Mediterranean Cauliflower Kale Roast with Feta

Mediterranean Cauliflower Kale Roast with Feta

Winter vegetables can seem bleak without the variety of the summer harvest. It’s why of all the recipes I cooked from Myra Kornfeld and Stephen Massamilla’s food poetry cookbook, Cooking with the Muse, I asked if I could share her Mediterranean Cauliflower Kale Roast with Feta. This vegetarian side dish packs in bold flavors and served with baked tofu or salmon, is my kind of healthy meal. What makes their way of approaching recipes extra special is how Massimilla provides a poet’s note and in this case, a snippet from an Auden poem to accompany Kornfeld’s recipe creation. Food poetry synchronicity at its finest!

Mediterranean Cauliflower Kale Roast with Feta

A poet’s hope: to be,

like some valley cheese,

local, but prized elsewhere.

—W.H. Auden, from “Shorts II”

Mediterranean Cauliflower Kale Roast with Feta

Recipe and poet’s note republished with permission from Cooking with the Muse by Myra Kornfeld and Stephen Massimilla (Tupelo Press, 2016).

Roasting gently browns the cauliflower florets and crisps the kale leaves, coaxing deep flavor out of the vegetables. Following this recipe will render them toasty and juicy at once. The combination of garlicky olives, capers, lemon, and oregano lends a slightly citrusy, almost buttery quality to the dish. A sprinkling of a good feta cheese from a pasture-raised sheep or goat adds one more element of delight and surprise. The literary history of pastured sheep’s and goat’s milk feta dates back to the Odyssey, a foundational epic poem of Western literature (see the Poet’s Note.)

Serves 4 to 6
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 pound curly kale, stemmed and torn into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
1 tablespoon capers, drained, rinsed and chopped
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces feta cheese (preferably sheep’s milk feta), crumbled (1/2 cup)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Have ready a parchment paper–covered baking sheet.
  2. In one bowl, toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of the oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spread the cauliflower on the baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, turning once halfway through.
  3. In another bowl, toss the kale with 1 tablespoon oil. Massage the oil into the leaves so that each leaf is lightly coated. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt.
  4. After the cauliflower has roasted for 30 minutes, add the kale to the baking sheet, return it to the oven, and roast for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the cauliflower is browned and the kale is crispy. Remove from the oven.
  5. Warm the remaining tablespoon of oil with the butter in a large skillet until the butter melts. Add the garlic, olives, and capers and cook for a minute or two, until fragrant. Stir in the cauliflower and kale, the water, and the oregano; combine thoroughly. Stir in the lemon juice and a sprinkling of pepper.
  6. Serve hot, with feta scattered on top.


Poet’s Note

This literary history of feta dates back to the 8th century BCE, though the emphasis in the epics that have come down to us was on hecatombs—sacrificial roasts of large animals on spits—the mainstay of a masculine warrior’s diet that was likely even then reserved for the upper classes. Feta, that tangy, salty, crumbly, quintessentially Greek cheese—which was originally aged and brined to keep well in a hot, arid climate—is described. Indeed, the equipment used to make sheep’s milk cheese in the Cyclops Polyphemus’s cave in Book IX of Homer’s Odyssey is much like that used by Greek shepherds to make feta today. Odysseus made the imprudent decision to raid the larder of a gigantic man-eating monster (who was fortunately myopic enough for Odysseus later to blind and outwit by escaping on the underbelly of a sheep, though some of his men didn’t fare so well):


We entered the cave and took stock of everything inside.

His baskets were loaded with cheeses, and his pens spilling

over with lambs and kids, divided into separate groups…

And all his vessels, milk pails, and pans into which he milked,

were brimming with whey. Seeing all this, my men begged me

to let them steal the cheeses, and make off with them to the ship…

but I wouldn’t listen to them; I wanted to meet

the owner first, in the hope that he’d give me a guest present.


Later, as they observe the giant, he goes on to prepare the whey cheese:


He drew off half of the milk to curdle it, and set it

aside in strainers made of wicker, stored for cheeses,

but let the other half stand in the milk pails…


Before disembarking on the island of the Cyclops, Odysseus and his men had surveyed the land with thoughts of colonizing it. They’d noticed that the carnivorous giants had no social customs and that their sheep were allowed to cavort everywhere without any pens to hold them. Though he and his crew were not in serious need of provisions and Odysseus was certainly foolish to tarry in the cave in hopes of receiving an extra “guest present” from an uncivilized monster, it is perhaps no surprise that Odysseus risked his life and those of his men to raid this cave for cheeses, lambs, and kids in the first place. Even by Archaic Greek standards, these livestock were seriously free range.

Greek cuisine in the 4th-century classical age was more sparing. The Greek poet Archestratus lived in Sicily, which was regarded by tradition to be the original island of the Cyclops. Archestratus, who lived there after it had really become a Greek colony, was perhaps the first Western cookbook writer whom we know of, though the fragments we have are from a parodic poem that advises the gastronomic reader on where to find the best food. His recipes rightly emphasize the fresh local quality of the ingredients.



Jeff Friedman’s Pan-Sauteed Broccoli with Walnuts

Poet Jeff Friedman

Jeff Friedman and I don’t argue often, but when it comes to bread, we’ve almost come to blows. Okay, maybe that’s overstating things but he has tried convincing me that New England’s bread economy rivals San Francisco’s. Part of his argument included a visit to King Arthur Flour last time I ventured to New England. Whenever he finally makes it out to San Francisco, I plan on taking him to Bar Tartine for a loaf or even a few slices of Chad Robertson’s legendary Oat Porridge. I’m not convinced the Porridge bread would make the cross-country voyage or that it would make it off of my cutting board where I stealthily sneak pieces to toast with alarming frequency. It’s that good.

King Arthur Flour_pastries

On our outing to King Arthur, we surveyed the pastry case with glee. And, while we peered in like hungry wolves, we didn’t buy anything. This is saying a lot. One thing we share in common is a voracious sweet tooth that’s not easily satisfied. So, it should come as no surprise that one of my purchases in their retail store included a bag of Black Cocoa.

I was immediately intrigued by the name and claims on the bag. This may not be the right point of context but imagine tearing the side of the packaging from a newly opened bag of oreo’s. Breathe in the smell and peel off the upper cookie, scraping the white contents with your teeth. Then plunge the scraped cookie into your mouth and chew. This is surprisingly what Black Cocoa smells and tastes like- the oreo cookies of my childhood. This is also to say I haven’t found the right application yet to share a recipe here. It has a tendency of exacerbating the adage “a little bit going a long way” and like a red feather boa can be a bit garish when worn out of context.

King Arthur Flour Retail Shop

As we meandered around the retail store, I found myself transfixed by the walls and shelves filled with any kind of flour combination you can imagine. These bags and boxes taunted me with promises of pancakes! Biscuits! Pizza! I had to continually remind my enthusiasm about the controlled parameters of my red suitcase. We marveled at the demo kitchen set up in the middle of the store and noshed on a sample of warm blueberry muffin, recently pulled from the oven. As we wound our way over to the oils and spices section, I picked up a jar of Vietnamese Cinnamon, knowing the price was too good to not find a blouse I’d packed to wrap around it as an invitational into the luggage. Jeff picked one up as well and we moseyed over to the oils, as I exulted on the merits of making space in a spice rack / flavor pantry for toasted walnut oil. It’s a bit of a splurge, but completely worth it’s weight in drizzle.

King Arthur Demo Kitchen

Jeff left with a jar of Vietnamese Cinnamon and a vessel of Toasted Walnut Oil. In spite of my attempts to curb my zeal, I made off with a bag of Ancient Grain flour blend, cheese powder, black cocoa and Vietnamese cinnamon. In the larger scheme of things, my restraint would be rewarded. Food and poetry flit in and out of our conversation just like talking about bread bakers or a Galway Kinnell poem. In the end, who really knows which coast bakes the best bread? I’m inclined to think the best loaf is the one you break and share, even if that “bread” is time spent trolling a flour store discussing recipe ideas or snippets of literature with a kindred spirit.

Jeff Friedman Roasted Broccoli with Walnuts



JEFF’S NOTES: “Originally I made this dish several years ago when poet Ross Gay came to visit. I had purchased some sweet basil oil and wanted to use it on the broccoli… Ross likes all his food hot so we decided to sauté garlic with lots of crushed red pepper and then toss the broccoli with sweet basil oil.  The recipe was good, but not anything I wanted to make on a regular basis. I normally roast broccoli because it’s so easy and delicious. Anyway, Annelies came for a visit, and we went shopping at the King Arthur Store in Norwich, Vermont. She recommended that I purchase toasted walnut oil and Vietnamese cinnamon, both of which I now use regularly. (The cinnamon is definitely amazing.)  Substituting toasted walnut oil for sweet basil oil and adding sliced almonds transformed the dish. This is simple to make.”


3 large heads of broccoli cut into 2-inch branches

3-4 med-large cloves of garlic

3 tbs of olive oil

1 ½-2 tbs walnut oil

walnut slices (toast in pan)

crushed red pepper

salt and pepper



1.Steam broccoli until it is tender.

2.While the broccoli is steaming, saute garlic in olive oil adding crushed red pepper.

3.When broccoli is ready, put it in a large bowl. Add salt, pepper and pinches of crushed red pepper.

4.Toss with sauteed garlic and crushed red pepper.

5.Toss again with walnut oil.

6. Add sliced walnuts and serve.


MY NOTE: I often eat this as is, but sometimes I add parmesan cheese at the end, also very good.. There should be enough left over to heat up in a skillet for a day or two. I think this could also work well pureed into soup.




Spaghetti Squash Gratin

Spaghetti Squash Gratin is a switch from the classic potato gratin.

Some people try to pass off spaghetti squash as the slick noodles made of durum wheat. I am not one of these people.

Halve and seed a spaghetti squash as the first step to makeSpaghetti Squash Gratin.

My taste buds know what you’re up to. Don’t get me wrong, I like spaghetti squash slathered with tomato sauce too, but in thinking about a way to gussy it up for Thanksgiving, a gratin made sense. Harvest vegetables for the fall make warm bedfellows with an oven cranked up on high. Roasting vegetables deepens the flavors and makes for easy cooking, freeing up time to spend in other ways.

Roasting spaghetti squash for about an hour to start the Spaghetti Squash Gratin.

As a weeknight replacement or for serving at your Thanksgiving table, swap in this squash dish for a traditional side of potatoes. Can I entreat you to splurge on the heavy cream? I cut back on how much you would need to use by substituting in some milk and Greek yogurt but really it lends a silkiness and heft that is important. I’ve added a panko crust for a bit of textural crunch, but if you are gluten intolerant- Olga- I’m looking at you, feel free to swap in crushed gluten free rice cereal or just omit the breaded topping altogether.

Spaghetti Squash Gratin is a decadent side dish perfect for holiday tables.

If you’re a fan of sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving, here’s a recipe for simple “candied” sweet potatoes.

Hearty comfort food to warm up your winter, Spaghetti Squash Gratin!


Spaghetti Squash Gratin

SERVES: 6 hearty portions or 9 smaller ones

  • 1 spaghetti squash, halved and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup manchego, shredded
  • ¼ cup parmesan, shredded
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Brush the inside and outside of the spaghetti squash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Place the hollowed side of squash down on a roasting pan. Roast for an hour or until tender. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350F. Grease the sides of a casserole dish and set aside.
  2. Scrape the strands of the spaghetti squash into a large bowl and discard the hollowed out squash skins. Add the thyme, milk, cream, yogurt, Manchego, Parmesan, paprika, salt and pepper to the bowl. Mix until combined. Fill the casserole dish with the spaghetti squash mixture in an even layer.
  3. Saute the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, butter and panko bread crumbs until coated in a small sauce pan. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the gratin. Bake for 35 minutes or until panko bread crumbs have browned. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.



spaghetti squash gratin recipe

SIDE DISH RECIPES- Spaghetti Squash Gratin


Kale Caesar Salad

SALAD RECIPES- Kale Caesar Salad

Watching the TV show Modern Family this week, I chuckled as one of the characters told his husband, “You’ll never guess what the new Spinach is.” To this, the husband chirped “Radicchio” and was trounced with the response, “No, kale!” They proceeded later in the episode of introducing this leafy green vegetable with the initial character not quite convinced that kale is anything more than a garnish.

Like many people come January, I made some healthier living resolutions. I actually like making them at the first of the year or at the beginning of a week, feeling there to be a bit of tabula rasa fairy dust in the air. It’s a quirk, yes. Somehow the idea of setting goals forces us to bring to the forefront things we’ve been casually considering but singing to the chipper tune of “another day, another time.” So as I ushered in 2011, one of my goals seemed terribly do-able. The key was to imbue it with flavor.

Eat more vegetables.

When I was a kid, I quickly befriended Cari B. at my Montessori. Like kids do, we became instantly inseparable and took on each other’s habits like borrowing sweaters out of each other’s closets. Cari lived in the East side of the city so it was a bit of a trek to head to her house and a treat. Upon arriving, her coal black Scottish terrier Dukes would catapult down the stairs, licking the salt from my skin, endowing me with his sloppy kisses and hearty barks. We jumped on her trampoline. We spent hours swimming in her dad’s pool. We scavenged the neighborhood for unseen adventures waiting behind the nearby forest.

One day, and for some reason, this one stands out, we congregated in her kitchen for a meal like any other time I visited. This time, though, she pulled out the iceberg lettuce, cutting into it and eating it straight. Without salad dressing, without flair or flourish, she munched on those lettuce leaves with sincere delight. I came home and asked my mom to pick up iceberg lettuce and proceeded on my merry way of being a lettuce eater who detested salad dressings, but preferred my greens straight up.

Cari happened to be the first vegetarian in my life and her mother was ahead of her time introducing tofu at the dinner table and banning white sugar from the house. That knack of raising her kids without sugar in the house was effectively rejected at the movie theaters once her dad dropped us off with its colorful boxes of candy-shell coated chocolates. With her, I tagged along to my first Whole Foods store, which back then in Texas carried a different sensibility than hopping over to a neighborhood Whole Foods now. Her mom, Tina taught me how to enjoy vegetables not as the supporting actor, but as the main star. Unlike other kids at that age, I liked most vegetables and the habit stuck around long after Cari and I had gone our separate ways to different schools.

A disturbing trend I’d found happening in my life the past year or so was the marked absence of vegetables. I attempted to introduce them but had somehow convinced myself that they were too much trouble to prepare. On top of that, several gourmet salad cafes near the office dissuaded me from salad as their exotic, gourmet ingredients were met with paltry dressings.

But this was the year to right this blight. And in came kale. We had cooked several batches in weeks previous but I found myself chewing quickly as if it was something to get through and not something to be enjoyed. One night a few weeks back, I came home tired and hungry. Nathan had had a late lunch so I knew he’d probably refrain from dinner. I opened the refrigerator, surveying its contents. My eyes landed on the kale and I began salivating. The previous times, there was nothing wrong with the kale. Once we’d sautéed it with onions and garlic and a bit of applewood smoked bacon. Another time, we’d baked it. But something wasn’t right. This particular evening I figured out my misstep.

With vegetables it’s important to figure out how you enjoy them best. This goes for the non-veggie loving eaters out there. Just like people ordering steak at a steakhouse denote what consistency they like their meat, you might find that those mushy peas you hated in childhood are completely different when cooked al dente. The trick is texture and consistency.

So here was my gem of a realization: I like kale best when it’s raw.

Kale for kale caesar salad

Like this, it has an opportunity to show off its deep green flavors that are so complex and taste rather washed out when cooked. I craved a Kale Caesar Salad and had seen one on Silvana’s blog recently. Upon typing those terms into a search engine, I had the happy fortune of pulling up the recipe below from the Boston Globe. I adapted it, as I am prone to do, out of necessity. I wanted to keep the salad vegetarian and decided against croutons as I wanted the crunchiness to come from the kale itself and thus left the stem intact.

You’ll find letting the leaves marinate in the dressing for about 5-10 minutes really does the trick and those stems are thoroughly chewable and not bitter. You’ll find the flavors of the dressing augment the flavor of the kale without diminishing or hiding it. The brightness of the lemon and vinegar, the tang and slight creaminess of the parmesan and then of course the piquant notes of garlic blend together for a combination that’s mighty tasty. I didn’t miss the anchovies or the egg but understand for Caesar salad purists, these might be non-negotiables to which I say make your own variation of the dressing and have fun tweaking it to your tastes.

Trifecta for Kale Caesar Salad Dressing

My dear Nathan saw the salad bowl and tried a bite. This led to him getting up and grabbing a bowl from the pantry, helping himself to two large scoops of salad that went from bowl into belly.

So out of that desire to continue making vegetables a welcome guest at the table and out of appreciation for Cari and her mother so long ago teaching me that vegetables could be something special, I share with you my own find: the Kale Caesar Salad.

Kale Caesar Salad


Kale Caesar Salad

Adapted from Jill Santopietro’s recipe for the Boston Globe

2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
salt, to taste
1 pound (about 2 bunches) laminate kale, rinsed and sliced into 1/4 inch ribbons

With an immersion blender, blend the garlic and add the lemon juice and vinegar. As your immersion blender continues whirring, add 1/2 cup of the oil in a thin steady stream. Add pepper and Parmesan.

Five to 10 minutes before serving, in a salad bowl, combine the kale and enough dressing to coat it.




Open-Faced Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Goodbye. See you later.

The difference is infintesimile but huge. One infers a finality, a wish that in Spanish conveys the person to God, adios. The other is more casual, connotes opportunity and potential for future meetings.

If 2010 seemed to be the year of big changes, then 2011 is merely riding out the coat tails. After almost eight years living in the Bay Area, my best friend Olga is moving home to be closer to her family.

Her mom suffered a heart attack two days after she stood next to me as maid-of-honor last year. I read the texts on my phone as Nathan and I drove down to Southern California on our honeymoon. The pneumonia that came later didn’t help erase the thought that these symptoms, this story had been written before and too recently in the demise of my dad.

When we returned from honeymooning, Olga and I met up. Large gaps of silence doing the talking ensued; all the kid fears dreaded and for me, realized, found sympathetic voice in the absence of sound. We walked as the words found their way: “she’s in the ICU still.” “I’m scared.”

It felt too soon to be reckoning with this foe again. I wanted a break from sickness, from death, wanting there to be a neutral time and space for Nathan and I to get our bearings.

But this is not the way life was supposed to work. This is the way it works now. Overlap of bitter and sweet. I’m learning to love the sweet even if the bitter is what’s leaving the taste in my mouth.

Her mom is in dire straights, it’s not a huge stretch. She didn’t have to tell me she was moving home. I knew it intuitively.

We didn’t talk about life with the dry socket void of each other that is to come. Instead, we discussed the final days for her at work, the going-away shindigs. I offered to throw a send-off soiree at our house and began contriving gluten free eats she would feel good enjoying as well as how to make it a fond bon voyage rather than one that’s bleak or sad.

And then I found myself buying a plane ticket home the weekend intended for the going-away party. My own family emergency surfacing, the call-to-action was clear and sure: “Go home. Be with the ones you love. Cherish the sweet even in the wake of the bitter.”

And this is a story for another time, as it’s a bit too fresh right now for the re-telling.

Two weeks ago, I didn’t know it would be her last time at my house. What you know at the end of things is to suck the marrow that remains until it’s dry. What you know is there are goodbyes and there are see you laters. What I knew is that I wanted to cook for this person who is more sister than friend, who had been my plus one for the pre-Beck years.

The call was simple: gin rummy and dinner.

Gin rummy is the game we played for several hours sailing the Mediterranean en route to Greece several years ago and what we played wiling away the hours in the Frankfurt airport. It has a history with us and still conjures up this dream of mine of us old and happy, living next to each other in a fishing village in the South of France. In it, she would bring the deck of cards from her neighboring flat; I would make the food. And Nathan, well, he’s a part of that picture now and forever- he would bring the music.

This particular evening, she kept interjecting, wanting to help. And the thing is I wanted her to sit and be the guest of honor. I wanted to serve her. We made a simple dinner of roasted honeyed turnips, salad with mixed greens, apple and a simple mustard vinaigrette and open-faced stuffed Poblano peppers. I found the Poblanos a bit on the firy side- their flames licking the outer orifice of my nostrils as I chopped them. While cooking, I asked her, “Do you trust me?” with a glint of that characteristic mischief she knows so well and she said, “Yes.”

Dinner. Conversation. Gin rummy. Friendship. If you pick one up, you might find the others follow. And the best part is that even what’s new gets grafted into the old.

Into the see you laters.

VEGETARIAN RECIPES- Open-Faced Stuffed Poblano Peppers



Open-Faced Stuffed Poblano Peppers

These are the equivalent of open-faced sandwich stuffed peppers. More of the good stuff! I’ve made this for different audiences and it works really well as a vegetarian entree paired with a salad.  Go gluten free and use brown rice or barley works well too if gluten isn’t a problem.

YIELD: 4 servings

  • 2 Poblano chilies, halved and seeded
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice with daikon radish seeds* (or barley)
  • ½ cup cooked lentils, green or brown (as they’re sturdier than red)
  • 1/4 cup Crema Casera (found in Mexican markets or a mixture of crème fraiche & plain yogurt)
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt or sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dried cherries
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 ounce grated sharp cheddar cheese & monterey jack cheese

Preheat oven to 450.

In a small bowl, combine the brown rice, lentils, crema, pecans, cherries and curry powder with a pinch of cracked black pepper and salt. Mix with a spoon until combined.

Set your peppers inside-up in a pan lined with foil. (This helps clean-up move right along at the end and the foil can double as container to any leftovers.) With a Tablespoon fill the insides of the peppers with the lentil barley mixture. Once you’ve filled each pepper, sprinkle both cheeses on top of each pepper.

Place in the oven for 15 minutes. You’ll find the pepper to still have a bit of crunch with the cheese melted and oozy atop. Serve with a bowl of soup or salad for a quick and easy meal.


*NOTE: Brown rice mix available  at Trader Joe’s. Regular brown rice can be used instead.