WARNING: This is not a mirage. It's cauliflower. More specifically, it's aloo gobi, the classic Indian cauliflower and potato dish, redolent with warm spices and gold-tinged by turmeric. Yes, I am trying to get over my lifelong distaste for cauliflower in 2013, by combining it with flavors and in recipes I already know I love. Almost anything cooked in a spicy hot base tingles my taste buds; add to that the convenience of using the slow cooker, and I had to give this dish a go. I can't say I fell head-over-heels for the cauliflower, but I ate a few pieces, which is more than I might have done a year ago. My husband Ted happily devoured the rest with some steamed basmati rice.
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Travel the roads of northwest Rhode Island at this time of year, and you'll spot white plastic buckets, often in twos, dangling from the sugar maples. If the days are warm and the nights cold, small steel funnels tapped into the tree trunks will direct a steady drip of sap into the buckets. That sap, boiled down over many hours, becomes the maple syrup we pour over pancakes and johnnycakes. (It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.) Real maple syrup also makes a fine base for a savory vinaigrette, adding just a little sweetness, like honey or agave nectar, to balance the acidity of the vinegar. I'm not a huge fan of Brussels sprouts, as you know, but when a bag of shaved sprouts fell into my shopping cart at Trader Joe's a few days ago, I roasted them along with thinly sliced broccoli florets, and tossed everything with a bit of this irresistible maple mustard vinaigrette, with maple syrup from a farm here in town. I kind of, sort of, loved it.
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After years of feeding our vegetarian kids and grandkids every possible permutation of pasta-sauce-cheese, I've been mining the pantry for new ideas. A recently discovered package of farro, purchased ages ago at one of Providence's Italian markets, inspired a main course dish that pairs this nutty, chewy grain with earthy mushrooms, crisp broccoli, crunchy almonds and salty feta. It's an explosion of taste and texture that satisfies, as an entrée for vegetarians, or a side dish with roast turkey. You can buy instant farro at Trader Joe's; it cooks in ten minutes, but the texture isn't as chewy as the regular farro that takes only a few minutes longer. In the time it takes to cook the farro, prepare all the rest of the ingredients, so the whole dish comes together in less than half an hour.
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First published in July 2006, this updated pantry ingredient post features new photos, links, and tweaks to the recipe. I've been making these veggies for more than twenty years, and I've never tired of the fresh flavor and crunch of lightly-cooked vegetables in a pan vinaigrette. All of the ingredients are available year-round, so you can bring color to the table even in mid-winter.
Kalamata, picholine, frantoio, arbequina, souri ... I've never met an olive I didn't want to take home, but good old black olives in a can are the only ones that merit a permanent place in my pantry.
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