Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pumpkin and Cauliflower Casserole

It is my favorite time of year. Not necessarily because of the weather, but because of all the holidays coming up. I love all the food and crafts and the spirit of the season. Oh yes, this is also my favorite time of year to bake. If I could only bake for one quarter, it would be during the last quarter of the year. I am the most adventurous with baked goods during this time and am willing to try new things.
Usually, in preceding years, I cook for Thanksgiving and bake the rest of my time away. This year, in honor of this blog, I am going to do more than just bake. I am going to cook more and try new recipes related to the season. I'm so excited!
The first recipe I decided to try is a pumpkin cauliflower casserole. Talk about chock full of vitamins. I honestly have never eaten fresh pumpkin (unless you count pumpkin pie made from canned pumpkins), let alone cook with one. And I mean cook with one. That's peel, seed, slice, and chop the pumpkin until it's good and ready. For this recipe, I researched a little bit and found that using pie pumpkins are the best for recipes. Although I also found that jack-o-lantern pumpkins are fine for recipes as well, they are not as flavorful as pie pumpkins. Believe me, you will want to find pie pumpkins. They are smaller (about the size of a human head) and much more easier to manage.
Once I prepped the pumpkin chunks, the rest was a cake walk. The end result was very delicious. The goat cheese that I didn't think I would like, blended with the casserole very well. It was creamy, slightly sweet, and savory. All that in just one dish! This is definitely a recipe that you must try.

Tips on prepping a pumpkin
*Note: this is only the way I did it and the way I think makes the most sense due to the denseness of the pumpkin.

1) Cut off the stem straight across
2) Slice the pumpkin in half from the top of the pumpkin, down
3) Seed the pumpkin
4) Cut each half of the pumpkin in half, lengthwise and repeat with each quarter slice
5) Cut each slice into chunks, about a 1 inch cube
6) Peel each cube by simply cutting off the peel

Pumpkin and Cauliflower Casserole adapted from Delish

1 cup(s) fresh, whole-wheat bread crumbs
cup(s) hulled and roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
tablespoon(s) unsalted butter, melted
teaspoon(s) dried thyme leaves
cup(s) crumbled goat cheese
(2 1/2 to 3 pounds) pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and quartered
head(s) cauliflower, quartered
tablespoon(s) all-purpose flour
clove(s) garlic, minced
teaspoon(s) mustard seeds
1 1/2
teaspoon(s) kosher salt
teaspoon(s) cumin seeds
teaspoon(s) fresh-ground pepper
1 1/2
cup(s) half-and-half

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 1 1/2-quart casserole or baking dish and set aside.

Slice the pumpkin quarters into 1/8-inch-thick pieces and repeat with the cauliflower quarters.

3. Combine flour, garlic, mustard seeds, salt, cumin seeds, pepper, and remaining thyme in a small bowl.

4. Spread 1/3 of the pumpkin in the bottom of casserole and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of the flour mixture.

5. Repeat with 1/2 of the cauliflower and 2 teaspoons of flour. Continue layering with the remaining pumpkin, cauliflower, and flour, finishing with pumpkin on top.

6. Pour the half-and-half over the entire casserole, place on a baking sheet, and bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes.


1. Combine the bread crumbs, pumpkin seeds, butter, and half the thyme in a medium bowl, stir in the goat cheese, and set aside.

2. After initial 30 minutes of baking, sprinkle bread-crumb mixture over casserole. Return it to oven and bake until golden and bubbly, about 30 more minutes. Serve hot.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Pesto Potato Salad with Green Beans

Honestly, I am not a big fan of potato salad. I enjoy my mayo in very small portions, like thinly spread on a slice of bread for a sandwich, and...that's about it. Having spoonfuls of chunks of potato drenched in mayo is just not my cup of tea.
The only potato salad that I have ever enjoyed was an Armenian recipe, which I have yet to find. It was not drenched in mayo, but complemented nicely with a light lemon sauce and cilantro. Yummy!
Pesto, on the other hand, I love! I love it in sandwiches, in my pastas, on my pizza, and now, in my potato salad.
When I was going through my daily run through of blogs, I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen. It was late in the afternoon and I was hungry. When this recipe came across the page, I knew that I had to make it and I had to make it fast. I confirmed with the sissy and she agreed that I had to make it. We left for the store in a matter of seconds.
After coming home and an hour later, voila!
This potato salad is unlike any I've ever tasted. The pesto was not salty like the ones on pizzas and pastas. The green beans were tender and added a very mild flavor. Best of all, it can be eaten hot or cold.
Pesto Potato Salad with Green Beans adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Note: To add a special alteration, I used hazelnuts instead of pine nuts. It was a fine choice, if I do say so myself.

4 pounds small Yukon gold or red-skinned potatoes, quartered
1 pound green beans, cut into one-inch segments
1 to 2 small garlic cloves, peeled
2 bunches of basil (about one ounce each)
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
6 tablespoons (or more to taste) mild vinegar, such as champagne, white wine or a white balsamic
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
Parmesan cheese to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 10 minutes. Add beans; cook for four minutes longer. Drain well and let cool, then transfer potatoes and beans to a large bowl.

2. Discard the stems from the basil and wash and dry the leaves. Puree them in a food processor with garlic, drizzling in enough olive oil that it gets saucy. Season the pesto with salt and pepper.

3. Toss the beans and potatoes with pesto.

4. Stir in vinegar, pine nuts and season with salt, pepper and/or additional vinegar to taste.

5. Finally, shave some wide flecks of parmesan over the salad with a vegetable peeler.