Sophisticated Savories

Sophisticated Savories

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cauliflower Pizza? Umm...

Healthy Cauliflower-Crusted Pizza - sb style

Pizza.  You’re Un-American if you do not love it… right?  And no wonder the US is struggling with obesity… pizza is offered everywhere you turn – fast food, chains, mom-and-pop restaurants, frozen at grocery stores… whenever you heart desires pizza, you can be sure to fix that craving within the hour.

Except it’s not exactly “healthy.”  Right?  Now in moderation, enjoy a slice or two.  But on a daily consumption, your arteries will clog, you will gain weight and that heavy, lethargic feeling will decrease your energy level.  Just stating the facts, folks.

I have several friends who are on weight-loss challenges… yet have a craving for pizza from time to time.  Again, while I encourage a “cheat day” once a week (enjoy that cheese, ladies!), I kept thinking to myself that there had to be an alternative… a healthy route towards pizza. 

Since I am a huge fan of vegetables, I love to experiment and transform them in the kitchen.  Cauliflower never has too much of a flavor when enjoyed raw… why not turn it into a crust?

Cauliflower Comes in a Multitude of Colors
The following recipe is encouraged for those who are gluten-free or on a weight-loss plan.  A healthy alternative to pizza which actually tastes pretty darn good (I was pleasantly surprised).  Remember, the more herbs added to the crust, the more flavorful the pizza will become!   Try it… I dare you…

1/2 LARGE head cauliflower (or 2+ cups shredded cauliflower)
2 egg whites
1 cup finely shredded fat-free cheddar cheese – other cheeses are acceptable (feta, mozzarella, parmesan)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried minced garlic (or fresh garlic)
1/2 teaspoon onion salt
(May also add in Cayenne Pepper, Italian seasoning/herbs, etc.)

½ c. Marinara sauce/pizza sauce/Stewed tomatoes.  You may also forgo the sauce and simply dice tomatoes with a hint of olive oil, sea salt and cayenne. 
½ c. Fat-free cheddar cheese (or desired cheese)
Cooked chicken/turkey/sausage/pepperoni/steak/bacon – whatever protein you desire, make sure to chop it small (and already cooked, as this phase of cooking is simply to warm the toppings and help the cheese).
Vegetables – anything your little heart desires.  The more the merrier.  Choose vibrant colors and dice small.  The small the cut, the faster it will cook (the sooner you may enjoy!)
Heirloom Tomatoes Make For a Flavorful Marinade Sauce
As a Pizza Topping (and they look gorgeous!)
Herbs – fresh or dry
Fruits – often, pineapple is tossed onto pizza… nice sweet/savory combination
Jalapenos – sometime you have to spice it up a little.  And by “sometimes,” I very much mean “all of the time.”  Why not?


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Using a food processor, finely chop raw cauliflower into small crumbles of florets (not quite a puree).  You may also use a cheese-grater to grate the cauliflower, if you so choose.  The intended amount of chopped cauliflower should yield about 2 cups (from ½ large cauliflower).  Bring a large pot of water to a boil and drop chopped cauliflower in boil water – only for 2 minutes.  The intention is to soften the cauliflower, without turning into mush.  After 2 minutes, remove the cauliflower  (using a strainer) and transfer cauliflower into ice water.  The ice water immediately halts the cooking process for the vegetable.  After the icy-shock bath, place cauliflower on paper towels, in order to dry and cool.

Pre-Made Balsamic Vinaigrette
In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients together.  Cut a piece of parchment paper and lay on baking sheet. Lightly spray with non-stick spray.  Form the “crumbled crust” into a circle (about 10-inch round).  Spray the crust lightly with non-stick spray and bake until golden brown (about 12-15 minutes).  Remove crust from oven.  Switch oven setting to that of a broiler.

Add sauce/tomatoes to pizza, leaving a ½” border from the edge.  Load with toppings and stick in oven.  Since the broiler radiates immense amounts of heat, the pizza will only need a few minutes to cook.  After about 2-3 minutes, remove the pizza (toppings should be warm and cheese melted).  Since ever single oven is different, keep a close eye on the pizza as it bakes… you do not want to throw away your hard work over a burned pizza!

Cut into shapes and allow your artistic side to flourish.  White plates are best, as they allow the vibrant colors to put.  Personally, I love reduced balsamic vinaigrette… so I will often draw designs with the reduced sauce.

Most importantly, share with those that you love and enjoy!

All my love from Dallas, y’all,

Friday, June 15, 2012

Eat Beets. Tweet. Neat.

Thin-sliced Roasted Beets, Beets Coulis, Celeriac
Puree, Baby Yellow Carrots and Sesame-Seed
Crusted Ahi Tuna

“Mama say that happiness is from magic rays of sunshine that come down when you’re feeling blue” -Bobby Boucher.  Whilst my Mother was not perfect either (although I’ll tell you… pretty darn near close!), she most certainly was correct in encouraging the family to “eat their vegetables” when my brothers and I were growing up.  While some of the dishes may have been… questionable (one my brothers and I dubbed, “dud-muffin…”) they were always fresh, healthy and bursting with flavors.  My brothers, my dad and I were incredibly blessed in enjoying light, fresh home-cooked meals daily.

One vegetable that I was not particularly fond of as a child, although grew to absolutely adore?  Beets.  I know.  But before you roll your eyes and stop reading, I’m not asking you to eat canned beets.  Shoot, I would throw in the towel as well if served tinny-flavored, unseasoned purple drops of goo.  But have you ever tried oven-roasted, farm-grown beets?  After reading the health benefits and trying the recipes, you can be sure you will be asking for seconds.  As beets truly are an acquired tastes, most children do not reach for the sweet vegetables.  However, as one develops his or her own palate, beets become an enjoyed vegetables, as opposed to an “I-have-to-eat-this-because-it-is-healthy.”

Beets Grow in a Variety of Colors: Purple, Gold, Pink, etc.
That being said, beets are packed full of a plethora of vitamins and minerals, as well as contain betaine.  Betaine is actually the same substance that is used in certain treatments of depression.  Trytophan is also common amongst beets – relaxing your mind and creating a sense of peace/well-being in your body (similar to a small amount of dark chocolate).  Beets are a high source of energy since they are low in calorie count, but high in sugar.  “High in sugar” does not exactly sound healthy… does it?  Unlike processed sugars, beet sugar is actually released into your system gradually… preventing sugar rushes which in turn lead to blood level crashes (causing me to burst into tears when I had eaten too much sugar as a child… ahh, the pains of hypoglycemia!) 

Two more interesting facts… Beets are actually used as a stomach acid tester.  If you consume a large amount of the vegetable, then your urine actually turns pink.  I know, weird.  But this is an indication that you have a low stomach acid.  If it is still clear, then begin adding more beets into your daily diet.  Nutritionists often turn towards beets and beet juice in order to test stomach acid levels.  Finally, one of the first known uses of beets were by the Romans who used them medically as aphrodisiacs.  Beets contain a high level of boron.  We’ll leave it at that.

Oven Roasted Beets in Aluminum Foil
Basic Roasted Beets
Preheat oven to 400°F and place aluminum foil on the bottom of a large roasting pan. Toss the beets (you do not need to peel) with sea salt, olive oil (or almond/walnut oil), ½ lemon juice, a light dusting of cayenne pepper (a SMALL amount, as cayenne has an intense kick of heat!), and dried herbs (depending on the other foods that will be on your plate… compliment with Herbs de Provence, Oregano, Italian Seasoning, Parsley, Basil, Rosemary, etc.  Cover the beets with another sheet of aluminum and allow to roast for 1-2 hours, depending on the size and age of the beet.  After one hour, test each beet to determine if finished roasting: simply poke a knife into skin of the beet.  If the knife glides into the beet easily, it is tender and cooked.  If not, allow to continue to cook until finished.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.  While the beets are still slightly warm, begin to peel away the skin (if they become too cool, the skin is much harder to remove).  Cut the beets into quarters, small dices, paper-thin slices (mandolin)… be creative when plating beets, as the colors are vibrant and shapes are easy to cut away from the tender vegetables.  Use them to your advantage to prepare impressive presentations.  Do not forget… it’s edible art.

Beet Coulis - in Blender

One of my favorite, simple recipes is Beet Coulis:
After roasting beets, place 4 large beets in a blender and begin to mix.  Slowly drizzle in Extra Virgin Olive Oil until the consistency of the mixture is smooth, clump-free.  Season with lemon juice (1/2 lemon), salt to taste and a small pinch of cayenne pepper.  Pour into a squeeze bottle and refrigerate.  Remember, sauces are another huge asset when plating.  They provide brilliant colors and impressive designs on your white plate that allow the food to “pop.”  Beet coulis is often served with toasted baguettes,  roasted goat cheese, herbs and nuts.

So how is that information to expand your growing medulla oblongata.  

All my love from Dallas, y’all,

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Crunchy Vegetables...

Halibut with Yellow and Orange Baby Carrots,  Cucumber,
Radishes, Turmeric, Mango Chutney, Fennel, Edible
Fowers, Chives and Love

Halibut is an exceptional white fish to prepare due to its buttery texture and thick filets.  One of my favorite aspects to cooking, besides sharing with those whom you love, is the artistic presentation.  We eat with our eyes first.  When an impressive plate is presented, one certainly hopes that the taste compliments the presentation.

When sustaining your body with nutritious fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, seeds, beans, nuts and whole grains, one exudes more focus, confidence and overall health.  Not only does your body benefit, but the arrays and spectrum of colors from the fruits and vegetables transform plates from healthy meals into works of art.  And presentation only improves with practice and experience.

One of my favorite dishes that I prepared in Paris consisted of halibut, baby carrots, radishes, cucumbers, zucchini, mango chutney and lemon vinaigrette.  Simple ingredients.  Stellar presentation. 

Hotel de Crillon - Paris, France
Cooking fish is not complicated.  Really.  I remember beginning as a novice and being absolutely terrified of cooking fish… I was scared that I would fail!  However, with more and more experience, I gained confidence.  Slowly I began to walk with a little swagga in the kitchen.  Ok, not at all.  But I did cook with a sense of determination.  I knew how to execute.  And how to execute well.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  If you are watching calories, then spray the inside of a pan with non-stick spray.  Squeeze lemon juice on both sides of the fish, as well as salt and a small pinch of cayenne pepper (a little amount goes a very long way).  Also dust the halibut with spice Turmeric.  Allow the fish to cook in the oven until the fish begins to “flake.”  This occurs when you can see with the naked eye, the different layers of fibers pulling apart on the fish.  The halibut is finished cooking when it is no longer translucent, but a beautiful pearl-white.  Remember, one can always remove the fish just before it is completely finished cooking, since the fish continues to cook when removed from oven.  By the time it reaches the table to be served, the temperature should be perfect.

Walnut Oil - Adds a Beautiful Underlying Nutty Flavor
When searing on the stove top, drizzle enough oil to cover the top of the sauté pan.  I prefer walnut or almond oil, as opposed to olive oil, because these oils impose a beautiful nutty richness to the halibut.  Whist olive oil is a great option, I personally believe that the EVOO is a little too overpowering for such a light fish.  Wait until a small amount of smoke begins to rise from the hot oil.  At this point, the “smoking point,” add the halibut filet (skin-side facing up).  This allows for the fish to develop a beautiful sear on the top of the filet.  Flip after about two minutes and allow to cook on the skin-side for an additional two minutes.  After searing, place the fish in the oven in order to finish the cooking and to completion (the heat in the oven penetrates the fish to cook the interior fibers.)  Again, the fish will be finished when it begins to flake and it is no longer translucent.

It’s as easy as pie.  Or… fish?

Colorful Baby Carrots
As for the color.  Any types of vegetables and fruits are appropriate.  I purchased both yellow and orange baby carrots and steamed them for the meal.  Steaming vegetables, as opposed to blanching (essentially boiling in water), retains more of the vitamins in produce.  Carrots are ready to be served when a knife can cut through the surface with ease (though not too much ease… an “al dente” crunch is perfect… otherwise, the vegetables become soggy.  When I was in Paris, my chefs would remind me, with a twinkle in their eyes, that “French men prefer their vegetables to be slightly crunchy… not mushy.”  So ladies, while they say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, also remember to prepare your veggies al dente (“to the bite”). 

Just saying.

In order to prepare the cucumber, I used a seedless cucumber and peeler.  I simply peeled long and thin “ribbons” of cucumber.  Since the “cucumber noodles” were so thin, I simply rolled them into cylinders.  Beautiful and unique ways to present a cucumber.  Betcha never thought of that now… did ya?

Using a mandolin, CAREFULY slice thin layers of radishes.  The stunning magenta ring around the translucent clear radish adds a delicate touch to the dish. 

Mango chutney?  Instead of sautéing mango in butter and sugar, I simply mixed the following ingredients together:

1 mango – Diced into small cubes
1 Tbsp. Cilantro tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp. Minced Ginger
1 Tbsp. Coconut (unsweet and flaked)
1 tsp. Salt
1/8 tsp. Cayenne Pepper

Lemon Vinaigrette:
½ c. Almond Oil
3 Tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp Minced Shallots
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon Mustard
1/2 teaspoon Lemon Peel

Blend all ingredients together in a blender.

Lemon Peel
Outcome?  Gorgeous, healthy food that is low in fat, yet satisfying and delicious!  In order to assemble, I simply lined my fruits, vegetables and fish up in a long line.  Finishing touches, of course, were fennel, chives, edible flowers, micro greens, turmeric and a ridiculous amount of love. 

Pure and simple.

Drizzle the dish with the lemon vinaigrette.  Saving calories?  Eliminate the vinaigrette and simply squeeze with lemon.  The citrus is a beautiful compliment to the buttery fish and tender fruits and vegetables.

Remember, the more experience that you develop in the kitchen, the easier it becomes to experiment and to develop your own creations. 

All my love from Dallas, y’all!