemon zest, drizzled on some olive oil and put the pan under the broiler for four or five minutes to warm the ricotta and crisp the crumbs and parmesan. Piled on plates, this pasta and hash made a great dinner.

Hash and pasta

The variations on mash and hash are endless. Begin with an inspiring pile of winter vegetables and start experimenting.

Thanksgiving Salads

Our Thanksgiving feast surrounds the turkey, gravy and stuffing with lots of vegetable side dishes: mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, succotash, winter squash, rutabaga, all offering rich, sweet, earthy and pungent flavors as well as soft, dense textures. In past years, to balance these heavier side dishes, I’ve experimented with opposite flavors and textures, most often in salads. Celery root and apple salad dressed with apple cider vinaigrette has been a good choice, both crisp and acidic. It’s pretty, too, with additions of toasted nuts and chopped parsley or arugula. Or I’ve made a simple salad of mache and sherry vinaigrette, fresh green contrasting the other mashed, roasted and pureed vegetables. Some years a guest will bring pickled vegetables or sweet and sour red cabbage and I skip a salad altogether because these acidic flavors work well to balance the richness of the other vegetables. This year, when we’ll have the same line up of rich side dishes, I’ve settled on a radicchio and pear salad, going for the pleasantly bitter flavor of radicchios and the fresh sweetness of the pears.

Radicchio and pear salad was an easy choice this year because the red and green radicchios and the pears from the kitchen garden have been so beautiful.

Radicchios in basket

Radicchios cut in basket

I’ve made this salad several times already. It goes together quickly, easy to do at the last minute.   The green is Sugarloaf chicory and the red is Indigo radicchio. I usually slice the crisp leaves rather than tearing them because it’s quicker and I like their ribbon-like shape. The pears ripening now are Conference and Comice. I quarter them, peel them and then slice them into chunks. Toasted hazelnuts add their sweet, nutty flavor and some crunch. I’ve tried both sherry vinaigrette and balsamic vinaigrette and prefer balsamic because its complex sweetness complements the slight bitterness of the radicchio. Finally, this is a beautiful salad, one more reason to include it on the Thanksgiving table.

Radicchio salad T-day