Cauliflower & Couscous

This is the perfect vegetable side dish. It resembles a pilaf with the chewy pearls of Israeli couscous. It can be served warm as a side or it can be served at room temperature as a salad. I love dishes that I can make ahead of time and this fits the bill. What’s even better is that my eight year old son will eat it!

I’m not a fan of dates, but don’t leave them out. The subtle sweetness that they impart makes this dish work and the amount is so small that you hardly notice their presence as a distinct element of the dish. Don’t hesitate to vary the amounts given below to your own taste – they are for guidance only.  If you’d prefer a higher ratio of cauliflower to couscous, go for it. If you want a little more tang, don’t hesitate to add more wine vinegar. The inspiration for the dish is a recipe from Food Network.

1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous*, cooked as the label directs

4 cups cauliflower florets

2 shallots, sliced lengthwise

olive oil

salt

pepper

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup dates, chopped into 1/4 inch morsels

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley

*sometimes referred to as pearl couscous

Rinse the cooked couscous under cold water, drain thoroughly, and toss with about a teaspoon of olive oil. Set aside.

Cook the cauliflower florets and sliced shallots in olive oil in a large sauté pan, browning the cauliflower and shallots. If needed, cover the pan to help the cauliflower just cook through. Season with salt and pepper. Add the  cinnamon and chopped dates; cook 1 more minute to marry the flavours.

Combine the cauliflower mixture with the cooked couscous, adding the red wine vinegar,  chopped parsley, and more salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Candied Yams with Orange Bitters

I have to admit upfront that I am not a big fan of yams or sweet potatoes, but I keep hoping that I will find a recipe that changes my perspective.  Although my guests raved about these, to me they are still yams.  Accordingly, if you don’t like yams or sweet potatoes, this recipe might not change your opinion, but if you are already a lover of these tubers, you might enjoy this interesting sweet and salty spin.

A Pat and A Pinch - Candied Yams With Orange Bitters

The recipe as written serves 6-8 as a side dish and is very attractive to serve. It is based on a recipe by Ruth Reichel, an editor of Gourmet magazine for many years and published in Gourmet Today, a selection from the now defunct magazine. Epicurious has an adaptation of it as does the blog Drool-Worthy. Having read comments that it was very sweet with the suggested 1/3 cup of sugar, I cut back on the sugar and the sweetness seemed perfect.  The recipe below reflects this change.

Candied Yams with Orange Bitters

1-1/2 cups orange juice

1/4  cup brown sugar

1/4  cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup orange bitters

1-1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 tsp salt

4-5  yams or sweet potatoes, unpeeled, halved and then cut into wedges (about 3 lbs)

1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes

1 teaspoon ground sea salt

10 whole thyme sprigs plus the leaves of 5 thyme sprigs

2 heads of garlic, skin left on, sliced in half

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Prepare a 12 by 16 inch baking sheet with sides or a roasting pan of a similar size by lining it with foil or parchment.  This isn’t essential but makes clean-up so much easier.

Place the orange juice in a saucepan with the sugar and vinegar. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn down the heat to medium-high and simmer fairly rapidly for about 20 minutes, until the liquid has thickened and reduced to scant 1 cup (about the amount in a large glass of wine).  Remove from the heat and add the bitters, olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Place the potatoes in a mound in the centre of the lined baking sheet, add the chili flakes,  the 10 thyme sprigs, and garlic halves, and then drizzle the reduced sauce over the mound. Toss well so that everything is coated and then spread the mixture out in a single layer on the sheet. I found that the garlic halves are quite delicate and need to be tossed quite gently. Grind about 1 tsp of sea salt to taste over the wedges.

Place in the oven and roast for 40 to 60 minutes, turning and basting the potatoes every 15 minutes or so. They need to remain coated in the liquid in order to caramelize, so  if the pan is drying out too much you can add a little more orange juice. If the caramelization seems to be happening more quickly than the yams are cooking, reduce the heat by 25°F. At the end, the potatoes should be dark and sticky but not burnt. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before arranging on a platter and sprinkling with the fresh thyme leaves.

Winter Squash with Pepitas

A Pat & A Pinch - Winter Squash with PepitasI like easy recipes and this is an easy recipe!  I’m not a huge squash fan, but I do like these. They are smokey and slightly sweet with a touch of spiciness. Acorn squash are pretty easy to find through the fall and winter, but if you can find Delicata squash I think it is even better. I’ve also seen a similar recipe with Butternut squash, so there are several alternatives. One of the great things about this recipe is that you don’t need to peel the squash.

It probably would have been better if I’d posted this before Thanksgiving as I think it is so much better than those sweet yam or sweet potato recipes that are so common, but perhaps you can make it for Christmas! I adapted the recipe from one I found in an article on the Food Network site which also offers 49 other recipes for vegetable side dishes.

Winter Squash with Pepitas

2  smaller acorn or 2 normal delicata squash

2-3 tablespoons melted butter, depending on the size of your squash

1 tbsp brown sugar

3/4 tsp smoked paprika

3/4 tsp kosher or medium coarse salt

3 tbsp pepitas (unsalted pumpkin seeds)

Heat oven to 425 degrees F.

Halve the 2 squash; slice into 1/2 – 3/4-inch-thick wedges.

Toss with melted butter,  brown sugar, smoked paprika and salt.

Roast at 425 degrees F, 40 minutes, tossing gently after 20 minutes.

Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons pepitas and roast 5 more minutes.

I have a one pan technique for this dish, using a cast iron skillet. (I love to use as few dishes as possible!)  I melt the butter in the skillet.  Then I lay down one layer of the squash slices and sprinkle about half of the smoked paprika, salt and brown sugar over it.  I repeat with a second layer which usually uses up the remaining slices.  With all the ingredients in the pan, I toss gently to coat the squash slices.  Then I slide it into the hot oven and finish as per the directions above.

A Pat & A Pinch - Winter Squash with Pepitas