Wednesday, December 27, 2006

At Least She Didn't Get the Cookies

According to my mom, my first word as a baby was “cookie”. Somehow, being all grown up now, I’m not surprised. I have a major weakness for cookies. My obsession with all things buttery-sugary related extends beyond any normal food vice that I might have – like good pasta, Mexican food in Connecticut, or a vanilla latte – above all such impressive indulgences, cookies reign supreme. Soft and chewy on the inside, crispy on the outside, dense and full of chocolate or oatmeal or almonds, buttery and doughy, oh, they are a wonder.

That is, of course, if the cookie is made right. And that’s what makes me sadder than anything else: when I see a delicious looking cookie sitting in a glass case at a coffee house or bakery, order it up, and find myself disappointed with something dry, pasty, flavorless, or otherwise lacking. There’s just no excuse.

Until about two years ago, I never really made my own. They were always…uninteresting. I left baking to one of those precise arts I didn’t understand. Then I met Becky (Becky, are you reading this? ;) ), my roommate in CT before Greg and I moved in together. She’s a pretty amazing cookie baker and taught me a trick or two. That got me interested: could I make the ultimate cookie?

There are indeed a few things that always help in making cookies, no matter what form:

1) Start with really soft butter – as in, leave it out the night before. Cream the butter. Cream the butter. Cream it a little more. Keep creaming!!
2) Then add sugar. Cream the butter and sugar together. Longer. Longer. Keep creaming. Go on: cream some more. Okay.

Properly creamed butter becomes light and airy, and it takes on a subtle yellow color. When creamed with sugar, the resulting mixture should be smooth and fluffy. If you feel a bit between your fingers, there shouldn’t be any grittiness – if there is…keep creaming… I usually let my butter and sugar cream for 5-10 minutes in the mixer.

3) Eggs should be warm. Room temperature. This allows the butter to stay creamy and mix with the eggs
4) Add the eggs one at a time. There’s only so much egg a mixture can hold before it separates. Then vanilla.
5) Sift the flour. It does help!
6) I recently learned this one: weigh the flour, don’t measure it. 1 cup = 120g for white flour, =140g for wheat flour. I was shocked when I saw how much my cup measure varied, and I found that my cookies started coming out so much better.

Okay, I admit, I’m usually in much to big of a rush to follow this step, but “they” (the cheffing powers that be), claim this is the secret to a crispy cookie, in the same way it is the secret to a flaky pie crust:

7) Refrigerate the dough for several hours prior to baking

And finally

8) Keeping them the same size really does help, because they cook evenly
9) A good cookie sheet is the key to not burning the bottoms

Here are my two absolute favorite cookie recipes, neither of which I can take any credit for. The chocolate chip cookie recipe is truly amazing without fail and usually exactly what I am craving in a cookie: a dense, moist and chocolatey center with crisp edges. The sugar cookies from Alton Brown are very simple. They remind me of a shortbread more than a sugar cookies: light on the sugar, heavy on the butter.

Alton Brown's Basic Sugar Cookie Recipe
Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

I usually double or triple the espresso powder for the chocolate chip cookies, and I always double or triple the vanilla for any other kind of cookie. I also add 1 tbsp milk per egg in the recipe - this lets the cookies be a little more shelf stable (ie, not dry out) if you are using butter instead of shortening (which you should!!)

The checkerboard cookies are made by splitting a batch of basic sugar cookie dough in half. The first half gets lots of cocoa powder. The second half gets mint extract. And then, with hours of chilling in between each, the logs are squared off, cut, stacked, cut again, frozen, and sliced.

The frosting is very simple, as well. I use dried egg whites, available at crafts stores like Michaels, wipped with water (1tsp powder : 1 tbsp water + dash of cream of tarter) until soft peaks form. Add in powdered sugar a half cup at a time. It forms a room-temperature stable fluffy frosting, that dries relatively hard with a nice crunch.

Also pictured are chocolate with white chocolate chip cookies, originally from the Nestle Tollhouse recipe + Becky’s substitution (minus ½ cup flour, plus 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, no nuts and white chips instead of semisweet).

Lastly, I tried my hand at making caramel corn (sometimes you just get the craving, right?). This was easier than baking cookies, though it does come with an insurance risk. Measure the ingredients, let it boil for 15 minutes and pour molten liquid over pre-popped popcorn with almonds and pecans on a baking sheet. I would recommend you avoid pouring it over the index finger on your right hand, as I did, because it the pot of caramel is really quite hot. The caramel recipe is pretty simple:

2 sticks butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup

- Boil until it forms a crunchy thread in cold water; add 1 tsp baking soda, stir vigorously and pour over popcorn

And after I finished baking all of these cookies (it literally took all day Saturday), I cleaned up and put the few excess things in the still-mildly-hot oven, so that I could leave Tori out and about while I went and delivered cookies to our upstairs tenants. This is what I found when I returned:

The oven door had closed on her, though somehow she escaped “unharmed” (if 4 hours of nearly passed-out whining counts as harmless), with about $30 worth of pesto lasagna in her belly. At least she didn’t get the cookies.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I can't help it... I'm enjoying the food blogging...

I’ve heard all the hype. I’ve seen it on menus and read about it on the internet food blogs. I’ve even indulged in an occasional Mayan Mocha when the mood was right for something spicey and sweet. But until now, I’ve never cooked with chili and chocolate together in a savory dish. It’s not that I’m bothered by messing with the chili powder, but it’s the perception of chocolate flavor that I’m worried about. What if my taste for chocolate is forever tainted by a flavor of something savory? It’s almost like cooking with vanilla – some things just aren’t meant to be paired with salt, pepper and tomatoes. Yet the culinary combination of chili and chocolate is an old, old choice, and a popular one at that. There must be something to this spicey duo.

While we’re talking about spices… there are a few spices that I just don’t like. All-spice is one of them. Chipotle chilis are another. Yet when I went grocery shopping on Saturday, they were calling to me – smokey, deep, earthy, flavorful… if the peppers smell that good, they must taste good too, right? I threw caution to the wind and brought home a small box of the dried and shriveled shells, figuring with a light touch on the seasoning maybe I could enjoy the flavor. Turns out I could.

And while we’re talking about flavors… my favorite secret ingredient for chili is beer. I love beer in chili. I don’t love beer. I don’t even like beer. But put it in a tomato base and it transforms typical flavors into something amazing.

Thus a recipe was born. Half jalepeno, half chipotle for a smokey spiceness that wouldn’t overwhelm me. Including plenty of canned tomatoes and light on the veggies equals a sweet broth, so the beer was used for a little bitter contrast. Finally, as I was tasting the soup / stew in its final stages, I thought “this needs a little something else…something to match the smokiness of the chipotles”. Chocolate and coffee powder it was.

This was a really, really yummy bowl of chili. The flavors all balanced so well: the bright spiciness of the jalepeno, the smokiness of the chipotle and dried chili powder, the bitter fresh taste of the beer and the smooth, mellow depth from the coffee/cocoa powder combo. I actually ended up using substantially greater amounts of all of the dried spices than what I listed below (twice as much, to be exact)– but I provided the more conservative amounts in the recipe as a starting point to season it to your own taste.

I would highly recommend a little cocoa powder or coffee next time you make chili at home. I promise you that you won’t be able to taste the chocolate specifically, you’ll just now that the chili flavor is whole and complete. The only change I would make to this recipe next time would be a little chopped fresh cilantro and maybe some more veggies (this is a very broth-y chili). I’d say this was easy as pie, except pie crusts aren’t easy for me. Let’s just say it is a quick with very few ingredients.

1 large red onion, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 generous tablespoon tomato paste
1 fresh jalepeno pepper, scraped of the seeds and chopped
1 dried chipotle (rehydrate in a small amount of very hot water, scrape the insides and finely chop)

1 28 oz can stewed whole tomatoes with juices
1 16 oz can cannelini beans, rinsed well
1 16 oz can kidney beans, rinsed well
1 bottle of beer (the darker the better)
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped roughly

1/4 cup chili powder
1.5 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp instant coffee powder
2 tbsp cocoa powder
Cayanne pepper for spicey heat
Salt and Pepper

1. Heat oil in soup pot and add onions, bell pepper and tomato paste; cook over medium heat, stirring, for about 10 minutes or until softened
2. Add chopped peppers and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes
3. Add tomatoes, beans, beer, garlic and an extra 16 oz of water (stir carefully from now on to avoid breaking up the beans)
4. Allow to cook over low for at least 45 minutes. Uncover, pull apart the whole tomatoes with two forks and reduce to a desired consistancy (for me that was about 15 minutes). Then season to taste.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

According to photo #10,948 (AKA IMG_0948)

(If you need wedding updates, skip the photos and scroll down!)

Photos taken in the two years I owned my Canon Elf (AKA The Point and Shoot): Maybe 500

Photos taken in the two years that I have owned my Canon Rebel SLR: 11,000

Approximate photos taken per day in past two years: 15

Photos taken in the past two months for Mark's book: 3,000

Approximate photos taken per day taken in last two months: 50

Photos edited in photoshop and submitted for book: 338

Photos chosen so far: somewhere around 70, I think

Gratitude towards famliy and friends for helping with setting up, posing for and thinking about these pictures: so much!

Result of above work: some very numb wrists and fingers, but happy eyes

Thursday, November 30, 2006

This is a wedding blog, right?

(**Note: those people who are "carrying the chuppah" - this is the same thing as "standing up". )

Everybody has been asking for wedding details. There's not too much that I haven't said already... but it's scattered throughout this blog. I'll summarize what we have decided so far. Feel free to ask questions.

Also...I sooooo got a wedding dress while I was in Arizona : ) But I can't talk about it here, because Greg checks this blog.

Important Dates

Villa in Italy rented for: May 19-26th (Saturday to Saturday)
Wedding Day: likely May 23rd
Reception Date: set at Sept 1st

The Villa

You can find a description of the villa here

We will be grouping people as follows:

Linda/Rob + Nancy/Paul
Nancy/Jim + Jen/Pete + Grandma
Rachael/Greg + Jessica/John + Michael/Leslie + Andy/Leslie + Bryan

There is a fourth building available to rent with two bedrooms and a third large open space that someone could sleep in. It runs about $900 for the week, which is cheaper than any hotel (in case other relatives are interested in attending).

There are kitchen's in the main building where Greg and I are at and in the building where Nancy and Jim are at. The Linda/Rob + Nancy/Paul building does not have a kitchen. There is a pool. There are large outdoor grounds. The weather should be gorgeous, as described here

The villa is 3 miles outside of historic rome and very close to public transportation. I encourage you not to rent a car unless you plan on travelling extensively outside of Rome. I'll be assembling a packet for everybody describing how to use the public transit system (it's of course very good)

At some future point I will post about various attractions. Here's what I've heard so far. Venice is incredible and a must-see. Florence is good for art, but not as interesting as some of the other places you can go (unless you're really really into the art). I've heard the amalfi coast is some of the best siteseeing, and coming from a friend that studied abroad and spent time there, that the little towns will probably hold a lot more interest than the super touristy areas. But that's all just opinion. As far as cuisine goes, think lighter/fresher along the coastline and more "traditional" (i.e., closer to what we americans call italian food) further inland.

The wedding party

Andy and Leslie + Jen and Pete will bring out the Chuppah, to be replaced by the parents (and in case you've never been to a Jewish wedding, this is a Chuppah). Bryan is the Best Man. Jessica is the Matron of Honor. Michael will be standing up on Greg's side.

The day before the wedding (Tuesday): We'll all go wine tasting to pick out a wine for the reception dinner in Rome

The day of the wedding (Wednesday): In the morning, I'll go with other people to pick out flowers. The guys will find some excuse to leave the villa for a few hours, then they'll come back and get ready. Wedding ceremony in the afternoon. We'll all go into the city to take photographs, and then we'll come back for a reception dinner at the villa

The day after the wedding (Thursday): Anybody who wants to go to Florence will go to Florence (my family has been talking about a trip there)

Other Things To Know:

Our general colors are brown, blue and sage green. Kind of like that, except the sage green is really sage green (am limited by text colors). Not bright green!

People in the wedding party will not be asked to wear anything in particular, except maybe something that goes along with the general colors if you're standing up.

Here's a copy of the email I just sent to everybody describing a few good fares

Originally we were hoping to group a book flight for everybody. This will not work for various reasons, so it is up to individuals to find good tickets. Do not pay more than $1000 for tickets. If you plan to arrive ahead of time or stay extra, the best deals for hotels are found in what are called "self-catering" (i.e., has a kitchen) apartments outside of the city. You can rent small villas for as cheap as $500 per week if you hunt online, though generally these are far away from the city with gorgeous views. Within the city, check out this site for short term apartment rentals -great apartments in rome can be found for $120 a night. That's only if you're planning to stay outside of the dates that we have rented the villa for

These are the best ticket prices I have seen, but some of them must be purchased by Nov 30th. Some of the flights are already sold out. I would really encourage visiting this site ASAP:

For instance, Logan-->Rome = $750 roundtrip (Greg, can you forward this email to Bryan?)
Phoenix-->Rome = $920 roundtrip
NYC --> London = $540 (nonstop), roundtrip
NYC --> Rome = $880 (nonstop), roundtrip

>From SanFran-->Rome, my friend Jessica already purchased her and her husband's tickets for $840 round trip.

Keep in mind two things:

1) Short connecting flights within the US are often cheap
2) Short connecting flights within Europe are often even cheaper (Madrid --> Rome = $120, London-->Rome = $160, and they often go on sale)
3) Flights will be cheaper from the east coast

The prices to Rome are still pretty good, but if you buy the major segment of the international flight and wait a bit, it is likely that you can find good deals for the shorter leg (e.g., from london to rome, phoenix to NYC, or from hartford to phili)

I have been searching through and found very good prices for NYC-->Rome. 1 stop on the way in + nonstop on the way out = $720 roundtrip

Roundtrip tickets from NYC to Madrid can be found at for $450 including all taxes. Do not let them believe you can fly from NYC-->Madrid-->Rome through their airline (the flights do not connect properly), but you could think about booking the Madrid-->Rome flight separately through a different airline (the NYC-->Madrid flight is nonstop).

Finally, based on these prices, you can also visit and have a sense of how much to bid. Though you won't get to choose your departure time, you can get very good deals this way.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Beautiful Boullabaisse

Cooking in someone else's kitchen (albeit my mother's) is always an adventure. Today I found myself missing my wonderful walnut cutting board, the knife that fits my hand just right, and the pepper grinder that's set to the perfect grind. Shopping for my favorite brands in a new market was even more of an adventure... yet, it was fun, and ultimately I can satisfy my tastebuds just as well in foreign territory. This is Greg's absolute favorite recipe. He jokes that this Boullabaisse Soup is the reason he's marrying me, or, at least, the reason he'll stay married to me when everything else goes bad. As long as I make this soup, we'll be golden.

This recipe takes quite a while to prepare, but it is well worth the effort. It is fishy, comforting, hearty, and bursting with earthy flavor. Sometimes I think an entire bottle of wine is overkill, but then I spoon up this soup and know it's worth it. Sometimes I ommit the carrots and add mushrooms. Sometimes rosemary instead of thyme. As the saying goes, it's all good. For a sweeter soup, use more carrot and celery. For a drier, sharper soup, reduce the vegetables and add more lemon. If you need something lighter, use less garlic, omit the wine and add vegetable stock to compensate.

The onions/garlic must be minced very, very finely (lots of surface area to caramelize and lovely morsles in each spoonfull). The more patient you can be in caramelizing the onions and reducing the wine/stock base, the more intense of a flavor you will get. Simmering the tomatoes for a longer period of time will also sweeten their flavor tremendously. I have found I like a bitter, unsalted vegetable stock (as opposed to sweeter versions) to balance out the carrots and tomato in this dish.

Whatever seafood you feel like - throw on in. The list I had here is a bit overkill. This produces a thick, hearty stew more than a soup! The scallops are very easy to overcook; best to finish cooking them in the soup base while you prepare the shellfish (usually I slice them in half or quarters after searing them).

I think it helps to wait to season the soup base until after the vegetables are done. Adding salt before this will draw out moisture from the vegetables (toughening them and preventing caramelization). I like lots of fresh parsley, lemon, and cayanne pepper in my soup, but others might prefer it plain. If the fishy taste is too much, first take out the clams and crabmeat - without those, the fish flavor is very, very mild.

Sometimes I make extra garlic/shallot/butter (eventually used for the scallops) and reserve it to dunk chunks of bread in. Hope you enjoy. Oh, and both your house and your clothing will smell like fish - beware!! :)

SOUP BASE (easy to make ahead of time)

4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp olive oil
1 sweet onion, minced
1 head of garlic minus 3 cloves, minced
3-4 ribs of celery, minced or chopped
2-3 med carrots, minced or chopped
3 cups vegetable stock
3 cups dry white wine
35 oz. can of whole tomatoes, juice drained, tomatoes pulled into strips
2 small bay leaves
2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp thyme
salt, pepper, and cayanne pepper

1. Mince onions and garlic together
2. Melt butter with olive oil in pan and add onions and garlic. Caramelize for 20-30 minutes
3. Meanwhile, mince the cellery and carrots. Add to soup base and cook for an additional 20 minutes
4. Deglaze with white wine and reduce by 25%
5. Add vegetable stock, tomato strips, bay leaves and other spices
6. Simmer gently for at least 30 minutes with seasoning to taste


1 can clams with juice
1 can crab meat
1 lb flakey white fish (Cod works well)
12 medium scallops or several large ones
12 shellfish (muscles or clams)
1 cup white wine
3 cloves of garlic
1 Shallot

1. Mince shallot and garlic; add to a separate fish pan with olive oil and cook on low heat for 10 minutes
2. Meanwhile, prepare the fish:
- soak the scallops in milk to clean
- scrub shellfish and clean well; place in fresh brine with corn meal to flush out
- slice the white fish into bites and add to simmering soup base (simmer soup base until done!)
3. Turn fish pan to high heat; sear scallops until crispy on the outside and nearly done on the inside; add to soup stock
4. Deglaze with 1 cup wine and immediately steam shellfish. Cook for 6 minutes at most (remove any unopened ones) and add shellfish with cooking liquid to soup

Add chopped parsley. Serve with wedges of lemon and crusty bread.

(Unfortunately my family is not big into shellfish, so there aren't any in the photos I took today!)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Well, at least I have an internet connection.

I had big plans for this post. I was going to detail all of the wonderful thanksgiving concoctions I had planned for dinner. I had plans, oh yes I did. There would be wild rice and cranberry apple stuffing. There would be homemade rosemary scalloped potatoes. There would be green bean casserole with real home made mushroom soup, maybe even some spinach phyllo puffs. There would be pumpkin cheesecake. It was gunna be good folks.

It is approximately 8:32am at the Bradley International Airport, precisely 2 hours after my non-stop flight to Phoenix left the gate without me. The original plan was to get in at 10:10 Arizona Time, cook my family a thanksgiving dinner, and spend the day relaxing, photographing and seeing people I haven't seen in months.

The best laid plans, well...

I'm in a bad mood, bored and need to vent, so I'll tell the story here. If you have a weak constitution, I beg of you, close this internet window now.

11:00pm Wed night. I let Tori out into the backyard.

11:30pm Wed night. Greg and I realize she's not there. Thus follows more than an hour of frantic yelling, calling, cajoling, whistling, and running in 40 degree rain up and down the deserted blocks of New Haven. "Tori! Tori!!!" I wonder what the neighbors think.

12:30am Tori is located. She comes leaping with glee out of the bushes of a neighbor's house. Oh, she can't wait to come inside. She cannot wait to jump all over us and come inside.

12:31am Rachael realizes the horrendous, gag-inducing smell is coming from her dog.

12:32am Further inspection clarifies that the smell is coming both from Tori's mouth, as well as a streak of, erhm, something, down her front. Whatever it was, it was a foul and freaky funk.

12:35am Rachael realizes that merely glancing her sleeve against the dog has transferred the funk to her. Rachael now smells beyond belief.

12:36am Greg declares no dog in house

12:40am Rachael and Greg proceed to rub dog down with towels, spritz her with shampoo, pour water down her front and scrub her with dishwashing liquid, all the while gagging down the indescribably hideous smell and trying not to think of nausea in the 40 degree freezing rain. (I really can't do this smell justice in words. It was bad. It was really gag-inducing)

1:20am Tori goes in her crate so that Rachael and Greg "sleep". Rather, Greg falls asleep and Rachael stares at the ceiling, listening to the sharp scratches of Tori's nails on plastic and her regular cries, growls, and pants as she endures a very upset tummy

2:00am Sounds of throwing up

2:01am Sounds of dog eating throw up

2:05am Smell starts wafting into the bedroom

I'll break narrative at this point. I got up. I spent the next hour scrubbing the carpet and the kennel, disposing of ruined toys, washing mats and scrubbing down her front. I got to watch Tori vomit again, and again and again. I got to be a part of the vomit.

I'm talking projectile, people.

And imagine, if she smelled so bad, what the thing that was making her smell so bad smelled like. There was no way around it: if I didn't save our rugs and other household items then, they would never be usable again, and I'm talking 2 huge 9x12 area rugs that required saving. This had to be done and done thoroughly, or we would live with the funk forever. I finished around 3am.

In order to make my flight (my non-stop!) flight from Hartford to Phoenix we had to leave the house at 4:15am. I set the alarm for 4am. Everything was packed, poised and ready. 1 hour of sleep; I could do it.

I slept through the alarm. I missed my flight by exactly an hour. And now, instead of leaving at 6:32 and arriving at 10:10, I will be leaving bradley at 10:10 and arriving in phoenix, after my connection, at 4:40pm.

Happy thanksgiving. I think I will save the thanksgiving recipes for another day.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Pan fried pumpkin sage gnocchi

So I am going to keep repeating these dates in case anyone needs them:

Villa in Italy rented for: May 19-26th (Saturday to Saturday)
Wedding Day: likely May 23
Reception Date: set at Sept 1st

I tried something today that was very yummy. I read elsewhere that you can fry up gnocchi in a pan rather than boil them. Intruiging idea. Even though I doubted it would taste good (doughy... crunchy... raw... ? something?), I thought I'd give it a shot. Two weeks ago I made a huge batch of pumkin sage gnocchi. I froze most of them and they've been sitting around ever since.

I briefly microwaved the frozen gnocchi on low to try to defrost them a bit, put some butter in a pan, and popped in the gnocchi. I added a little red wine to deglaze (in case you can't tell, I'm usually trying to use up leftover wine when I cook. Greg loves wine, and I only mildly enjoy it, so we reliably have extra), fried everything for a minute longer and plated it up with some parmesan cheese.

I think this would be better with a few changes: (1) I would blanch the gnocchi in boiling water first and do the pan frying in olive oil instead of butter (the butter browned up too much). (2) White wine rather than red, for sure, or maybe a more complex sauce (3) If I was better at making gnocchi, they would have been a more uniform size, and they would have cooked evenly. There were a few that weren't quite done.

Even with all of that... Yum. They were crispy, dense, chewy and had a more robust flavor than the normal boiled gnocchi. I had a hard time getting a good photo of something so, err, covered in butter, but trust me it tasted great. Actually, the best part was the texture - these would hold up well to a chunky sauce with lots of veggies, or maybe something with shallots and garlic.

Monday, November 13, 2006

There's no food like comfort food

Some of you have been asking about the wedding dates, and I realized that I haven't posted them here.

Villa in Italy rented for: May 19-26th (Saturday to Saturday)
Wedding Day: likely May 23
Reception Date: set at Sept 1st

Back to more important things. Like, for instance, cauliflower kugel. This recipe caught my eye, not so much for the vegetable involved (because of all the vegetables, let's face it, cauliflower's no Corvette), but because it was under the passover section of epicurious, and I got a little - uhm, curious. If there's one thing that the Jewish people are good at, it's comfort food. From spinach casserole to potato knishes, matzoh ball soup and noodle kugel, we've got all things guilt-ridden and fit for a cold winter covered. How then could such a tradditional dish be made healthy... light... gourmet? Hm, this required investigating.

It did take a long time to make, there're too many dishes to clean up, and yes, when I was done it looked like the cauliflower had exploded (been murdered?) in my kitchen - but I think it was worth it, as evidence by the almost-three helpings I had myself.

The original recipe can be found here. After reading through the comments and assessing my pantry, I made a few changes. First, most people agreed that the cauliflower itself needed a little pick-me-upper. In this case, I added two cloves of garlic and an indecent amount of salt (did I measure? Of course not).

Secondly, this recipe is begging for a breadcrumb/cheese topping. The original topping called for parsley, dill and almonds. Not wanting to destroy the lightness of the dish, but really wanting a crispy topping, I changed the topping to parsley, dill, 2 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 cup storebought breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup parmesean (grated). This change may have been a mistake. It's not that the topping was bad (trust me, with that much butter soaked breadcrumb for every bite, it was, as Rachael Ray would put it, "Yum-OH") - it was just a little bit oily. When I make this again, I'll lighten up the topping and cut the leek olive in half.

I also like things crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, so I cooked this at 425 for 30 minutes instead of 350.

Now I've had "mashed cauliflower" before, and I don't like it. It's not bad - I just find myself wanting mashed potatoes. It's too similar to the classic dish. Maybe it's because I'm not in the habit of eating lots of kugel, but I thought this dish really was a good, fiber filled substitute to the normal carbohydrate concoction. I liked the fresh herbs, though I thought they were a little too sharp. Needs something in there to blend the flavors more - maybe the almonds would have done that.

2 medium heads of cauliflower
2 large leeks
2 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
6 tbsp olive oil
6 tbsp matzo meal
3 large eggs
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 bunch dill, chopped
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Break apart the cauliflower and chop up the florets. Rinse and add to a steamer basket. Bring water to a boil and steam until tender (about 20 minutes)

2. Meanwhile, split the leeks down the center and rinse very well. They often have dirt in them, so it helps to pry back the layers while rinsing. Chop into 1/4 inch sections. Add 4 tbsp oil to a pan with garlic and leeks; cook until softened (10-15 minutes)

3. When the cauliflower and leek mixtures are cooked, drain the cauliflower and add it to the leek pan. Roughly mash the cauliflower with the back of a spoon.

4. While the vegetables are cooling, add matzo meal, 3 eggs, and a large pinch of the chopped parsley and dill each to a bowl. Salt and pepper liberally. Mix well and add to cooled vegetables.

5. Grease baking dish with olive oil. Add vegetable/egg mixture and spread evenly.

6. Mix bread crumbs, parmesean cheese, butter and remaining olive oil together. Layer this on top of the vegetables. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 425 degrees, or until the center has set. Let cool for 10 minutes before eating.