I don't always love cooking. I have my moments; usually when it's quiet or late at night, but some days I just have to get people nourished and it doesn't need to be beautiful. I've started working as a personal chef for a family, am teaching a few private cooking classes and picked up a couple recipe development jobs this month so there has just been a lot of food. I'm on the brink of too much of a good thing. Prior to my babies there was more free time, more quiet, no picky eaters, a looser grocery budget, fewer interruptions. We had to eat, I was still always around food for work and I'd use all the white space of my thoughts thinking of something different I could create. Cooking as a passion was approached differently because it wasn't sharing the space with my beloved wee people. I am not the same person or cook I was 3, 4 or 5 years ago when I started our first book for a plethora of reasons, but I see glimpses of the catalyst that brought me to what I am doing now. I love to feed other people.
Hugh and I hosted a fundraising dinner with Aran Goyoaga in Seattle last weekend and it couldn't have gone better. At least as far as I was concerned. We sold all 20 seats quickly and the guests were lovely people, all of whom I wanted to pack in my bag and take home to be my friends. Aran's studio is calm and magical and she drafted a menu that was absolutely delicious. Both her and her husband make sourdough at home, so we had loaves of that. She made Heidi Swansons' red lentil hummus and we cobbled together a cheese platter with the necessary accoutrements. There was a salad of beets and roasted fennel with fresh mixed citrus, radicchio and avocado whose colors were striking. Neither Aran or I are the measuring type, so we seasoned and sprinkled and chopped as we went. It was the most enjoyable time I have had cooking in a long time. Perhaps because my wee people weren't underfoot ;) I remembered that I actually really love it as opposed to it feeling like the chore it has been lately. We roasted cauliflower with sumac and dried thyme and coriander and put it on a platter with a swipe of whole greek yogurt with some greens, pine nuts and a drizzle of tahini on top. I am making a guess at the recipe below as a guideline for you but you'll have to use your intuition on seasonings and timing too. There was a cozy vegetarian tagine with apricot couscous. The first time I've ever made it but not the last - a great and affordable dinner option. We finished with Aran's perfect meringues with fresh passion fruit and a creamy lemon curd. In the end we fed and were fed, and donated a few thousand dollars to the IRC who is doing great work. My heart is full.
Spiced Cauliflower Salad // Serves 4 as a side
We served this room temperature. Warm would be nice while not necessary, though the greens will wilt under the heat, but I wouldn't suggest cold. This recipe is loose, you'll have to tailor it to taste. I listed za'atar, which is a blend of a few spices, but you could use sumac, dried thyme and some sesame seeds individually if that is what you have.
You could double this easily if you like leftovers or are feeding more than four. You will not need to double the yogurt and will probably need a little more oil to coat the cauliflower. If you need this to be vegan, simply eliminate the yogurt.
1 large head cauliflower
2-3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. coriander
1 Tbsp. za'atar
dried or fresh thyme
dash or two of cayenne
1/4 cup tahini
1 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
zest of one lemon
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
scant 1 cup whole milk greek yogurt
handful or tender greens
1/4 cup+ toasted pinenuts
pomegranate seeds, if in season
Preheat the oven to 400'. Break up the cauliflower florets, discarding the core. Pieces should be about half dollar size. Pile them on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil, salt, garlic powder, coriander, za'atar, thyme, cayenne and toss everything together well to combine. Use a little more olive oil if needed, everything should be well coated. Spread it in an even layer on the sheet pan and roast in the upper third of the oven for about 30 minutes. The cauliflower should be tender and browned in parts. Set aside.
In a bowl, whisk together the tahini and water. Then whisk in the olive oil, honey, vinegar, lemon zest, pepper flakes and a few pinches of salt and pepper.
To assemble your dish, put a generous swipe of greek yogurt along the bottom and top with a few handfuls of the greens. Top with the roasted cauliflower and drizzle with the tahini sauce. Top with toasted pinenuts and pomegranate seeds if you can find them. Some golden raisins would be a nice alternative.