Monday, March 21, 2005

the caulifather

roasted cauliflower with caper crumbs salad

it started simply enough - a casual dinner with some friends. nothing fancy, it was a sunday evening so we'd do a couple of salads, roast chicken and dessert. i'm still too much of a novice to choose the menu so blancs suggested two salads from julie le clerc's excellent "more simple cafe food". i was on roasted cauliflower with caper crumbs duty ...

ingredients: 1 cauliflower, 1/2 cup roughly crumbled stale bread, 1/4 cup capers, 4 cloves garlic, crushed, 1/4 cup olive oil, 4tbsp chopped fresh parsley, 1/4 cup pinenuts, toasted, 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, sea salt and ground pepper

the instructions are very simple - roast the cauliflower, bread, capers, garlic and oil in a 170c oven for about 30 mins. heating has different effects on the flavour of cauliflower - flash boiling will maintain the flavours, but longer cooking will produce milder flavour or lingering smell of cabbage if prolonged. stir occasionally to ensure even cooking. remove to cool. mix in rest of ingredients and season to serve.

before i started into the research for this blog, i thought that this would be a fairly simple recipe with little info about the ingredients. they're all vegetables, not like the complex meat and fish that i would go on to write about. the further i dug into researching this the more i seem to uncover something strange afoot in the vegetable world. a cover-up that potentially goes to the heads of the great families of the vegetable kingdom...

similar to broccoli, cauliflower is part of the cabbage family. it was discovered in europe around the 16th century. arrested development of their flowers means that their flower tissues proliferate and accumulate into large masses. due to the immature nature of the flower, it is relatively unfibrous and can be pureed to a very creamy consistency. as with the onion family, you notice the strong flavour of the cabbage family when you chop it (mixing flavour and enzyme precursors together). when compared with other members of the family (e.g. brussels sprouts, white cabbage), cauliflower is one of the lowest in terms of relative amounts of sulfur pungency (flavour). interestingly, capers are in fact a distant relative of the cauliflower.

garlic, as part of the onion family and like cabbage, has a strong sulfury flavour. like the rest of onion family, it accumulates energy not in starch, but in fructose (long slow cooking produces sweetness. garlic has far more fructose than onions; this is illustrated in the stickiness when crushed and in how it dries out and browns during roasting or frying. baking and drying garlic has a similar effect to the cauliflower; the generation of trisulfides means that it tends towards the smell of overcooked cabbage. it also contributes sweetness (caramel) towards the overall dish. the best way to peel the garlic is to mash it with the broad side of a large nice in order to loosen the skin.

parsley is a member of the carrot family. it is best maintained in a towel in the fridge. elizabeth david says that parsley is the perfect foil for garlic.

most of the above was revealed by mcgee. it seemed unusual and stirred my intrigue. i thought about the facts for a moment ... we had a connection made between the cabbage and onion families; cauliflower and garlic would smell of cabbage if overcooked. furthermore, the seemingly benign comment that capers and cauliflower were in fact distant relations. david's comment about the parsley foil for garlic furthered my questions. could it be that there was more to this simple recipe than just taste and coincidence? a malicious collusion that went on between the big families of the vegetable world? if so, how long has this been going on? what other "simple" recipes are actually further signs of this conspiracy?

the further i read, the more the night seemed to close around me. usually innocent noises in the house seemed to take on a darker tone. i shook my head, went to get some air for a while and convinced myself that i must be imagining things. in order to discredit my fears i consulted some new research material; dornenburg and page's "culinary artistry". it was at that moment that my worst fears were confirmed. there, in black and white, on page 103; bread crumbs, garlic and parsley all feature as leading companions for cauliflower.

i'm going to submit this blog now before something happens to me. i have to get the truth out there. i'm afraid to go into the kitchen, those little cauliflowers seem to look at me with threatening eyes. i'm afraid of being followed ... i went to the gym and thought that i saw some parsley on the street behind me, i turned to see nothing ...

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