Spring Fling

It's Springtime! Time for flowers to bud and birds to sing and bees to buzz. And, it is time for our meals to get a bit sunnier, too.
As much as I love thick slices of meatloaf stuffed with roasted veggies, heaps of creamy butternut squash macaroni and cheese, and plates piled high with crispy roasted kale, 'tis the season to switch over to lighter dishes like salads brightened with fruity vinaigrettes and crunchy veggies and less of the heavy, hearty stuff.

But, before we move onward and upward to all that is Spring, I have a few more "Wintertime" sides I want to share. And to be fair, they would actually be great served any time of the year. (I can see them being a fun part of an antipasto selection along with olives, cured meats, grilled or pickled veggies and nutty cheeses.) Give them a try now, or save them for a day when skies are gray, there's a chill in the air, and you need some comfort cookery.

Note: All recipes are in the Minimal MESS category.

Roasted Cabbage with Bacon
You'll see cabbage in a whole new light after you try this dish!
Roasted Cabbage with Bacon
1  large head green cabbage
4 slices thick-cut bacon, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup Olive oil
Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp caraway seeds (optional)

To Do:
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Wash and dry the cabbage, then remove the core. Chop cabbage into quarters, then quarter those quarters, then toss in a bowl with bacon pieces and olive oil.
  • Transfer to a baking pan and roast for about 40 minutes, until tender and browned.
  • Sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt and the caraway seeds, and serve.

Roasted Cauliflower and Kale Mash
An easy, tasty dish that puts mashed potatoes to shame.
Roasted Cauliflower and Kale Mash
1 large bunch kale, stems removed
1 large head cauliflower, chopped into florets
4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1/2 cup Olive oil (divided)
Kosher Salt
1 TBS butter (unsalted)
1/2 cup Light cream
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Ground black pepper
1/3 cup Grated Romano Cheese
2 TBS minced, cooked bacon (optional)

To Do:
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Wash and dry the kale and cauliflower pieces, then toss separately with 1/4 cup olive oil each. 
  • Place in separate baking pans with 2 cloves of garlic each, and roast at 400 degrees until browned, about 30 minutes for the kale, 40 for the cauliflower.
  • Let cool then transfer to a food processor, one veggie at a time, and pulverize.
  • Heat butter over medium-low heat in a large pot, then combine the cauliflower and kale, transfer to the pot, and heat through.
  • Stir in 1/4 cup of the cream along with the garlic powder, nutmeg and a few twists of your pepper grinder.
  • Reduce heat to low and let the flavors mix for about 3-5 minutes.
  • Stir in the remaining cream a little at a time (you might not use it all), until you have a nice mash consistency (not too wet, not too dry), then add in the cheese and bacon until combined.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl, add another dash of nutmeg to the top, and serve.

Israeli Couscous with Porcini Mushrooms, Green Peas, and Bacon
A nutty, earthy dish that tastes a bit fancy, yet is easy to make.
Israeli Couscous with Porcini Mushrooms, Green Peas, and Bacon
1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms, finely chopped
4 thick-cut bacon slices, finely chopped
1 cup uncooked Israeli couscous (also called pearl couscous)
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1-2 TBS butter
Kosher salt
Ground  black pepper

To Do:
  • Cover the chopped, dried mushrooms with about 1/2 cup of water and soak for about 15 minutes, or until soft. Strain the softened mushrooms from their liquid and set aside. Do not discard the liquid! Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve and set aside as well.
  • Cook the bacon in a medium-large pot over medium-high heat, then remove from the pot, leaving the drippings.
  • Add the couscous to the pot with the bacon drippings and stir for about 5 minutes, until couscous has browned.
  • Carefully stir in the broth and the 1/2 cup of mushroom liquid and lower heat to a simmer.
  • Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, or until liquid has been absorbed.
  • Remove the lid and stir in the butter, chopped mushrooms and peas and heat through. 
  • Season with salt and a few twists of black pepper, to taste.
  • Serve.

Besides, who knows? It could snow tomorrow.