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From the food editor: It's time to clean out your pantry, plus a recipe for Cauliflower Arancini

Cauliflower Arancini.

Michelle Stark | Times

Cauliflower Arancini.

This week's cover story is a good reminder that, every once in a while, it's good to give your kitchen a deep cleaning.

I'm not talking about scrubbing dishes. I'm talking about combing through your pantry and fridge (particularly those shelves on the door) and getting rid of anything that has been in there for more than a year. Throw away duplicate items — do you really need three jars of strawberry jam? — or, better yet, put them to good use by working them into one of the recipes featured on Page 6.

What better time than spring to clear everything out, focus on what's really worth keeping, and repurpose the rest?

We focused mostly on the pantry and refrigerator in our story, but the freezer is another culprit for storing long-lost foods. Freezing food items allows them to remain usable for months, sometimes up to a year, but that doesn't mean they have an indefinite shelf life. Every time you put something in there, try labeling it — either by taking a Sharpie directly to a plastic bag, or affixing a sticker onto a container. And be sure to put the month, day and year. I'll never forget that time a few months ago when I pulled out a bag of frozen chicken with "11/14" on it. My fiance asked whether that meant Nov. 14 or November 2014. To my horror, I had no idea. The truth is, it could have been either.

Green Chef intrigues, inspires

This week's recipe is inspired by a new mail-order cooking service I tried recently. It's called Green Chef, and the hook is that it provides organic ingredients that are free of "synthetic pesticides, genetically modified organisms, artificial ingredients and growth hormones or antibiotics." That drew me in — and an email offer for four free meals.

This particular service is interesting in that, unlike other recipe delivery services, such as Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, a lot of the work was already done. The recipe for Cauliflower Arancini came with pregrated cauliflower "rice" and premade pesto.

In the recipe below, we're making it all from scratch, which means taking a whole head of cauliflower and turning it into a grainlike substance. Using cauliflower like this proves just how versatile the vegetable is; in this preparation, it can be used in stir-fries, simple side dishes and as a substitute for rice.

By mixing it with cheese and bread crumbs and rolling it into balls, it mimics traditional arancini, rice balls that usually are deep-fried. This is a healthier and more complex-tasting version.

Contact Michelle Stark at mstark@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.

medium

Cauliflower Arancini

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon cream cheese
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • ¼ red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ cups bread crumbs
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 orange
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • ⅛ of a red onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons pesto (see note)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring cream cheese to room temperature.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Grate the entire head of cauliflower so it resembles a small grain. Add cauliflower to boiling water; stir. Return to a boil. Cook 2 minutes, then transfer to a fine mesh strainer and strain. Make sure to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
  3. Place cauliflower in a medium bowl. Add red bell pepper.
  4. Add bread crumbs and cream cheese to bowl with cauliflower. Season with salt and pepper and Italian seasoning. Thoroughly mix to form a stiff dough. Form arancini mix into 8 to 10 balls.
  5. Heat about 2 tablespoons cooking oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add arancini to hot pan. Sear two sides, 1 or 2 minutes each, or until browned.
  6. Coat a foil-lined baking sheet with nonstick spray, or rub with a light coating of cooking oil. Transfer arancini to baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, or until warm in the center.
  7. Meanwhile, cut off top and bottom of orange. Lay flat and remove peel with curved downward cuts, exposing flesh. Cut orange into bite-sized pieces.
  8. Place baby spinach, red onions and orange in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine olive oil and red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then pour over salad. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Toss to coat.
  9. Spread basil pesto across one side of each plate. Top pesto with 4 to 5 cauliflower arancini. Serve orange and spinach salad on the side.
  10. Note: Use store-bought pesto, or make your own by adding 1 large minced garlic clove, 2 cups fresh basil leaves, ⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt to a food processor and pulsing until smooth. Serves 2.
Source: Adapted from a recipe by Green Chef

From the food editor: It's time to clean out your pantry, plus a recipe for Cauliflower Arancini 04/04/16 [Last modified: Monday, April 4, 2016 2:35pm]
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