Plate to Mouth: Braised Cauliflower Toss & Awesome Lowfat Muffins & Cold Sesame Noodles

16 May

A bright spot in the beige sprawl

Moving from Brooklyn to White Plains was easy and hard. Straight-forward in a totally complex way. A lilting buoy and a leaden depression.

I’ve made a list.

Things I love about White Plains:

It’s the county seat of Westchester. That’s good, right?

It fulfills Stephen’s definition of a city: everything he absolutely needs to get accomplished in order to make sure he remains clothed, fed and sheltered, can be accomplished. On foot.

Kam Sen Asian Market. It’s Westchester’s largest Asian market, according to its website! And seriously … it’s awesome. Want some crazy-ass dried herb you heard will turn your dry, chapped skin into a vision of peaches and cream if you mix it with coconut oil and is, by the way, illegal in 43 states? It’s there! Along with every noodle, rice, esoteric kim chi ingredient, tripe, duck feet and almost every form of protein known to man.

Having a dog walker who is lovely and normal and texts me photos of Penelope’s adventures — as opposed to an itinerant artist/hobo for hire who has the keys to our apartment and may rob us blind at any moment, a la Brooklyn.

Sun-dappled counter space!

A sunny apartment that seems gloriously spacious after living in a cramped, dark, semi-basement one-bedroom for four years. I can cook in the kitchen with Stephen and Penny without having to throw on Bad Religion and pretending I’m in a mosh pit. We can brush our teeth at the same time in the bathroom without standing single file, with one of our butts halfway into the hallway! Eureka!

Things I hate about White Plains:

Not being able to roll out bed and grab a platter of poutine and some deep-fried pork buns at 8:00 am. What’s wrong with these people?

White Plains fails to fulfill my definition of a city: an interesting multi-culti feel-good laid-back yet uptight place with great galleries, museums, musical events and grand groups of innocuous weirdos milling about. I guess I’m just a hippie.

Farm to table cuisine. There: I said it. I am a bourgeois nightmare. Yes, the trend which every restaurant has adopted to ridiculous extremes (I really don’t need to know where you source your toilet paper from, but thanks) can be tiresome, but it produces unquestionably fantastic food that you can feel good about eating. Uno’s? Not so much.

Having five malls within walking distance. Seriously? That’s just wrong.

Not being able to order an awesome low-fat muffin and then a giant vat of beautiful cold sesame noodles to balance out my yin and yang. Have you noticed a pattern? The food here is a problem.

Oh, and I also miss my friends.

To cure our food blues, we whipped up some of our own plate to mouth cuisine, using delicious items bought hot of the stale shelf at ShopRite! (And Kam Sen’s of course). Below, check out my recipes for Braised Cauliflower Toss, Awesome Lowfat Muffins (the secret is in the creaming process) and Cold Sesame Noodles.

Roasted Cauliflower Toss:

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • One head cauliflower (purple, white, orange — they all taste the same), split in half with florets removed
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 ounces Pecorino Romano, grated
  • Squirts of lemon juice to taste

Method:

  • After cleaning and removing the florets from the cauliflower, heat the oil in a large saute pan.
  • Add the cauliflower after the oil is hot and saute over medium to high heat, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Saute for about one minute, reduce heat to medium, stirring to make sure all of the cauliflower is coated in oil, and cover the pan. This will help braise the cauliflower in a mixture of the oil and steam from the cooking; uncovered, it will cook faster and produce a less tender, flavorful dish.
  • After three minutes, check on the cauliflower. It should be just slightly browned and softened, but still crisp.
  • Top with grated cheese, a dash of lemon and serve.

Nutritional breakdown for Braised Cauliflower Toss: About 200 calories and 8 grams of fat. Full of antioxidants, folate, protein, fiber, Vitamins C and K.

Cost breakdown for Braised  Cauliflower Toss: About $1 a serving.

Verdict / In the Future: Just a touch of lemon makes a huge difference in this dish; it brightens it and clarifies and compliments all of the nutty flavors of the cheese and the toothsomeness of the roasted cauliflower.

I like mine naked, Stephen likes his with blackberry jam

Awesome Lowfat Muffins

Makes 12

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (or a blend of half all-purpose and half whole wheat; 100% whole wheat produces a tough muffin)
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup whole-fat milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt (lowfat is fine)
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • Vegetable oil spray.

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray muffin tins with vegetable oil spray.
  • Whisk flour and baking powder together in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Add sugar, salt and butter to a stand mixer and whip with the wire whisk until light and fluffy on low, working up to high. This takes forever. Really, about five minutes, but it seems like a long and irritating process. I always want to rush it; don’t! The key to good low-fat muffins is in the crumb, and a good, light crumb can only be achieved by aerating the butter and sugar. It should resemble frosting.
  • Meanwhile, whisk together all of the liquid ingredients. Add to the whipped butter in three additions on medium-high and incorporate, scraping the batter down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as you go.
  • Add the flour and mix on low until incorporated. Add cherries and mix on low until incorporated.
  • Divvy up the batter in the muffin cups, pop in the oven. After 10 minutes, check on the muffins. Flip them around so they bake evenly. Check after another five. They should be close to done or already there at this point. They should be golden and puffy. Cool in muffin tin for a few minutes, unmold and allow to cool completely on a rack.

Nutritional breakdown for Awesome Lowfat Muffins: About 150 calories and 3 grams of fat. Relatively low in sugar, sodium, saturated fat. Relatively high in protein and fiber.

Cost breakdown for Awesome Lowfat Muffins: About $0.30 a muffin.

Verdict / In the Future: The creaming method transforms these muffins; even Stephen, highly suspicious of lowfat baked goods, gave it his seal of approval while noting that “something, a certain mouth-feel that you get with regular muffins” was missing without the addition of jam and butter. “But they don’t taste like the cardboard you used to crank out; they’re fluffy and creamy, just not as buttery.”

In an authentic takeout container, natch

Cold Sesame Noodles

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • For dressing: 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter, 1/4 cup tahini, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 TBSP fresh peeled ginger, 3 garlic cloves, minced, 1 TBSP rice vinegar, 1 TBSP rice wine vinegar, 1/2 TBSP toasted sesame oil, 1 TBSP honey or sugar, 1/2 TBSP Korean red pepper paste
  • For noodles: 12 ounces dried egg noodles (boiled in salted water until al dente), 1 scallion thinly sliced, 1/2 red pepper thinly sliced, 1/2 cucumber cored and thinly sliced, 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

Method:

  • Blend ingredients for dressing. Toss with the rest of the ingredients.

Nutritional breakdown for Cold Sesame Noodles: About 400 calories and 13 grams of fat per serving. Decent source of protein and iron, fiber. Low in saturated fats. Sky high in sodium.

Cost breakdown for Cold Sesame Noodles: About $1.25 a serving.

Verdict / In the Future: These noodles are one of our perennial favorites; feel free to adjust spices and swap out ingredients. Red pepper flakes, cayenne and even curry can work in place of the Korean hot pepper flakes. Lime juice works instead of vinegar. Cilantro is always nice if you have it.

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