Foodie Tuesday: Cauliflower, the way nature intended

"Cauliflower?" you ask.  Because it's one of the most ordinary vegetables out there.  What I wanted to point out though, is there is a certain way to cook it that really takes it to another dimension.  People might try to stir-fry, steam (bland!) or eat it raw (shudder!), but what the Google cafes taught me is that the only way to really eat cauliflower, except perhaps pureed in a soup, is to roast it.

Somehow, roasting cauliflower brings out a beautifully flavorful sweetness, and the texture is the perfect mix of tender and a bit crispy on the edges, and the whole experience is altogether extraordinary.  It's like meeting a completely new vegetable.

Did I mention I also got an entire, gigantic head of cauliflower at the local Mexican market for only $1?

Simple Roasted Cauliflower

Cauliflower, cut into florets
Crushed garlic
Salt & pepper
(optional) Parmesan cheese for sprinkling at the end

Wash and cut cauliflower.  Drizzle olive oil.  Toss with garlic, salt and pepper to taste.  Roast at 425 degrees for 20-25 min.  Remove from oven and sprinkle parmesan, if desired.

9pm dinner for one

I made the most delicious chicken tonight.

1 large chicken breast, center cut
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt & fresh ground pepper
Lemon juice + lemon zest
Chopped Italian parsley
Crushed garlic
(optional) Sprinkling of cheese, if you want

Gave the chicken a nice coating of EVOO (my mom later told me I should have put it on last), sprinkled all the ingredients on both sides, then baked, covered loosely in tin foil so that it "steams" rather than actually bakes, at 350 degrees for between 20-25 min.  It came out so tender and juicy I hardly knew it was breast meat!

One of the most indulgent kitchen items I've bought in a while.

Maybe ever. Meet my new silicone jar spatula, which I bought yesterday for $4.95 from the Crate & Barrel Outlet in Berkeley.  I'm in love with rubber spatulas and food scrapers in general, because of the very neat way they clean all the stuff out of a mixing bowl to minimize waste.  For the uninitiated, it works a lot like a rubber squeegee does on your window.  Satisfying.

I only started using them recently -- baking at my parents' home as a kid, I always found myself scraping the sides of a bowl about a million times with a wooden or metal spoon, and never being really happy with all the batter left behind, and sometimes having to scrape manually, with my fingers (not pretty).

I am usually a passionate detractor of dumb kitchen utensils/appliances that have just one use (I'll save that for another post), but when I surveyed the racks of kitchen utensils yesterday and came across this, I knew I had to have it.  How many times have you been frustrated by the globs of jelly or peanut butter or mayonnaise that you can never really get out of the bottom of a jar with a mere knife?  Well this baby is designed just for that - more slender than your garden-variety spatula to get in the most narrow-necked of glass and metal jars.  

Crystal asked the pointed question, "So, with what you save getting that last bit out of your jars, how long does it take for this thing to offset the cost?"  I said to her, "My dear, you forget that the pleasure and sheer satisfaction you get from it, rather than the actual peanut butter or jelly salvaged, is more than worth the price."

Foster's Market Scones

This recipe I can actually share because it is already out there in the Internets.  This is for the basic scones but you can add a bunch of delicious things like berries, pineapple, chocolate chips/espresso, cinnamon-apple.  Today I made blueberry-lemon.

I first encountered this recipe through my former boss, Arlene.  She made the best scones ever--moist, flaky, not at all dry.  I begged her for the recipe before the company shut down.  She obliged by making a photocopy. I never actually made the scones until today...I've been meaning to make them all week, because I had a bunch of blueberries that were slowly going bad in the fridge. 

I was very tempted to reduce the butter when I saw how much the recipe called for, but resisted the urge and actually followed the recipe exactly (except I halved it, and it was still a lot - 8 good-sized scones).  

Good thing I did, because they were as deliciously crumbly and flaky as I remember.  Plus I got some good practice cutting in butter with two knives, the oldschool way (new school: use a pastry cutter or food processor).

Odd instruments I was given this weekend


Exhibit A: A simple wooden tool sent to Garry and I by M, who had just completed the Paris leg of her round-the-world trip with J.  The only clue we got--it was "something to play with in the kitchen."  For the longest time Garry and I couldn't for the life of us figure out what it was.

Exhibit B: A fish-tail looking thing made of silver.  I noticed it on my friend Jules' bookshelf this weekend at her housewarming party.  She promptly offered it to me, and the instrument in Exhibit C (see below), because someone else had given it to her and she didn't want it.  The only clue I had was the etching at the top: "Mariage Freres Paris."

Exhibit C: Also from Juliana.  Clearly a spoon with a mother-of-pearl bowl and a delicately silver-smithed handle that reads, "Christoph Widmann .925"  But what is it for?

Guessing CLOSED.

ANSWERS: A = Crepe stick/spreader.  B = Tea scoop.  C = Caviar spoon.  So I think between everyone ya'll got it right!

First resolution completed!

As I resolved in my 2009 List of Things To-Do, tonight my friend and I made my former coworker's secret family recipe for chocolate chip cookies. They are extraordinary--fluffy, tender and melty out of the oven, chewy and delicious a day or two later.

I begged him for six months to share the recipe with me, and after he finally did, I proceeded to sit on it for two full years.  Well I finally made them and am very happy to report that after following the recipe to the letter they turned out just as kickass as I remember!  The keys are the very specific type of fat used, the cookie size and the baking time.

I think it would be in poor taste to post the recipe since it's not really mine to share.  But here are some pictures!

PS. Isn't Crystal cute with her big ole oven mitts!

My first attempt at green curry pork.

I didn't take a picture.  But here's what I did:
  • Browned diced onion and minced garlic in a pan w/ oil.
  • Added small chunks of pork
  • Added diced Chinese eggplant (the long kind, not the nasty fat kind).  Next time, I will slice them on a bias instead.
  • Added coconut milk (between 1-2c.)
  • Added 2-3 generous spoonfuls of green curry paste that I bought at 99 ranch
  • It was a bit salty, so added a helping of frozen veggies at the last minute (peas, carrots, corn, beans)
Probably my favorite Thai dish!  Delish!

Purple potatoes in a tian!

It has been a day of good eats, starting with Tartine for breakfast this morning.

We were hungry again around 2pm and decided to clean out some of the stuff Garry had in his fridge.  He made panko-crusted tilapia and I made a modified veggie tian, based on Ina Garten's recipe that G and S used for Thanksgiving.  What I used:
  • Purple potatoes
  • 1 tomato
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1 avocado
  • Plenty of olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Chopped fresh thyme
  • Shredded mozzarella and grated parmesan
Sliced up all the veggies and layered/arranged them in a circular pattern in a pie dish.  Drizzed with olive oil, seasoned w/ salt and pepper, then topped with thyme.  Roasted, covered, for about 30 min at 400 degrees.  Took it out, sprinkled the cheeses, then put it back in, uncovered, for another 10 min.  Voila!

Had it with angel hair pasta in pesto.  Yum.