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Posts tagged ‘cauliflower’

tahini cauliflower with lemon and smoked paprika

After over a year of blogging, I’ve hit a snag: I can’t seem to remember to photograph my food.

The situation has gotten desperate. I’ll identify a recipe, test it a few times, write the post, then plan the photo shoot. Unfortunately, plan the photo shoot roughly translates to “grab a smudge-free bowl and make sure the camera’s in the vicinity.” At dinnertime my artistic attempts are derailed by the fading light, and at lunch I’m just too hungry. I need to shoot this, I’ll think, regarding my plate with twitching fingers. In the battle of the wills, hunger beats out creative vision almost every time.

My family, while supportive in theory, is no help at all. Arranging roasted cauliflower florets in a bowl is the work of a minute, and I manage to snap a few photos before returning to the kitchen to rummage for props. When I return the bowl is empty, resting on the arm of my mother’s deck chair. I try to be upset about the missed photo opportunity, but am far more saddened that she polished off the dish before I could.

Which brings me to the one advantage of being a lazy food photographer: it makes the recipes better. I’ve been making this cauliflower for months (since early June, to be precise), each time growing more anxious to photograph it and each time devouring it warm from the bowl. Granted, it’s a simple dish. But when I made it for the sixth time I realized a longer roasting time was preferable, and somewhere around the eleventh version I stumbled on the “South African Smoke” seasoning my parents picked up at Trader Joe’s. I can now post the recipe with confidence and something close to addiction, albeit after a significant delay. I blame it on the photos.

Tahini Cauliflower with Lemon and Smoked Paprika

If you can find “South African Smoke” seasoning at TJ’s I highly recommend it, but any smoky pepper flakes will do nicely.

1 large head of cauliflower

olive oil, salt and pepper

1/3 cup tahini

juice of 1/2 lemon

smoky pepper flakes or smoked parika

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut the cauliflower into small florets and toss with a generous amount of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 20-30 minutes, or until florets are nicely-browned on the edges.
Meanwhile, whisk together the tahini and lemon juice in a large bowl. Add the cauliflower straight from the oven and toss to coat, adding a tiny bit of water or more juice if the dressing is too thick. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and finish with the smoked paprika.

butternut squash with cauliflower and crispy edamame

Recently, in what felt like a return to my English lecture days, I was asked to write on what makes a compelling character in a book or movie. So often in novels or films we see protagonists accomplishing death-defying feats, I began, they are heroes in the face of mediocrity, extraordinary beings in an ordinary world. The authors I love are those who acknowledge that the reverse is truer to human experience: we are ordinary characters in an extraordinary world. The characters whose lives I fall into with abandon are those who make spaghetti, drink beer, and buy pantyhose at the drugstore while things of utter strangeness go on around them.

I’ve long been a fan of authors who don’t flinch from providing mundane detail. My childhood heroine Nancy Drew couldn’t so much as climb into her blue roadster without a description of her pastel-colored outfit, an authorial move both entirely unnecessary and thoroughly enjoyable. The characters in the novels of one of my current favorites, Haruki Murakami, might be in the throes of mind-altering mysteries, but they go about their lives in much the same way I do: there is lots of opening the refrigerator and boiling water for pasta, many Friday nights spent in bed reading a book.

We tend to go about our daily activities on autopilot, and recently I realized just how powerful our neurological cruise control is when I read David Eagleman’s fascinating book Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. Once we learn to chop vegetables or spin lettuce for a salad, there’s no need to focus on it—the activity is seared into the brain’s wiring, and in fact it’s often impossible to describe exactly how we wield the knife the way we do. But just because we can cook and eat without focusing on what goes into our mouths, does that mean we should? Jeff Gordinier’s compelling article in the New York Times yesterday on mindful eating offers a glimpse into a world where each bite is carefully savored, a practice that doesn’t come naturally to our efficient brains.

The concept of mindful eating appeals to me for the same reason that ordinary, spaghetti-making characters do: there is something deeply meditative about daily moments spent preparing and eating food. Cooking reminds us that life has a rhythm, that no matter how exciting or dull things become we pause several times each day and eat. These times can be rushed affairs, scarfing down a banana on the fly, and sometimes they have to be. But they can also be moments of unhurried reflection, of ordinary, everyday delight that lends itself more to happiness than heroic victory does.

Butternut Squash with Cauliflower and Crispy Edamame

The key to this simple and satisfying dish is roasting until the edamame are browned and crunchy–they add wonderful texture to the sweet, soft squash and crispy florets of cauliflower.

1 medium butternut squash

1 head of cauliflower

1 cup frozen edamame

sweet Moroccan paprika

olive oil

salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel butternut and cut into cubes; spread on a baking sheet with frozen edamame. Cut cauliflower into bite-size chunks and add to the sheet, then sprinkle vegetables with sweet paprika, salt and pepper. Use your hands to coat veggies well with olive oil, then slide into the oven to cook for 30-40 minutes, or until butternut is fully roasted and edamame are browned and crispy.

roasted cauliflower with almonds, raisins and capers

I’m a list-maker by nature, and the end of the year brings with it unlimited list-making opportunities: books read, restaurants visited, James Bond movies watched in a single week (thank you instant Netflix!). The most rewarding list, however, is always my “year in recipes.” Nothing reminds me more vividly of the distinct settings of my year–New York, Columbia, home, the farm–than the things I cooked and ate, and each of the following recipes was a genuine favorite, made multiple times and either shared or joyfully hoarded. I hope that you enjoy this selection, and that it reminds you of the recipes and meals that make up your own.

Guilt-free cookies with coconut, banana, ground almonds and dark chocolate.

Spicy spaghetti with fennel, lemon, pancetta and parsley.

— A goat cheese tart with Greek yogurt, honey, berries and oats.

Orzo salad with feta, lemon, broccoli, asparagus, and sprouts.

— Baked brunch oatmeal with bananas, berries, vanilla and almonds.

— Hearty meatballs with breadcrumbs, parmesan, parsley and egg.

— A refreshing ice cream with cream cheese and handfuls of fresh mint.

— A perfect bread pudding with toasted bread, vanilla, raisins and pecans.

— And lastly, a personal favorite from our Christmas Day lunch:

Roasted Cauliflower with Almonds, Raisins and Capers

1 large (or 2-3 small) heads of cauliflower

olive oil

large handful almonds, chopped

1/2 cup raisins, red or golden

1/4 cup capers

salt and pepper

red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Chop the cauliflower heads into florets, then toss in a bowl with several glugs of olive oil. Add the chopped almonds, raisins, capers and salt and pepper to taste, and continue to toss until everything is nicely mixed and coated with oil. Spread on a baking sheet and sprinkle with pepper flakes, then roast in the oven until the almonds are toasted and the florets begin to brown, tossing occasionally. Serve as a side, warm or cool.

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