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How To Make Cauliflower Taste As Good As French Fries: Roasted Curried Cauliflower

by | Jul 30, 2012
Roasted Curried Cauliflower

Roasted Curried Cauliflower

I’ve resisted publishing this recipe for months because I was worried it was too simple for an entire blog post. But every time I cook it for someone (which I do all the time because it is so easy and delicious) they ask me for the recipe so they can try it themselves. Now I can just send them a link :)

What’s weird is that this is just roasted cauliflower, it couldn’t sound any less glamorous. But for some reason roasting cauliflower completely transforms it from a vegetable people are pretty sure they don’t like into something they just can’t get enough of.

The coolest part of all is that anyone (like ANY anyone) can make this. I like to add curry powder to mine, but you can play around with whatever spices you like, or just make it plain. The trick is to use a very hot oven, around 450-500 degrees. Covering the cauliflower for the first 15 minutes steam cooks it. Then when you remove the foil the high heat browns and caramelizes it, giving the cauliflower a slightly crisp texture and complex flavor that is irresistible.

It still freaks me out how good this recipe is.

Roasted Curried Cauliflower Recipe

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 large cauliflower (or several small ones), ~2 lbs
  • Curry powder
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher or sea salt

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Break cauliflower into medium-small florets and place into large bowl or baking pan. Be sure the pieces are as evenly sized as possible, or they will cook unevenly. The smaller you make the pieces, the quicker they will cook and the more caramelized they will become, which I consider a good thing.

Drizzle cauliflower pieces generously with olive oil and season well with salt and curry powder. Distribute evenly in a single layer at the bottom of a baking pan. If necessary, use a second baking pan to be sure the pieces aren’t too crowded.

Cover the pans with foil and place into the oven. Roast, covered for 10-15 minutes. The cauliflower should be slightly soft and start looking translucent. If not replace foil and cook another 5 minutes.

When the cauliflower has finished steaming, remove the foil and toss with tongs. Continue to roast, stirring every 8-10 minutes until the tips of the cauliflower begin to brown and become crisp as pictured. Approximately 30-35 minutes.

Adjust salt to taste (you will probably need another sprinkle) and serve.

Have you ever tried roasted cauliflower?

Originally published July 21, 2010, and is widely considered my best recipe of all time.

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For The Love Of Food

by | Jul 27, 2012

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

I’m back! Sorry I haven’t posted any link love in the past couple weeks, I travelled to British Columbia and then Hawaii for some much needed relaxation and quiet time to get some work done. The finish line is finally in sight for the big project I’ve been working on. More details soon.

This week sitting may be as bad as smoking, health journalists fail again, and a simple tip to boost willpower.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).

Links of the week

What inspired you this month?

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10 Reasons You Hate To Cook (And What To Do About It)

by | Jul 25, 2012

Photo by liber

I don’t like the word hate and try not to use it. I especially dislike it when it is applied to any kind of food or cooking.

Do you really hate asparagus? Or are you just whining about something you haven’t bothered to learn to appreciate? Yeah, I thought so.

My theory is that most people who profess to hate cooking are actually just making excuses to avoid it. Why would anyone really hate cooking? What did cooking ever do to you?

The sad part is that cooking is a wonderful skill to have. Not only does it save you time and money on food, it can also contribute to better health, bring you closer to friends and family, and be a great creative outlet for stress.

You don’t have to love cooking, but knowing the basics and feeling competent in the kitchen can open a world of opportunity to improve your quality of life. But sure, go ahead and hate it if you want.

For the cautiously curious, here are a few of the obstacles that may be preventing you from getting past your pessimism and what to do to get over them.

10 Reasons You Hate To Cook

(And What To Do About It)

1. You suck at it

The first thing you need to do is understand the difference between not liking cooking and not liking to be bad at cooking. Big difference. I didn’t like being bad at cooking either, but there is a pretty easy solution: learn how. It’s much easier than you think.

2. You’re slow

I know you’re busy. We all have better things to do than slave away over one lousy meal. But when you aren’t experienced in the kitchen the planning, shopping, chopping, cooking and cleaning involved in making a meal can feel like it takes forever. That’s because it does.

I can always spot a kitchen rookie by how long it takes them to chop an onion (seriously it takes like 20 seconds max). The good news is with a little practice and some decent knives (see point 3) you can slash the time you spend making a meal until you barely notice.

Ditto for cleaning up. Seriously, put some muscle into it and it’s over in no time!

3. You have crappy knives

I generally don’t advise spending money to solve problems, but knives in the kitchen are an exception. Spending $50 on a half-way decent chef’s knife can do wonders for your kitchen confidence and efficiency.

And you probably already know what an inspiration a shiny new toy can be.

4. You pick complicated recipes

Some of the best meals I’ve ever eaten have less than 5 ingredients. If you’ve never cooked anything in your life, cassoulet shouldn’t be your first choice.

Rather than finding a recipe and deciding to cook it, start with an ingredient that is seasonal and you know you enjoy. It’s hard to mess up kale and garlic. Learn to fly before you jump off a cliff.

5. You choose out of season ingredients

The main reason people don’t like _(fill in the vegetable)_ is because they have only had it from industrial farms that grow foods out of season. I agree, you’d have to be a masochist to like these impostors.

Farmers markets and dedicated produce stands are your friends. In season ingredients taste worlds better than the out of season stuff shipped from the opposite hemisphere. Your food doesn’t have to be 100% local, but at least pick foods that grow in the same season you happen to be living in. This alone could completely change your cooking experience.

6. Your pantry is inadequate

It can be really annoying to flip through a recipe book or food blog and realize that you need to make one or many grocery trips in order to make any dish because you don’t have olive oil, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar or red chili flakes. If you don’t know what belongs in a basic pantry, check out my free How to get started eating healthy guide for a rundown.

7. You cook everything to death

Just because your mom cooked broccoli until it was dark gray and could be eaten by an infant doesn’t mean that’s how food is supposed to be prepared. Most vegetables cook quickly and taste better when they haven’t been incinerated. When your vegetables turn bright green in the pan, that’s your cue that the cooking is nearly done.

8. You only cook for large groups

Your first cooking forays shouldn’t be huge productions. Start simply and don’t bite off more than you can chew by promising to host a dinner or bring food to a potluck of 30 people. Start by volunteering to help in the kitchen with someone who knows what they’re doing. Make a side dish, or a simple one pot meal for yourself.

Practice makes perfect, and you want your first experiences to go smoothly to build your skills and confidence.

9. You only cook for special occasions

New cooks don’t need any extra pressure in the kitchen. If you’re just learning your way around the range, maybe you should hold off on hosting Thanksgiving dinner or Mother’s day brunch. It can be stressful to just coordinate a large meal, you don’t need the added pressure of possibly ruining a family holiday. If you want to contribute, volunteer to make the salad or biscuits. Start your real kitchen adventures in the privacy of your own home.

10. You don’t ask for help

If you are truly new to cooking, you may as well acknowledge that you will be slow and lack the basic skills and intuition of a seasoned chef. You are definitely capable of getting there, but in the mean time make your experience as pleasant as possible by letting others contribute their expertise and knife skills when you want to cook. It is also nice to have an extra pair of hands for cleanup.

Do you really hate cooking? Or are you just looking around the room and saying that you hate things?

Originally published May 31, 2010.

ATTENTION: Due to the excessive negativity of some recent commenters, I am permanently closing the comments on this post. If the contents of this article make you want to scream in rage, stab someone, punch a wall, or hurl yourself off a bridge, I suggest you find a therapist.

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Is Drinking Alcohol Healthy Or Dangerous?

by | Jul 23, 2012
Rocket Bar Wine

Photo by Mr. T in DC

“I’ve always wondered what the scientific perspective of alcohol consumption is. I have been doing some research but the actual effects of it on the body range from beneficial to cancerous.”

The clinical science on alcohol consumption is vast and diverse. It’s easy to find studies that demonstrate the benefits of alcohol, but it is equally common to find research showing its dangers. Sorting through the data is not trivial, and getting the right answer from news reports is virtually impossible.

Let’s start with the facts:

1. Alcohol is addictive

Alcohol addiction is one of the most well-understood and dangerous risks of drinking. A propensity for addiction can run in families, but can affect anyone who drinks in excess. None of the health benefits of alcohol can negate the destruction caused by addiction, and anyone who drinks should be careful to avoid this terrible condition.

2. Alcohol damages the liver

Alcohol metabolism occurs in the liver and can cause severe damage when consumed in large quantities. Liver damage can usually be reversed if alcohol consumption stops.

3. Alcohol is associated with breast cancer (sort of)

Drinking is weakly associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. This is likely because alcohol increases aromatase activity in the human body, which increases estrogen production. Estrogen imbalance is a known cause of breast cancer. However, the association between drinking and breast cancer is negated by sufficient folate intake. Folate or folic acid is a B vitamin found in leafy green vegetables, fruits and legumes (and fortified foods). In other words, a healthy diet protects against alcohol induced breast cancer risk.

4. Alcohol protects against mortality from heart disease

Drinking alcohol reduces your risk of dying from a heart attack by preventing blood clotting. This effect is not limited to red wine, all spirits elicit substantial protection. The association appears to be dose-dependent, meaning that the more you drink the more protection you get. HOWEVER, you start raising your risk for the above mentioned problems with every additional drink per day. For men the ideal dosage is 2 drinks per day, for women it is 1 drink per day.

5. Alcohol raises good HDL cholesterol

Moderate drinking also reduces your risk of getting heart disease in the first place by raising beneficial HDL cholesterol without raising LDL cholesterol. Low HDL is a serious problem in America, and alcohol could be a significant benefit for some people. Here are other ways to raise your HDL cholesterol.

6. Red wine may slow aging

Aging research has been revolutionized by the discovery of a compound in red wine called resveratrol. Resveratrol has been shown to slow aging substantially in several model organisms. Though the effect in humans is still unknown, red wine is associated with many benefits that seem to go above and beyond the benefits of alcohol in general.

7. Red wine may protect against Alzheimer’s disease

Several studies have shown that red wine is associated with a decreased risk for Alzheimer’s Dementia, a devastating neurodegenerative disease that affects 1 in 4 people over the age of 90. The mechanism of action is unclear, but the benefits may be linked to the effect of red wine on fatty acids in the blood (raising the good stuff), or by slowing the aging process itself.

8. Alcohol causes accidents and behavioral problems

Even relatively safe levels of drinking can be deadly when combined with poor decision making. If you do choose to drink alcohol, always be sure that you’re in a safe environment and can get help if you need it. Being safe sometimes, or even usually, is simply not good enough.

There are plenty of good reasons to avoid alcohol if you choose, and many of the benefits can be garnered by simply increasing the amount or intensity of your daily physical activity.

However, the evidence is pretty clear that moderate alcohol consumption (1-2 drinks per day) can improve health and may be an important component of a healthy lifestyle. This is even true for those who pick up the habit later in life.

And last but certainly not least, some of the best times of my life have been over a drink with friends. And I guarantee you most of us aren’t thinking about our heart health while enjoying a great bottle of wine. As long as you consider safety first, never forget that smiling is one of the healthiest things you will ever do.

Here’s a fun question: what’s your favorite drink??

Originally published July 28, 2010.

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10 Ways To Make Your Salad More Satisfying

by | Jul 18, 2012
Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad

One of my favorite things about the arrival of summer is all the beautiful, crisp salad greens at the farmers market. I absolutely love to eat salads, but how can you turn a salad into a full meal that is truly satisfying?

The trick is to make sure you add enough protein, fat and carbohydrates to your salad so it is still a perfectly balanced meal.

There are dozens of healthy additions you can use to make your salad more filling and delicious. Here are 10 of my favorites.

10 Ways To Make Your Salad More Satisfying

  • Warm ingredients Grilled or sauteed onions, peppers, mushrooms and meats wilt salad greens and make them slightly warm, adding depth and character to an otherwise boring salad.
  • Brown rice Adding 1/2 cup of warm rice to a salad makes it more satisfying to eat and keeps you full for longer. Use single serving rice balls and this simple addition will add less than 2 minutes to your salad prep time.
  • Nuts Walnuts and sliced almonds are my favorite, but feel free to try pecans, cashews, peanuts, pumpkin seeds or anything else that sounds interesting.
  • Beans Chickpeas, black beans, edamame and other legumes are inexpensive and delicious sources of protein and fiber to add some substance to a salad.
  • Avocado Half an avocado is sometimes exactly what a salad needs to take it to the next level.
  • Smoked salmon For a slightly more upscale salad experience top your greens with a few slices of smoked salmon.
  • Quinoa Mix in a small amount of quinoa as an accent or make it the base of a salad by adding cooked or raw veggies and greens. See my Mexican-style quinoa salad recipe.
  • Grilled meats Your salad is a great place for summertime BBQ leftovers.
  • Egg Boiled, fried or poached, an egg is a wonderful way to make your salad more substantial. See my Summer salad with poached egg recipe.
  • Sardines Canned fish is one of the easiest ways to get extra protein and omega-3 oils in your salad. Here are 6 reasons to eat more sardines.

How do you make your salads more hearty?

This article was originally published June 8, 2009.

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8 Reasons Awesome Girls Should Learn To Cook

by | Jul 16, 2012

Photo by erin MC hammer

My post last week 8 Reasons Regular Guys Should Learn To Cook received a tremendous response (thanks for your Diggs and Tweets), but a few people called it out as “sexist.” Gasp!

Though I doubt anyone would have preferred a post titled “8 Reasons Most People Should Learn To Cook,” I’m happy to balance the scorecard.

The reason I called out “regular guys” in the last post is that although the cooking profession is dominated by the Y chromosome, I’ve noticed a general reluctance from the 20-30 year old single men I know to spend much time in the kitchen. Sure most are willing to grill up some meat on occasion, but few consider cooking essential to their man-skills and I wanted to give them reasons to reconsider.

Girls are a different story. I know a few girls who enjoy cooking, and even more who like to bake. But there is also a subset who can’t even boast the grill skills my regular guys have in spades. I know these girls well, because I used to be one.

When I was in college saying I was a “bad cook” would have been generous. I couldn’t cook anything—I even burned water on more than one occasion (pasta FAIL). I couldn’t prepare any food that required more than a can opener and microwave, and fixing these flaws was not high on my priority list.

I only changed my tune when I got to graduate school, became a born again foodie and realized I could no longer afford to eat out in San Francisco on my student salary. Unwilling to sacrifice the quality of food I was eating I forced myself to start shopping at the farmers market and preparing my own meals. This switch changed my life for the better and I would never go back to my kitchen-free days.

But why was I such a brat about it in the first place?

Honestly, I thought I was above cooking. I was busy building my career and had better things to do than slave away in the kitchen, thankyouverymuch. Cooking was for stay-at-home moms, I thought, not for ambitious girls like me. Who has time to be so domestic?

I was a jackass, and have since learned the errors of my ways. This one is for all you awesome girls out there who still don’t know the value of being kitchen savvy.

8 Reasons Awesome Girls Should Learn To Cook

1. It’s still hot

I’m sure you have no trouble attracting men with your intellect, but no matter how smart and beautiful you are guys always melt for a girl who can cook an amazing meal. You may have already gotten into college, but extracurriculars still matter.

2. Cooking makes you beautiful

Nothing is more attractive than a woman who radiates health. Cooking nutritious food at home will give you sparkling eyes, shiny hair, healthy nails and glowing skin.

3. Good food makes you smarter

Junk food creates spikes and dips in blood sugar that make you tired and kill your ability to concentrate. Cooking healthier food at home will give you the focus to stay sharp all day.

4. Cooking is more efficient

Going out may seem quicker because there is no prep or cleanup, but in the long run it actually takes more of your time. Once you have it down, you can make yourself a solo meal and have your kitchen back in working order in about 30 minutes. Win.

5. You’ll save money

Being a girl is expensive. And if you’re the type who likes to splurge on designer brands, every dollar counts. Cooking at home is a great way to save money on food, freeing it up for you to use on other things.

6. It keeps you slim

For myself, eating out is the single biggest factor in how easy it is to lose or maintain my weight. At home you have complete control over everything you eat, and when you cook healthy foods this works to your advantage.

7. You might one day be a mom

You may have your eye on the prize today, but if you ever plan to raise a family your life will be a lot easier if you pick up some kitchen skills beforehand. Processed foods are bad for you and even worse for kids. Plan ahead for your future healthy family.

8. You might love it

Cooking is like art and science all rolled into one. It allows you to build skills, be creative, de-stress and when you’re finished you have a wonderful and delicious product to enjoy (and show off on Instagram). Cooking is more mentally stimulating than I ever imagined, and it is worth exploring for its own sake.

Why do you amazing ladies like to cook?

Originally published June 15, 2011.

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8 Reasons Regular Guys Should Learn To Cook

by | Jul 11, 2012

Photo by f_mafra

Some guys I know don’t consider cooking a worthwhile venture. Besides the occasional stint behind the grill, they’d rather bask in blissful ignorance than feed themselves in more than 3 steps: stab, chew, swallow.

But ask any woman (or man that already knows how) why it is better to be a kitchen savvy dude and you’ll start to see what these guys are missing.

Whether it’s because they think it takes too much time, too much effort or wrongly assume it’s a woman’s job, men who never learn to cook are losing a huge opportunity to take their man skills to the next level.

8 Reasons Regular Guys Should Learn To Cook

1. Chicks dig it

There isn’t a woman alive immune to a man who can make her a delicious meal. Step up to the plate boys, we’re begging you.

2. Life skills are manly

You can fix your car, hunt wild animals and build a camp fire. Shouldn’t you know how to feed yourself without a drive-thru?

3. You’ll save money

Though there’s a good chance you’re single if you never learned to cook (see point #1), a home cooked meal is a much cheaper date night (or singles night) than dinner for two at Chez Fancy—particularly with the 150% wine mark up common at most restaurants.

4. It’s faster than going out

Fancy date meals aside, cooking at home is almost always faster than going out—so long as you know what you’re doing. Once you have a few basic skills down, you can stop wasting your time in fast food spots simply because you don’t know what else to eat.

5. Guy Fieri shouldn’t be better than you at anything

Food Network star Guy Fieri has bad hair, bad clothes and douchey sunglasses, but the dude knows how to cook. Are you going to let him upstage you like that? Of course you aren’t.

6. Your puppy (aka girl magnet) will eat better

My notoriously adorable puppy Toaster loves salad scraps (sugar snap peas are his favorite), eggs, meats, fish, and pretty much anything else we’re willing to share. A balanced diet is as good for dogs as it is for people (just don’t give them onions, garlic or grapes).

7. You might lose weight

Cooking is one of the easiest ways to improve your diet and stick to reasonable portions. This is a recipe for weight loss, if you’re willing to swallow it.

8. You might like it

Cooking is relaxing, fun, creative, purposeful and, hopefully, delicious. Why wouldn’t you want to add this skill to your tool belt?

Why do you guys like to cook?

Originally published June 6, 2011.

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