Sunday, January 17, 2010

Oven Roasted Broccoli

If you've been reading this blog for longer than a year, you may recall that I abstain from alcohol every January. This is my third year, inspired by my honey who's been doing it every January for many years. I haven't found it very hard to do this time around because frankly, I waaaaaay over-indulged in December and by the time the holidays had passed, I was more than ready for a break. This year however, we threw another challenge into the mix. We are dieting!!! I have never successfully dieted in my life. Truth be told, I never needed to until I found myself in my late thirties with pants that mysteriously started shrinking!!! So I tried the Fat Flush Diet for about a week, and found myself feeling constantly bloated and grossed out from eating like five servings of meat per day. I got discouraged and gave up and bought bigger pants. And what's worse, I had stomach problems for a long time to come after that.

Fast-forward a couple of years to the end of this last December, and let's just say that by this point, it wasn't just my ill-fitting pants. I just felt icky. So not only was I ready to stop chugging the wine, I found myself ready to go on a diet.

And here we are, a little over two weeks later, and it's been challenging, but I'm starting to feel pretty good! I'll admit I've been fighting the occasional craving for a gigantic bowl of chocolate ice cream, but in general, I'm not feeling terribly deprived. I'm not really following a diet plan per se, just not eating anything fried or cheesy, and eating tons of vegetables, small amounts of lean protein, and a small amount of carbs. And I'm walking every day and have just started doing yoga twice a week. My obsessive tendencies are working to my advantage, for now at least, but of course the real challenge will be to keep up the healthy habits once January is over!

All of this is a long way of getting to the point of telling you about my new favorite food: Oven Roasted Broccoli!! It's perfect diet food, and just plain healthy - but more than that, it is UTTERLY DELICIOUS!!! It does use a small amount of olive oil so if you're looking for fat-free, I can't help you. But if you want another way to love broccoli, read on. Hell, if you don't even LIKE broccoli, you might try this, because it just might make a believer out of you.

I didn't come up with this idea - I'm sure it exists in some cookbook out there, and that you can find recipes for it on several different blogs, but here is my take on it.

Pre-heat the oven to 425. Take one large head of broccoli. Clean it and use a vegetable peeler to peel off the harder outer part of the stems. Chop it all into bite-sized pieces, and dry it well. Put it into a bowl and toss with a little salt, a light coating of olive oil, a sprinkle of crushed red pepper, about a half a teaspoon of smoked paprika, and several cloves of minced garlic. Spread the broccoli onto a baking sheet and place into the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli is starting to brown and caramelize. Remove from the oven and stir a little lemon zest into it. The end result will be part tender, a little crisp, both savory and a little sweet, and entirely delicious.

I'm sure that as I keep making it, I'll be playing with the spices. In fact I think it'd even be good with no spices at all. And once the dieting days are over, I'll look forward to topping it with parmesan. But for now, I'm perfectly happy to inhale a whole tray of this stuff just like this. Whatever gets you through the diet, eh??

Monday, January 11, 2010

Habanero Hot Sauce to Warm You in the Winter

This recipe might seem a little out of season, but believe it or not, our wild jungle of a garden is still producing oodles of habanero peppers, and even a few kind of sad looking, but still tasty tomatoes. What's a person to do then, but make habanero sauce? That person would be my honey, and this is his recipe, which is really only for those of you who go gaga over insanely hot heat. Me, I'm not quite that brave, but I do like a little drop of this stuff from time to time and can attest that it is indeed delicious, insanely hot, smoky, and even a little sweet.

The recipe requires that you oven-roast some of your tomatoes first, and you can do that by halving them, laying them out on a baking sheet, drizzling with olive oil and sprinkling with salt, and then roasting at low heat (like 250 degrees) for about an hour or longer, until they are wrinkly and starting to starting to brown. Depending on the size of your tomatoes, this could take more or less than an hour. While you're at it, go ahead and roast some garlic cloves, whole and unpeeled, at the same time, because you'll need for some of the garlic in this recipe to be roasted.

You'll also need to fire-roast your habaneros, which is easily done by putting the peppers on a skewer and holding them over an open flame until they start to blacken and blister. WARNING: THIS STEP WILL FILL YOUR KITCHEN WITH HOT PEPPER FUMES! So you see, you've gotta REALLY love the heat to wanna make this sauce! That, and you might wish to cover your mouth & nose while doing this step, and of course it goes without saying that you'll want to have a lot of ventilation.

Once your roasting is complete, it's time to make the sauce!

Habanero Hot Sauce

(Printable Recipe)

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 medium carrots, chopped
12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
12 roasted cherry tomatoes
Quarter of one white onion, cut into strips
8 fire-roasted habenero peppers, cut in half
3 cloves of roasted garlic, cut in half
2 cloves of raw garlic, peeled and cut in half
Juice of one lime
2 tablespoons white vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add the carrots and let them cook for about five minutes. Then add to the skillet the onion, tomatoes, habaneros and garlic cloves and cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Transfer skillet contents to a blender and add lime juice, vinegar and pulse (can add a bit of water, a tablespoon at a time if it’s too thick).

3. Salt and pepper to taste, and make sure you have a glass of water on hand!!