Tag Archives: bell pepper

Spanish cauliflower rice

IMG_3846

“Spanish rice” was one of those foods that I had a bit of a fascination with growing up. My mother rarely (if ever) made it, but I always made a beeline for it at potlucks. At some point in my adult life I discovered it’s actually pretty easy to make. In the most basic form, just add salsa to rice as it’s cooking. Go more elaborate from there as you see fit.

Recently, I got a craving for Spanish rice and decided to see how a cauliflower version would work out. A friend had gifted us with some serrano chiles so I made this particular iteration extra spicy (M. did not require his usual topping of Tabasco sauce. Ha.) I don’t really like to buy jars of salsa anymore because of all the packaging involved, so instead I just put in various salsa components. Finally, although this recipe calls for canned tomatoes, you can also use fresh (as we were up until a month or so ago, but the tomatoes aren’t coming quite so fast now), and add some additional water or broth to make up the liquid (I’d suggest starting with 2/3 cup and then adding more if it seems to be drying out). I’ve been eating the batch pictured here as a base for bowls full of chocolate chili (which also got a heavy dose of those serrano peppers, so I’ve been needing a generous topping of cheese to counteract the heat).

Spanish cauliflower rice
Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, cut into 1/4″ dice
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2″ dice (optional)
1 serrano chile pepper, seeds and ribs removed, minced
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 head cauliflower (approximately 2 lbs), grated or finely chopped
1 3/4 c (or 1 14-oz can) diced canned tomatoes
1/4 c. chopped cilantro (optional)

Method

1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes, until soft and slightly translucent.

2. Add garlic and, if using, red bell pepper. Cook for 2 more minutes. Add serrano chile, chili powder, cumin, and salt. Stir together, then add cauliflower. Stir cauliflower until onion/spice mixture is evenly distributed.

3. Add tomatoes (including their juice). Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tomato juice has cooked off. Stir in cilantro (if using) and remove from heat.

IMG_3854
Serving suggestion: with chocolate chili and a side of kale+cabbage.

cast iron + summer squash = amazing!

summer vegetables
 
Lately our produce market has been pushing summer squash like it’s going out of style. Pattypans were twenty-five cents a pound last week, and white zucchini squash wasn’t far behind. Plus the usual varietes of green zucchini and yellow crookneck. When Squashalypse 2013 first dawned, I was a little stymied as to how I could really capitalize on it. Cheap, seasonal vegetables should be snapped up, so obviously we had to start eating more squash. But, I’m still scarred by the memories of dining hall squash from university: soggy, overboiled, and bland. I ate it anyway, but I don’t particularly want to go back. My favorite way to eat squash by itself is to grill or roast it, but we don’t have a grill, and I’m trying to avoid using the oven too often.
 
Then one night while we were working our way through a curried zucchini soup. Mr. C&V turned to me and said “You know what would make this really amazing? Searing the zucchini.” And I thought “Duh! Cast iron to the rescue!”. And we haven’t looked back.
 
Turns out, the cast iron skillet is the perfect vehicle for cooking squash: We can get it slightly seared and blackened on the outside, bringing out the flavor, but avoid turning it into a soggy mess. I’ve been making it the base vegetable for a catch-all medley of tastiness.
 
summer's bounty
 
I feel a little silly calling this a “recipe”, so instead, here’s a general collection of tips for making a great summer medley of your own.
 
no crowding
 
1. Have a few different kinds of vegetables. Because of the bargain pricing, our medley is usually one half to three-quarters squash, but by adding a little bit of bell pepper, tomato, or eggplant, the tastiness factor goes up tremendously. Just keep the ratio of cheap veggies high and treat the expensive ones as more of a condiment or garnish. Oh, and be generous with the garlic.
 
2. Let your skillet heat up properly and then do not overcrowd the vegetables. It will just lead to a big steamy mess. Cook the vegetables in small batches: if cooking chunks, each piece of vegetable should have full contact with the bottom of the pan on one side (as shown above). If you’ve run the vegetables through the food processor, spread them out in a layer that is thin enough to allow the bottom of the pan to go through. To counteract the slowness of cooking in batches, I usually use both our twelve and eight inch skillets.
 
3. Cook different types of vegetables separately, then mix. Eggplant will take 15 minutes or so to really cook properly (I like it soft and almost falling apart). Chunks of zucchini take 10-15 minutes to cook (cook for 5 minutes, then stir, repeat every 3-4 minutes), while peppers take only about five minutes. Really ripe tomatoes should only take 2-3 minutes, just long enough to get the juices running. Cook each vegetable in its individual small batch, then put them all back in the pan together and stir quickly to meld the juices together.
 
Vegetables!
 
If we’re having these vegetables “plain”, I will often toss in a pinch of oregano or a handful of fresh basil. Alternatively, we will treat these vegetables as more of a bastardized stir-fry and add a little soy sauce and ginger, or a few large dollops of our homemade peanut sauce (recipe scheduled for a near future post…).
 
This medley also keeps really well in the fridge. We’ll make a big container of them and then eat it over the next few days. They’re great as a side at dinner, or with eggs at breakfast, or just mixed in to add a pop of color and taste with some kale or other greens. In short, we won’t be getting sick of this mix for a while.

What summer foods are you eating over and over right now?