Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Cauliflower Risotto

Cauliflower Risotto gets a thumbs up from everyone! It's easier to make (and more delicious!) than you might think. Plus, while no risotto is "diet food", this is as close to a "low carb" and "diet risotto" as we'll get. The creamy but low-calorie cauliflower makes up so much of the volume. This is my go-to recipe for risotto! Every fall, it calls to me!

~recipe updated 2017 for a little weekend cooking inspiration~
~more recently updated recipes~

Cauliflower Risotto ♥, traditional risotto lightened up with creamy cauliflower. Rave reviews!

Not Weird, Not Complicated, Just Unfamiliar

Even adventurous home cooks return repeatedly to favorite recipes, bypassing new ones that at first seem appealing but then get dismissed as too something: insert "weird" or "complicated" or "exotic" though what we really mean is "too unfamiliar".

For years, so it’s been for risotto and me. I saved it for special occasions when someone else could man the spoon and somehow never once made it myself.

Cauliflower Risotto ♥, traditional risotto lightened up with creamy cauliflower. Rave reviews!

Have Arborio, Will Travel

No more! Since last spring, I’ve made risotto two or three times a month in four different kitchens. On trips, I tuck Arborio rice into my suitcase, just in case I get a turn at the stove.

This creamy leek and cauliflower risotto gets thumbs ups from everyone, men, women, even kids. Served with a big salad, it’s an easy and inexpensive main dish but I like to serve it on the side with grilled shrimp or steak. Risotto does take nearly constant attention, although between stirs, there’s plenty of time to make the salad, set the table and sip a glass of wine.

Cauliflower Risotto ♥, traditional risotto lightened up with creamy cauliflower. Rave reviews!

A Perfect Balance Rice:Cauliflower

I'm always tempted to double the cauliflower. But a word to the wise, just don't! Cauliflower Risotto's proportion of rice:cauliflower and even rice:cauliflower:cheese is just right!

You'll Like My Cauliflower Risotto If ...

... if you hanker for risotto but blanch when the usual rice and butter and cheese calories add up
... you love cauliflower but are less than impressed by "faux" cauliflower dishes like cauliflower rice
... and who're we kidding? bacon! bacon! bacon!


"... soooo delicious. ... I had to keep myself from gobbling the ENTIRE DISH in one sitting! " ~ ShinyLightDesigns
"... yum yum yum!" ~ Mia
"I actually made it twice this week! It is my first experience making risotto." ~ Jessica


Hands-on time: 45 minutes
Time to table: 45 minutes
Makes 4 cups, easy to double

  • Big pot of salted water
  • 1 large leek, trimmed & cleaned (see ALANNA’s TIPS)
  • 1/2 head cauliflower (about 1 pound) cored, cut in florets
  • 2-1/2 cups chicken stock (see TIPS)
  • 2 slices bacon, chopped (or 2 tablespoons bacon grease or butter)
  • 1/2 cup (90g) Arborio rice
  • Salt to taste (be generous)

  • 1/2 cup grated fresh parmesan or gruyere (from about 2 square inches)
  • Fresh herbs chopped fine - dill, oregano, rosemary, other herbs
  • Cauliflower slices, for garnish, optional

PAR-COOK (PARTIALLY COOK) THE LEEK AND CAULIFLOWER Bring the water to a boil. Drop the leek and cauliflower into the boiling water for 2 – 3 minutes, then drain. Cut the leek into half rings, the big cauliflower florets into smaller cauliflower florets.

BRING THE STOCK TO A BOIL Meanwhile, in a small pot, bring the stock to a boil, then adjust the heat to maintain a slow simmer. You want the stock to stay hot!

COOK THE BACON Meanwhile, in a large deep skillet large enough to be your risotto-cooking skillet, cook the bacon until crisp on medium heat. Lift the bacon onto a plate to cool, leaving the bacon fat in skillet.

FINALLY, LET'S MAKE RISOTTO! Stir the leek and cauliflower into the bacon fat, let cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the rice, turning it several times to coat with fat.

STIR.STIR.STIR. First trick! From here on, you'll need to stir almost continuously, that means "without interruption" so no leaving the stove, okay? Use a wooden spoon or a spatula, it's fine to stir slowly, you just don't want the rice or cauliflower to stick to the bottom of the skillet.

SLOWLY.SLOWLY.SLOWLY. Second trick! Add the hot stock to the rice, but slowly, only a half cup at a time. Stir in each half cup, letting the rice absorb that liquid, before adding another half cup. As the mixture cooks, use the spoon to break the cauliflower into smaller and smaller pieces, it'll become almost invisible. Take your time during this step, relax, sip a little wine, just enjoy the moment in the kitchen. But stir!

SALT.SALT.SALT. Third trick! Before adding each new half cup of stock, take a little taste, add a little salt to taste. Especially if you use homemade chicken stock, you'll add quite a bit. Remember, you're seasoning the rice, the cauliflower and the stock, it's okay to be generous!

WHEN IS THE RISOTTO DONE? The risotto is done when the rice is tender and creamy looking. And of course? When it tastes good, to YOU, when the texture is right for YOU.

FINISH, SEASON, GARNISH, SERVE & SAVOR Stir in the cheese, cooked bacon and herbs, then taste and adjust the seasoning one last time. Garnish and serve while hot!

VARIATIONS This is my go-to recipe for risotto! I've made it with all kinds of vegetables but cauliflower remains the favorite. For a vegetarian version, use olive oil or butter instead of bacon, then for broth, use vegetable stock or Homemade Vegetable Bouillon.

LEFTOVERS Cauliflower Risotto reheats just beautifully. My sister has taught me to tuck spoonfuls of warm leftover risotto into spinach leaves for small lunch-time wraps. So good!

ALANNA's TIPS To clean and trim a leek, wash well, then slice off the root and dark green leaves. Halve bulb lengthwise, then separate the layers slightly and rinse under running water. Inside the remaining dark leaves, find a slender piece of additional light-green leek, so cook this too. (Need more information? See the photo illustrations, how to clean leeks.) No leeks? No problem. Just use half an onion cut into large pieces. When it's available, I'll choose pancetta over bacon, just leave the bits in the pan while the risotto cooks. I'm quite happy with Trader Joe's pancetta. Risotto traditionalists insist on rich homemade chicken stock (around here that nearly always means my No-Big-Deal Homemade Chicken Stock) and yes, risotto’s extra delicious that way. But I’m also quite happy when the stock starts with a good condensed base such as Better Than Bouillon or even a good powdered bouillon.

NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Cup: 249 Calories; 10g Tot Fat; 4g Sat Fat; 20mg Cholesterol; 464mg Sodium; 29g Carb; 4g Fiber; 4g Sugar; 11g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 6 & PointsPlus 6 & SmartPoints 8 CALORIE COUNTERS 6 tablespoons = 100-calorie serving (4g protein).

More Cauliflower Recipes

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Quick Cauliflower (or Broccoli) Soup Cauliflower Salad with Fresh Herbs Stuffed Mushrooms with Cauliflower & Smoked Gouda
Savory Cauliflower Cake Spiced Chicken with Cauliflower Tagine Roasted Veggie Enchilada Casserole
from Kitchen Parade

Cauliflower Spanish Rice
Whole Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce
Cauliflower Mac 'n' Cheese
~ more cauliflower recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture, my food blog about vegetables

More Rice Recipes

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Julia Child's Soubise (Onion & Rice Casserole) Red Rice with Tomatoes Afghan Chicken & Rice Casserole (Kabeli Palau)
~ more rice recipes ~

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Spiced Honey Cake

The Recipe: A simple honey-sweetened loaf cake (or a Bundt cake, your choice) rich with warm fall- and cold-weather spices. Is it perfect for Rosh Hashanah? Maybe. But you'll not find me saying so.

The Conversation: Are spices your sprinkles? Me too!

Spiced Honey Cake ♥

No Cultural Appropriation Here

Back in high school, I immersed myself into the mesmerizing world of Chaim Potok's My Name Is Asher Lev. Back in August, I attended my first bat mitzvah, a moving ceremony and right of passage in the Jewish faith.

But honestly? That's the sum total of my personal experience with the faith, culture and and tradition of Judaism, including Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year (celebrated this past weekend) where honey cakes symbolize the hope that the coming year will bring much sweetness – you know, like black-eyed peas and greens are eaten in the American South as the calendar turns from one year to the next.

(Hmmm. Honey versus dried beans and bitter greens. I wonder which attracts more fans. But I digress ... )

So you'll understand my hesitancy to presume that this cake would be "perfect" for Rosh Hashanah. The tradition is not mine to own.

Spiced Honey Cake (as a Bundt cake) ♥

But We L-O-V-E This Simple Cake!

Just before supper on Friday, I quick-quick mixed the batter for the umpteenth time in a couple of years. Spiced Honey Cake definitely belongs in that special very last-minute recipe category that my late mother called "Desserts for When Supper Is a Little Skimpy". I keep a special tab in my recipe box, titled just that!

Some times, I make a half-size Bundt cake but mostly I make a simple loaf in a pan from King Arthur that's called a "Danish loaf pan" – a wonderful pan, sadly, that's no longer available and every time I write about it, I check to see if a good substitute has popped up elsewhere. So far, no luck, but the good news is that the batter volume for Spiced Honey Cake fills a standard loaf pan, the one you use for banana bread and other quick breads.

Now know this. Each cake, each loaf, I am tempted to throw something extra into the batter, you know, to jazz it up a little. Tiny bits of crystallized ginger. Or softened dates. Or golden raisins. Or soft coconut. But each time I resist temptation and am glad of it.

Spices for Spiced Honey Cake ♥

You See, Spices Are My Sprinkles

The beauty of this cake is in its simplicity, not just in the making but in the eating. The collection of spices – cinnamon, cardamon, ginger, cloves and allspice – makes it more poetic than plain; the honey – a good measure – more flowery than fussy.

Who needs sprinkles, really, when we have spices? So many recipes, these-a-days, seem to be all Instagram-bound, so much more-more-more stacked atop evenmore-evenmore-evenmore.

Instead, this cake is "spare" in looks but "wondrous" in enjoyment.

Spiced Honey Cake with ice cream ♥

To Learn More?

The Meaning Behind the Symbolic Foods of Rosh Hashanah from Delish
The Spiritual Meaning Of The Food On Your Rosh Hashanah Table from Huffington Post
Honey in Jewish Law, Lore, Tradition, and More from

You'll Like My Spiced Honey Cake If ...

... you're prone to baking on a whim
... you're inspired by simple recipes calling for common pantry ingredients
... you're loathe to haul out the mixer just to make a simple cake
... you appreciate the flexibility of one recipe = loaf pan or Bundt cake
... you like to nibble on cake over a few days, a thin slice at a time
... spices are your sprinkles :-)


"I don't know if this is bread or cake but it's very, very good." ~ my 91-year old father
Add yours, leave a comment, below!


Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time to table: 60 minutes
Makes 1 quick loaf (the size of banana bread or pumpkin bread, say) or a half-size bundt cake; double recipe for a regular-size bundt cake)

  • 1/2 cup (112g) vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs (use 3 if doubling the recipe)
  • 1/2 cup (168g) warm honey
  • 1/2 cup (100g) hot coffee
  • Zest of an orange
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons liqueur (orange or even coffee liqueur; sherry and masala are also wonderful; a good bourbon? yes I think so!)

  • 3/4 cup (150g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50g) dark brown sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups flour fluffed to aerate before measuring or 220g
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cardamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice

MIX Heat oven to 350F/180C and place a baking sheet, upside down, on the center rack. Spray a loaf pan thoroughly with baking spray or is using a Bundt pan, Baker's Joy spray.

In a large bowl, use a wire whisk to combine the oil and eggs, then whisk in honey, coffee, orange zest, orange juice and liqueur.

In a small bowl, stir together the sugars, smashing any brown sugar lumps with the back of a heavy spoon. Stir in flour, leavening, salt and spices, stir to combine well.

Stir the sugar-flour mixture into the wet mixture just until combined. Turn into prepared pan.

BAKE Bake for 30 minutes (for a loaf pan) or 45 minutes (a half Bundt pan) or 60 minutes (a full-size Bundt pan). Test for doneness, then if needed, continue baking 5 minutes at a time until done.

COOL Let cake cool on a rack for 10 - 15 minutes (any longer and the cake will become difficult to remove), then run a thin knife along the inside walls of the loaf pan. To release the loaf or cake from the pan, place a baking rack on top of the pan. With one hand, hold the baking rack against the baking pan; then with the other hand, together carefully turn over the baking rack and baking pan. If the cake doesn't release right away, gently lift the pan off the baking rack by an inch or two, then gently whack the pan (sorry, I know "gently whack" is an oxymoron, the action is part strength and half gentleness) onto the rack, once, maybe twice. If that doesn't work, run the knife around the inner side of the pan again and repeat the process.

TO SERVE Slice thin and enjoy, a tiny biteful at a time, tasting the honey, trying to discern each of the individual spices. Or? If you're the men in my household? Top a slice or two with a scoop of vanilla ice cream! For breakfast this week, my husband actually warmed slices of Spiced Honey Cake in butter in a skillet, akin to our usually savory house-staple Fried Bread. No toaster in this house!

MAKE-AHEAD TIPS This cake keeps for a good week and in fact, may well improve over a few days.

VARIATIONS I've used several spice combos but the one listed here is my favorite. Nutmeg also is a good substitute.

ALANNA's TIPS Have you ever cooked with vegetable oil and found that the results, were, well, kinda stinky? Me too! I've learned that vegetable oil, once it's opened, is just not shelf stable! I buy only the smallest bottle and even then, keep an extra bottle or two on hand in case what's opened has turned. How do you know? Just give the oil in the bottle a sniff. If it smells fresh? You're fine. If it doesn't smell fresh? Get rid of it. No orange to squeeze on hand? No problem. I don't always, either. But I do keep a container of frozen orange juice concentrate in the freezer, ready to dole out a tablespoon or two at a time. For this cake, I use 2 tablespoons to substitute for the zest and fresh juice. All you Bundt cake bakers probably know this but if you want a cake to release cleanly from a Bundt pan, Bakers Joy is a cake-saver. In fact, I leave myself a reminder note in both my Bundt pans! For a year now, I've baked pies on a hot baking sheet, in fact, one has become an almost permanent fixture in my baking oven. The direct heat source helps cakes and pies bake more evenly, including the bottom. One cake, I sprinkled raw sugar on top of the loaf before baking; too bad, this didn't product the sparkly, crackly top I'd hoped for. You needn't bother!

NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Slice, assumes 12 slices: 281 Calories; 9g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 35mg Cholesterol; 183mg Sodium; 45g Carb; 1g Fiber; 30g Sugar; 3g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 6 & PointsPlus 8 & SmartPoints 12 CALORIE COUNTERS 100-calorie serving (g protein).
I suspect my recipe originated with Marci Goldman's, it's much similar to hers published on NPR two years ago. So sorry, as many times as I've made Spiced Honey Cake in these last years, playing and adapting, making it my own, I've lost that detail. My Disclosure Promise

Are Spices Your Sprinkles? Savory & Sweet

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Spiced Chicken with Cauliflower Tagine Squash & Carrot Stew Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple
Irish Spiced Fruitcake with Brown Sugar Lemon Curd Cut-Out Spice Cookies Mulled Apple Cider

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