Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe with NO CARB Zucchini Noodles

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Yesterday was national cheese day.  Did you know that?  My boyfriend, Miles, declared that to be true yesterday and, upon investigation, I found him to be correct.  So – time for a cheese-based recipe!!!  Behold!  Cacio e Pepe!

Cacio e Pepe just means cheese & pepper.  And that is literally all you are supposed to add to a traditional spaghetti cacio e pepe.  I tend to find alfredos and such FAR to rich for my tastes & I very seldom make cream-heavy sauces.  This dish, however, uses no heavy cream.  No additional dairy beyond the finest pecorino you can find.  The ingredients are:

Spaghetti

Pecorino

Pepper

How can you beat that for simplicity?  You can’t.  And if you can find a pepper pecorino like this one:

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…well, now you are down to TWO ingredients.

Still, I thought I wanted to update this dish a bit & still cut into the calorie count involved.  My thought was to do it using only zucchini noodles like these:

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The problem with that idea, though, is that zucchini noodles do not stand up to cooking beyond a quick blanching or they get soggy.  They require a hot sauce on them to soften them – if you are using them to mock spaghetti, as I intended to do here.   I used them once before in my

DECADENT Vegan NO CARB Summer Pasta with Zucchini Noodles, Avocado, Asparagus & Peas

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But I ran into the same issue there as with my cacio e pepe endeavor – that my sauce was not hot.  Plain, grated pecorino requires the heat of the freshly cooked pasta (and a bit of the hot pasta water) to melt the cheese & create the luscious creaminess this dish is famous for.  So – I just used equal parts whole wheat spaghetti & zucchini noodles to cut down on the carb impact.  You can leave the zucchini out entirely to no ill effect.  Either way – this is one of the easiest, yummiest & most elegant pastas I have ever eaten.  Even a total kitchen novice can pull this one off so no excuses!

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Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe with NO CARB Zucchini Noodles

INGREDIENTS

1 LB dry spaghetti

5 large zucchinis (optional)

8 oz (or more) HIGH QUALITY pecorino

Fresh ground pepper – and lots of it!

Salt

Extra pecorino or Parmesan for garnish (optional)

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DIRECTIONS

Using a grating tool like this:

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or with a mandolin or spiralizer – create the noodles from the zucchini.  No need to use the ends or seeded centers.  Drain in a colander with a bit of salt mixed in.

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Grate the pecorino.

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Cook the pasta according to directions.  Add the zucchini in the last minute.  Put a large mixing bowl over the pasta pot in the last thirty seconds or so to warm it.  Do not BURN yourself!

Reserve a little hot pasta water & then drain the pasta & zucchini.  Add to the warmed bowl & top with the cheese.  Stir it all around until the cheese is completely melted & incorporated.  You might need to add a bit of the hot pasta water – maybe not.

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Serve with a shite-load of freshly ground pepper.  Be impressed with yourself.

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Cauliflower Pizza Crust

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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If you read this blog with any regularity, you know I am obsessed with cauliflower.  It can be used to replace or replicate so many things and is inexpensive & free of so many things many people are trying to avoid, like carbs, calories & gluten.  This pizza crust was not my first attempt at using cauliflower as a base for pizza but, the last time I tried it, I wasn’t blogging so the results were never made public.  The results were that it tasted good but I thought it used too much cheese & felt like it was worse for you than regular pizza dough.

This crust is lighter & smelled incredible cooking, but it was a tad moist for my taste & didn’t set together as well as I’d hoped.  In fairness, no cauliflower crust is going to fool anyone into thinking they are eating a standard issue pizza on dough but this one still isn’t perfected.  I did dump a lot of wet ingredients on it (sliced tomatoes & fresh mozzarella) and that definitely contributed to the moisture factor.  Still, I could pick it up & eat it like a slice – just not a crispy one.

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The cooking time on this one will likely vary for everyone – depending on the calibration of your oven & how much moisture you manage to squeeze out of the cooked cauliflower rice & how thick you make your crust.  I kept going in five minute increments from the initial 25 minute cooking time I guessed at until it looked like this:

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I then transferred it (and tore it in the process) to this wire pizza rack thing I have – hoping the vented rack would allow the oven to dry the crust out more.  It looks like this:

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It didn’t really help.  Next time – I might start with the wire rack & cook the dough on parchment atop that & see if it impacts the crispness of the crust.

All that said – this pizza crust was very tasty & even my dogs gobbled up the cauliflower crust I gave them.  That might seem obvious to you but my Dexter is a very finicky eater.  So – I do not want to discourage you from trying this.  The spices I added were sort of random.  You can use the ones I did or not – or you can add some of your own.  Rosemary might be nice!

The pizza you see here that I made is finished with a tomato sauce, fresh tomato, fresh mozzarella & basil on one side & my Chard Pesto (which I recommend VERY highly) on the other.  You can top your crust any way you like.

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Cauliflower Pizza Crust

INGREDIENTS

1 medium head cauliflower

1 egg – beaten

4 oz. goat cheese

1 TBS dry oregano

1 TBS dry parsley

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

DIRECTIONS

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Chop your cauliflower & then either pulse it in your food processor (or, as I did, use the grater blade) and reduce the cauliflower to a rice-like consistency.  A regular cheese grater will work, too, but one of the drawbacks to cauliflower is that it pops everywhere when you cut it raw & it gets messy.  Still – the rice cauliflower can be achieved with just a regular cheese grater.

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Boil about an inch of water in a large stock pot.  Boil the cauliflower for about 5 minutes.  Drain it through a fine mesh sieve.  Cool it with cold water & then, in batches, wrap it is a clean kitchen towel & twist it tighter & tighter – squeezing out every bit of water you can.

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In a large bowl, beat the egg then add all the remaining ingredients, including the cauliflower.  With your hands, completely blend the ingredients into a moist dough.

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Line your pizza pan with parchment paper or REALLY grease it.  I suggest the paper – but in a pinch – grease will work.  I just fear it will stick to the pan on you.  No need to grease the parchment, though.  Press your dough into your pizza’s shape – even creating the deep crust on the edges, if you like.  Your pizza dough should be about 1/3 inch thick or so in the flat part.

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Bake this for about 30-45 minutes – watching it carefully because it will go from not done to burned in a flash.  When it reaches a nice golden color take it out of the oven.  Top it with your toppings & cook until your cheese is melted.  Voila!

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LOW CARB Chipotle Cauliflower “No-Mac” & Cheese with White Beans

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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OK – this has to be one of the greatest Goddamn things ever!  I cannot recommend highly enough that you try this.  You can leave out the white beans (which I added for texture & fiber content) if you are serious about dodging carbs or make it with pasta instead of cauliflower if you are carbo-loading for a marathon – or do part cauliflower & part pasta.  You could add black beans or corn or garbanzo beans or diced tomato – or avocado after it is baked as a garnish.  So many options.  I made this up out of my head with ingredients on hand.  My version used 1 cup heavy cream & 1 cup water because I didn’t have milk.  It came out a tad wetter than I expected – probably because cauliflower doesn’t absorb moisture the way pasta does  – and I’d never attempted an all cauliflower mac & cheese before.  If you like your mac & cheese (or your cheesy veggies) wet – this recipe is for you.  If not either cut the milk by 1/2 or add another 1/2 cup each of the cheeses – or both.  That should solve the problem.  Or add a cup of cooked pasta.  I feel very confident about this recipe & that you will enjoy it – wet or dry.  And, though I haven’t confirmed this yet, I bet it is better the next day.  It could be made vegan by simply using the vegan alternatives to the dairy in the recipe.  This recipe is pretty spicy so – adjust the chipotle & jalapeno, if you are sensitive to heat.

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LOW CARB Chipotle Cauliflower “No-Mac” & Cheese with White Beans

INGREDIENTS

1 large head cauliflower – cut into but sized florets (I did the cutting after it was cooked & cooled)

1 can white beans

4 TBS butter

1/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

2 cups milk (or 1 cup heavy cream, 1 cup water) – or less for a dryer result

5 chipotle peppers & their adobo sauce – diced

1 jalapeno – seeded & diced (optional)

1 red (or green) serrano pepper – seeded & diced (optional)

1/2 cup fresh cilantro – chopped

1 cup quality cheddar (I used Kerrygold Reserved Cheddar) – or 1/2 cup more more for a cheesier result

1 cup quality pepper jack cheese (I used Tillamook Pepper Jack) – or 1/2 cup more for a cheesier result

S&P to taste

1/2 cup Panko or other bread crumbs

1/2 cup additional grated cheese to top the casserole

Additional cilantro for garnish

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DIRECTIONS

Pre-heat the over to 350.

Boil water & add the cauliflower to it.  Boil about 6-7 minutes.  Drain & rinse under cool water.  Drain the beans & add to the cauliflower.  Set aside.

Melt butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the flour & whisk continuously so i doesn’t burn.  It should brown just a bit.  Add garlic powder, smoked paprika & slowly whisk in the milk – allowing the sauce to thicken.  Add chipotle & sauce & cilantro & jalapeno & serrano peppers (if using).  Raise heat to medium-high & simmer about 3 minutes or until the sauce thickens.  Add the cheeses in increments, allowing it all to melt without clumping.  If it gets too thick, add water or a little milk.

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Add the white beans & cauliflower florets & stir to coat.

Grease a casserole pan or other baking dish.  Top with additional grated cheese & bread crumbs.  Put the cheesy cauliflower in it,  top with additional grated cheese & bread crumbs.  Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes or until the sides are bubbling & the bread crumbs are browned.  Remove from heat & let rest at least 5 minutes before serving.  Garnish with additional fresh cilantro.

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NO CARB Cauliflower Risotto with Caramelized Carrots, Saffron & Toasted Anchovy Bread Crumbs

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Let me apologize up front for the scant photography with this recipe.  My phone completely died early in the process of making this & I had no way to document the various steps.  Sorry!

Also – let me say that this dish could be made the traditional way – with Arborio rice – or the no carb way, using just grated cauliflower or it can be made the way I did it here – with about 2/3 of the recipe comprised of cauliflower but with a cup of Arborio for added texture.  I would have skipped the rice entirely but my boyfriend is a finicky eater & textures, in particular, can put him completely off things.  Having never tried a cauliflower-based risotto, I was unsure of the sturdiness of the final result, so, I added the cup of risotto rice.  As it turned out, I could have skipped it because 1) I think the cauliflower holds up well and 2) he wouldn’t eat it anyway.

In the future, I will experiment with an all cauliflower risotto & I will better document the process.  Do not be alarmed by the lack of photos here and, therefore, intimidated to try this.  It is a very easy & delicious dish!  The anchovy bread crumbs are very optional but add a nice hint of salty flavor the the sweetness of the carrots.  I used some leftover homemade artisan bread but any bread crumbs would likely work.  I just liked how chunky the homemade breadcrumbs were.

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NO CARB Cauliflower Risotto with Caramelized Carrots, Saffron & Toasted Anchovy Bread Crumbs

INGREDIENTS
1 large head cauliflower (2 heads if not using Arborio rice in the dish)

1 lb carrots

3 TBS olive oil – divided

3 TBS butter – divided

1 small onion – diced

1 cup Arborio rice (optional)

1/2 cup dry vermouth (or other dry white wine)

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

5+ cups vegetable (or other) stock

1 tsp saffron threads

1/2 tsp white pepper

Salt to taste

1 tsp sugar

1 large tomato – diced for garnish

Fresh parsley – chopped for garnish

Parmesan (or other hard cheese) – grated for garnish

For the Toasted Anchovy Bread Crumbs

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1 TBS olive oil

1 TBS butter

1 TBS anchovy paste (or minced anchovies)

DIRECTIONS

For the toasted anchovy breadcrumbs

If using stale bread – pulse the cubed bread in a food processor until crumbly.

Heat 1 TBS each of olive oil & butter & dissolve the anchovy in it.  Add the breadcrumbs & stir until they begin to get browned & toasty.  I drained mine on paper towels to remove excess oil & set aside.

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For the Cauliflower Risotto with Caramelized Carrots & Saffron

Heat the stock to boiling & then reduce heat to low & simmer – covered.

Meanwhile, with the grating blade of your food processor, grate the cauliflower into rice-like shards.  Set aside.

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With the regular blade in your food processor, pulse the carrots into a near puree.

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In a large stock pot, heat 1 TBS each of olive oil & butter on medium heat & add the minced carrots.  Coat the carrots with the oil & butter then add 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 tsp salt & the sugar.  Cook, covered, for about five minutes.  Uncover and cook, stirring constantly (adding a tiny bit more olive oil if it gets too dry) until the carrots begin to brown.  Remove from heat.  Puree half of the browned carrots in a blender with 1 cup warm water.  Set both carrot elements aside.

Using the same pot you cooked the carrots in, add 2 TBS each butter & olive oil & cook the onion until translucent.  Add Arborio rice (if using) & cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute.   Whether or not you are using Arborio, add the cauliflower now and, stirring constantly, add the cup of wine & let the alcohol cooks off over high heat.  Add the carrot puree (not the browned carrot – but the puree with water added) and cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens a bit – maybe a minute.

Add 1/2 cup of hot vegetable stock and stir it often – until the liquid is absorbed.  Repeat this process until all but about 1 cup of broth is incorporated.

Mix in the remaining browned carrots (reserving a small amount for garnish – if desired), the saffron threads, white pepper, the Parmesan & the heavy cream.  Add small amounts of the remaining broth to thin the risotto to the consistency you like.

Serve immediately topped with the remaining carrots (if you reserved some), diced tomatoes, fresh parsley & more grated cheese & the toasted anchovy breadcrumbs.

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