Tuesday, May 12, 2009

caramelized cauliflower with slow-roasted tomatoes

As you all know, I really enjoy preparing a little dish I like to call "making do with what you have." As usual, I'm going out of town on Thursday for a couple of weeks, so instead of spending money on groceries, I'm forcing myself to be creative with what lies in the depths of my icebox and pantry. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up to my girl Amanda, who gave me the idea for a sundried tomato pesto which I have eaten at least 3x this week on various pastas and vegetables, and am currently contemplating putting it on eggs for breakfast.

This week I had the great fortune of reading Orangette's new book, A Homemade Life. I loved it soooo much that its only low point was that I devoured it in one sitting, instead of pushing it into leftovers for a week. It has all the wonder of a good dish-- delicate in some parts, meaty in others, and provided me good taste for my heart and nutrition for my soul.

I think Ms. Wizenburg (or can I call her Molly? she seems so personable!) would be proud to know I used not one but two of her recipes last night, and tweaked them to fit my needs. In my crisper sat a lone head of cauliflower, which is a lot for a recipe-for-one, but it really needed to be eaten. I contemplated soup (any excuse to use my immersion blender, you know), but that would have required a trip to the market for at the very least, an onion, so I decided to roast it.

Her recipe for roasted cauliflower (pg 273, or here) pairs with it a salsa verde that sounded scrumptious, but again, a trip to the store would have been necessary, so with Amanda's tomato pesto still fresh in my mind, I turned to a clamshell of sweet grape tomatoes and pg 193 (or here).

I had to go with grape tomatoes instead of romas, and they're so sweet I contemplated adding some vinegar (I have a lovely white balsamic, courtesy of Stonehouse, and my girlies Krysten and Chanelle), but in the end I'm glad I left as is. I had them all sliced and slick with olive oil when I realized I was out of coriander. This recipe notwithstanding, gasp. I adore coriander. But, bygones, not to be daunted by my threadbare cupboards, I settled on 2 huge garlic cloves, pressed, smoky cumin, hot red pepper flakes, and sea salt.

Oven at 200. Generally season oiled tomatoes with garlic, cumin, hot pepper, and salt, and roast for hours. Literally. I checked on them about every hour or so but I think I finally found them at their peak around 3 1/2. When Orangette states "rubies in fruit form," she ain't lying. It took a LOT of willpower not to eat the entire sweet, hot, smoky mess with slightly burnt fingers, right from the pan.

OK, now, oven to 450. Slice your cauliflower in slice in 1/4"-1/2" slices. A good deal of it will crumble away, but that's just snackies while you're waiting. Nestle loosely into a baking sheet, generously coated with olive oil (Orangette suggests using your fingers; I used a silicone brush) and sea salt. Roast 30-40 minutes, flipping once.

I sat near the oven for most of this process, with a glass of pinot grigio, flipping through her book, listening to the hissing, burbling, & popping of the cauliflower caramelizing in the oven. I like it well-done. I threw the pan of tomatoes back in the oven while I plated the cauliflower, just to heat them up, then drizzled the whole goopy mess over the cauliflower.

I fully intended to eat half and save the rest for today... but I didn't. I cleaned the plate and licked my fingers.