A mashed-potato pancake, to me, spells “comfort food.” Just imagine its soft center, its crispy edges, and smile. The “Potato and Kale Cakes with Rouille,” from the January 2011 issue of Bön Appetit, did deliver that potato comfort, along with the tasty support of kale and thyme. The added charm and dazzle of this particular recipe is the “rouille.” Indeed, this rouille is a “shortcut” version that uses tomato paste and smoked paprika instead of saffron for its “rust” color. Admittedly, I cannot ignore the allure of such a garlic-enhanced mayo. It’s the magical element that I can’t stop thinking about.

I made 16 pancakes with this recipe. I fried them in two batches, each with fresh olive oil; four minutes on one side, three minutes on the other. My rouille? Smoky and garlicky. I skipped the cayenne and was fine without it. My enhanced mayo was oh-so-nice (sigh).

Do you like cauliflower? I do. And I believe it needs no fussing to be wonderful. However, I reached for the recipe for “Andrew Carmellini’s Cauliflower,” from Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food, when I saw the inclusion of hazelnuts, sage, and a pear -- nontypical partners, I think. The combo worked, we all enjoyed this cauliflower.

Toasting the hazelnuts in a skillet was indeed a finicky process, but that was OK. I only needed to toast them for 7 minutes. After rubbing off their skins, I chopped the nuts in my food processor. I used a lovely, small head of orange-colored cauliflower, sauteeing it for 11 minutes. What a kick to add thinly sliced pear to the pan. Parsley was the pinnacle of triumph.

Russet Potatoes (1 1/2 lbs.) = $1.31
Kale (1/2 lb.) = $2.12
Cauliflower (1 small) = $3.24
Bosc Pear (1) = .70¢

RECIPES: impress yourself and your diners with this easy, pleasant meal
eat potato cakes after 2 hours of prep, cooling, and cooking; cauliflower needs less than 45 minutes
TASTES: the satisfying green crunch of kale is blanketed by buttery mashed potatoes, perfumed by thyme and drizzled with smoky rouille; hazelnuts + cauliflower + pear = surprising combo embellished by parsley

Next time, I’ll reach for an ambitious recipe: “Braised Duck Legs with Figs, Star Anise, and Winter Squash,” from the December 2010 issue of Fine Cooking. See my endeavor when you return to my site on Monday, February 28.