WINTER’S WHITE GOLD

Buttery Braised Belgian Endive | for the love of the south

Like an anxious child, I start tearing through kitchen boxes that have been stored up for months. In the matter of moments, my winter white kitchen begins taking on a life of its own as copper and silver trays, amber glass bottles filled with spices and salts, countless mason jars, slicked cast-iron skillets, brass pots and nicked wood cutting boards settle into their proper places. The kitchen is set up just in time as a blizzard is forecasted to barrel through Nashville. Whenever you live in the South and snowfall is predicted, you equip yourself with essentials, which usually come in the form of bread and milk. In a storm one thing is certain, we must eat.

Belgian Endive | for the love of the south

Slowly but surely, the dust begins to settle as I relax into a home we have been renovating for the past six months. Michael and I left the loft in Franklin and purchased a lovely fixer upper in the heart of Nashville. The house has been stripped down to the studs, and, finally, after many months of blood, sweat and tears, it’s beginning to feel like a home.

Purple Garlic | for the love of the south

The first click-click-click of the gas range seems to blow away any cobwebs. Armed with a beloved and dearly missed knife, I begin ripping through the centers of crisp white and pale green Belgian endive, also known as winter’s white gold. Deep green rosemary sprigs and pink papery jackets from purple garlic litter my table. Pulling out my cast-iron skillet is like reuniting with an old, loyal friend. No matter how much time has passed between the two of you, it’s like no time has passed at all. The endive starts to char in the skillet, and the bitter, crisp leaves sweeten and soften like silk petals. Lentil soup already at hand simmers away in a small copper pot on the back burner. In less than thirty minutes, I enjoy my first meal in my snow covered home.

Braised Belgian Endive | for the love of the south

Buttery braised Belgian endives pair beautifully with comforting, familiar lentil soup. This is purely a vegetarian dish, yet the endives take on a “meaty” quality with help from the rosemary and garlic. Spoon a little of the leftover cream from the endives into the lentil soup, which adds richness, decadence and also ties the two dishes together wonderfully. If by chance you have any leftover endive, toss in an omelet or with pasta. You could also create another soup with the endive by sweating onions, garlic and braised endive in a pot, add stock, season, and simmer for twenty minutes. This is what I call home cooking: Picking up loose ends from one dish and tying them together with the next, forming an everlasting meal.

Buttery Braised Belgian Endive | for the love of the south

This post was created in sponsorship with Food 52 & Progresso. All thoughts and opinions belong to me!

Buttery Braised Belgian Endive:

Serves 4

4 Belgian endive

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

¾ cup heavy whipping cream

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

2 rosemary sprigs

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Sea salt and black pepper, to season

Preheat oven to 400oF

Trim the ends of the endive and remove any discolored outer leaves. Cut in half lengthwise, and season the cut side of the endive lightly with sea salt.

Melt butter in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the endive, cut side down, and cook until golden, 2-5 minutes. Place the endive, browned sides up in a large, shallow baking dish. Add cream, garlic, and rosemary sprigs to the dish. Season lightly with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes, or until the endive are tender. Drizzle with lemon juice and serve.

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SUNDAY AT DOMENICA

Roasted Cauliflower with Cheese Spread

On our honeymoon, my brand-new husband and I crossed the threshold of Domenica’s in New Orleans at around 5:00 p.m. To our surprise there was already a 3 hour wait for walk-ins. So, reservation-less and with the subtle glow of fainting newlyweds, we began stalking the tiny bar, which was tucked away in the corner of the restaurant. After a few moments of pathetic low-blood sugar stares, we finally nabbed 2 seats at the bar. Shameless success.

We made it clear we were here for the pizza as Domenica boasted some of the best in town. We ordered 2 full-sized pizzas, one with meat for the carnivorous male and one white pizza for myself. I felt content with our selection until I saw something roaming around the restaurant that caught my eye.  From a distance, the dish looked like a large, charred, textured…ball? As the plate got closer and closer I realized it was cauliflower. Cauliflower. Whole roasted cauliflower served with a creamy spread, puddled with rich, fruity olive oil.

The fair head is poached in a lovely, bubbling bath of white wine, lemon juice, olive oil and butter, stained and roasted in an 800-degree wood-burning oven. The whole head of cauliflower arrives dramatically at the table; singed with a Laguiole steak knife strategically plunged into its head, exposing a hint of winter white under the bronzed florets.

Domenica’s pizzas were outstanding, but it was this unusual, dramatic appetizer that grabbed my attention and did not dare let go. As we were about to walk back onto the streets of New Orleans, bellies full and spirits (and blood sugar) high, I turned and looked at the restaurant and spotted many a cauliflower heads and smiled. New Orleans knows how to feed its people and anyone else that walks across the city’s threshold.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Feta SpreadRecipe: From Domenica, Courtesy of Bon Appétit

Serves 6

Note: Whenever prepping the cauliflower head, pull back and discard the leaves and trim the core so that the whole head will sit flat on the roasting pan. Also, if you don’t care for the taste of wine, you can omit it; just add 2 ½ cups more water to the poaching liquid.

Roasted Cauliflower Ingredients:

2 ½ cups of dry white wine (optional)

1/3 cup of olive oil

1/4 cup of kosher salt

3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons of butter

1 tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon of sugar

1 head of cauliflower, leaves removed

Whipped Goat Cheese Ingredients and Assembly:

4 ounces of fresh goat cheese

3 ounces of cream cheese

3 ounces of feta

1/3 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving

Coarse sea salt and black pepper to taste

Roasted Cauliflower:

Preheat oven to 475 degrees

Bring wine (if using), oil, kosher salt, lemon juice, butter, red pepper flakes, sugar and 8 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Add cauliflower, reduce heat to a simmer, turning occasionally, until a knife easily inserts into the center, about 15-20 minutes.

Using a mesh spider, drain the cauliflower well and transfer cauliflower to a rimmed baking sheet (make sure there is very little liquid remaining in the cauliflower or else smoke could pour out of your oven and make your smoke alarm go off and your neighbors would very much dislike you.) Roast, rotating sheet halfway through until browned all over, 30-40 minutes.

Whipped Goat Cheese and Assembly:

While the cauliflower is roasting, blend goat cheese, cream cheese, feta, cream, and 2 tablespoons oil in a food processor or blender until smooth, season with sea salt and black pepper to taste. Transfer whipped goat cheese to a serving bowl and drizzle with oil.

Transfer cauliflower to a plate. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt. Place a steak knife in the middle of the roasted head of cauliflower. Serve with whipped goat cheese.

THE BEST BROCCOLI SALAD OF MY LIFE

Broccoli Salad

In planning my wedding reception, I discovered a wonderfully enchanting venue called Limestone Bay Trading Co. in the historic Mooresville, Alabama. Tucked away in a quiet spot off of the highway, sat the tiny, unforgotten old trading company, chockfull of vintage charm. Shelves full of old-fashioned kitchen tools don the walls, classic cameras hang right above a stained-glass window, and homemade jams and jellies stand at attention behind a vintage register. As charming as the venue might be, there is one priority for the reception dinner. The food must be wonderful.

So, the owner, Dee, brought out a few sides for us to pick at while hashing out the details of the event: flowers, vases, and menu items… that’s about the time my fork dove into the broccoli salad. The broccoli salad. In mere moments, I became completely distracted from the most important day of my life and began dissecting what was in this simple and elegant salad. Sweet, crunchy, creamy… Dee, while excusing herself to get a cup of coffee, asked if anyone needed anything. I looked at her with the most pathetic eyes and stared at my empty dish. “I’ll get you some more broccoli salad,” she said. Life instantly got better.

The big day went off without a hitch. When sitting down at the wedding reception dinner, Dee offered to make my plate, and within moments, a whole plate filled with red wine infused beef brisket, dreamy creamed corn and crispy cornbread arrived in front of my beaming face, along with an entire plate full of my beloved broccoli salad. Thanks, Dee.

Broccoli Salad

Recipe: Inspired by The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Makes 4 cups

Deb Perelman highlights a sensational broccoli salad in her new book The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. In the original recipe, Deb uses raw onions, but I substituted the onions for shallots (I’m not a huge fan of eating raw onion.) Also, running the chopped shallots under cold water for a few seconds mellows out the oniony bite even more.

1/4 cup of buttermilk

1/4 cup of good mayonnaise

1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar or cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon of sugar

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/2 shallot, finely chopped

1 head of broccoli

1/4 cup of toasted sliced almonds

1/8 cup of dried cranberries, coarsely chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk the buttermilk, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar and salt until smooth. Stir in the shallot. Allow the shallot to mellow out in the dressing for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, trim the broccoli, and chop it into large chunks. Then cut chunks into thin slices (you could do the slicing with a mandoline, just watch your fingers!) Toss the broccoli with almonds and cranberries.

Pour the dressing over the broccoli mixture, and add a generous amount of freshly cracked black pepper. Stir the salad until all of the components have been evenly coated. This salad can be served immediately or lasts 3 days in the fridge.