Sauerkraut takes longer to contemplate than make

The Whole Dish podcast: Winter is the prime time for countertop fermentation

When it comes to food, I’ve never been much for New Year’s resolutions, as evidenced by the lack thereof in this blog.

I did vow three Januarys ago to eat more fresh, locally grown veggies. But that resolve stemmed from reluctance to waste my biweekly allotment of produce from a community-supported agriculture program, rather than a desire to improve my diet.

Similarly, my intolerance for food waste was the strongest force compelling me last weekend to FINALLY make sauerkraut. Cabbages, in seasonally atypical abundance in a friend’s garden, had earned my admiration, not least for their resemblance to gargantuan, vibrantly hued blossoms in the dead of winter. Turns out, there was no grand preservation plan for those resplendent brassicas, biding their time in the chilly air and sizing up to five or more pounds apiece.

A five-pound cabbage constitutes a very large recipe of sauerkraut, perfect for the ceramic crock that my mother-in-law had picked out for one of my birthday or Christmas gifts several years hence. OK, guilt over never christening the crock with kraut might have been behind my renewed interest in fermentation, which started percolating with a story on Kirsten Shockey, a well-respected author and teacher on the art of fermentation.

This blog also has posted several recipes for fermented vegetables: whole Napa cabbage kimchi, radish kimchi and even a loosely constructed — and named — “kraut-chi.” (Yes, I have an inexplicable fondness for kimchi.)

Yet, I’d never made any of them until that behemoth Savoy cabbage convinced me that I was done procrastinating. Otherwise, what would I possibly do with FIVE POUNDS of cabbage?

Turns out, all my indecision and inertia consumed much more time than dispatching the cabbage, tossing it with salt and packing it into my crock. The actual fermentation — as short as six days — could be even quicker.

As Chicago Tribune food writer James DeWan pointed out more than a year ago, everyone should be making sauerkraut because it’s not hard and doesn’t take long. And the result is a dietary tonic, not to mention delicious. Here is his play-by-play on the process.

Tribune News Service photo

WHY YOU NEED TO LEARN THIS

Store-bought sauerkraut tastes fine, of course — if you like that sort of thing. Homemade sauerkraut, though, is about a gajillion times better in flavor and texture. Also, because canned products have been pasteurized, the kraut within lives in a sterile, albeit stinky, environment. Homemade sauerkraut has the advantage of being filled with what the kids are calling “probiotics,” beneficial microbes that can aid digestion and boost our immune systems.

THE STEPS YOU TAKE

The word of the day is “lacto-fermentation,” a biochemical process that transforms something fresh into something wonderful. Thousands of years before humans even knew what bacteria were, we were using lacto-fermentation to preserve food. Today we do it as much for the flavor as we do for the preservation. Here’s how it works:

We’ll start by talking about those microbes. Specifically, bacteria. There are two basic types of bacteria: aerobic, which require oxygen; and anaerobic, which can survive without it. Sauerkraut is made by tossing thinly sliced cabbage with salt and pressing it into a container. The salt draws water from the cabbage, creating a brine under which the cabbage is completely submerged. When this happens, the anaerobic bacteria begin to multiply and feed off the sugars in the cabbage, producing lactic and acetic acids and carbon dioxide. The acids and the increasing numbers of lactic acid-producing bacteria (including the always popular Lactobacilli) prevent any other bacteria from getting their foot in the sauerkrauty door. Those lactobacilli are an example of the beneficial probiotics mentioned earlier.

One last thing before we jump from theory to practice: the vessel of fermentation. You don’t need any special equipment, only a large container like an earthenware crock, a plastic food container or a large mason jar. Figure that a 1-gallon container will hold about 5 pounds of cabbage. Whatever container you use, don’t seal it: The gases formed by the fermentation have to escape.

1. Start with the freshest cabbage you can find. Straight from your garden or local farmers market would be perfect. Peel away any loose or damaged leaves and wash the head under cold water.

2. Cut cabbages in half through the core, then into quarters, again through the core. Cut the core away from all four pieces and discard. Slice the cabbage as finely as you can.

3. Toss the cabbages with sea salt or pickling salt, roughly 3 tablespoons for every 5 pounds of cabbage. Sea salt also has trace elements of minerals that can enhance the nutritional value of the finished product. Avoid iodized salt or salt with anti-caking elements, which can interfere with the fermentation. While you’re tossing, squeeze the cabbage to crush it as much as you can. You could also smash it with a rubber mallet if your love of food gets all tied up with your need to release your inner aggressions. The idea is to extract as much water as you can from the cabbage, so that it combines with the salt to create a brine.

4. Pack the cabbage into your container as tightly as possible, then weigh it down. How you do this depends on your container. If it’s an earthenware crock, set a clean plate onto the cabbage and weigh it down with jars of water. If it’s a large mason jar, use a slightly smaller mason jar filled with water. It’s vitally important that none of the cabbage slips above the surface of the brine during the fermentation, as that will attract some nasty aerobic bacteria. Cover the whole thing with a clean towel to prevent dust or bugs from getting in. Store out of the way at room temperature.

Note: For the first 24 hours, there may not be enough brine to cover the cabbage completely. That’s OK. Every few hours, press down on the cabbage to release more water. After 24 hours, if there’s still not enough brine to cover the cabbage, add salt water to cover (1 teaspoon salt for every cup of water).

5. Check the ferment every day to make sure the brine is covering the cabbage completely. Skim off any scum that may form on the surface and remove any stray bits of cabbage that may have drifted up out of the brine and gotten moldy. Leave the cabbage for 3 to 4 weeks. It should be wonderfully floral and sour. At this point, pack it into smaller jars and store it for up to several months in the fridge. Eat it fresh out of the jar, and you’ll get all the benefits of its great taste and its probiotic beasties.

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Browning mushrooms takes light hand, high heat

I’ve blown it, I thought, staring down a pan of steaming mushrooms.

Because of course, I know the conventional wisdom, a la Julia Child: cook mushrooms in small enough quantities, on a large enough surface, to brown them beautifully, instead of marinating them miserably in their own sweat. Except, I didn’t have a larger pan and I wanted to dispatch several pounds of mushrooms in a single batch of duxelles.

But I soldiered on, realizing that the less I stirred the vat of finely chopped fungus, the more it darkened in color and deepened in aroma. And at the end of this 30-minute bath in butter, the duxelles did turn from cement gray to dark-chocolate brown and tasted the way my recipe, borrowed from longtime food-section columnist Jan Roberts-Dominguez, promised. Follow the process in your own kitchen with my latest podcast for companion.

When it’s a basic mushroom saute at stake, the fewer mushrooms in play and the less fiddling with them, the better. Remember that sautéing fungus and vegetables involves cooking at a higher temperature than sweating does. Sweating retains moisture whereas sautéing evaporates it, usually the goal with mushrooms because they contain so much water. And when moisture evaporates and a food’s surfaces are exposed to fairly high heat, that’s when natural sugars start to caramelize, aka brown.

Nicely browned mushrooms typically are the goal for any preparation that doesn’t incorporate a lot of liquid: stir-fry, pasta, burgers, pizza and yes, that filling/spread/dip duxelles. Sweated mushrooms, on the other hand, should be destined for a sauce, soup or stew.

So without further ado, here are the Chicago Tribune’s instructions for properly sautéing mushrooms. Julia would be so pleased.

Tribune News Service photo

Here’s how to saute mushrooms:

1. Cut mushrooms into bite-size pieces: slices, quarters, halves. If they’re small, saute them whole, like grasshoppers.

2. Place a large, slope-sided pan over heat the likes of which the souls of your mortal enemies will roast eternally. When the pan is nearly smoking, add just enough fat to coat the bottom. (A note about fat: clarified butter is magic, but any high-smoke-point oil will work: canola, peanut, grapeseed oil, etc.)

3. Spread mushrooms evenly over the bottom of the pan, no more than two layers deep. In other words: Don’t overcrowd the pan. Here’s why: Cold mushrooms cool down a hot pan, causing them to sweat instead of saute.

4. Once you add the ’shrooms to the pan, don’t touch them. Although your inclination is to shake the pan or grab a spoon or spatula and poke a little, shake a little, poke a little, shake a little, poke, poke, poke, shake a lot, poke a little more — don’t do it. Wait a minute until the pan comes back up to temperature, then leave it a bit longer, until the mushrooms start to brown.

5. Season with salt and a grind of pepper. Maybe add a bit of minced garlic or shallots.

6. When mushrooms are nicely seasoned and brown on the bottom, toss or stir them in the pan. They’ll be done in under a minute; serve them immediately over a seared rib-eye, stir them into a favorite sauce or hold onto them to make omelets tomorrow morning.

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Quick pickling, paté preserve fresh mushrooms

The Whole Dish podcast: Mushroom duxelles is a delicious, make-ahead dip or spread

For a bulk batch of ragu, my husband recently rounded up several No. 10 cans of tomato products, 3 pounds of ground turkey and nearly as many button mushrooms. Will just happened to hit Medford’s Food 4 Less on a day that produce-section staff marked down a mess of mushrooms, packaged in house, to a $3.99 flat price.

But pressed for time during the holiday rush, he elected not to clean, chop and cook the fungus, leaving the lot for another dish — one with A LOT of mushrooms. Cream of mushroom soup? Stroganoff? We tossed around a few ideas until I mentioned duxelles, essentially mushrooms finely chopped and sautéed with onion, garlic, herbs and A LOT of butter. The end result is essentially a paté made of fungus, not meat.

What to do with the mixture? At its most straightforward, duxelles is a thick, intensely savory dip or spread. It can be stuffed into pastries or folded into eggs, swirled into pasta sauce or slathered onto pizza dough. It goes equally well in grilled cheese or quesadillas. And it freezes really well, constituting an effortless, make-ahead appetizer in the cook’s back pocket.

Speaking of pockets, I encased some of the duxelles with a knob of soft goat cheese in puff-pastry triangles for an impromptu New Year’s Day snack for football watching. Some guys do nachos and beer; mine likes a flaky turnover with an off-dry Riesling. (OK, sometimes he likes nachos and beer.)

The quasi-preservation method that is duxelles safeguards my jar in the fridge for at least a week. But I could have extended the shelf life of some those mushrooms with quick-pickling.

I confess that I never thought to pickle a mushroom before stumbling upon a story about Japanese cuisine that moved late last year on news wires. The recipes were inspired by the erstwhile San Francisco restaurant Mingei-Ya, which published a cookbook in 1969. Traditionally, this condiment is made with shiitakes, a uniquely earthy variety particularly suited to pickling. But in the era of this “Japanese Country Cookbook,” shiitakes were largely unknown in the United States, so cremini – baby portobello — mushrooms are the suggested substitute.

Or if you’ve got a plethora of plain, old button mushrooms on hand, a bath in pickling liquid couldn’t hurt. And this pickle takes less than 20 minutes, much less time than duxelles needs on the stovetop.

Tribune News Service

Pickled Fresh Mushrooms

1 cup vinegar, preferably rice or sherry vinegar

1 cup soy sauce

1 cup granulated sugar

Salt, if desired

1 pound mushrooms, shiitake or cremini, halved or quartered if large

In a pot, combine the vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and salt, if using. Bring to a boil. Add the mushrooms and boil for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove mushrooms from liquid and serve hot or cold.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from “Japanese Country Cookbook,” by Russell Rudzinski.

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Try small scallops or shrimp in shellfish saute

For every pound of wild-caught fish and shellfish, there’s at least 10 pounds of farm-raised “seafood” in local grocery stores.

Since I’ve blogged about avoiding any and all farm-raised shrimp, almost without exception hailing from Asia, I’ve seen several developments locally on the sustainable seafood front. It’s a bright spot in a bleak landscape of foreign aquaculture that often abuses the environment, and even human rights, to feed the global appetite for cheap popcorn shrimp and scampi.

Wild-caught Texas Gulf shrimp have been on the shelves at Food 4 Less in Medford for several years, but the brand I’ve purchased packages its large shrimp whole, meaning they must be peeled and deveined, which adds a good 15 to 20 minutes to mealtime prep for about a pound of shellfish.

And then … oh, joy! I spied a much smaller (110/130) crustacean, also wild-caught in the Gulf, offered by the same company, but peeled and deveined. Those I can simply defrost for a few hours before tossing into a coconut-milk curry, a white-wine sauce for pasta, even a Christmas Eve seafood stew, where they take just a couple of minutes to cook through.

Cheered by such effortless preparation of something so delicious, I’m keeping my eyes peeled for convenient, local availability of “bay scallops,” another sustainable seafood, provided it isn’t treated with trisodium phosphate, a preservative that keeps food from caramelizing. Rinsing doesn’t remove this chemical solution.

Until then, the shrimp I’ve been enjoying so much would be a fitting substitute for the scallops in this recipe from the Chicago Tribune. Even better with Oregon’s wild Pacific pink shrimp, usually available fresh April through October.

Tribune News Service photo

Lemon-Garlic Scallops With Almonds

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 3 tablespoons unsalted butter. Add 2 peeled and chopped garlic cloves; cook for 1 minute. Stir in 5 ounces slivered almonds; cook for 1 minute. Transfer to a small bowl; mix in finely grated zest of 1 lemon.

Heat skillet over high heat; add 1 1/2 pounds bay scallops, rinsed and patted dry. Brown on 1 side, for about 2 minutes. Stir in nut mixture and juice of 1 lemon; cook for 1 minute. Season with salt. Stir in 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley.

Serve over steamed rice. Makes 4 servings.

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Almond-cherry cookies tout gluten-free tang

If Americans can embrace cranberries in their sweets, then sour cherries shouldn’t be such a stretch. Yet the flavor remains firmly rooted in the Old World.

I’ve professed in this blog my fondness for dried sour cherries that bordered on obsession during pregnancy. That tang, without the chemical aftertaste of candies, was an essential ingredient for combatting nausea and perking up my apathetic palate.

Rewind three Christmases, and I could have eaten these cookies by the dozen. Even now, there are plenty of reasons to add these to my holiday-baking lineup.

Combining blanched almonds, sugar and egg whites in the dough, they’re a great gluten-free option during this carb-laden season. And the method of simply soaking dried fruit and then encasing the drained morsels in dough, without the need to concoct a filling, saves time and extraneous ingredients.

I’d probably give the cherries an extra kick with a soak in kirsch. This recipe could even be adapted to rum-soaked raisins, if that’s more to your liking.

Tribune News Service photo

Bartavelle’s Almond-Sour Cherry Cookies

About 30 dried sour cherries

1 pound blanched almonds

2 cups sugar, preferably organic

3 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Pinch sea salt

Soak the cherries in hot water to soften. Drain and squeeze out excess water.

Using a food processor, grind together the almonds and sugar to a fine, flour-like consistency. Add the egg whites, almond extract and salt; pulse until mixture comes together. Cover and chill dough. Meanwhile, heat oven to 325 F.

Use a small scoop or large spoon to portion dough into 1-ounce (2 tablespoons) balls. Poke a hole in each and insert 1 cherry, then roll to make a smooth, round ball.

Space cookies about 2 inches apart on a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet and flatten each ball slightly.

Bake cookies until lightly colored, for about 20 minutes, rotating halfway for even coloring. Be careful not to overbake. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

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Starbucks knockoff makes cookie bakers ecstatic

When it comes to sweets, my tastes are decidedly not in line with the mainstream — the American norm, that is.

Regular readers of this blog may recall my penchant for adding almond extract, an Old World flavor, to pretty much all my baked goods. Strawberry-rhubarb sauce gets a splash of rosewater.

And the secret ingredient that guests couldn’t quite pinpoint in a pomegranate fruit salad served for at my weekend holiday party? Orange-blossom water. The most enthusiastically appreciative guest took home a vial of the floral infusion indispensable in the cuisine of Greece and its Mediterranean neighbors.

So it should come as no surprise to my friends and family that my idea of holiday treats is a little off the radar. My poor mother played along several years ago as I labored over cranberry compote-filled mini cheesecake tartlets. In hindsight, they would have been a fitting repository for that orange-blossom water, instead of the jalapeno with which I insisted on augmenting the original recipe.

Skeptical from the start, Mom gamely tasted a tartlet before busying herself with a batch of cookies that people actually would want to eat. I ate at least half a dozen, and the rest disappeared several days later at the newspaper office.

Rather than fuss with individual pastries again, I’d try the cranberry-cheesecake concept in a tart that I adapted from a bar cookie recipe. The format even accommodated pumpkin and salted caramel for Thanksgiving, mentioned in a previous post and recent podcast.

A toasted-nut crust is an essential element of my version. But crustless bar cookies can be just as beloved. Behold Starbucks’ “cranberry bliss bar,” a seasonal staple so popular that newspaper test kitchens have taken it upon themselves to crack the recipe code.

The bar’s moist, dense, blondie-like base enriched with white chocolate and crystallized ginger emerged more than a decade ago from the Oregonian’s test kitchen. Freshly made, the Oregonian’s bars transcend bliss for the realm of “ecstasy.”

See more holiday cookie recipes in this week’s A la Carte.

Cranberry Ecstasy Bars

Tribune News Service photo

For bar cookies:

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cups (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pan

1 1/4 cups firmly packed light-brown sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup minced dried cranberries

1 1/2 ounces white chocolate, chopped

1/4 cups minced crystallized ginger

For frosting:

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup, plus 3 tablespoons, sifted powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

Pinch of salt

1/3 cup minced dried cranberries

White Chocolate Drizzle (recipe follows)

To prepare bar cookies: Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper and then butter paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, ground ginger and salt; set aside.

In bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter until creamy, for about 1 minute. Add the light brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy, for about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla extract; beat until fully combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Fold in the dried cranberries, white chocolate and crystallized ginger.

Spread batter in prepared baking pan and bake in preheated oven until golden brown, for about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove pan from oven, transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

To prepare frosting: In bowl of an electric mixer on medium-low speed, combine the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and salt; mix until creamy, for about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove cake from pan and trim off edges. Using an offset spatula or back of a large spoon, uniformly spread frosting across top of cake. Sprinkle minced dried cranberries on top of frosting. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Decoratively drizzle the White Chocolate Drizzle over top of entire frosted cake. To serve, slice the cake lengthwise down center, creating 2 long rectangles. Cut each rectangle into 4 equal portions, then slice each of these in half diagonally.

Makes 16 triangle-shaped bars.

WHITE CHOCOLATE DRIZZLE: In a double boiler over gently simmering water (or in a bowl in a microwave oven), melt 1 ounce white chocolate. Remove from heat, add 1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon milk; whisk until fully combined. Scrape White Chocolate Drizzle into a small, sturdy plastic bag; cut a tiny corner of the bag and squeeze to decorate.

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Mild, juicy escarole belies ‘bitter green’ reputation

When stocking groceries for several weeks is the goal, pick produce that stands the test of time.

Escarole is a lettuce alternative that translates to soups and sautes just as easily as it composes salads. Anticipating using it both cooked and raw, I like to separate and segregate the tougher, outer leaves from the tender, inner ones.

Although dubbed a “bitter green,” escarole is mild, unlike such chicory-family relatives as radicchio, featured in this blog’s previous post. Escarole’s vibrant, juicy leaves made such an impression on friends, when I had to supply a last-minute salad at their potluck, that they inquired where they could find it and, apart from salad, how they could use it.

Thinly sliced escarole leaves are an essential ingredient in Italian wedding soup, with some cooked sausage and rice, orzo or white beans. A similar flavor profile is highlighted in a salad recipe posted to this blog a couple of winters back.

Try sautéed escarole in this quick pasta dish, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune, another pantry-staple wonder that comes together quickly on a busy weeknight. Bacon could be substituted for the pancetta.

Tribune News Service photo

Penne Pasta With Wilted Escarole

Cut 6 ounces pancetta into 1/4-inch cubes. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook pancetta until fat is rendered. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, if needed.

Add 2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced in half-moons; season with salt. Cook, stirring, until completely soft, for 12 minutes.

Add 2 peeled and minced garlic cloves; cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle with crushed red-pepper flakes to taste. Stir in leaves from 1 head leafy escarole, sliced into wide ribbons; cover. Allow to wilt briefly.

Serve tossed with 1 pound cooked penne, sprinkled with grated pecorino Romano cheese. Makes 4 servings.

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Radicchio mellows paired with pork fat, pasta

A weekend away left me with little in the way of fresh produce in the refrigerator. Such times usually are when I turn to sun-dried tomatoes, brine-cured olives, capers and smoked fish in the pantry to bulk up pasta, brightened with a few fresh herbs gleaned from the garden.

But anticipating a busy couple of weeks with little time to shop, I had strategically purchased a few items that would stay vibrant and crisp for the duration. Belgian endive, a favorite with chopped apples, dried cranberries and blue-cheese dressing, is one of those.

The other, radicchio is more often seen in salad but mellows marvelously when wilted in a skillet, particularly with some pork fat. Over the past few years, I’ve taken to sautéing radicchio with prosciutto, pancetta or plain, old bacon for pasta carbonara.

This recipe from the Chicago Tribune makes similar use of radicchio, minus carbonara’s egg, and can be assembled for a quick, weeknight supper or cupboard’s-almost-bare meal. Fresh, flat-leaf parsley is a fine substitute for arugula.

Tribune News Service photo

Linguine With Prosciutto, Radicchio and Arugula

In a large pot of well-salted, boiling water, cook 8 ounces linguine until al dente; drain.

Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add 1 ounce prosciutto, cut into 1/4-inch thick lardons; cook until fat renders a bit, for 5 minutes. Add 1 onion, peeled and chopped, 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced, and salt to taste. Cook until onion softens, for 5 minutes.

Stir in 1/2 cup white wine, 4 canned plum tomatoes, chopped, and 1 head radicchio, cut into 1/4-inch ribbons. Cover; simmer until radicchio wilts, for 10 minutes.

Stir pasta into sauce. Serve sprinkled with baby arugula. Makes 2 servings.

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In sweets or with meat, cardamom a must-have

Cardamom gets its due in this week’s food-section spread on Indian cooking. The pods filled with black seeds are an essential component of India’s iconic spice blend garam masala and innumerable other dishes from the subcontinent.

The pods’ popularity ranges far and wide, however. Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian cuisines feature plenty of cardamom. Closer to home, pears often are spiced with cardamom. And if the Rogue Valley’s original “gift fruit,” didn’t furnish reason enough, holiday baking recipes, particularly those originating in Scandinavia, make cardamom the season’s must-have spice.

I’ve been experimenting for about a decade with cardamom in sweet and savory dishes alike. It adds that je ne sais quoi in everything from raspberry vinaigrette and rhubarb compote to Moroccan-spiced oatmeal with apricots and dates. I often compound an iteration of the North African spice blend Ras el Hanout when roasting lamb shanks or any other meat for tagine.

Applying a yogurt marinade to meat for oven roasting is another common technique in Indian cooking. But it easily transfers to the home kitchen, particularly with the addition of fresh herbs and lemon zest. Yogurt-baked chicken tickled the taste buds of participants in a cooking class that I presented last year for ACCESS. They said they couldn’t believe how easy it was to coat chicken in yogurt, which imparts big flavor and retains the meat’s moisture.

Try the method in this recipe, highlighting cardamom, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Tribune News Service photo

Yogurt Spiced Chicken

1 whole chicken, cut up, or 3 to 4 pounds of chicken pieces

1 cup plain yogurt

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly ground is best)

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

Salt and pepper, to taste

Rinse the chicken and pat dry.

In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, allspice, nutmeg and cardamom. Add chicken pieces and mix until chicken is thoroughly coated. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Arrange grill for indirect heat or preheat oven to 400 F.

Knock or brush off as much yogurt marinade as you can. Liberally sprinkle both sides of chicken with salt and pepper.

If using a grill, place chicken skin-side-down on grate away from coals or flames, and close lid. Cook white meat for 25 to 30 minutes, turning once. Cook dark meat for 45 to 55 minutes, turning once.

If using an oven, heat a grill pan or heavy, ovenproof skillet very hot on stovetop. Spray with nonstick spray (or add a little oil), then place chicken skin-side-down onto pan. Cook until seared and brown, but do not let it burn, for about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip chicken and place pan in oven. Cook white meat for 25 minutes or until done; cook dark meat for 45 minutes or until done.

Makes 4 servings.

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Skip taters, serve tots some cauliflower ‘bites’

Suggestions for cauliflower, riced for a potato substitute or — well — “rice,” are the stuff of this blog’s latest podcast.

Making these swaps an even simpler endeavor, pre-riced cauliflower increasingly is available fresh and frozen at many grocers. Trader Joe’s version transforms cauliflower into “tater tots” in this recipe from the Kansas City Star.

With 30 calories and 2 grams of fat apiece, cauliflower bites are billed as a “waistline winner.” I’d call them another clever way to coerce kids into eating more veggies.

Slightly underbaked to accommodate reheating, cauliflower bites would freeze well, offering just as much as convenience as bagged tater tots or oven fries.

Tribune News Service photo

Crispy Cauliflower Bites

Cooking spray, as needed

1/2 medium head cauliflower

2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray a mini muffin tin generously with some of the nonstick cooking spray.

Remove leaves from the cauliflower. You can use inner core for this recipe. Coarsely chop cauliflower and place in bowl of a food processor with steel chopping blade. Pulse food processor until cauliflower is finely chopped. Do not overprocess or cauliflower will turn into a puree.

Place finely chopped cauliflower into a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to blend well. Place a rounded tablespoon of mixture into each mini muffin well. Pat down to form a nugget. Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Carefully turn each cauliflower bite over and continue to bake for 12 to 15 additional minutes or until bites are crispy brown on both sides.

Serve hot or warm for best flavor. Makes 24 cauliflower bites.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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