Squid Ink Risotto with Seared Scallops

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

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

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Nothing was more important to me than my dearest Memphis – above.  Nothing.  He was a little rescued gift from the universe after my 4-year-old pug, Grisbi, died suddenly & mysteriously.  Then – on June 20th – Memphis left me the same way – suddenly & mysteriously – at 4.  I am bereft.

It has been difficult to get into cooking & blogging.  Everything reminds me of Memphis & then everything seems so pointless and so trivial.

Anyway, I have had this cuttlefish ink in my fridge forever – but I never tried it because I gave up seafood three years ago.  Today – I decided to break my no seafood thing (for the second time in a week) and make this risotto.  Early this week – I made Fiery Shrimp fra Diavolo with Squid Ink Pasta – seen below.

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People are often intimidated by risotto but I do not understand why.   It is simple to prepare & only takes about 20 minutes.  This black risotto here is no exception.  It is simple & delicious.  What people should be intimidated by is scallops.  They are often fishy & too often overcooked into rubber.  I managed to pull the scallops here off perfectly & I will share how.  It was not difficult.

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Squid Ink Risotto with Seared Scallops

SERVES 2

INGREDIENTS

Fresh jumbo scallops – maybe 3 or 4 per person

1 cup Arborio rice

4 cups vegetable stock

3 TBS butter

3 TBS olive oil

1 large shallot (or small onion) – diced

1-6 garlic cloves (I used 6) – chopped

1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)

Squid ink (or cuttlefish ink) – about 3 or 4 teaspoons

1-3 tsp crushed red pepper – or to taste (optional)

10 cherry tomatoes – halved (maybe extra to quarter & use as garnish)

2 red chilies (optional) – diced – some reserved as garnish

S&P

Parsley – chopped – as garnish

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DIRECTIONS

Wash the scallops in cold water & pat VERY dry with a paper towel.  Sprinkle with S&P.  Set aside.

Bring the vegetable stock to a boil & reduce to a simmer.

Heat TWO TBS of olive oil & TWO TBS of butter in a stock pot over med-high heat.  Add the shallots or onion & saute until soft & just beginning to brown.  Add the rice & tomatoes & stir for a minute or two.  Add the garlic & saute one minute.  Add the wine & then the ink & red chilies & crushed red pepper(if using).  I added the ink in increments until it got the nice rich black.  You may or may not use all the ink suggested – your call.  Add the stock 1/4 cup at a time – letting it get absorbed before adding the next cup.  Stir the rice the entire time.  Reserve about 1/2 cup stock.   Season with S&P.  Test that the rice is cooked & then cover it & remove it from the heat.

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In a frying pan, heat 1 TBS olive oil & 1 TBS butter (more if you have more than 4 scallops) and heat on high until very hot.  Add the dry scallops.  They should sizzle upon contact with the oil.  Do not fumble with them.  Let them sear 1-2 minutes each side – depending on their thickness.  Ideally – they should only be moved once – when you flip them.  They should be crusty on two sides by a bit translucent in the center ( bit rare) – unless you like them cooked well done.  Leave them on longer for a well done scallop.  Know they will keep cooking a bit even after removed from the heat.

Stir the remaining stock into the risotto & stir.  It should be what the Italians cal “all’onda.”  That means “wavy” or “with waves.”  The risotto should be creamy enough that tapping the bottom of the plates makes it spread out.

Plate the risotto, top with scallops & chopped parsley (and chopped red chilies or tomatoes) as garnish.

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Vegan Creamy Fettuccine Alfredo with Garlic Seared Mushrooms

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

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

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This recipe is simply my Vegan Creamy Alfredo recipe with seared garlic mushrooms added on top.  The mushrooms add lots of flavor & takes some of the weight off the Alfredo – as far as having an authentic Alfredo taste.

I will be honest here.  I have yet to make a cauliflower-based “cheese” that tastes convincingly of heavy cream & Parmesan.  I will also add that nutritional yeast is either a flavor you like – or not.   I find it pleasant & sort of nutty – but it does not taste like cheese.  So – this Alfredo is not going to convince a cheese-eater that it is real Alfredo – but if you are a seasoned vegan & accustomed to managing expectations – this is really quite good.  It is also good if – like me – you cannot imaging eating something as rich & FATTENING as a real plate of pasta Alfredo.  This dish is creamy & visually satisfying & it is tasty.  It feels decadent but the only thing decadent is the actual pasta.

That said – let me give you a peek into the reality of food photography.  Typically – I march all around my house with the plate of food & I place it in several locations – trying to find the best light & background.  Sometimes – that spot is on my dining room floor.  See?

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That is my son, Dexter.  He is 10 & has nerve damage & needs yoga mats everywhere so his rear legs can get traction.  He is a gorgeous boy & my best fried & always offers his support as I put food all over the place to photograph it.  He never tries to sneak a bite.  He is just a curious little momma’s boy.    I am pretty sure most bloggers are using cheated shots like this that are cropped to keep the bizarre stuff in frame out of the final image.  So – there you go.

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Vegan Creamy Fettuccine Alfredo with Garlic Seared Mushrooms

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

1 lb pasta

2 cups cauliflower florets

1 TBS olive oil

1-4 garlic cloves – chopped

1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups almond milk

1-3 TBS nutritional yeast (start with less & only increase after tasting each time)

1 tsp cayenne pepper

A few shakes of hot sauce (I always use Crystal)

Parsley – chopped

S&P

for the seared garlic mushrooms

Olive oil

1/2 lb sliced mushrooms

1-6 cloves garlic – chopped

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DIRECTIONS

Heat the olive oil & cook the garlic for about 1 minute.  Add the 1 1/2 cups milk (or more) & cauliflower & boil the cauliflower in the milk until it is very tender – 10 minutes or so.  My cauliflower soaked up all the milk – so I had to add more in the blending process.  Be careful you don’t burn the cauliflower & add more milk as it cooks – if it needs it.

Meanwhile – cook the pasta.

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When the cauliflower is very soft – puree it in a blender nutritional yeast, additional milk (if necessary), cayenne & hot sauce (maybe not ALL the milk & nutritional yeast).  Season with S&P and adjust the milk & nutritional yeast to suit your tastes in both flavor & consistency.

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for the seared garlic mushrooms

Heat a tablespoon or 2 of olive oil over high heat.  Add the mushrooms & cook – stirring infrequently – so they get a chance to brown.  When the are done to your liking – add the garlic & cook one minute longer.  Remove from heat.

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Drain the pasta & return it to the pot.  Toss with SOME of the sauce.  You may or may not want to use all the sauce.  That is just a personal preference.  When it looks nice & creamy to YOU – plate it & garnish with seared mushrooms & parsley.

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Vegan Seared Garlic-Balsamic Mushrooms with Fresh Thyme & Creamy Polenta (Grits)

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

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

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What you see pictured here are actually grits.  Grits are the same as polenta but more coarsely ground.  And – if you are interested, yellow grits have fewer calories than white.  I used Red Mill grits (seen below in a photo I took from Google).

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They cooked up nice & creamy in less than ten minutes.  The polenta I used for my Vegan Creamy Polenta Bowl with Roasted Beets, Toasted Walnuts, Thyme & Balsamic Glaze – seen above – took longer but I cooked that in a slow cooker, so you could argue it was easier.

I really like grits (polenta) in pretty much any form (the soupier cream of wheat style being my favorite) and leftovers bake up will into delicious & guiltless fries (below).

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But – polenta can be served soft & creamy or in harder patties & it can be topped with just about anything.  If you eat seafood – Shrimp & Grits are pretty amazing.  But this dish here is very simple & straight-forward & delicious.  It comes together in the time it takes to cook your grits – and that depends on what brand you buy.

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Vegan Seared Garlic-Balsamic Mushrooms with Fresh Thyme & Creamy Polenta (Grits)

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

Polenta for 2 (this amount is your call- based on your appetite but know packaging usually defines a serving as smaller than is realistic – so err on the side of making too much & make baked fries out of the leftovers)

Mushrooms – I’d go with 8oz per person because mushrooms really shrink – sliced

Olive oil

1 or more garlic cloves (depending entirely on your taste for garlic) – minced

1-2 TBS fresh thyme removed from stems

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

S&P

Fresh parsley – chopped

NOTE: If you want more flavorful grits – use vegetable stock rather than water when you make them.

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DIRECTIONS

Cook the grits/polenta according to instructions.  If it gets too thick – just add more water.

Meanwhile – heat 2 TBS olive oil in a pan over high heat & add the mushrooms.  Leave them in a pan a few minutes at a time without stirring to sear them.  When they are tender & browning, add the garlic & thyme.  Cook for 1-2 minutes (do not burn the garlic or it gets bitter) then add the balsamic.  It will cook off fast.  Add S&P.

Serve over polenta.  Garnish with parsley.

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Pasta with Pan-Seared Tomatoes, Spinach & Burrata

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2014

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

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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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So – Jason Priestley has a book out now – a memoir.

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I make an appearance in it as we lived together for 5 years or so.  There is a picture of me in there in a bathing suit top & some Calvin Klein men’s boxer briefs.  I was not consulted on the photo choice.  🙂  But, I am referred to as “captivating” and I am given credit for turning him on to wine.  I haven’t read it myself.  Yet.  But I will.  You should, too.

In the meantime – I hope you read MY book!  Reviews are solid!  And it can be found in the very store in Pasadena where Jason will make an appearance this month (and I will make one in June) – at Vroman’s!  Here it is on the shelf there!  www.bathingbook.com

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This is another one of those pasta dishes that can come together in just the time it takes to boil the pasta.  The real key is the burrata.  See how creamy the inside of burrata is?  And that is room temperature – not warmed.  It is a crazy & decadent mozzarella heaven.   They have it at Costco & often have it in mainstream supermarkets – typically there with the other fresh mozzarella that is sold packed in water.

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I used the same leftover homemade spicy basil marinara that I used in yesterday’s Vegan Chicken Parmesan recipe.

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 I have several recipes for sauce on this blog – Spicy Basil MarinaraFive (5) Minute Arrabiata Sauce, or my basic Marinara Sauce.  You can make one of those in advance or make your own favorite recipe or just use a nice jarred sauce.  Rao’s arrabbiata sauce is costly but so genuinely awesome – I recommend it very highly.

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I used fettuccine but any pasta will do.

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HERE is an interesting piece on which things are most important to buy ORGANIC.Image

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You will notice spinach is on the list of things to be sure you buy organic.  So – I did.

Aside from the burrata – this is a very clean & healthy dish – as pastas go.  Not even any olive oil and the spinach is hardly cooked. And it is a bit of a show stopper – with that creamy burrata bleeding all down your plate so do not be afraid to serve this one to guests – if only for its wow factor & simplicity.

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Pasta with Pan-seared Tomatoes, Spinach & Burrata

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

1/2 lb pasta

2-3 cups pasta sauce (to taste)

20 cherry or grape tomatoes – halved

4 cups organic FRESH spinach

2 balls burrata – ROOM TEMPERATURE

Cooking spray

Basil or parsley as garnish (optional)

S&P

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DIRECTIONS

Cook the pasta.  Heat the pasta sauce.

Meanwhile, spray a pan with cooking spray & put the tomatoes cut-side down in the pan on med-high heat – for about 2 minutes or until seared.  Stir the tomatoes for another 30 seconds or so & remove from heat.

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When the pasta is done, drain it & in the same pan you cooked the pasta in – toss the pasta with the fresh spinach & enough pasta sauce to suit your taste.

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Divide the pasta up over two plates, top with a little more sauce (if you like) and the burrata.  S&P and maybe some chopped basil or parsley & that is it!   Enjoy!

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Seared Ahi Tuna Pasta Puttanesca with a Fresh Tomato & Caper Sauce

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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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All my posts now have a VERY customizable PRINT & PDF option.  Create a PDF & save the recipe to your computer or print it out.  It offers a “remove images” option & you can delete any part of the post you do not need before printing.  The button is below by the Twitter & Facebook links.

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I am not a super giant fan of traditional puttanesca.  I find the Kalamata olives overpowering & the sauce rather heavy.  I prefer lighter pasta toppers.  But this version I threw together is clean & light.  I used canned black olives – for color more than anything – and because they are less powerfully flavored.  I also used a bit from a tube of anchovy paste – mainly because that is traditional – but I didn’t use much, couldn’t taste it in the final dish & you can certainly eliminate it if “mustaches of the sea” do not appeal to you – or if you are vegetarian.

Puttanesca has lots of legends around its origin.  Here is something I found online:

Puttanesca translates as “in the style of the whore.” The name derives from the Italian word puttana which means whore.  Puttana in turn arises from the Latin word putida which means stinking.

Now I’ll bet your wondering how this tasty dish became associated with such sordid content.  As is often the case when sifting through culinary history, there are multiple explanations.  The first interpretation is that the intense aroma, (harking back to the “stinking” Latin definition), would lure men from the street into the local house of ill repute.  Thus, the Napolese harlots were characterized as the sirens of the culinary world.  Three additional accounts all hinge on the fact that Puttanesca sauce is easy and quick to make.  The first is that the prostitutes made it for themselves to keep the interruption of their business to a minimum.  The second is that they made it for the men awaiting their turn at the brothel.  And the final version is that it was a favorite of married women who wished to limit their time in the kitchen so that they may visit their paramour.  

First of all – uhm – yuck.  The word for whore derives from the word for stinking???  Think about that.  Oof!  That makes my entire olfactory system recoil.  And then to name a pasta after it?   This sauce has two ingredients derived from the sea – the anchovies & the tuna.  I don’t want to be eating those things & thinking about dirty whores.   No, mam!  So let’s move on, shall we?

As I said – this isn’t a traditional sauce using crushed tomatoes.  It isn’t a sauce you can ladle.  It is one you toss with the pasta in the pan you prepared it in.  If you like heavier sauces (as my boyfriend, Miles, does) – add a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes – with or without the cherry tomatoes.  This can easily be made vegan by omitting the anchovies & tuna. They are not critical to this already flavorful dish.

Also – I seared fresh ahi – but a can or two of white tuna is actually more authentic.  This is a very simple dish to prepare – so – give it a try!

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Seared Ahi Tuna Pasta Puttanesca with a Fresh Tomato & Caper Sauce

INGREDIENTS

(to feed two well)

1 lb ahi tuna steak (or 1-2 cans of chunk white tuna)

1/2 lb of your favorite pasta (I almost always use whole wheat – and this time it was whole wheat spaghetti)

3 garlic cloves – chopped

20 cherry tomatoes – quartered (or a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes)

1 tsp crushed red pepper

2 TBS capers

5-8 Kalamata olives (or other black olives) – chopped

1 tsp anchovy paste

Chopped parsley

Olive oil

S&P

(I garnished with caper berries & parsley)

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DIRECTIONS

Heat a grill or grill pan on high heat.  Press the tuna into some ground pepper.

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Depending on the thickness of the fish – grill it between 1-3 minutes per side or until the outside is grilled but the center is still raw.

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The tuna will keep cooking once you have it off the heat & you do not want that.  Cut it into the size pieces you want to serve immediately – so the heat dissipates.

In a large saute pan, add a glug or two of olive oil (1-2 TBS) & add the anchovy paste (if using).  Sizzle that a bit & then add the crushed red pepper, tomatoes, capers, olives & garlic.  Add some chopped parsley.  If you are using canned tuna and/or canned tomatoes – add that here, too.  When it is just heated through & the tomatoes are soft – set it aside on low heat.

Cook your pasta.  Drain & add to the pan with the tomato caper sauce.  Increase the heat to medium & mix it all up.

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Arrange tuna chunks on top & garnish with parsley & maybe more capers or olives.  Or basil.  Eat it up like the puttana you are!

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Pepper & Sesame Crusted Seared Ahi with Spicy Mayo or Wasabi Mayo & Salad with Matsuhisa Dressing

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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 regularly, you know I burned $5 recently on a little container of micro arugula.  It is that little shamrocky looking stuff in these pictures.  I just wanted to follow up on my confession that I bought something so silly by pointing out how much mileage I am getting out of it!  It is really a pretty (and SPICY) little thing & it dresses up food spectacularly.  And it really does add flavor so – that might not be the last time I splurge on it.  So there.

There is nothing easier than this recipe.  The hardest part is finding a quality piece of fish & then ponying up the cash for it.  I got two 3/4 pound slabs at Costco recently for about $20.  That felt steep but then I saw the same fish at Gelson’s for $27 a pound so I felt better.

I felt even better when I used this stuff.  You might have already seen my pretty Sushi Tower

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which was a massive success both on the plate and in my mouth.  This seared option is also wonderful & far easier to pull off.  The two sauce options are really easy, too.  I am posting a little baby kale & arugula salad I made here, too, because it isn’t really a recipe that warrants its own post but the Matsuhisa dressing is so unbelievably delicious – I had to share it with you.  It would go well on any salad or seafood or chicken.  Crazy yummy!

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Matsuhisa Dressing

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup finely diced sweet onion

2 TBS plus 2 tsp soy sauce

2 TBS plus 1 tsp rice vinegar

2 tsp water

1/2 tsp sugar

pinch of salt

1/4 tsp powdered mustard

pinch fresh ground pepper

4 tsp grapeseed oil

4 tsp sesame oil

DIRECTIONS

Shake together.

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OK – now onto the mayo concoctions.

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Wasabi Mayo

Blend 1/3 cup mayo with 2 tsp prepared wasabi.

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Spicy Mayo

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup mayo of your choice

2 TBS sriracha

1 tsp sesame oil

DIRECTIONS

Blend together.  If you have a squeezy bottle to put it in do – because then you can make pretty designs on the plate with the mayo.

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As to the tuna, I used a mortar & pestle to grind up

1 TBS peppercorns

1 TBS white sesame seeds

1 TBS black sesame seeds

1 tsp ground pepper

It was hard to grind them.  Next time – I will just use a pepper mill for grinding the pepper & not bother grinding the sesame seeds.

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Then – simply press your ahi into the mix.

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Press the spice mix in with your hands.  Then, on a very hot grill, sear for about two minutes on each side.

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Cut it up right away to disperse the heat & to keep it from cooking more.  Dress with your mayos & serve with Wasabi Mashed Cauliflower and/or the salad with Matsuhisa dressing!  What a fabulous, light & healthy meal!

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Mashed Cauliflower with Broccoli Rabe Pesto, Seared Mushrooms & Vegan Gravy

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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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This is comfort food at its finest.  Each of these components can be used individually of the others.  The gravy can be used any way you would use gravy.  The pesto would be great over pasta, as a base on pizza or on crostini – or any other way you might be inspired to use pesto.  It is a tad bitter – as broccoli rabe is wont to be – but I think that is its appeal.  The mashed cauliflower is a genius, light substitute for mashed potatoes & even the seared mushrooms could be used in pasta or risotto, on pizza or on crostini with some lovely meltable cheese – like goat or mozzarella or a bit of a blue cheese.

The mashed cauliflower can be made vegan (though it is not here) by simply using your vegan version of heavy cream or by replacing the cream entirely with a little veggie stock & vegan butter or just the veggie stock.   Roasted garlic could be added or cheese or anything you might like to add to your traditional mashed potato recipe.  It is as customizable as its potato counterpart.

My presentation here is not as I imagined.  I wanted to present it in a more sturdy tower like my Brown Rice & Quinoa Risotto with Arrabiata & Shrimp or my No Carb & 120 Calorie Shirataki Pasta Alla Checca – seen below respectively.

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Despite trying to limit the amount of heavy cream in the recipe, thereby keeping the texture of the mashed cauliflower pretty firm, I failed & my cauliflower wasn’t resilient enough to stand upright.  It didn’t effect how delicious this side dish is, though.   You can elect to reduce the cream in it if you want a less creamy, less mushy result.  Ramekins (or narrow bowls) can be used to tier the ingredients & then just flip the cauliflower-pesto layers onto a plate & top with mushrooms & gravy.  This can be eaten alone or as a side dish with a nice piece of grilled fish or other meat.  If the entire dish overwhelms you (there are many steps but all are SUPER simple) – please try at least one of the elements – the mashed cauliflower or the pesto or the vegan gravy – on their own.

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Mashed Cauliflower with Broccoli Rabe Pesto, Seared Mushrooms & Vegan Gravy

INGREDIENTS

For the mashed cauliflower

2 heads cauliflower – boiled soft

2/3 cups (or less) heavy cream (or vegan substitute)

S&P to taste

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For the broccoli rabe pesto

1 head of broccoli rabe

1 cup pistachios (or other nut) – toasted

1 heaping cup grated Parmesan

4 garlic cloves

3/4 cup olive oil

S&P to taste

For the seared mushrooms

8 large mushrooms – sliced thin

8 garlic cloves – chopped

1 TBS Marsala (optional)

Olive oil

S&P to taste

For the vegan gravy

7 medium shallots – whole & unpeeled

10 (or to taste) garlic cloves – whole

olive oil

5 large mushrooms – sliced thin

1 tsp fresh thyme

3 TBS flour

1/2 cup Marsala (optional)

2 TBS low sodium soy sauce

3 cups vegetable stock

1/2 tsp dry sage

1 tsp Dijon mustard

S&P to taste

Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

DIRECTIONS

For the mashed cauliflower

Maybe do this step LAST just before serving – so mashed cauliflower maintains its heat.  Also – skip down to the gravy recipe below & roast the shallots & garlic first so they are ready when you need them.

Boil the cauliflower until very tender.  Puree in a food processor with heavy cream and S&P.

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For the broccoli rabe pesto

Toast the pistachios in a dry pan, being careful not to burn them, until just fragrant.  Set aside.

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Trim the rough stems from the broccoli rabe & immerse in boiling water for 3-5 minutes – until tender.  Drain & rinse in cold water.  Squeeze out all the excess fluid.

In a food processor, pulse the cheese & garlic & nuts until they are a fine dice.  Then simply add the rest of the ingredients & pulse until pureed.  If it is too thick – add a small amount of water (or more olive oil).  Set aside.

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For the seared mushrooms

Heat 1-2 TBS olive oil in a saute pan.  Add the mushrooms & garlic (and 1/2 tsp salt) & stir over high heat until the mushrooms begin to brown.  Add the Marsala (if using) & cook it off.  Add S&P, remove from heat  & set aside.

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For the vegan gravy

Toss the unpeeled shallots & whole garlic cloves in 1 tsp olive oil & wrap in foil.  Roast in an oven heated to 350 for 45 minutes.  Remove from heat & allow to cool.  When cool enough to handle, squeeze the shallots out of their skins into a food processor.  Add the garlic & puree until smooth.  Set aside.

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In the same pan you used for the seared mushrooms, heat another 2 TBS olive oil & heat the mushrooms & thyme & cook over high heat for about 5 minutes.  Add the flour & stir to coat.  Add the Marsala (if using) & cook it off & then add the stock 1/2 cup at a time, allowing the gravy to thicken a bit after each addition.  When all the stock is incorporated, add the pureed shallots & garlic, soy sauce, sage, Dijon and S&P to taste.  Allow to simmer about 15 minutes.

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To assemble, either use a culinary ring like THIS or use a ramekin or narrow bowl.  Simply layer some mashed cauliflower, then some pesto & then more cauliflower & flip onto a plate.  Top with seared mushrooms & gravy & some chopped parsley serve.

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