Herbed Roasted Cauliflower Rice with Coriander and Grilled Zucchini

Why I love it: This vegan dish is very easy and quick to make, tastes delicious and is also quite healthy with the fresh herbs, coriander, lemon juice, vegetables and olive oil. It works equally well as a warm side dish or a cold side salad and is a perfect fit for any grilled meat and seafood. Happy summer!

herbed roasted cauliflower rice with coriander and grilled zucchini

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Grilling season is almost here – yay! I love grilled meat and seafood and one of my favorite side dishes for anything grilled is cauliflower rice. Have you made cauliflower rice? It tastes really wonderful, has a texture very similar to actual rice but is much less dry. I absolutely love it. It’s also very easy to prepare, you just briefly pulse cauliflower florets in your food processor, toss the “rice” with olive oil and your favorite seasoning (I use ground coriander), spread it out on a baking sheet and roast it for about ten minutes. Done! In the recipe here I mixed the rice with grilled zucchini for extra texture and a bit of smokiness and fresh mint and cilantro for summery freshness. It’s a wonderful side dish that you can serve warm or cold. If you like you can also sprinkle a few chopped raisins in for a little sweetness.

Herbed Roasted Cauliflower Rice with Coriander and Grilled Zucchini
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Side
Serves: 4
Ingredients:
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • ½ cup chopped raisins (optional)
Instructions:
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut the individual florets off the cauliflower and cut larger ones in half so that they are all approximately the same size.
  3. Working in batches, pulse the cauliflower florets in the food processor until they have the consistency of rice.
  4. Toss the cauliflower with the oil, the coriander and the salt and spread onto a rimmed baking sheet.
  5. Roast for 10 minutes.
  6. While the cauliflower is in the oven, thinly slice the zucchini and grill on a grill or on a grill pan.
  7. Toss the cauliflower rice with the grilled zucchini, the lemon juice and the herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. If you're adding raisins, mix them in.
  9. Serve warm as a side dish or cold as a side salad for grilled meat and seafood.

Food Photography and Styling: I wouldn’t necessarily call this side dish ugly but it is definitely visually uninteresting so I created a lot of story and atmosphere around it to support it. To me this is a summer dish so I wanted to show freshness and a grilling season/summer time feeling. I did that by putting lots of green herbs in the composition (to me green says “summer”) and since mint is an ingredient in this recipe that made overall sense as well. The lighting (as always I used my trusty strobe) is coming from a low angle and is fairly hard with lots of highlight and shadow interplay to give the photograph an outdoorsy feel.

Nikon D600, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight.

Farro with Mushrooms and Marjoram

Farro! A new trendy grain that (for once) actually deserves the accolades (at least in my opinion). If you’re looking for an easy, healthy, tasty (and vegan) side dish, this one’s for you.

Farro with Roasted Mushrooms and Marjoram Recipe

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Farro is my new favorite grain. If you’ve never had it, I would describe it as similar to brown rice but without ANY of the mushi- and stickiness. That is a huge plus in my book because the weak texture is what really turns me off about brown rice. Farro apparently also has higher nutritional value than brown rice and contains less arsenic. Arsenic? Yes, according to Consumer Reports arsenic can be a problem in brown rice. Well, good thing I never liked it then. :)

Farro is easy and quick to cook, you submerge it in cold water, simmer it for 15 to 20 minutes (depending on how you like it) and then drain it. Done. By itself it is, of course, extremely boring (it is a grain after all) but once you flavor it up with other stuff it becomes quite tasty. What I did here was toss the cooked farro with garlic and mushrooms, seasoned the mix with salt and pepper and roasted it in the oven under a drizzle of olive oil. I mixed some chopped marjoram in to add a fresh spring vibe and then served the dish with a roasted Cornish game hen. It was absolutely delicious and when I say that about a grain, trust me that really means something!

Grain

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Farro

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Farro with Mushrooms and Marjoram
 
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Author:
Serves: 2
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup farro
  • 4 ounces beech mushrooms
  • 8 ounces oyster mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • a little bit of olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoons fresh, chopped marjoram
Instructions:
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Add farro and 3 cups of cold water to a saucepan.
  3. Bring to a low boil and cook to desired doneness (15 to 20 minutes).
  4. Drain the farro and set aside.
  5. Carefully toss the mushrooms in a bowl with the garlic and the farro.
  6. Spread the mix out on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  7. Sprinkle evenly with the salt and the pepper.
  8. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil evenly over the mix, then roast in the oven for 15 minutes.
  9. Sprinkle evenly with the marjoram and serve as a side dish with poultry.

Food Photography and Styling: I played around with my camera and a bag of raw farro one night, ended up taking the two pictures of the grain and thought they actually would look nice in a blog post. So when I photographed the dish I made sure that its photo fit in its overall style and feel with the grain photos. I stayed with brown tones and used my clay bowl that I got from Etsy years ago and set it on the same brown burlap bag that I used in the grain photos. The marjoram is an important ingredient so I made sure to draw proper attention to it by sprinkling a few leaves around the set. The light came straight from the left, as in the grain photos, and as usual I used my strobe.

Farro with Mushrooms and Marjoram

Dolmas Salad with Roasted Cauliflower Rice

Dolmas Salad with Roasted Cauliflower Rice Recipe

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Hello, hello! I hope everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving. I’ve got something entirely plant-based and healthy today to combat any turkey, gravy and pie overload you may be suffering from. It’s a delicious side dish salad that is loosely based on dolmas ingredients with grape leaves, raisins, pine nuts, parsley, mint, green onions, rice (sort of) and lemon juice.

A friend of mine made it for us a while ago (she followed this recipe from Sunset magazine) and I modified it a bit and substituted cauliflower rice for actual rice (purely because I had never made it and was curious). Now, if you’ve never had cauliflower rice you’re probably thinking “Are you kidding me, how could you possibly pass off cauliflower as rice?” At least that’s what I thought before I tried it but trust me, it actually really does taste like rice, it’s quite baffling!

Anyway, you can substitute cooked rice, of course, if you’d like. I suggest you serve this salad with lamb or white fish, like tilapia. Enjoy! :)

Dolmas Salad with Roasted Cauliflower Rice
 
Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 3 – 4
Ingredients:
For the cauliflower rice:
  • florets from one small head of cauliflower (cut the larger ones so that all are about equal in size)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
For the salad:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ½ cup chopped green onions
  • ½ cup chopped grape leaves (reserve the brine)
  • the cauliflower rice
  • ¼ cup grape leaf brine
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ cup chopped raisins
  • 1½ tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint
  • salt and pepper
Instructions:
For the cauliflower rice:
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Working in batches, pulse the cauliflower in the food processor until it has the consistency of rice.
  3. Toss the cauliflower with the oil and the coriander and spread onto a rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Roast for 10 minutes.
For the salad:
  1. Heat the oil on medium heat until shimmering.
  2. Add the nuts and green onions and saute for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the grape leaves and the cauliflower rice and cook for another 3 minutes.
  4. Turn the heat off and stir in the remaining ingredients, then season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Food Photography and Styling: I kind of dreaded shooting this salad because I knew it was going to be a boring jumble of non-colorful and shapeless stuff. Luckily the grape leaves came to my rescue, when I unfolded them I was surprised how intact and beautiful they were so I used one in the photo as a liner for the salad (and at the same time as a cue to tell the viewer that grape leaves are an ingredient in this salad). The brown burlap pieces underneath the plate are from a ribbon that I got at Jo-Ann the other day and I thought the color worked well in this shot. I used my strobe to light the set from the back.
 
Nikon D600, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight.

Spiced Butternut Maple Bacon Tarts

Spiced Butternut Squash Bacon Tarts Recipe

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

As you can see, I am happily ignoring the World Health Organization and am serving up some yummy bacon today!

These little tarts are an easy and pretty side dish that works well with any poultry and as long as you have a muffin tin and a mandoline you’re in business.

You start by making a quick and easy tart dough. While that’s chilling in the fridge you cook a bit of bacon and then make a sauce from the bacon fat (yum) along with maple syrup and pumpkin spice. Then you line the cups of your muffin pan with the tart dough, shave some butternut squash and layer it into the cups along with the bacon and the syrup. Once the tarts are baked you sprinkle a few thyme leaves on (don’t skip this part, the thyme is essential to round out the flavor). That’s all there is to it. You can serve the tarts on Thanksgiving as an alternative to, say, sweet potato casserole but they are great any other time of the year as well.

Spiced Butternut Maple Bacon Tarts
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 6
Ingredients:
  • This recipe is for one 6-cup muffin tin.
For the crust:
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons shortening
  • 4 tablespoons butter
For the filling:
  • the neck portion of a small butternut squash
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin spice
  • handful of fresh thyme leaves
Instructions:
For the crust:
  1. Combine vinegar and milk. Set aside.
  2. Whisk flour and salt together, then cut in the shortening and the butter with a pastry cutter.
  3. Add the milk/vinegar mix and bring the dough together into a ball.
  4. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.
For the filling:
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Fry the bacon in a cast iron pan until it starts to get crispy.
  3. Using a slotted spoon transfer the bacon onto a plate lined with a paper towel. Leave the bacon fat in the pan.
  4. Add the maple syrup and the pumpkin spice to the bacon fat, stir well, bring the mix to a full boil, then turn the heat off.
  5. Peel the squash, then shave it using a mandoline. Make the slices so thin that they fall apart and can easily be crunched into the tart shells.
  6. Grease the muffin tin, then roll out the dough and fit it into the cups.
  7. Layer squash slices, bacon and syrup into each tart and bake until the crust turns golden-brown (about 25 minutes).
  8. Sprinkle the thyme leaves onto the tarts and serve.

Food Photography and Styling: All right, by popular demand, photography and styling notes are back. Thank you for your feedback, everyone, I always appreciate when you tell me what you think, it helps me make this blog better. So, while these tarts have a strong fall/holiday bend to them I wanted to make sure to bring across that they are a general side dish, suitable year-round, so I didn’t put them into a fall or festive set and instead placed them into a very neutral scene. The fabric is a linen napkin that I bought at Pottery Barn a while ago and I loved its wrinkled texture in this photo. The three tarts looked a little stiff when they were whole so I cut a bite out of one of them and laid the fork on the plate as well to imply action. I lit this photo from the back, using my strobe.
 
Nikon D600, 105mm, f/8, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight.

Roasted Tomatoes with Tarragon Cream Sauce

Roasted Tomatoes with Tarragon Cream Sauce Recipe

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

These oven-roasted tomatoes with tarragon cream sauce are a terrific side dish that I’ve been making for some 20 years. The sauce is very simple and very delicious and here’s how it goes: you boil a cup of dry white wine along with a chicken bouillon cube until they are reduced to about one third. Then you whisk in a mix of cream and egg yolk, heat the sauce some more, then add fresh, chopped tarragon. That’s it. It works very well with roasted tomatoes but I’ve also used it on many other vegetables, like new potatoes, asparagus and winter squash. I suggest serving this side dish with poultry; grilled or baked chicken breasts work really well.

Roasted Tomatoes with Tarragon Cream Sauce
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 4
Ingredients:
For the tomatoes:
  • 8 tomatoes on the vine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • freshly cracked black pepper
For the tarragon cream sauce:
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • chicken bouillon for 1 cup of liquid
  • ⅔ cup heavy cream
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1½ teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
Instructions:
For the tomatoes:
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Add the tomatoes to a baking pan, drizzle with the oil and bake until the tomatoes burst open (about 30 minutes).
For the tarragon cream sauce:
  1. Add wine and chicken bouillon cube to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Keep boiling until the wine has reduced to about ⅓ cup.
  2. Turn the heat off and let the wine cool for a few minutes.
  3. Meanwhile whisk the egg yolk into the cream.
  4. Add the cream/yolk mix into the wine while whisking.
  5. Stirring continuously, turn the heat back on to heat the sauce for about 3 minutes. Be careful not to boil it, heat it just enough so that you can see steam. Turn the heat off and add the tarragon.
  6. Season the tomatoes with black pepper and serve with the sauce.

 

Nutmeg Sweet Potato Stacks

Nutmeg Thyme Sweet Potato Stacks

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

The other day Pinterest acquainted me with the concept of a potato stack. I was immediately intrigued by the visual appeal of these arrangements and had to try making some myself.

A potato stack consists of super-thin (you need a mandoline for this) potato slices brushed with oil and seasonings and baked inside the cups of a muffin pan until soft in the middle and crispy on the outside. For the recipe here I chose sweet potatoes and flavored them with freshly grated nutmeg, fresh thyme and some salt.

If you’re tired of the more traditional holiday sweet potato side dishes this is definitely a very pretty alternative.

Nutmeg Sweet Potato Stacks
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 2
Ingredients:
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
Instructions:
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Peel the sweet potato and slice into very thin discs using a mandoline.
  3. In a bowl, mix oil, nutmeg, thyme and salt.
  4. Brush the cups of a muffin pan with oil.
  5. Stack the potato slices on top of one another into the muffin pan, lightly brushing every second slice with the oil mix.
  6. Bake the stacks until lightly browned on the edges, 25 to 30 minutes.

Food Photography and Styling: I had trouble thinking of any larger context to show these stacks in so I decided to go very close and let the food speak for itself. The thyme sprigs helped create a focal point and their color complemented the bright orange well. I laid my curved fork on the plate next to them to keep the plate from looking too naked and also to help guide the viewer’s eye into the frame and add a bit of movement. I again lit the set straight from the side with my trusty strobe.
 
Nikon D600, 105mm, f/10, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.

Roasted Vegetables with Tarragon Vinaigrette

Roasted vegetables with tarragon vinaigrette – easy and delicious!

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Roasted vegetables are delicious but I’m sometimes at a loss as to what to serve them with so I’ve come up with a series of flavorful dipping sauces that perfectly complement the subdued taste of roasted veggies.

Today’s sauce is a mustard/tarragon vinaigrette that has a bit of sour, a bit of licorice, a bit of heat and a bit of creaminess to it. It’s a nice contrast to the winter varieties that I picked here, some butternut squash, some shallots, potatoes, Brussels sprouts and carrots. Enjoy!

Roasted Vegetables with Tarragon Vinaigrette
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 2
Ingredients:
For the vegetables:
  • 10 baby potatoes, quartered
  • 2 shallots, quartered
  • 10 Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 2 carrots, quartered and cut into pieces
  • 1 cup 1- to 2-inch cubes butternut squash
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon homemade seasoning salt (get the recipe here)
For the vinaigrette:
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
Instructions:
For the vegetables:
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Whisk canola oil and seasoning salt together in a bowl.
  3. Add the vegetables and toss to coat.
  4. Spread the vegetables on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.
  5. Roast the vegetables until tender (35 to 40 minutes).
For the vinaigrette:
  1. Whisk all ingredients together.
  2. Either drizzle the vinaigrette over the vegetables or dip the vegetables in the vinaigrette.

Food Photography and Styling: I was in the mood for something other than wood and chose my zinc-coated metal tray for this shot. The blue/gray color of this surface went well with the orange carrots and squash and the texture in the metal made the photo look interesting without the need for many additional props. I sprinkled some tarragon leaves in the composition and shot from overhead to show off the different shapes of all the vegetables.
 
Nikon D600, 105mm, f/8, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.

Roasted Pepper and Corn Salad with Goat Cheese Dressing

Roasted Pepper and Corn Salad

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

I’d say it’s time for some more side dishes on this blog, what do you think? I’ve been neglecting this area a bit so here’s a roasted pepper and corn salad with a spicy, creamy goat cheese dressing. As you may imagine it’s easy to make and it goes perfectly with grilled meat and seafood. Enjoy!

Roasted Pepper and Corn Salad with Goat Cheese Dressing
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 4
Ingredients:
  • 2 ears corn
  • 1 red bell pepper
Dressing:
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ cup goat cheese
  • a few drops lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk
  • ½ teaspoon chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper
Instructions:
  1. Soak corn in the husk in cold water for 8 - 10 hours.
  2. Roast corn and pepper together in a 400-degree oven for one hour. (Place the whole ears, with husk, directly on the oven rack. Place the pepper on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and rotate every 15 minutes to get a good char all around the pepper).
  3. Peel the pepper and cut into thin slices.
  4. Remove the husk and silk from the corn and cut off the kernels.
  5. Add corn and pepper to a bowl.
  6. Whisk together the dressing ingredients until you have a smooth dressing. Add milk to thin the dressing to your liking.
  7. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and serve with a main dish and tortilla chips.