Saturday, August 21, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Whole Baked Cauliflower

I hate to be wasteful with food.

And I think Chris hates it even more.

I just finished reading Sharks Fin Soup and Sichuan Pepper by Fuchsia Dunlop and after a long love affair with chinese cuisine, towards the end of the book, she describes her growing lack of appetite for extravagantly wasteful banquets that no group of people could ever finish. A lot has changed in China since it's years of poverty and starvation during the Cultural Revolution, but Dunlop also points out, what's the difference between a lavish Shanghai feast and the mass amounts of food that get thrown out by the British and Americans every day. Why pick on China?

I cringe to write it but yesterday I threw out a whole yellow squash. I had bought three, the two best went into dinner but the third was a little spongy and past it's prime, I had peeled it already, thinking I may use it but instead I turned my cheek and tossed it into the plastic garbage sac hanging from the door nob. Then later that night I did the same with three mealy apricots. It was kind of like taking an old dog to the curb and saying, "sorry, you just don't bark like you used to, so long"!

As a child these things would have at least made it into the compost pile but I do not have a backyard and there's no way I'm starting an urban compost bin in our bathroom. I'm usually pretty good when it comes to not over-shopping, or re-arranging the contents of the mini fridge for the third time that day in order to fit the leftovers in, but sometimes I miscalculate and perfectly good food goes to waste. I can be  picky and lazy which are not qualities I'm proud to admit. I'm sure I could have done something with the squash and apricots, but I didn't. 

It is for this reason that I did not buy cauliflower for a long, long time. About a year ago I bought a gigantic head of cauliflower and I can't begin to tell you how impossible it is to fit one in a refrigerator the size of a small television. Chris and I maybe ate a third of it, and then the rest sat out, went bad and got tossed. So, when I came across Jamie Oliver's recipe where you cook the whole thing, I got excited. It's easy, delicious and a nice break from pasta. You can eat it as a side dish or like Chris and me, split it in half and down the whole thing.

For a side dish we had a little tin of octopus, with fresh lemon juice squeezed on top. I thought they were delicious but Chris couldn't seem to get over the fact they came out of a sardine tin. The purple outer layer of the octopus slid off on your tongue which he found a little weird and asked, "are you sure these are okay"? I was sure, but the more he asked, the more I wondered. At the end of dinner, there were four pieces left in the dish and we were full. With Chris' question bouncing around my head, on my way to do some dishes, I considered covering them with foil to eat for lunch the next day but instead I popped open the garbage can, slid the remaining octopus in, and the lid slammed shut.

I'm so sorry little octopus, it's not you, it' me.

Jamie Oliver's Whole Baked Cauliflower with Tomato and Olive Sauce

1 red onion, peeled and sliced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 large head of cauliflower, outer green leaves discarded, stalk chopped
olive oil
a good handful of black olives, pitted
4 good-quality anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained and sliced
a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves roughly chopped, stalks finely chopped
2 14 oz. cans of chopped plum tomatoes
red wine vinegar
a pot with a lid large enough to cook a whole cauliflower in

Add the onion, garlic and chopped cauliflower stalk to some olive oil and fry for ten minutes until softened with a little color. Add the olives, anchovies and parsley stalks and fry another couple minutes. Add the tomatoes, then half fill a can with water and add to the pot along with a good swig of red wine vinegar. Stir and break up tomatoes into small bits, bring to a boil.

Gently push the cauliflower into the sauce, half in half out, drizzle with olive oil, cover and cook on low heat for 50 minutes. (I cooked it about 30 which almost seemed too much so use your judgement.) Serve and sprinkle with parsley leaves.

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