Cauliflower & Feta Fritters

O M G – the salty creamy bits of feta combined with the still slightly tender but firm cauliflower bits are enough to make me want these on a regular repeat!!  I often find cauliflower a bit of a hard sell amongst the family members, but this will win over anybody sitting on the cauliflower fence.

Cauliflower 5

These make a great appetizer or side dish.  Serve for lunch with a green salad, any way you try it, they are a winner.

1 small head cauliflower (1 pound florets, i.e. stems and leaves removed), cut into generous 1 to 2 inch chunks
1 large egg
1 garlic clove, minced
Few gratings of fresh lemon zest
3 ounces crumbled feta (about 1/2 cup)

1/4 cup slivered green onions (optional but I loved the colour and brightness)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes; less if using regular red pepper flakes, which are hotter
3/4 teaspoon table salt or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Cook cauliflower in simmering salted water, uncovered, until tender, about 5 to 6 minutes, until firm but tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Drain well. Spread on towels to dry as much as possible.

Cauliflower 2

Ice water is key to making sure your cauliflower doesn’t get overcooked and retains a bit of texture. Plunge it in right from the cooking liquid.

Cauliflower 3

Let the cauliflower drain so they don’t get mushy. 

In the bottom of a large bowl, whisk together egg, garlic and lemon zest. Add cauliflower florets and mash with a potato masher until they’re crushed into an average of pea-sized pieces (i.e. some will be bigger, some smaller, but most will be little nubs).

Cauliflower 4

Sprinkle in feta and stir to combine egg mixture, cauliflower and feta. In a small dish, whisk flour, salt, pepper and baking powder until evenly combined. Sprinkle over cauliflower batter and stir just until combined.

Heat oven to 200 degrees F and place a tray inside. On the stove, heat a large, heavy skillet over moderate heat. Once hot, add a good slick of oil, about 2 to 3 tablespoons. Once the oil is hot (you can test it by flicking a droplet of water into it; it should hiss and sputter), scoop a two tablespoon-size mound of the batter and drop it into the pan, then flatten it slightly with your spoon or spatula. Repeat with additional batter, leaving a couple inches between each. Once brown underneath, about 2 to 3 minutes, flip each fritter and cook on the other side until equally golden, about another 1 to 2 minutes.

Transfer briefly to paper towels to drain, then the tray in the oven to keep them warm until needed. Once all fritters are cooked, mix yogurt with cumin, salt and pepper. Spread fritters on serving platter. Dollop each with cumin yogurt and sprinkle with pomegranate arils.

Do ahead: Fritters both freeze and reheat well. To warm and recrisp them, lay them on a tray and toast them at 400 degrees in the oven until crisp again.
Olive oil for frying

To serve

  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp fresh basil
  • 1 tsp crushed pink peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp whole grain mustard
  • squeeze fresh lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients, and season to taste with the salt and pepper

Full credit for this goes to Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, I only made a few changes, and created my own dipping cream.   She is fritter obsessed, and I am quickly becoming just as obsessed with fritters.  Any vegetable seems to work as a fritter!  I think what sold these as being a bit different is the feta cheese.  Once you fry them up, that feta gets crispy and the flavour just intensifies.

Grilled mushrooms on a cedar plank

As the snow drifts by the window I’m dreaming of making these again ….. smoky from the grill and cedar plank, and bursting with creamy cheesy goodness.

Grilled Mushrooms:Cedar Plank

  • 25 to 30 small cremini mushrooms (about 650 g), stemmed
  • 2 cup grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup water-packed artichoke hearts (about 2), drained, finely chopped and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese , softened
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green olives
  • 1 egg , lightly beaten
  • 1 clove garlic , grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley

To take these over the top, sprinkle with toasted and chopped hazelnuts, they add such a delightful crunch …. as you can see in this photo I didn’t have any handy this time!

Soak one 12- x 7-inch untreated cedar plank in water for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours. Meanwhile, using tip of spoon, gently scrape out mushroom gills to widen cavities.

In bowl, stir together Asiago, artichokes, cream cheese, olives, egg, garlic and pepper. Spoon 1 tbsp filling into each mushroom cap, pressing to flatten slightly.

Arrange on cedar plank, filling side up. Top with hazelnuts, if using, or you can always substitute toasted Panko crumbs.  Place plank on grill over medium-high heat; close lid and grill until mushrooms are tender and filling is bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes.

Sprinkle with parsley. Serve on plank on heat-resistant surface or transfer to platter.

 

If barbecuing isn’t an option for you this can also be done in the oven …. 425 for 20 minutes.

Creamiest Hummous

Hummus 1

Drizzle the finished hummus with your best olive oil and a sprinkling of paprika.  A few toasted sesame seeds would be a great addition also. (I just didn’t think of it until I looked at my photos!)

  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas or 1 1/2 cups (250 grams) cooked chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice (1 large lemon)
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) well-stirred tahini
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons (30 to 45 ml) water
  • Dash ground paprika, for serving

 

DIRECTIONS

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tahini and lemon juice and process for 1 minute, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process for 30 seconds more. This extra time helps “whip” or “cream” the tahini, making the hummus smooth and creamy.

Add the olive oil, minced garlic, cumin, and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the whipped tahini and lemon juice. Process for 30 seconds, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process another 30 seconds or until well blended.

Open, drain, and rinse the chickpeas. Add half of the chickpeas to the food processor and process for 1 minute. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl, then add remaining chickpeas and process until thick and quite smooth; 1 to 2 minutes.

peeled chickpeas

I know, you are thinking “what goof peels chickpeas?”  Me.  Especially after Stella raved about the creamiest hummus she’d ever had.  At 5 years old, this girl knows food.  After that, how could I not peel my hummus.  After all, even if it takes you 20 min to peel that can of chickpeas, haven’t you ever wasted 20 min on something less interesting??

Most likely the hummus will be too thick or still have tiny bits of chickpea. To fix this, with the food processor turned on, slowly add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water until you reach the perfect consistency.

Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Serve hummus with a drizzle of olive oil and dash of paprika. Store homemade hummus in an airtight container and refrigerate up to one week.

Hummus 2

We served the hummus today with fresh vegetables as well as                                                            lightly seasoned and toasted pita wedges.

 

I heard a rumour that hummus made at home could be creamy, dreamy & simple, but every time I tried it I was less than satisfied.  Sure, it was tasty …. but dreamy?  No.  So I hit the blogs looking for a trick, and “inspired taste” provided it.  Look up the blog – Adam and Joanne have some amazing photos and descriptions, plus tips for cooking your own chickpeas and many other great ideas.  I’ve made this recipe a few times now, exactly as written (except that I am that weirdo that doesn’t mind a 10 minute mindless activity like skinning chickpeas).

Hummus 3

A few days later, my grand daughters Sloan and Stella were here, asking for a snack …. when I produced the vegetables I got a look ….. “Well Nana ……..do you have any of that amazing peeled chickpea hummus left?  Could we please have some of that too?”                                                       That, my friends, is how foodies are born.

Taco Seasoning Mix

Taco Seasoning 1

How pretty is this colourful group of seasoning?

Ever noticed how many ingredients you can’t spell or pronounce on those premade taco seasoning packs??  Stop the madness with this mixture.  A little bit of flour makes the ground meat have a wee bit of a saucy texture.  Don’t stop at ground meat for goodness sake (pun? word play?)..  Sprinkle this over vegetables and roast them up – drizzle with a little lime crema and you’ve got an amazingly tasty dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne powder (use less if you aren’t keen on the heat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano

Mix all this up in a small bowl, and then have it on hand to season meat or vegetables.  You’ll be so glad you took a few minutes to get this ready.

Taco Seasoning 2

To use this for ground meat tacos, brown your meat in a fry pan, then add 2 tbsp mixture for each pound of ground meat and add about 2 tbsp water, stir and cook just until meat is cooked through.

If you want to leave the flour out altogether that is just great, that makes it even more versatile:

Salad Vinaigrette:  1 tbsp mix to 2 tbsp lime juice and 7 tbsp olive oil.

Vegetable (or chip!) Dip: 1 tbsp (or to taste) with 1/4 cup each plain yogurt and good mayonnaise.

Grilled Shrimp:   Sprinkle a generous amount over shrimp before grilling.

Taco Seasoning 3

I like to mix up 3 x this recipe and just keep it on hand.  Try it, you’ll do the same thing!

Chocolate Chunk Zucchini Loaf

Still trying to use up zucchini???  Here is a winner, hints of my Mexican Chocolate cake in this loaf, with a bit of cinnamon added to the chocolate and coffee flavours.  If any loaf recipe uses up 2 cups of zucchini it has to be healthy, right??

Chocolate Chunk Zucchini Loaf 2INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp espresso powder (instant)
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini (squeeze all the moisture out)
  • 1 cup good quality chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and line a loaf pan with parchment paper.  (you don’t have to do this step but I like the way it helps remove the loaf from the pan cleanly)

METHOD

Grate your zucchini and allow it to sit while you do everything else, so important to remove the excess liquid.

Chocolate Chunk Zucchini Loaf

In a large mixing bowl stir the brown sugar into the melted butter and mix until all the sugar has dissolved, then add the eggs one at a time.  It is really important to add the butter before the egg so you don’t cook the egg!  Stir in the vanilla and set aside.

In a separate bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, espresso. Whisk to make sure it is all blended together.

Stir dry ingredients into the brown sugar mixture until just combined.  Gently fold in the zucchini and the chocolate.

Chocolate Chunk Zucchini Loaf 3

 

This makes a VERY thick mixture, but don’t worry, it will be moist and delicious.

The BEST Crab Artichoke Dip

I’m not kidding you guys.  This dip is delicious, so make sure you get in there before your guests have consumed it all!

Crab Artichoke Dip 3

If you want a little “kick” stir in finely diced jalapeño chilies or chili flakes.

  • 1 8 oz block cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp horseradish
  • 1 tin good quality crab meat
  • 1 diced roasted sweet red pepper
  • 1 14 oz container artichoke hearts (diced)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar (I like white)
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced green onion or chives
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream together the cream cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream … then add the Old Bay seasoning, Worcestershire, & horseradish.  Give this mixture a good blend, I like to use my hand held blender for this to make sure it is all smooth and creamy.  If you do this before you add the rest of the ingredients all your flavouring will be evenly distributed before you stir in the rest.

Crab Artichoke Dip 1

Gently fold in the diced roasted red pepper, diced artichoke hearts, shredded cheese, sliced onion and lemon juice.  Stir carefully at this point so you keep all the distinct colours and textures.  Lastly stir in the crab meat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Crab Artichoke dip 2

 

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes until it is bubbling.  Serve with crackers or sliced baguette, and stand back …. watch the crowd go wild.

 

Coconut Zucchini Bread

Looking for a new way to use up some of that never ending zucchini that keeps showing up in your garden?  This is it … so moist and tender with enough coconut that you get a bit of crunch in every bite.

Coconut Zucchini 3

I keep a cinnamon/sugar mix in a jar – sprinkle it over your loaf before baking and you will be guaranteed an extra crispy loaf top.

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (make sure to drain well and squeeze out extra moisture)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt (at room temperature)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.  I like to set in parchment paper also for easier removal.  Run it the length of the pan with a little sticking out each end – easy to grab and keep the loaf whole as you lift it out to cool.

In a mixing bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

In another bowl combine sugars, coconut oil, yogurt, egg and vanilla.  Blend and stir in zucchini.

Coconut Zucchini 1

Add the wet ingredients to the dry bowl, and stir JUST until combined.  Do not overmix.  Gently stir in the coconut.

Pour batter into loaf pan and smooth the top.  Bake for 50-60 minutes.  Use a toothpick to test, make sure it comes out clean before you remove the loaf from the oven.  Let your zucchini bread rest in the loaf pan for 10 minutes before removing and setting it on a rack to completely cool.

Coconut Zucchini 2

The combination of yogurt and coconut oil makes this loaf so moist you won’t even notice there isn’t any butter in the recipe, or need to put it on after!