Eat Simpler

My friends Megan and T.J. gave me a book called Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison a while ago. It’s part cookbook, part gardening book, and part manual to plants. It’s a gem, and you should add it to your bookshelf immediately. You can learn the scientific names for all your favorite vegetables as well as an abundance of fun facts like this: the tomato was thought to be an aphrodisiac when it was introduced to Europeans, earning it the name pomme d’amour (love apple).

Last night, I made Deborah Madison’s cauliflower with saffron, pepper flakes, parsley and pasta. I was looking for a simple, comforting dish that wouldn’t require too much prep. I have found saffron to be difficult to cook with in the past because it is so easily overwhelmed by other flavors. However, not only did this dish allow the delicate saffron to shine through in flavor, it also imbued the meal with a lovely yellow hue.

Madison suggests using shells, but since I’m making a feeble attempt to eat gluten-(almost)-free, I used Trader Joe’s brown rice fusilli.  Here’s my version, slightly modified. I used a bit less than a full head of cauliflower, and I didn’t boil it first as Madison suggests because I wanted to keep my dishes to a minimum. I also didn’t have fresh parsley on hand, so I used to a heaping helping of dried parsley.

Deborah Madison Cauliflower Saffron Pasta

Saffron Cauliflower Pasta

1 cauliflower (about 1 lb), broken into small florets
2 Tbs olive oil, plus more for tossing the pasta
1 onion, finely diced
2 pinches of saffron threads (I was pretty liberal with my saffron)
1 large clove garlic, minced (I used a cube of Dorot)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
sea salt
1 teaspoon dried parsley or 4 Tbs finely chopped fresh parsley
8 ounces of pasta
Grated aged cheese such as parmesan or crumbled feta

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare the pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saffron and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft. Add the garlic, pepper flakes, and the parsley. Give everything a good quick stir, then mix in the cauliflower, making sure it gets coated in the seasonings. Add 1/2 cup of water, and season with salt. Cook until the cauliflower is tender.

When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain it and add it in with the cauliflower mixture. Turn off the heat, add a little more oil, and integrate everything together. Add parmesan and season with additional salt and red pepper flakes as desired.



Only if you don’t make me eat cauliflower…

One of my favorite books is Gabriel García Márquez’s Love In the Time of Cholera. And one of my favorite lines in this book is, “Very well, I will marry you only if you don’t make me eat eggplant.” Both eggplant and cauliflower get a very bad rap, which is sad because both have a lot of potential as vegetables when prepared properly.

For dinner last night I made a variation on Aloo Gobi, an Indian dish with potatoes, cauliflower and lots of spices. The dish is best served with rice and/or naan and can be modified in many ways. It’s a great way to get someone who doesn’t like cauliflower to change his/her mind. For more protein, add chick peas or, for you meat eaters, some chicken. Or feel free to add additional veggies like mushrooms or green peas. To speed up the cooking of the dish, I precooked my cubed potatoes in the microwave. Pour enough warm water over the potatoes so they are covered, and cook for about 5 minutes. Reserve the water from the potatoes – it’s good and starchy, so you’ll get a thicker sauce.

Also, a note here about oil. I hardly use any oil when I cook. I use just enough to keep the first ingredients from sticking. For this reason, be sure to use good non-stick cookware when preparing this dish.

Finally, I like my Indian food spicy. However, you can modify the spiciness of this dish by using fewer (or no) jalapenos. I don’t use teaspoon or tablespoon measurements when I add spice, and I recommend that you start with less spice, and add more according to your personal taste.

1 tbs canola or vegetable oil
1 medium-sized onion, sliced
1/2 bunch cilantro, stalks cut in 1/2” pieces, leaves chopped and set aside
3 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed and diced
1 can diced tomatoes in juice
1 t garam masala
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t garam masala
1/2 tsp ground ginger (or 1 tsp fresh grated)
3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced (can be slightly pre-cooked in water in the microwave)
1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into 1/2”-1” pieces 1/2 c water (or reserved water from pre-cooked potatoes)

Heat oil in a large pan or wok. Add onion and stir until translucent. Add cumin and cilantro stalks. Stir in turmeric, paprika and salt. Add jalapenos, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, garam masala, potatoes and cauliflower. Stir until everything is well coated. Add the water/reserved potato water and cover. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer for 15 minutes or until cauliflower and potatoes are completely cooked. Serve over rice and garnished with fresh cilantro.