CAULIFLOWER with GREEN GODDESS TAHINI

What is it about those luscious green sauces — chimichurri, pesto, green goddess? I can’t get enough. If I’m having steak, I usually hanker for chimichurri. Sliced tomatoes cry out for just a dab of fresh pesto. And Alice Waters sparked my obsession with green goddess  — for eggs, potatoes, leafy greens, even roast chicken. If you’re wondering, here are the comparative stats:

Chimichurri: parsley, garlic, shallots, chili pepper flakes, oregano, olive oil, sherry vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Pesto: basil, garlic, pine nuts, pecorino, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Green goddess: parsley, chives, tarragon, mint, garlic, mayonnaise, buttermilk, anchovies, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

I’d seen cauliflower served with tahini before, but something about serving beige on beige food goes against my deepest convictions. That’s how green goddess tahini was born. Fortunately, it also tastes pretty swell.

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CRISPY CAULIFLOWER with GREEN GODDESS TAHINI, SPICY PEANUTS & MINT  

for 5-6 generous servings:
1/2 cup of peanuts, shells removed
green goddess tahini (below)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 head of cauliflower
2 cups of canola oil*
handful of small mint leaves
lemon, for zesting
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Crush the peanuts with the bottom of a cup. Toast the peanuts until golden brown and toss them with the chili powder and paprika. Prepare the green goddess tahini (below) and set it aside.

Break the cauliflower down into small florets. Make sure the cauliflower is dry. Heat the canola oil in a high-rimmed pot until at least 350. Fry the cauliflower until nicely golden brown, avoiding crowding. Transfer to a platter lined with a paper towel. Repeat in batches until all the cauliflower is fried. *Alternatively, if you prefer not to fry the cauliflower, drizzle the florets with extra virgin olive oil and roast them on a baking sheet in a 425 degree oven until golden brown and crisp. To serve, spread some of the green goddess tahini on the bottom of a plate, spoon cauliflower over it, and finish with a sprinkling of peanuts, mint leaves, and freshly zested lemon. Season with salt and pepper.

for the green goddess tahini:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup buttermilk*
1/2 cup tahini (or more to taste)
1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh tarragon, chopped
handful of fresh mint, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2-3 anchovy filtets (optional)
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

In a blender or food processor, puree the first 10 ingredients. Add olive oil to reach the desired consistency. Finish by seasoning with salt and pepper. Cover and chill. *The mayo and buttermilk can be substituted with plain greek yogurt.

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PUMPKIN BREAD PUDDING

It’s 95 degrees outside (the hardships of life in LA) but my body knows it’s fall. Fall is essentially all about pumpkin. Pumpkin is just dandy for bread pudding. Bread pudding is for lovers. By the transitive property, fall is for lovers.

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PUMPKIN BREAD PUDDING 

for 6 servings, recipe from Gourmet:
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 yolk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
pinch of ground cloves
5 cups cubed (1-inch) crusty brioche or baguette
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Whisk together cream, pumpkin, milk, sugar, eggs, yolk, salt, and spices in a bowl. Toast the bread cubes until golden and toss with butter in another bowl, then add pumpkin mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to an ungreased 8-inch square baking dish and bake until custard is set, 25 to 30 minutes (I prefer a deep golden brown). Serve hot with ice cream.

SPANISH FRIED CHICKEN with ROMESCO AIOLI

I’m pretty sure that the people in my life are getting tired of fried chicken. Holiday with the relatives? Fried chicken. Casual Sunday family supper? Fried chicken. Bon voyage cocktail party? Fried chicken…on skewers. If you want to know, it didn’t happen all at once. It never does.

I blame the first stage on Thomas Keller’s justifiably lauded recipe from Ad Hoc, his Lemon-Brined Buttermilk Fried Chicken, with which I shared a heated romance. I honestly thought it’d last – but no. “I’m sorry Mr. Alpenglow,” the note on a greasy napkin read, “but things are getting stale. We should go our own ways.”

The second stage was basically an experiment with Curry Fried Chicken. I’d marinate the chicken in wet curry, dip it in dry curry-seasoned flour, into buttermilk, then the curry-seasoned flour again. Then I’d do it again and again, each time with one slight variation. This got good reviews.

With this recipe, I sense that a third stage has dawned upon us all. Since fried chicken obviously isn’t indulgent enough, this stage had to be positively sybaritic. It’s an orgy of peppers. Three peppers go into the flour: smoked paprika, Aleppo pepper, and chili powder. It’s drizzled with cumin chili butter and served with an intoxicating Romesco aioli made with roasted red peppers, almonds, and garlic. At this point, there’s no use reasoning. You either get it or you don’t.

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SPANISH FRIED CHICKEN with ROMESCO AIOLI & CHILE BUTTER

for the fried chicken, recipe by Suzanne Goin of AOC in Los Angeles:
3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thigh, cut into strips
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoons Aleppo pepper
1 teaspoon toasted ground cumin
½ teaspoon toasted ground coriander
3 cloves of pounded garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cayenne
2 additional tablespoons smoked paprika
2-3 quarts canola oil for frying

Marinate the chicken for 3 hours with the paprika, Aleppo pepper, cumin, coriander, garlic, salt, and pepper. Then pour the buttermilk over the chicken and let this chill for 3 hours. (If you don’t have time, feel free to cut out the waiting time) Stir together the flour, cayenne, and additional paprika. Dredge the chicken in the spiced flour. Heat the oil in a heavy deep pot (leaving 5-6 inches at the top) to 350 degrees over medium heat. Shake excess flour from the chicken and gently drop them into the ho oil. Cook the chicken until golden brown, about 3 minutes, and drain on paper towels. If they are browning too quickly, remove them from the oil and reduce heat, or finish cooking them through in a 350 degree oven. Drain the chicken on paper towels. Serve immediately with romesco aioli and sizzling chile butter (optional).

for the Romesco aioli, recipe by Mario Batali:
6 egg yolks
3 cloves garlic, peeled
a pinch of red chili flakes
1/3 cup of slivered almonds
4 jarred roasted red peppers
a squeeze of lemon juice
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup olive oil
¼ cup reserved bacon fat (optional)

Combine all the ingredients except the oil and fat in a food processor until smooth. With the food processor running, slowly add the oil and fat.

for the chile butter:
1/2 stick of unsalted butter, melted
chili powder to taste

Heat the chile powder and butter on a medium flave or microwave until bubbling. Mix well before drizzling over the chicken.