oil-poached salmon with roasted beets and garlicky cauliflower puree

Image: Olaiya Land


I landed in Glasgow a few hours ago and am now writing you from the the corner of a wood-paneled Scottish pub. I’ve crossed eight time zones on zero sleep--so I’m feeling simultaneously exhausted and hopped up--and I’m starting to wonder if chasing a huge coffee with a glass of red wine is as effective a jet lag cure as it seemed at the outset!

When I first arrive in a new city with no clue of how to get around or where to find a good meal or what to do with myself, I am beset by a panicky sense of dread. Right now, for example, I’m surrounded by gentlemen leafing through the local paper, sipping pints and speaking in a Glaswegian accent so thick I can barely make out what they’re saying. Not only do I feel like a crazy person from the jet lag, I feel completely out of my element. 

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

But, I think getting outside my comfort zone is important. 

I always come back with new ideas to incorporate into my Seattle life and new creative inspiration. Which is why I’ve been thinking a lot about how to incorporate a sense of exploration into my life even when I’m not traveling--how to experiment and take risks and step outside my comfort bubble at home. 

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with my photography, trying out new techniques to figure out what I find most compelling. Just like traveling, shooting this week’s recipe was uncomfortable at first. I felt overwhelmed and unsure of which direction to go. But once I started trying out different color schemes and compositions and lighting, it started to flow and feel more like an adventure than a nerve-racking foray into uncharted territory. 

Image: Olaiya Land

It’s a good reminder that taking risks and venturing into the unknown keeps me growing and moving forward, even when I fear I’m sticking out like a sore American thumb and want to slink back to the hotel for a nap.

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

I’m heading to northern Scotland in a few days for my friend Natasha’s photography workshop. So I’ll be checking in with you next week from the Highlands. Until then, I hope you keep exploring--whether in your own living room or half-way around the globe.

Oil-Poached Salmon with Roasted Beets and Garlicky Cauliflower Puree

  • 1 lb wild salmon (I used king)
  • Good quality extra virgin olive oil (amount will vary depending on the size of your pan)
  • 1 spring onion, halved lengthwise
  • 2-3 sprigs each parsley, tarragon and dill (feel free to substitute other herbs)
  • 4 1-inch strips lemon zest
  • 1 recipe Garlicky Cauliflower Puree (see below)
  • 1 recipe Roasted Beets (see below)
  • 2 tablespoon roughly chopped dill, to serve
  • 2 tablespoons finely sliced scallion (green part only), to serve
  • 1 tablespoon, torn mint leaves, to serve

*Notes: This technique works well with any flaky fish. Cod and halibut are good choices if you prefer whitefish. Feel free to use whatever herbs you like.

Image: Olaiya Land

Place the salmon in a single layer in a deep saucepan or saute pan. Cover with olive oil and add the spring onion, herbs and lemon zest. Cover and cook on low heat until the salmon is just cooked through. Times will vary significantly depending on the thickness of your salmon, so start checking after 15 minutes or so. Remove the salmon from the oil and transfer to a large plate or platter. Salt generously and set aside to cool. Strain the oil through a fine mesh sieve and discard the solids. (You can use the strained oil in the cauliflower puree and the roasted beets. Refrigerated, the oil will keep for a day or two. Freeze or discard any strained oil that you don’t use within this window.)

When you’re ready to serve, spread the cauliflower puree on a serving platter. Arrange the sliced beets and salmon over the puree. Sprinkle with salt and top with the dill, scallions and mint. Can be served warm or at room temperature. 

Makes 4-6 servings.

Garlicky Cauliflower Puree

  • 1 large head cauliflower (about 2 lbs.), cut into ½-inch pieces

  • 1 cup blanched slivered almonds

  • Coarse sea salt

  • 1-2 cloves garlic

  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

  • ½ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil (can be the strained olive oil leftover from poaching the salmon)

Image: Olaiya Land

Place the cauliflower and almonds in a stock pot and add ½ cup water. Bring the water to the boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is very tender, 30-35 minutes. Remove the lid in the last 5 or so minutes of cooking to allow any water in the bottom of the pot to evaporate.

Transfer the cauliflower and almonds to a blender or food processor along with a generous pinch of salt, 1 clove of garlic and the red wine vinegar. Process on high speed, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary, until very smooth. Taste and add the other garlic clove if your puree isn’t as garlicky as you’d like. With the motor running, drizzle the olive oil into the blender or food processor in a thin stream. Process until the oil is completely emulsified and the mixture is smooth. Taste and add more salt, if necessary. Set aside.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Roasted Beets

  • 4-5 medium beets (1 to 1 ¼ lbs), greens removed

  • Olive oil, for drizzling

  • Coarse sea salt

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1 teaspoon allspice berries

  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus more to taste

Image: Olaiya Land

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Place the beets in a non-reactive baking dish. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt. Place the cinnamon, allspice and garlic in the dish. Add the water and vinegar. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and roast for 45-60 minutes, until tender at the center when pierced with a paring knife. Set aside. Strain the cinnamon stick, allspice berries and garlic from the juices in the bottom of the baking dish. Discard the solids and keep the beet cooking liquid.

When the beets are cool enough to handle, remove the skins (use latex gloves or paper towels to avoid staining your hands) and cut into quarters or large dice. Place the cut beets in a non-reactive bowl and toss with their cooking liquid. Adjust seasonings, adding more red wine vinegar, salt and olive oil to taste.

Makes 4-6 servings.

roasted cauliflower salad with pomegranate and hazelnuts

roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad on

For those of you in the US, I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving! Ours was much better than I expected. As I wrote in my last post, I had been having a hard time getting in the holiday spirit after the election. A few days before Thanksgiving (with no menu whatsoever in place) I happened upon this article, which gave me the idea to draw on Middle Eastern flavors for our holiday meal. The bright flavors of Turkey, Iran, Lebanon and Israel felt like just what I needed to lift me out of my funk.

So I decided to scrap the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce in favor of lemony leek meatballs; a basmati pilaf with chickpeas, currants and dill; homemade flatbread with za’atar; cucumber yogurt and a beautiful pink beet hummus. The star of the dinner, though, was this roasted cauliflower salad with pomegranate and hazelnuts. 

roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad on
roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad on
roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad on

The recipe comes from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi--one of my all-time favorite cookbooks. This salad is earthy, nutty, sweet and tart all at once. The silky texture of the roasted cauliflower is balanced by the crunch of raw celery and toasty hazelnuts. The fact that this salad sits at the unlikely intersection of so many contrasting flavors and textures is a large part of it’s appeal. The fact that it’s beautiful and healthy doesn’t hurt either.

After I made this for Thanksgiving, I realized how festive those jewel-toned colors are--perfect for adding a bright splash to your holiday table. Or a quick weeknight supper. Either way, you can’t go wrong. 

cauliflower and hazelnut salad on

And in case you’re wondering, my post-election blues seem to be fading. I’ve been talking to friends about meaningful ways to take action and stand up for what I believe in. And gathering around the table with loved ones as often as possible. Which, in my opinion, is the best ways to cure any sort of blues.

roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad on

Roasted Cauliflower and Hazelnut Salad

  • 5 tablespoons hazelnuts, raw or toasted
  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
  • ¼ cup olive oil, divided
  • Kosher or sea salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 2 large stalks celery, cut on the bias into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1/4 cup celery leaves
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves

*Note: I recommend toasting your own hazelnuts for this recipe so their dark, nutty flavor really comes through. But pre-roasted nuts will do in a pinch.

roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad on

If you are using raw hazelnuts: preheat your oven to 325° F. Spread the hazelnuts on a rimmed sheet pan and roast until the skins start to loosen and the nuts turn golden-brown and fragrant, 8-12 minutes  Transfer the hot hazelnuts to a clean tea towel. Gather the four corners of the towel and twist them together to form a parcel around the hazelnuts. Rub vigorously to remove as many skins as possible. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Increase the oven temperature to 475° F. Place the cauliflower on a parchment lined sheet pan, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and toss with a generous pinch of salt. Roast until browned in spots and tender, 15-20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, sherry vinegar, maple syrup, cinnamon, allspice and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

Roughly chop the hazelnuts and place them in a large bowl along with the cauliflower, pomegranate seeds, celery, celery leaves, parsley and the vinaigrette. Stir to coat, taste, and adjust seasonings.

Serve at room temperature.

Makes 3-4 side-dish servings.
Adapted slightly from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad on

simple suppers: spaghetti with roasted cauliflower, currants, pine nuts, chile and sardines

spaghetti with roasted cauliflower, currants, pine nuts, chile and sardines via

You’ll be happy to hear I’m (mostly) done complaining about being back under grey Northwest skies. Shaking the nasty head cold I came home with has helped brighten my mood. As did seeing so many fantastic folks from the Seattle food community at Book Larder’s 5th birthday bash last night. 

The food was mightily on point, too. My friend Kyle made ridiculously delicious lamb meatballs bathed in some sort of creamy tomato business that everyone was swooning over. And pastry chef extraordinaire, Rachael Coyle, baked a carrot cake studded with dates and nuts and layered with the fluffiest mascarpone filling that made me lose all restraint. (I may or may not have gone back for thirds.)

spaghetti with roasted cauliflower, currants, pine nuts, chile and sardines via

Also, a brute of a storm is rolling into town this weekend. There’s talk of gale-force winds and power outages. Beau and I have battened down our hatches and are planning to spend the next couple days indoors playing cards, reading, watching movies and cooking (as long as we have power), which sounds like the perfect way to spend a blustery fall weekend.

spaghetti with roasted cauliflower, currants, pine nuts, chile and sardines via

Another thing that boosted my mood this week is this spicy spaghetti with roasted cauliflower, currants, pine nuts and sardines. This humble, improvised dinner was just the sort of comfort food I needed. Creamy, nutty and salty-sweet, it was a happy coincidence of pantry staples that yielded a whole much greater than the sum of its parts. A sort of weeknight dinner alchemy. And the best part is that it somehow managed to taste even better today when we had the leftovers for lunch. 

spaghetti with roasted cauliflower, currants, pine nuts, chile and sardines via
spaghetti with roasted cauliflower, currants, pine nuts, chile and sardines via

Good ingredients are key here. Especially, the sardines. I used a can of the amazing sardines I brought back from Portugal. I recommend searching out good quality Portuguese, Spanish or Italian sardines for this dish. (A few mashed up anchovy fillets would work in a pinch.) And for those of you who are not fans of canned fish--I hear you. I would never open a can of sardines and eat them with a fork like Beau does. That’s far too fishy for me! But against a backdrop of earthy roasted cauliflower, sweet-tart dried currants, salty parmesan and toothsome spaghetti, sardines lend just the right amount of briny umami to round out this dish. 

I cannot say precisely whether it was seeing so many friends this week, or the mood-boosting properties of all the sardines I ate, or the excitement of preparing for this weekend’s storm, or possibly even the carrot cake-induced sugar rush I experienced yesterday that lifted my mood. What I can say is that I’m grateful to be feeling more at home in our little home. And that this pasta is my new favorite cold-weather comfort food.

spaghetti with roasted cauliflower, currants, pine nuts, chile and sardines via
spaghetti with roasted cauliflower, currants, pine nuts, chile and sardines via

Spaghetti with Roasted Cauliflower, Currants, Pine Nuts, Chile and Sardines

  • 1 medium head cauliflower
  • 6-8 tablespoons good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt or kosher salt, to taste
  • 12 oz. dried spaghetti
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • Generous pinch chile flakes (or to taste)
  • ¼ cup capers, rinsed
  • ¼ cup dried currants
  • 1 can sardine filets (about 4 oz.)
  • 1 cup finely grated parmesan, plus additional to garnish
  • ½ cup toasted pine nuts
spaghetti with roasted cauliflower, currants, pine nuts, chile and sardines via

Preheat your oven to 450° F.

Wash and dry your cauliflower well. Remove any tough leaves and stalks and toss. Remove the tender, pale green leaves and set aside. Slice the cauliflower into ½-inch thick slices (the flat sides of sliced cauliflower make more uniform contact with the pan allowing the cauliflower to brown more evenly). Arrange the cauliflower and tender leaves in a single layer on a rimmed sheet pan (use parchment paper for easier clean-up if you want). Brush with 2-4 tablespoons of the olive oil. The amount you need will depend on the size of your cauliflower--you want it coated on all sides. Sprinkle with salt and roast until the cauliflower is just tender and nicely browned, about 20 minutes, turning once.  

While the cauliflower is roasting, bring a large pot of generously salted water (it should taste like the sea) to the boil. Add the spaghetti and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta-cooking water. Drain the pasta and place it back in the pot. Add a tablespoon or so of the cooking water if necessary to keep it from sticking to the pot.

spaghetti with roasted cauliflower, currants, pine nuts, chile and sardines via

When the cauliflower is done, remove it from the oven and set aside. Heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and chile flakes and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add the capers, currants and sardines. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often  until the ingredients are heated through. Smash the sardines with the back of a wooden spoon if necessary to break them up. Cut the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces and add it to the pot with the spaghetti along with the cheese and ½ cup of the reserved pasta water. Cook over low heat, stirring well, until the cheese has melted and formed a sauce with the pasta water. Taste and add a bit more salt if necessary and a bit more pasta water if it seems dry. Serve hot sprinkled with the toasted pine nuts and extra grated parmesan.

Makes 4 servings.