Warm Kitchen a Retreat from Cold Weather

With this cold weather and wind and dare I say snow! Yes I know you saw it as much as I did the warmth of my kitchen keeps me comforted in knowing that I can continue to cook and enjoy the season from inside. 
Do you ever get an “in the moment” moment when you just want to do something perhaps a little crazy or different than what you normally do from your regular routine? I had one of these moments recently and I have to admit I think it was because of the cold weather. 
I was at my stove cooking when I thought about a time when I wanted to have my own restaurant. Yes, perhaps I’m not the only food person who has had that desire, well in fact I know I’m not. This was my inspiration to cook a hearty but flavourful dish that had a restaurant flare I don’t always add to my dinners. (Although when I’m entertaining I do love to up the anti for guests.) Now I have to be honest I did do these recipes to keep the oven on and keep me warm in the kitchen for a while, so it was a double score for me!
There are so many people that just don’t like cauliflower, but why? Such a versatile and delicious vegetable, raw or cooked. You can add it to soups or stews for added vegetable flavour and texture. Serve it up raw or blanched on a veggie tray or how about pickled cauliflower, oh one of my favs! My latest favourite way to serve up cauliflower is roasting it. It add a slight crunch and decadent flavour that is so simple and addictive is the best way to describe the reaction after taking out of the oven. I am pretty sure I have eaten a whole heat of roasted cauliflower myself! 
So how do you roast cauliflower? They way I do it is simply remove the stem and tough core and cut it into small florets, I find by doing this you get more surface area exposed to becoming roasted and charred for an absolute delightful texture and flavour.
I pumped up the flavour of the cauliflower by adding semi dry chorizo sausage and simple onion, garlic and parsley to create a dish worthy of my own restaurant menu. 

Roasted Cauliflower and Chorizo Gnocchi

This chunky sauce is perfect to enjoy a variation of texture and flavour in each bite. You never know if you will end up with more chorizo or cauliflower all enveloped with a pillowy soft gnocchi.

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
3 tbsp (45 mL) extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp (1 mL) each salt and fresh ground pepper
1 pkg (250 g) semi cured mild chorizo sausage, chopped 
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup (125 mL) chicken or vegetable broth
2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh parsley
1 pkg (1 lb/454 g) gnocchi (fresh or frozen)
2 tbsp (30 mL) butter

In a large bowl, toss cauliflower florets with 2 tbsp (30 mL) of the oil, salt and pepper. Spread over parchment paper lined baking sheet and roast in 400 F (200 C) oven for about 45 minutes or until golden brown and tender crisp. Set aside.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat remaining oil over medium heat and saute sausage, onion and garlic for about 8 minutes or until soft and starting to become golden. Stir in broth and parsley; keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a pot of boiling salted water, cook gnocchi for about 5 minutes or until they float to the top and are tender but firm. Using a slotted spoon or small sieve lift gnocchi out of water and add to skillet with sausage and onion. Add buttter and cook over low heat. Stir in roasted cauliflower and toss to combine until heated through. 

Serve in shallow bowls.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

So to keep the oven on a bit longer and to add some sweet aroma to the house, because the chorizo wasn’t smelling good enough! I decided to use some of the many clementines on my counter. I hadn’t baked a loaf in awhile and wanted something for the season and that was well healthy too. I peaked in my crisper to discover fresh cranberries so instantly the marriage was made. Clementine and cranberries, work so well together I had the plan. Now if I did have my own restaurant I think I would serve some sort of quick breads like loaves, they are so easy to make and so satisfying when they are done. Perfect to serve with a cup of tea or coffee or enjoy along side a scoop of gelato or sorbet to finish a meal. Another inspirational “in the moment” recipe came to life.

Cranberry Clementine Loaf

My goal was to use a few clementines but in the end I only used 2 to get the rind and juice I needed for the recipe. You may need more if your clementines end up being pretty small or not too juicy. They are so great to have on hand this time of year to add their rind and juice to simple dishes like stir-fry, muffins or fruit salads.

1 cup (250 mL) all purpose flour
1 cup (250 mL) whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) baking powder
1/2 tsp (2 mL) baking soda
Pinch salt
1/4 cup (60 mL) canola oil
1/2 cup (125 mL) milk
1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) grated clementine rind
1/4 cup (60 mL) clementine juice
2/3 cup (150 mL) packed brown sugar 
1 egg
1 cup (250 mL) fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder and soda and salt.

In another bowl, whisk together oil, milk, clementine rind and juice with sugar. Whisk in egg until well combined. Pour over flour mixture and stir until just combined. Stir in cranberries.

Spoon batter into parchment paper lined 8 x 4 (1.5 L) loaf pan and smooth top. Bake in 350 F (180 C) oven for about 45 minutes or until tester inserted in centre comes out clean. Let cool in pan for about 20 minutes before removing to cool completely on rack.

Makes 1 loaf or 12 slices.


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