Sunday, March 14, 2010

love letter

  The best meal I had in Syria was at a rest stop, believe it or not. We walked into the restaurant through the back door, past the outdoor grill and some wandering chickens and the smell of charred meat. I'm vegetarian in the US but I didn't want to miss anything new. More like, I didn't want to miss any shawarma or kebab.

So after a day of touring, we ate roasted chicken with garlic and olive oil, hummos, and fantastic eggplant. The best part of the meal was a plate of gorgeous bite-sized pieces of cauliflower, roasted and golden and drizzled with pomegranate molasses.

Cauliflower is the most unglamorous vegetable. It's kind of ugly and pale and tastes pretty funky if cooked poorly. Cauliflower is generally under-appreciated.

But don't get me wrong, I love cauliflower. When the campus grocery store ran out of produce last night, as they do more often than is acceptable, the only piece of vegetable that looked fresh was a lone head of cauliflower. In that light, the cauliflower was beautiful.
It may be presumptuous to call my rendition Syrian Cauliflower, but I've done my best to recreate the crunchy, sweet, roasted deliciousness.

Syrian cauliflower

one head cauliflower, cut into bite size pieces
1/3 cup bread crumbs
4 Tbsp. plus 2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses*

*available at middle eastern grocery stores, some specialty stores, and online

Cut the cauliflower into bite size pieces and place in a large resealable plastic bag with the olive oil and breadcrumbs. Seal the bag, and shake until the cauliflower is evenly coated. You want a thin coating to cover the cauliflower. Add more olive oil or breadcrumbs if necessary, but avoid anything resembling breading or a crust.

Spread cauliflower on a baking sheet and roast at 350 degrees, tossing with a spatula every five minutes until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the pomegranate molasses with 2 Tbsp. olive oil.

At this point, it will be difficult to stop yourself from eating the entire batch. If any makes it onto your plate, drizzle with pomegranate molasses mixture and serve warm.

Syrian Cauliflower makes a great side-dish or appetizer, but there are also so many more things to do with this type of cauliflower. I like to add some grated parmesan to the breadcrumb mixture and call the bite-size pieces "cauliflower croutons." You will want to eat them every day. Please please please try a handful of these in a spinach salad with avocado. Even better, drop a handful into tomato soup (or Fall Harvest soup!).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

wednesdays are rough

Sometimes it's difficult to get through the day. Sometimes you feel like disappearing, like my teammate in the photo below (there was a person on that horse when I took that photo, I promise!).

Sometimes, you get home from work and all you want to do is get in bed. Other times, you want to make these wonderful scones first, because they are possibly even more comforting than crawling under the covers.

Today was one of those days for me. I first tasted a ginger scone at my university's bookstore cafe. It was delicious, but there was not enough ginger in my ginger scone. A ginger scone should have enough ginger to make it spicy and sweet and well, gingery.

I love ginger. My grandmother used to tell me not to use the word love for food. "You love your parents. You like that chocolate cake," she told me many times. In this case though, she was mistaken. I love ginger. I love fresh ginger and candied ginger and pickled ginger and powered ginger. Ginger cookies, ginger stir-fry, ginger tea, gingerbread.

These are my people:

I buy these whenever I go on a trip:

I love ginger, and one of the best forms of ginger is ginger scones. After that initial bookstore scone, I looked up a recipe so I could eat them all the time, which I do. The recipe below is adapted from Bon Appetit.

These scones make rough days one hundred times better. I love every step of the process involved in making them.

Ginger scones

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp grated lemon peel
11 Tbsp chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup milk, soymilk, cream, or buttermilk
generous 2/3 cup diced crystallized ginger
Preheat oven to 400°F. Blend flour, sugar, baking powder and lemon peel. Add butter and use your hands to crumble the mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Make a well in the center; add 3/4 cup milk of choice (please note that if you're using milk or soymilk, you may need less than 3/4 cup, and slightly more than 3/4 cup if using buttermilk).

Stir until moist. Mix in ginger.
At this point, many scone recipes will tell you to knead and roll and shape and chill, but I prefer a less fussy approach. Simply shape the dough into scone-sized flattened spheres and transfer to a greased baking sheet, spacing at least 1 inch apart.

Bake scones until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A call to spring

My seedlings didn't seem to mind when it rained for three days and the sun didn't come up for as long. I gave them my desk lamp as a surrogate-sun, which meant that to avoid turning on the gigantically bright overhead light in my room, I've been getting dressed in the semi-dark, which consistently leads to mismatched socks.

Two rows each of lettuce greens, nasturtium, mint, parsley, and basil. In class I daydream about a salad of mixed greens and fresh herbs with radishes and lemony dressing.