Classic Cauliflower Cheese

1 medium to large cauliflower
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Cheese Sauce:
4 Tbsp butter salted or unsalted
3-4 Tbsp all purpose flour *see Notes
1 cup milk at least 2% b.f.
1 cup whipping cream 35% b.f. ** see Notes
2 cups aged cheddar cheese grated, well packed
Pinch nutmeg grated or powdered
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425F.

Prepare and roast the cauliflower: Remove the stem leaves and core from the cauliflower and break off the florets into large chunks. (Not sure how to cut the cauliflower? Try my easy method details in the Cook’s Noes above). If you like, you can cut away most of the stalks and just use the florets or use it stalks and all. Cut the florets into bite-sized pieces, but not too small.

Place the cauliflower in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Scatter onto a baking sheet and roast in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until tender (test with a knife) and golden in spots. Remove from the oven, set aside and REDUCE THE OVEN TEMPERATURE TO 400F.
Prepare the cheese sauce: Measure out your milk and cream in a 2-cup measuring cup and set aside. Grate your cheese and have ready.

In a large saucepan (you’ll be adding the cauliflower to it later, so make sure it’s big enough), melt the butter oven medium heat.

Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes, or as long as you feel you can without letting it scorch.

Reduce the heat under the pan to medium-low. Pour in a small amount of the cream/milk and whisk until a smooth paste forms.

Add the remaining milk a bit at a time and whisk until smooth, until all the milk has been added. Cook sauce over medium-low heat and whisking regularly, until the sauce noticeably thickens.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the grated cheese. Let stand without stirring for about 2 minutes, then stir together. The cheese should have all melted in to the sauce. If by chance it hasn’t, you can return the pot to the burner over low heat to finish the melting.

Add the nutmeg and stir in. Taste the sauce and add salt and freshly ground pepper, as needed.

Add the roasted cauliflower to the pot with the cheese sauce and stir to completely coat the cauliflower. Spoon the cauliflower cheese mixture into a baking dish large enough to hold it all. Place the baking dish onto a baking sheet (to catch any bubble overs).

Place into the preheated 400F and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until bubbly and deep golden on top. Let stand a few minutes before serving, to allow the sauce to set up a bit.

Notes: If using heavy cream, you should be good with 3 Tbsp of flour. If using a lighter cream, whole milk or you’re using cream, but want a thicker sauce, go with the 4 Tbsp of flour.
** Heavy whipping cream will produce the best results, but if you prefer, you could use a lighter cream, such as table cream (18% b.f) or half and half cream (10% b.f.)

Roast the cauliflower just until tender with just a few golden spots. Test it with a knife to be sure it’s tender, then remove. You don’t want to roast all of the moisture out of it.

Add the milk/cream mixture in small increments (a scant 1/4 cup-ish at a time), to ensure a smooth sauce.

Be sure to properly season your dish, starting with seasoning the cauliflower before roasting and ending with tasting and seasoning the cheese sauce at the end of cooking it on the stove-top, to really bring out the flavours.

Turning off the heat under your pot (or removing it from the burner if you have an electric stovetop) immediately after adding the cheese helps to ensure a smooth and creamy sauce, as the cheese is allowed to melt slowly from the residual heat in the sauce.

Fish-Fragrant Eggplant

1 pound 5 ounces (600g) eggplants (1–2 large)
Salt
Cooking oil, for deep-frying
1 1/2 tablespoons Sichuan chile bean paste
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
10 tablespoons (150ml) hot stock or water
4 teaspoons superfine sugar
1 teaspoon Chinese light soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon potato starch, mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
1 tablespoon Chinkiang vinegar
6 tablespoons thinly sliced scallion greens

Cut the eggplants into batons about 3/4 inch (2cm) thick and 2 3/4 inches (7cm) long. Sprinkle with salt, mix well and set aside for at least 30 minutes.

Rinse the eggplant, drain well and pat dry with paper towels. Heat the deep-frying oil to around 390°F (200°C) (hot enough to sizzle vigorously around a test piece of eggplant). Add the eggplant, in two or three batches, and deep-fry for about 3 minutes, until tender and a little golden. Drain well on paper towels and set aside.

Carefully pour off all but 3 tablespoons oil from the wok and return to medium heat. Add the chile bean paste and stir-fry until the oil is red and fragrant: take care not to burn the paste (move the wok away from the burner if you think it might be overheating). Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry until they smell delicious.

Tip in the stock or water, sugar and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, then add the eggplant, nudging the batons gently into the sauce so they do not break apart. Simmer for a minute or so to allow the eggplant to absorb the flavors.

Give the potato starch mixture a stir and add it gradually, in about three stages, adding just enough to thicken the sauce to a luxurious gravy (you probably won’t need it all). Tip in the vinegar and all but 1 tablespoon of the scallion greens, then stir for a few seconds to fuse the flavors.

Turn out onto a serving dish, scatter over the remaining scallion greens and serve.

Mujaddara (Lebanese Lentils and Rice)

4 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
4 bay leaves
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and drained
1 cup basmati rice, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup peanut oil
2 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
Plain whole-milk yogurt, to serve

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, combine 5 cups water, the garlic, bay, cumin, allspice, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, then stir in the lentils and reduce to medium. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat to maintain a simmer, until the lentils are softened but still quite firm at the center, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the rice and return to a simmer. Cover, reduce to medium-low and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the lentils and rice are tender, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onions and cook, stirring only occasionally at the start then more frequently once browning begins at the edges of the pan, until the onions are deeply caramelized and crisped, 10 to 15 minutes; adjust the heat if the onions brown too quickly. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to a paper towel–lined plate and spread evenly. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and set aside; the onions will crisp as they cool.

When the lentils and rice are tender, remove the pot from the heat. Uncover and lay a kitchen towel across the pan, then replace the lid and let stand for 10 minutes.h

Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas

Ingredients
For the Fajita Marinade:
1/2 cup (120ml) soy sauce
1/2 cup (120ml) fresh lime juice, from 6 to 8 limes
1/2 cup (120ml) canola or other neutral oil
1/4 cup (55g) packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cumin seed
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder (see note)
3 medium cloves garlic, finely minced (about 1 tablespoon)
2 pounds (900g) boneless, skinless chicken thighs
For the Fajitas:
1 large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1 large yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1 large green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1 white or yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices
12 to 16 fresh flour or corn tortillas, hot (see note)
1 recipe guacamole, for serving, if desired
1 recipe pico de gallo, for serving, if desired
Sour cream, shredded cheese, and salsa, for serving, if desired

For the Fajita Marinade: Combine soy sauce, lime juice, oil, brown sugar, cumin, black pepper, chili powder, and garlic in medium bowl and whisk to combine. Transfer 1/2 cup (120ml) marinade to a separate vessel and set aside.

2.
For the Chicken: Place chicken in a gallon-sized zipper-lock bag and add remaining marinade. Seal bag, squeezing out as much air as possible. Massage bag until meat is fully coated in marinade. Lay flat in refrigerator, turning every couple of hours, for at least 3 and up to 10 hours.

3.
For the Fajitas: When ready to cook, preheat broiler and position over rack to highest position. If you have a baking steel or stone, set it on the top rack and allow to preheat. If using a baking steel/stone, set a rimmed baking sheet on it to preheat as well; otherwise leave baking sheet at room temperature.

Remove chicken from marinade and blot dry with paper towels. Arrange chicken in an even layer on rimmed baking sheet. Broil, without flipping, until chicken is well browned on top side, about 5 minutes. Broiler strength and oven designs vary greatly, so cooking times will vary as well; keep a close watch. If your broiler heats unevenly, you may need to move the sheet tray around for more even browning. Flip chicken and broil until second side is also browned, about 4 minutes longer (chicken cooked with the help of a baking steel/stone will already have browned on the bottom, so you can flip it and continue cooking to ensure it’s fully cooked through). Remove from oven and transfer chicken to a platter to rest.

Switch oven from broil mode to 450°F (230°C). Add red, yellow, and green bell peppers as well as onions to baking sheet. Pour reserved 1/2 cup of marinade all over and toss until evenly coated; using a wooden spoon, scrape up any browned bits on the baking sheet. Arrange peppers and onion in an even layer that covers the baking sheet from edge to edge, then cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and browned in spots, about 25 minutes (if your oven heats from the top, you will want to cook the vegetables on a middle rack to avoid excessive scorching and burning). If you’re using a baking steel/stone, you can cook the vegetables on it, but keep a closer eye since they run the risk of scorching on the bottom; if this begins to happen, move the sheet pan to another rack.

Slice chicken into thin strips, then add back to sheet pan with any juices. Return to oven to warm through.

Serve immediately with hot tortillas, guacamole, pico de gallo, and other condiments, as desired.

Sheet Pan Spiced Cauliflower and Tofu with Ginger-Yogurt Sauce

1 large head cauliflower
5 tablespoons (75ml) extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
1 3/4 teaspoons store-bought ras el hanout, divided (see note)
Kosher salt
2 (12-ounce; 340g) packs extra-firm tofu
2 cups (475ml) full-fat Greek yogurt
One (3-inch) piece fresh ginger (about 2 ounces; 55g), peeled and finely grated or minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 red onion (8 ounces; 225g), sliced about 1/8 inch-thick and soaked for at least 10 minutes in ice water
3 cups loosely packed fresh mint leaves and cilantro sprigs (about one-half bunch cilantro and one bunch mint)
One preserved lemon, seeds removed and flesh and peel finely diced (optional; see note)
Dried ground sumac, for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 475°F (245°C) with a clean rimmed baking sheet set on the middle rack. While the oven heats, cut the cauliflower into 1-inch florets. In a large bowl, toss cauliflower with 3 tablespoons (45ml) olive oil and 1 1/2 teaspoons ras el hanout; season with salt.

Add cauliflower to heated baking sheet, carefully spreading it in a single even layer; set bowl aside. Return baking sheet to oven and roast cauliflower until it is just tender and lightly browned, about 20 minutes.

While cauliflower is cooking, bring a kettle of water to a boil. Drain tofu and cut it into 1- by 3/4-inch planks. Place tofu pieces in a colander in the sink and pour the boiling water all over them.

Transfer tofu to work surface lined with paper towels. Arrange tofu pieces in an even layer, then lay more paper towels on top and press down to absorb excess water. Add tofu to the same mixing bowl used for cauliflower and toss with remaining 2 tablespoons (30ml) olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon ras el hanout. Season with salt.

When cauliflower is cooked, transfer to platter to cool; wipe baking sheet to ensure any stray bits of cauliflower are removed. Arrange tofu on now-empty baking sheet in a single even layer, then roast, flipping once halfway through, until crispy on both sides, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, stir together yogurt and ginger. Season with salt and a generous amount of black pepper.

In a separate medium bowl, drain red onion, making sure to remove any stray pieces of ice. Sprinkle all over with salt, and using your fingers, rub salt into the onion slices. Let stand for at least 10 minutes.

To serve, dollop a generous amount of ginger yogurt onto each serving plate or bowl. Mound the cauliflower and tofu on top. Drizzle with fresh olive oil and scatter preserved lemon on top, if using. Drain onions of any accumulated liquid, then toss with cilantro sprigs and mint. Mound herb salad on top of cauliflower and tofu, and sprinkle with sumac, if using. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes: Ras el hanout is a complex mix of spices hailing from North Africa. While recipes vary, it typically blends warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and cardamom with paprika, black pepper, and turmeric; some versions also include floral notes from dried rosebuds. You can buy it online and at well-stocked supermarket spice aisles, or make an easy substitute by mixing 3/4 teaspoons sweet or hot paprika with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander seed, 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1/8 teaspoon each ground nutmeg and cardamom.

The cauliflower and tofu are best roasted shortly before serving. You can make the ginger yogurt up to 1 day in advance

Crispy Tofu with Maple-Soy Glaze

1 12-oz. block firm tofu
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
3 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2-inch piece ginger, very thinly sliced
1/2 cup neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed
Kimchi, toasted sesame seeds, hijiki, daikon, sliced scallions, and steamed rice (for serving; optional)

Drain tofu, then sandwich between several layers of kitchen towels to remove excess liquid. Cut into 9 cubes.

Whisk soy sauce, maple syrup, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, and ginger in a small bowl.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. When oil is rippling across the surface, carefully add tofu so it doesn’t splash. Cook, undisturbed, until very crisp and dark brown underneath, 3–4 minutes. Carefully turn and repeat on opposite side. Holding tofu back with a spatula or slotted spoon, pour out oil into a small bowl. Return skillet to medium-high heat and add soy sauce mixture. Cook, reducing heat to medium so it doesn’t over-reduce or burn and basting tofu occasionally, until glaze is thick enough to coat a spoon, about 4 minutes.

Divide tofu among plates. Drizzle with glaze, then top with scallions. Serve with rice alongside.

Steak and Bok Choy Stir-fry (Chow Steak Kow)

For the steak and marinade:
1 pound beef ribeye or sirloin steak (cut into 1-inch cubes)
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil (divided)
1/8 teaspoon baking soda (optional tenderizer, depending on the quality of your steak)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

For the steak sauce:
5 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon ketchup
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch (mixed into a slurry with 1 tablespoon water)

For the bok choy base:
12 ounces fresh bok choy (cut and thoroughly washed)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3-4 slices fresh ginger (smashed)
3 cloves garlic (chopped)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon MSG (optional)

When you prepare the steak cubes, leave some of the fat on the steak. This adds key flavor to the dish. Transfer the cubes to a medium bowl, and add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss until the steak is well-coated. Set aside for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

In a small bowl, combine the water, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, white pepper, and sesame oil. Set aside.

Make sure your bok choy is thoroughly cleaned. We always triple wash our bok choy. Not doing a thorough job risks sand ruining your vegetables.

Heat wok over high heat. Spread 1 tablespoon vegetable oil around the perimeter of the wok, and immediately add your smashed ginger slices. After 5 to 10 seconds, add the chopped garlic and bok choy.

Quickly stir-fry the bok choy (so the garlic doesn’t burn), until it begins to wilt. You can also cover the bok choy for 30 seconds if your wok burner is not producing enough heat.
After the bok choy is cooked and wilted (about 60 seconds or so), add the salt, sugar and MSG (if using). Mix thoroughly, transfer to a warm serving plate, and set aside. MSG is totally optional, but it really brings out the flavor of stir-fried vegetables.

Work quickly through these next steps, because your stir-fried bok choy is waiting to be topped with your delicious steak! Carefully rinse your wok with warm water, drain, and wipe off any excess moisture. Place the wok back over the burner set to high heat. Spread 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil around the perimeter of the wok.

Once the wok begins to smoke, add the steak in a single layer, fat-side down for any pieces with visible fat.

Sear for 30 seconds or until brown. Use your wok spatula to toss everything together to ensure even cooking and browning, but resist the temptation to stir too much. High heat is essential to ensure you have a good sear and maximum flavor. I like to sear the steak until cooked medium / medium rare, which is why this steak stir fry recipe calls for large 1-inch chunks of steak.

Once done to your liking, turn off the heat, and scoop the steak over the bok choy to rest. (If any liquid has pooled on the bok choy plate, pour the excess off before adding the beef.)

You’ll need at least 1-2 tablespoons of the residual oil in the wok. Pour off any excess and discard. This is pure beef flavor that will make your sauce taste that much better. Turn the wok back up to medium-high heat. Pour the prepared steak sauce into the wok, using it to deglaze the wok. If you want more sauce, you can add some additional water—bonus if you use the water from the bok choy plate, which has a nice ginger and garlic flavor.

When the sauce is simmering, stir up the cornstarch slurry and drizzle it into the sauce, letting it thicken until it coats a spoon. Simmer for an additional 20 seconds to ensure the cornstarch is cooked. Turn the heat off, pour the sauce over your steak, and serve with rice.