Roasted Cauliflower, Spinach, and Orzo Salad

This isn’t just a salad. It’s got leafy green spinach, yes. But it’s also pasta (orzo!) and roasted cauliflower, tangy feta, and tart dried cherries, all tossed in a honey lemon vinaigrette. It’s awesome. I’ve made it twice this month now because all of us (husband, baby, ALL of us) loved it so.

I tried French feta for the first time in this recipe and really recommend it. It’s creamier and a bit less pungent than Greek feta- keeps it from overwhelming the other ingredients. If you use Greek feta I would reduce the amount a bit. This so-much-more-than-a-salad will be my go-to for parties and bbq’s this summer. It’s easy to tote around, tastes great warm or cold or at room temperature, and keeps well for a few days in the fridge.

Roasted Cauliflower, Spinach, and Orzo Salad

INGREDIENTS

Salad:
1 medium head cauliflower, broken into small florets
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup orzo pasta (I use whole wheat orzo)
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (I use Valbreso French feta for a milder flavor, if using Greek feta I would reduce to 1/2 cup)
2/3 cup dried cherries
4 cups baby spinach

Dressing:
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. In a bowl, toss the cauliflower with 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil, the garlic, salt, and pepper. Spread on a large baking sheet and roast until tender and cauliflower is slightly charred, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, in a pot of salted boiling water, cook the orzo until al dente. Drain in colander, rinse under cold water, drain well, and toss with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.

4. In a large bowl, make the dressing. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, mustard, salt, and pepper. Add the cooked orzo, roasted cauliflower, red onion, crumbled feta cheese, and dried cherries. Toss until well coated with the dressing. Add the spinach and toss one more time. Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if desired. Serve.

(Adapted from Cravings)

By in Pasta, Salad ·

Orzo with Peas and Parmesan

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This pasta with peas is the perfect quick dinner to please a kid (or anyone, most likely) or effortless side dish with meatballs or fish or panko crusted chicken. We all love it and it’s simply made with ingredients I usually have on hand. Orzo pasta (they look like little grains or rice) shouldn’t be hard to find at most grocery stores now. I buy this whole wheat version at Whole Foods.

Other favorite orzo recipes… Baked Shrimp with Feta and Orzo, Italian Sausage, Vegetable, and Orzo Soup, and Greek Orzo Salad.

Orzo with Peas and Parmesan

INGREDIENTS

2 Tbsp. butter
1 small onion, minced
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 ¼ cups orzo (I use whole wheat)
2 1/2 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or Pecorino Romano)
2 Tbsp. fresh minced parsley or basil (or 1-2 tsp. dried)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
lemon wedges, for serving (optional)

DIRECTIONS

1. Melt the butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and salt and cook, stirring often, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the orzo and cook, stirring often, until most of the grains are golden, about 5 minutes. Carefully stir in the broth and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally until all of the liquid has been absorbed and the orzo is tender, 10 to 12 minutes (slightly longer for whole wheat pasta). (Be careful not to cook at too high of heat at this point because the liquid will evaporate instead of cook the orzo and you’ll be left with undercooked pasta.)

2. Reduce the heat and stir in the peas, Parmesan, and parsley and let sit until the peas are warmed through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and crushed red pepper flakes to taste and serve with the lemon wedges (optional).

Serves 4-6, as a side dish.

(Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)

By in Italian, Pasta ·

Roasted Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

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It’s actually been months since I made this mac and cheese. I had to dig through my photos, way past Christmas, to find these pictures. But I never forgot about it because it’s definitely worth repeating. The original recipe just uses steamed cauliflower but I love Love LOVE roasted cauliflower and knew it would only improve things, so I went with it. And it was amazing.

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Now for your options. (Because cooking is much more fun when you get creative!) Change up the cheese… I’m imagining some smoked Gouda in place of the Gruyere. Monterey Jack (or Pepper Jack) are ultra creamy so they always work. Pecorino instead of Parm, etc. And you could surely add crumbled bacon or diced ham, roasted or steamed broccoli instead of cauliflower. A different but similar sized pasta. All good ideas.

Roasted Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

INGREDIENTS

2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided + extra for roasting
1/3 cup Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 cup elbows pasta (I used whole wheat)
1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup + milk (2% or whole recommended)
pinch crushed red pepper
3/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (or smoked Gouda, etc.)
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray. Place cauliflower on the baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil (enough to lightly coat), sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and toss. Arrange in a single layer. Roast in preheated oven for about 25 minutes, turning occasionally, until the cauliflower is tender and browned. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. If you will be baking the pasta immediately, reduce oven temperature to 375 F.

2. Lightly coat an 8 or 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

3. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add Panko and cook, stirring, until browned and toasted, about 3 minutes. Stir in parsley; set aside.

4. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.

5. While the pasta is cooking, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil in the skillet you used for the breadcrumbs. Add the garlic and onion, and cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft. Stir in pasta, roasted cauliflower, sour cream, milk and cheeses, a handful at a time, until smooth; season with salt and pepper and crushed red pepper flakes, to taste. Add more milk as needed until desired consistency is reached.

6. Spread pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the panko breadcrumbs. Bake in preheated 375 F oven until bubbly, 15-20 minutes (if the pasta is refrigerated first it will take slightly longer to bake).

Makes a 8 or 9-inch square pan.

(Adapted from Damn Delicious)

By in Pasta ·

Smoked Gouda Pasta Salad

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This was my attempt at recreating Whole Food’s smoked mozzarella pasta salad which is spicy and delicious, but thick and heavy and obviously not the healthiest. Whether or not you have tried and love theirs, I think you’ll like this. It’s lighter (even using whole wheat pasta) but just as addictive. Two ingredients make all the difference: smoked cheese (I used Gouda but smoked mozzarella also works) and chipotle in adobo. The chipotle peppers add even more smokiness and some unexpected zip. (I love chipotle in adobo. I use it all the time. Buy a jar and freeze what you don’t use. It lasts for months and months that way.) There’s also a touch of honey for sweetness, fresh parsley or basil, roasted red peppers (or artichokes or tomatoes or all of the above- why not?), freshly grated Parmesan, garlic… I could go on.

You could probably get away with swapping half of the mayo for Greek Yogurt. If you do, let me know the result. The olive oil is optional, but it helps to smooth the salad out. I let mine sit in the fridge for a few hours and then just before the BBQ I pulled it out and tossed it with a tablespoon or two of oil. Serve with something hot off the grill and your summer meal is complete.

Smoked Gouda Pasta Salad

INGREDIENTS

12 oz. penne or gemelli pasta (I used whole wheat)
2 cups baby spinach, chopped
12 oz. jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped (or artichoke hearts and/or fresh cherry tomatoes, halved)
6-8 oz. smoked Gouda or smoked mozzarella, cubed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup fresh parsley (or basil), chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. honey
1 Tbsp. chipotle in adobo, minced (about 1 pepper)
~1 tsp. kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil

 DIRECTIONS

1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water according to package directions. Place the spinach in a large bowl. Drain the pasta and pour the hot pasta over top of the spinach. Toss with the spinach and allow the steam from the pasta to wilt the spinach. Set aside to cool.

2. To make the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, garlic, honey, chipotle in adobo, 1 tsp. kosher salt, and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.

3. Once the pasta has cooled, stir in the roasted red peppers, cheese, and herbs. Pour the dressing over top and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve. Add 1-2 Tbsp.  olive oil to loosen pasta, if necessary. (I added about 1 Tbsp. after it had been refrigerated several hours.)

Serves 6-8.

(Adapted from here and here.)

By in Pasta, Vegetarian ·

Whole Wheat Pearl Couscous with Cherries and Arugula

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… and toasted walnuts, celery, shallots, orange juice/zest, and smoked gouda. Sound spectacular? I thought it was. Spell check keeps telling me that I’m supposed to capitalize Gouda. Is cheese suddenly a proper noun? Hold on.

Just did some research: Apparently, when cheese is named after a place there is controversy over whether it should be capitalized. Such a complicated world. I’ll give deference to Gouda from now on.

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P.S. If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m not an English major or altogether very good at grammar. I try. But I am grateful when you point out big mistakes, particularly any that might being confusing to a recipe.

Anyway, I can cook a few things and that’s what is most important here. I made this salad for lunch today and it motivated me to get back on here and share. Pearl couscous (also known as Israeli) is dreamy. It’s actually a mini pasta ball but I like it so much better than most pastas. Cuteness might be a factor. If you don’t have everything on hand for this salad, I’m sure it would still be wonderful with some improvisation. Another dried fruit or toasted nut, red onion instead of shallot, red pepper or carrot in place of the celery. Whatever. Just be warned that cleaning up couscous that has been enjoyed by a toddler is no fun at all.

Whole Wheat Pearl Couscous with Cherries and Arugula

INGREDIENTS

8 oz. pearl couscous (whole wheat if you can find it), cooked according to package directions
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice + orange zest, to taste
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. honey or maple syrup
2/3 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2-3 oz. baby arugula (I used spring mix with arugula), finely chopped
2 oz. smoked gouda or sharp white cheddar, shaved or grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

1. Cook couscous according to package directions. When done, spread on a large baking sheet to cool and set aside.

2. While the couscous is cooking, combine the orange juice, oil, vinegar, and honey or maple syrup in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in the cherries and remove from the heat. Lit sit about 5 minutes until the cherries are plump and soft.

3. Once the couscous has cooled to lukewarm, place it in a large bowl and pour the cherries and liquid over top. Toss to coat. Add the walnuts, celery, shallots, arugula, cheese, and a bit of orange zest to taste and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately or after refrigerating.

Serves 6.

(Adapted from theKitchn)

By in Pasta, Salad ·