9.13.2013

Tick Tock, You Don't Stop.


It's hard to believe that it has come down to a matter of days before we hit the road. So hard to believe, in fact, that it does not seem real. We are living amongst a landscape of boxes, bubble wrap and newspaper. We have had two garage sales, and donated all unsold items to charity. The good bye dinners and lunches fill up most of our non-packing, non-sleeping time. I even ate a Lean Cuisine frozen dinner the other day to try to whittle away at all of the food in the freezer – because you know I just cannot let it go to waste (I'm not even quite sure how a Lean Cuisine made its way into our freezer in the first place). All of these things - the boxes, sales, good bye functions and frozen dinners and it still does not seem real.

Perhaps it won't until we are driving away, with the City of Angels in our rear view mirror. And I'm inclined to believe that that is probably a good thing. Because, really, as excited as we are, as much as we look forward to our future and the promise that it holds, this is big stuff. And it's sad stuff.

Admittedly, as a result of the sea of boxes, bubble wrap, newspapers, garage sales, and good bye functions, we've hardly dined in at all. We did make an olive oil cake and lemon-honey ice cream for a good bye dinner on Monday night, and Fred made a Thai Larb for another good bye the next night (aptly themed 'Thai-onara”). But almost no sitting down at our own table to eat. Except for one evening. There was the one.

It's hard to hide from certain trends, no matter how hard you try (and sometimes you don't want to try). Skinny jeans, moustaches, Tom's, all things artisanal, small batch, $23 cups of coffee (artisanal, of course - small batch and served up by people in skinny jeans and Tom's with moustaches), quinoa, the Kardashians, the royal baby, Hitler hair, suspenders, tattoos, $32 'market driven' cocktails with designer ice cubes and mists of some kind (served up by people with Hitler hair, tattoos and suspenders), bacon, cupcakes, donuts, cronuts, and lest we forget Twerking. I haven't an issue with any of these things. Every time has its trends and phases. Some stick, some morph and some vanish to make room for the next school.

But one of the current trends that is impossible to hide from is this whole vegetable thing. Right now, the cover of every single food related magazine is The Vegetable Issue. Every article is about how vegetables are the new meat. This is Important and Singular and Now. All of the farm to table, market driven, sustainable chatter has led to this critical mass of The Vegetable. Alice Waters is probably folding inside herself.


And this is good. It's great. Vegetables are yummy, healthy and fun. And, unlike cows, chickens, wild boar and the like, we can grow them on our windowsills, rooftops, in our yards or community gardens. And kill, cook and eat them ourselves. What's not to like about that?

One of my favorite veggies happens to be getting an extra spotlight within the vegetable 'movement' right now; the cauliflower. I've written about it before. I love everything about it; the way it looks, the way it cooks, the taste, texture, colors, its versatility, all of it. Soup, puree, in a salad, roasted with farro and topped with an egg, or roasted whole in the oven with some butter, salt and a little garam masala, on a pizza, or even battered and deep fried cauliflower.

The other iteration that you will find on more menus across the country right now than the obligatory service charge for large parties is the cauliflower steak. Literally serving a massive cross-section slab of cauliflower, grilled and treated just like a steak. Just a little salt, pepper and oil. Nothing else to distract from that sweet, nutty, subtle flavor. And maybe even take the parts that didn't get used in the steak and make a puree, with a little butter and milk. Serve that up under the steak to give you the crisped edges of the steak contrasting with the unearthly creaminess of the puree. Instead of nose-to-tail, you've got head-to-stem; instead of whole animal you've gone whole vegetable. And you've got dinner.

Well, you know I always have to gild the lily a bit, so I took this a step further. I also have been desperately trying to empty out the refrigerator, and use up all of the end of season tomatoes in garden. So Fred dug up a beautiful looking recipe from Bon Appétit and, in the one room that has not been packed thus far, the kitchen, we started riffing.

And in a little under an hour, we sat amongst our cardboard box jungle with two beautiful plates heaped with veg, gobbling up the hottest trend. I think Fred was even wearing an ironic t-shirt while we ate.


Cauliflower Medallions with Olive Tapenade & Tomato Purée


4 servings

Ingredients
1  large head of cauliflower, trimmed & outer leaves removed
1/2  cup  pitted kalamata olives, finely chopped
3  tablespoons of tomato paste
3 1/2  tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more
2  tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1  teaspoon lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3  garlic cloves
2  medium tomatoes, cored, quartered


Directions
Place cauliflower core side down on a work surface. Using a large knife, slice cauliflower into 1/2" medallions from center of cauliflower (reserve loose florets). Finely chop enough loose florets to measure 1/2 cup. Transfer chopped florets to a small bowl and mix with olives, tomato paste, 1 tablespoon oil, parsley, and lemon juice. Season tapenade with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 400°. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large heavy ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook cauliflower medallions until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side, adding oil to pan between batches. Transfer medallions to a large rimmed baking sheet. Reserve skillet. Roast cauliflower until tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, return skillet to medium-high heat and add garlic cloves and tomatoes, one cut side down. Cook until tomatoes are browned; turn tomatoes over and transfer skillet to oven with cauliflower. Roast garlic and tomatoes until tender, about 12 minutes.

Transfer garlic, tomatoes, and 1/2 tablespoon oil to a blender; purée until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Divide tomato purée among plates. Place a few medallions on each plate; spoon tapenade over. Serve immediately.



Two years ago: Buttermilk Pie
Three years ago: Turkey Meatloaf

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