Roasted Cauliflower Pasta With Capers

november-pasta Pasta, if I may generalize a bit, is everyone’s favorite comfort food. Cauliflower is a highly popular vegetarian entree on it’s own. Together they create a quite yummy pasta entree. Despite it’s popularity, cauliflower is a veggie that isn’t usually my first pick for pasta toppings. But when you want pasta for lunch and you have 2 heads of cauliflower hanging around, you might as well go for it. This recipe gave me a reason to use half of my brassica stash. Oh, and the recipe is called Pasta With Roasted Romanesco and Capers, but says you can sub cauliflower or broccoli as needed. Versatility is my friend.

The recipe has a few steps so don’t bother when you need a 10 minute dinner fix. It also requires multiple pans: one for frying almonds and capers, then a roasting sheet, then a dutch oven, and yet another pan for cooking the pasta. The perfect detail from this meal is that it makes a full 4 servings of pasta, so even if you spend a little time on this then planned, you will definitely have another meal for a 2-person household.

Here are my tips/thoughts:

  1. Perhaps I’m throwing off the pasta-to-vegetable ratio here, but I used the whole head of a small cauliflower even though the recipe calls for half. In my opinion, the more veggies the better.
  2. I used rotini pasta instead of shells. Close enough, sort of?
  3. No white wine in the house = I went with chicken stock instead.  I’m usually a proponent of subbing one out for the other in an emergency. This time it worked fine – I can see why the white wine might flesh out the overall flavor, but overall stock was a decent stand-in.
  4. Best to take the recipe’s directions seriously and use a dutch oven for the pasta tossing. It’s probably not as fun or as easy to toss this much pasta & oily nut bits without high walls shutting you off from the mess.

Anyways, this gets an A for being leftover-friendly, flexible (choice of brassicas in the recipe, liquid substitutions, possible nut switches), and vegetarian.

Recipe Link: Bon Appetit

Kitchen Mess: 3 out of 4 stars (seriously, how many pans can you mess up for one pasta meal? Apparently a few.)

Recommended For: Dutch Oven Owners, Fall Sunday Dinners, Vegetarians and Those Who Love Them

Not Recommended For: Brassica Haters, Non-Tomato Sauce Pasta Haters


Pumpkin Pie with Ginger Streusel

Yes, it is impossible to hide: I have a strong and obvious obsession with pumpkin pie. Yes, this is my second pumpkin pie recipe I’ve written about in a month. My main excuse is that Thanksgiving is around the corner. Also, I think when you love something as much as I love this dessert, you should have a couple of versions on hand. This is an old favorite that I tend to come back to from time to time.

This pie tends to impress people thanks to a killer trio of layers: a decadent spiced bottom crust, a very creamy and soft center, and an overly generous streusel topping. It is especially appealing to anyone who is a fan of ginger. It’s what you make to rope in the pumpkin pie haters wandering your dinner crowd, the one that occasionally creates a convert.

I think the crust recipe is both amazing and frustrating at once. Amazing because the addition of fresh ginger and ground cloves are everything to this recipe; frustrating because the crust tends to quickly shrink and then burn by the end of the lengthy baking time. The flavor is there, but there’s something a little off with the overall ratio and baking times. I would try to cover the crust with foil during much of the baking time. Also, if you have your own favorite crust recipe I’d suggest using it here. Perhaps adding ginger and some cloves to a tried-and-true crust will be sufficient.

The interior custard is softer than other versions of squash pie, yet I tend to only let it cook the suggested 50 minutes before adding the streusel.  Any longer and the whole pie starts to overcook. The streusel topping is finished by 25 minutes at the most- I would check on it after 20 minutes to be sure. I think the overall spice of the pie is best after resting at least 12 hours, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time to make this before serving.

The pie is very sweet- maybe overly so- and hardly needs any accompaniments. The end result is also messy, even bordering on ugly once you slice it up. Exactly why I went the dark-and-mysterious-photo-route instead of showing it off. Some things are better off being consumed than incessantly styled.

Sliced and over being photographed. Waiting for a fork.

Recipe Credit: Bon Appetit

Kitchen Mess: 2 out of 4. Not too bad, though watch out for streusel crumbs on your counter.

Recommended For: Ginger Fanatics, Thanksgiving, Pre-Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving Nostalgia in January

Not Recommended For: Trying to Use Less Heavy Cream, The Only Dessert Amongst Friends Who Hate Ginger



Brown Butter Pumpkin Pie

Lately there seems to be a sort of pumpkin backlash out there. I get it, the proliferation of “pumpkin spice everything” was pretty intense for a few years. But the hate is strong, too strong in my opinion. I don’t see why one should act like it’s fun to be OVER pumpkin. Pumpkin is basically essential to the season, right? No sense in beating a squash down because of a few cloyingly sweet latte versions.

Pumpkin pie is incredibly important to my overall baking repertoire. I tend to try about 2-3 new versions every November. I usually go back to an old beloved standby that involves a crumble topping. What can I say; I love butter crusts and crumble topping, and to have an orange-hued spiced squash custard sandwiched in-between these two details is pretty much the best.

It was that time of year when I end up having a pie pumpkin handed to me as part of my weekly CSA package. You’re either gearing up to make soup or pie with that sort of gift, and I usually go towards door #2. All I needed was a recipe. I decided to go with a version from the Four and Twenty Blackbirds cookbook, as I am a big fan of their bake shop. In fact I used to live dangerously close to the storefront for a couple of years. It is really, really difficult to not go in a top-notch pie store constantly when you’re right down the block.

This recipe is overall strong, but in the end it’s really not close enough to my favorite kind of pumpkin pie. It’s well-balanced, creamy, and flavorful, all positive remarks, but just not exactly my thing in the end. Maybe this sounds too harsh, but it shouldn’t- in fact, my personal pie preference shouldn’t deter anyone from trying this recipe out. The brown butter flavor adds a lovely full touch and their pie crust always makes an impressive base.

The oven temperatures listed worked perfectly for me, and I would likely use canned puree next time instead of roasting the pumpkin. My puree was slightly more watery than the canned stuff, which made it slightly softer than I would have liked. One more thing to mention: the word “butter” is definitely in the recipe name and don’t forget that detail. This is an full-fat pie. (Only a word of warning, as most pumpkin pies worth eating are going to be decadent no matter what.)

Always served with a little whipped cream.
Always served with a little whipped cream.

Recipe Credit: Emily Elsen and Melissa Elsen, Four and Twenty Blackbirds

Kitchen Mess: 2.5 out of 4. A typical pie-making mess.

Recommended For: Fall Weekend Desserts, Holiday Potlucks

Not Recommended For: Evil Pumpkin Pie Haters, People Who Like to Habitually Diet?

Lunchbox Harvest Muffins, or what to do with that leftover zucchini half in the fridge.

This recipe saved my life since it was published 2 years ago, if I want to be a little hyperbolic. At the very least it has saved an overstuffed refrigerator veggie drawer from rotting on many an occasion. I like to use it when there seems to be an excess of carrots, zucchini, and other random fall vegetables hanging around waiting to be put to use.

Never the prettiest food, but always tasty.
Never the prettiest food, but always tasty.

It’s one of my favorite ways of using up any extra (shredded-or-to-be-shredded) vegetables, especially since it allows you to mix and match as needed. I like to think of it as a “choose your own adventure” sort of muffin.

The veggie ratios can be changed up and I’ve never had a problem with taste or texture. Last time I used mainly grated zucchini with a little beet thrown in for good measure. I didn’t even have an apple on hand, and while it didn’t have the same flavor depth it might have had with this addition, it was still yummy.  When I use the recipe I almost always coarsely grate the veggies, but you can do a fine grate too-  whatever you prefer here.

This is definitely a moist muffin. I think the amount of oil in the recipe will tend to keep the end product soft no matter what you do with the shredded veggies. You could probably try to lower the amount of oil used, but I would test that out a small amount at a time. Using whole wheat pastry flour seems to be important, as I tried using regular whole wheat once and it ended up heavier than expected. (should have known better.) If you use the weights listed in the recipe, you’re pretty much good to go. Overall it’s a versatile muffin recipe, ready for tweaking here and there.

Recipe Credit: NY Times

Kitchen Mess: 2 out of 4 stars. I can usually make this with minimal bowls.

Recommended for: Using up extra veggies, muffin lovers, fall lunchbox treats

Not recommended for: Anyone who dislikes “veggie breads” AKA picky eaters