Roasted cauliflower with harissa cream

December 8, 2012 § 13 Comments

cauliflower harissa pom 1

I’m back.  Phew.

I think 3 1/2 days at a time is my new favorite way to be in Boston.  In 3 1/2 days I can cram in almost all my favorite things (friends! colleagues!  Bread products! Riding along the river on a classic Dutch commuter bike that is beautiful but also insanely heavy!) and avoid the majority of the things that drove me slightly batty when living there.

But now I’m back, and in my kitchen banging out some semblance of meals including, a) some very awesome homemade pasta with butter and anchovies last night, and b) cauliflower with harissa cream several times.  The latter (at least for the purposes of this conversation) is the more important by far.

homemade harissa

Perhaps you have not been waiting with bated breath for this cauliflower, but I have!

I’m not even sure why I love this cauliflower so very much.  I just do.  I love the dark, charred frill that develops on the edges of the golden roasted cauliflower florets.  I love how the minute pocks and crevices of the cauliflower make the perfect surface for catching the sauce.

I love how incomprehensibly soft and mellow the garlic cloves become, and the wrinkled skin the olives develop.  I love how they all work together, if you carefully assemble a forkful with one of each, and how they are equally delicious each on their own if you can’t be bothered with focused bite construction. « Read the rest of this entry »

A Greek Salad in Winter

February 28, 2012 § 16 Comments

The weeks are continuing to double time it in their march forward.  The days downright hurtle.  I duck as something goes whizzing uncontrollably over my head, then stand back up muttering, “holy bleep, was that Thursday?!”

I feel the insight of Lewis Carroll’s winsome scene in which Alice, on the cooky side of the looking glass, runs beside the Red Queen as the Queen explains that they’re not going anywhere, but rather everything is moving swiftly by them and, “it takes all the running you can do, to keep in place.”  (I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting my work on believing impossible things before breakfast, though.)

As I run to stay in place, I try to remember to notice my breath, feel my hands and feet, and to keep around a bottomless pot of soup and a sturdy salad so I can dip into them for several days.

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Garam masala roasted cauliflower

December 9, 2011 § 19 Comments

It’s the quality of the light at this time of year, more than just the quantity.  There’s something about it.  Do you know what I mean?  It seeps into my pores, follows me around, tints my day in a very particular way that I can’t quite describe.

When there’s snow on the ground the sun is so amplified during its brief daily visit that you don’t necessarily notice.  But, when the ground is brown, littered with twigs and oak leaves, you can feel that the light is almost timid.  It sneaks up above the horizon, peaking about with a muted – sometimes pallid – glow.  You can tell as soon as it comes up that it’s already contemplating its journey back down, leaving us in darkness again.

I feel as though I barely get my day going and then I’m looking up and it is rapidly becoming dark outside.  And, try as I might, even though it may only be 3:30 or 4:00, I can’t really concentrate on getting any more work done.

If I’m working from home, when it gets dark it means it is immediately time to initiate that day’s Cozy Winter Evening, something I feel is essential if one wishes to keep from being overcome by dreariness.  For me this involves turning on a couple of our lights that cast a very warm yellow glow, lighting candles is good too, turning on some cheesy music (this is key), and taking a moment to briefly contemplate the tiny Christmas tree that we decorated and now have perched on the dining room table. « Read the rest of this entry »

Cauliflower sautee with garlic bread crumbs

March 3, 2011 § 14 Comments

I was, shall we say, a feisty little devil when I was very young.  I had about the temper control of a raging volcano.  And, when I wanted my way, I really wanted my way.  Rumor (which I shall neither confirm nor deny) has it that I would pull out all the stops in order to control the situation, including but not limited to: dumping jars of food or pitchers of juice on the floor, holding my breath until I passed out, and peeing my pants (yeah, I’m never ever going to live that one down).  One particularly vivid memory has to do with cauliflower.  One of the dishes in my mother’s repertoire when I was growing up was a sort of baked cauliflower casserole with some cheese and some mushrooms and maybe some lemon juice or something of the sort.  Now, I was okay with the cheese, but when you are 4 or 5 being faced with both cooked cauliflower and mushrooms in a single dish is overwhelmingly abhorrent.  If I remember correctly, in my young mind it was approximately on par with being served a casserole of brains (which, come to think of it, some people would probably happily eat.  Not I, I’m afraid.).  What followed at the dinner table was a classic case of frustrated parent trying to get picky child to take just one bite.  I’m sure you can envision the scene.  But, when said picky child was finally required to take just one bite, things got interesting.  I put the bite of cauliflower in my mouth, gagged it down.  And then promptly threw up all over the place, just to show my parents how I felt about vegetables.  It was not one of my finer moments.

Over time, I grew more appreciative of cauliflower.  In fact, I have grown to love it, as long as it is roasted or sauteed so that the outsides turn brown and caramelized and the insides are just tender.  Cauliflower can be nondescript, receding into the background and taking on whatever flavors you let it mingle with be they curry or lemon juice.  Or it can be confined to adding body and a bit of creaminess to a blended soup without giving it a powerful flavor.  But, if you can coax the shy flavor out, it is actually quite lovely, sweet and nutty.  And sauteeing the cauliflower does just that.  All you need to do is toss little florets into a pan with a pat of butter (or olive oil) and a sprinkling of sea salt, let them relax in the sizzle for a bit, stirring them up a couple of times, and soon you’ll have a beautiful simple side dish. « Read the rest of this entry »

Cauliflower and cheddar souffle

November 14, 2010 § 2 Comments

Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website. Yes, souffle.  That torment of culinary sphere that leaves chefs quivering with apprehension, hovering by the oven door that they long, yet fear to open.  Oh the triumph of a towering puffed souffle, and the agony of defeat when you watch it collapse, slumping in the middle like a drunk at the end of a long night.  There’s a rather inflated mythology around the souffle (which, by the way, is French for ‘to breathe’ or ‘puff up’ – an appropriate name, I’d say), but in all honesty, I’d say it doesn’t deserve it’s reputation as a futsy, challenging, delicate or impressive process.  It doesn’t require a magic wand.  You don’t need to move your kitchen into an anti-vibration chamber.  It’s barely harder than making an omelet, actually (Of course, maybe that’s just because I’m horrible at making omelets.).  And who was it that said, “the only thing that will make a souffle fall is if it knows you are afraid of it.”?  I think it was James Beard.  Genius.  It’s totally true.  You can make a souffle!!!  You can even make a souffle without owning a souffle pan – I did.  The real question is, do you want to?  (Answer, yes.  If you make the right kind.  That kind being a cheesey one.)

Before being challenged to make a souffle this month I had made souffle twice before, both dessert souffles.  In college the boy I was dating and I decided to make an orange souffle with Grand Marnier.  We were pretentiously gourmet like that – everyone has their college phase 😉 .  However, oh the irony, neither of us owned a metal mixing bowl for whipping up the egg whites in.  So, we used a little aluminum cooking pot, and, well, it turned the egg whites an extremely unappealing shade of green.  We made the souffles anyway, but it was pretty hard to enjoy eating moldy-green slightly metallic-tasting souffles.  In spite of this, I tried again not too long afterward, whipping up some chocolate souffles for a dinner party.  I successfully managed to keep the egg whites white, however, this time I discovered that I don’t like my chocolate to be spongey and airy.  I like it to be dense and fudge-y or silky.  In short, I decided I really didn’t like souffles.

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