Buffalo Cauliflower Couscous Salad

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Quinoa, we need to talk.

It’s not you, it’s me.  I really need to focus on me right now.  We’ll still be friends, right?

Well, I think quinoa is okay, right?  They can go rebound with a jar of marinara sauce.

As you are reading this, I am probably sitting in car, making the long trek back home to reality.  Boo.  Since I wrote out a summer to-do list a few weeks ago, I can now cross a few off my list.  I celebrated Half-Christmas with some friends (what- you enjoy waiting 12 months to celebrate holidays?), I have been reading like a madwoman (I literally have 8 books sitting on my desk waiting to be read), I have worn a few more dresses, and now I am returning back from a semi-spontaneous road trip (at least spontaneous for me).  I also have taken to liberal parenthesis use but that wasn’t on my list.

My final summer check off is making quinoa.  I have made it twice, and both times were much more successful than my first attempt.  Now, this recipe has no quinoa in it.  I just don’t know if I like quinoa that much.  First, although it tastes better, I am not 100% I am cooking it completely correctly since I have never eaten it before.  Second, it’s just blah- I haven’t tasted the nutttiness or chewiness I heard so much about.

So basically, I need someone to make me an amazing quinoa dish.  Feeding it to me spoonful by spoonful is completely optional.

Until then, I will be sticking with grains I know how to cook and know I love.  This couscous salad takes all the classic buffalo wing toppings and puts it in a nice combined dish.  Now, I eat semi-vegetarian (AKA am too lazy and/or cheap to get meat most of the time), so I make buffalo cauliflower instead of chicken.  And it was wonderful.  But for people who actually have meat on hand, chicken would work wonderfully here.

If anyone makes this dish with quinoa, please send me pictures, so I can methodically compare how your quinoa looks to how mine looked.

Quinoa, you’re too good for me.  I really like you as a person, I am just not in that place in my life yet.

(For the record, this is hard on me too).

BUFFALO CAULIFLOWER COUSCOUS SALAD
From Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cup dried couscous
1 1/2 cup vegetable/chicken broth
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 ounces blue cheese
3 tablespoons buffalo sauce (to taste)
1-2 tablespoons butter
1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
Salt and pepper
1 small red onion, sliced
4 carrot, julienned
2-3 avocados, sliced

DIRECTIONS

Bring vegetable/chicken stock to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add couscous.  Cover and remove from heat.  Let sit for 5-7 minutes, until broth is absorbed.  Fluff with a fork.  Set aside.

In a small saucepan, whisk together 1/4 cup flour and a 1/4 cup milk.  Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.  Whisk in remaining milk.  Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in blue cheese, until melted.  Keep warm.

Heat a large skillet over high heat.  Melt butter and add cauliflower (in batched if needed).  Cook until browned on the outside and tender, 3-5 minutes.  Stir in buffalo sauce, red onion, and carrots.  Cook for 2-3 minutes.  Stir in couscous.  Transfer to a plates.  Top salad with blue cheese sauce and avocados.

Serves 4.

Walnut, Fig, and Blue Cheese Crackers

So apparently there is some big sports game coming up.  I’m not sure, but I think there may be a field and some kind of ball involved.  This may just be a rumor though.  But that is enough sports talk there to last me a lifetime- let’s move on to food.
These crackers are a wonderful choice for an appetizer.  I appreciate the convenience of store bought crackers, but homemade crackers aren’t hard to make if you have a little time.  These crackers were inspired by the wonderful Ina Garten, and I combined the sweet, seedy figs with salty blue cheese, and crunch walnuts.  They are great for snacking on plain or with a smear of some wonderful cheese on top.
These are a great snack food for watching any event on television.  I choose to enjoy these while watching the Real Housewives, not the Super Bowl, thank you very much.
WALNUT, FIG, AND BLUE CHEESE CRACKERS
Adapted from Ina Garten
INGREDIENTS

7 ounces dried mission figs, chopped
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup buttered, softened
8 ounces blue cheese crumbles, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
4-5 tablespoons water
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a small saucepan combine figs and water over medium heat.  Bring water to a boil and cook for 5-7 minutes, until all liquid has evaporated.  Set aside.

In a bowl, cream butter and blue cheese together.  Stir in flour and salt. Stir in water 1 tablespoon at a time, until a soft dough forms.  Fold in figs and walnuts.

Roll into 2 6 inch logs and wrap in plastic wrap.  Freeze for 30 minutes, then chill in refrigerator.  Slice 1/4 inch thick slices.  Spread on baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  Sprinkle with kosher salt Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.  Set aside.

Roasted Pear and Cabbage Salad

Let’s talk about the best time of the year.  Sure, summer is great because you can get vacation from school (if you’re lucky), and you hit the beaches.   But then you sweat when you go outside- no thank you.  Spring brings pretty flours and fresh produce.  And spring break.  Flowers are overrated.  My favorite time of year is the beginning of fall and the early transition into winter.
I love this time of year.  Starting about mid-October, I begin to get that feeling.  I can’t describe it exactly, but it’s that feeling that comes with the holidays coming up.   I love all the holiday cheer and preparation.  When I walk into Walmart and see Halloween treats in September and Christmas cheer in October, I don’t complain.  Sometimes when I am driving or walking outside, and I see decorations and multicolored leaves, I just feel happy.  I soak it all up, cherishing it while it lasts.  And then the rest of the year I whine about how I wish it was fall or winter.
This salad is a simple way to utilize the produce of the season.  Sweet pear, heart cabbage, creamy cheese, and crunchy nuts.  So simple but so good and much more interesting that your typical salad with lettuce and veggies.  Healthy for you but still has great flavor.  This is a super winter salad right here.  Enjoy this time of year with me and put this on the schedule for lunch or dinner.
ROASTED PEAR AND CABBAGE SALAD
Slightly Adapted from The Sweets Life
INGREDIENTS

1 small head cabbage, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt
2 brown pears, chopped
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1/3-1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
2 ounces cashews

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Toss cabbage with olive oil.  Spread cabbage and pears on a rimmed baking sheet and season with a pinch of salt.  Roast for 20-25 minutes, turning at least once.  Stir in white balsamic vinegar (transfer to bowl or skillet if baking sheet won’t hold liquid).  Sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles and cashews.

Serves 2-3

Pear and Blue Cheese Pizza

It’s no secret that I love pizza. Once upon a time, I was a cheese-only pizza girl.  On the rare occasion I’d add sausage or extra cheese if I was feeling particularly adventurous, but topping such as pineapple? Ham? Pesto? Fruit? No way.  Then, as I grew older, I found myself craving different types of toppings for my pizza.  Dare I say it, but I was slowly evolving into a foodie.

This pizza is inspired by the dish that I would label as my landmark meal for my transition into a foodie.  Having pears on pizza is something I would have never liked before, but I tell you it’s life changing.  The pears become soft and sweet after cooking, the blue cheese is salty, and the pecans add crunch.  And do not skip the arugula salad on top- it cuts through all the rich toppings and adds a nice depth to the flavor profile (look at me and my fancy food talk now!)

PEAR AND BLUE CHEESE PIZZA
From Cinnamon Freud, Inspired by The Cheesecake Factory
INGREDIENTS

For the Crust:
1 package active yeast
1/2 cup water, at 110°F
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Pizza

Salt and pepper
Olive oil
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 pear, thinly sliced
1/3-1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
Handful of arugula
Vinaigrette (such as Raspberry or Balsamic)
1/4-1/2 cup toasted pecan halves

DIRECTIONS

For the Crust:

Preheat oven to 475°F.

In in small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water, stirring in granulated sugar. Let sit about 10 minutes, until foamy. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Pour dissolved yeast mixture over flour. Stir together with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.

On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 10 minutes. Let sit in a warm place and rise for at least 1 hour until doubled in size.

For the Pizza:

In a small pan over medium heat, cook red onion in a little olive oil (about 1/2 tablespoon) for 15-20 minutes, until slightly caramelized. Set aside and let cool slightly.

Prepare your pizza stone or baking sheet. Roll dough out to desired consistency. Brush crust with olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Spread pears in a single layer across pizza. Brush with lightly with olive oil. Spread onions and sprinkle blue cheese crumbles on top of pears. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until crust is golden brown and pears are cooked through. Meanwhile, toss arugula with vinaigrette (About 1-2 tablespoons). Remove pizza from oven an top with arugula salad and toasted pecans. Cut into slices and serve.

Serves 2-3.