We are 3 friends who met while living in France, and bonded over our love of food and cooking, and it’s ability to bring people together. We are separated by distance now, Emma in Lisbon, Rose in Oaxaca, and myself in Los Angeles, but not much has changed. We are still obsessed with food and find every excuse to cook for our friends and family as a way of bringing everyone to the table and as a way of expressing our love for them.
While chatting over Zoom recently, we realized that even though physical distance separates us, our food philosophies span the gap. Simple, unfussy, and delicious food can be made anywhere. Each week, we will bring you 3 different recipes that are centered around the same ingredient. This week it is cauliflower, but next week it will be something different. We’ll talk about that ingredient, if it is readily available where we are, and what we did with it.
I anticipated going to the farmers market to encounter an abundance of beautiful cauliflower of all colors, shapes and sizes. The first market I went to was a Sunday market in Brentwood. Expecting to be overwhelmed with choices, I was shocked that I didn’t see any cauliflower that looked particularly great. Granted, I arrived near the end of the farmers market, so I decided to forego my options there and wait for the Wednesday market in Santa Monica that I would arrive promptly to, which I was sure would be stocked to the brim with options.
So off I went on Wednesday, bright and early to the Santa Monica farmers market. Although it looks like autumn is the absolute best time for cauliflower, what I was seeing was oddly forlorn. I walked the entire market searching, before finding some really nice, tiny heads of cauliflower at one of my favorite vendors tables. They looked small and tender, and perfect to be crisped up and tossed with pasta for a quick, comforting dinner.
Have you ever used preserved lemon? They are fantastic! I made a batch of them several months ago using a recipe from Salad for President, and have just started to dip into the jars. They are acidic like a normal lemon, but they are less tart and more pungent in flavor. Because they are packed in salt, they have a really nice salty bite and the lemons get a great chewy texture as they preserve. They add a nice punch to this dish, but if you do not have them, just use a little lemon zest and juice instead. Maybe throw a few capers in if you have them on hand! To buy preserved lemons is quite expensive, so don’t bother with that…
¼ cup olive oil
1 large head cauliflower, broken into florets
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
8 ounces rotini*
¼ cup pine nuts, roughly chopped
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 cup chopped basil
1 preserved lemon,* finely chopped
½ cup sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
*I used mung bean rotini, but you can use any pasta you’d like
*If you do not have preserved lemon or cannot find it, use zest and juice of 1 lemon instead
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.
Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the cauliflower to the pan and fry until golden and tender, about 10 minutes.
In the meantime, cook the pasta, per package instructions, until al-dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining the pasta.
Add the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes to the pan with the cauliflower, and sauté for one minute more, until just fragrant. Add the drained pasta, pine nuts, parsley, basil, preserved lemon, sundried tomatoes, and pasta water. Toss to combine and warm through. Serve immediately
We got back from a weekend at the beach and had a whole fridge full of slightly sad vegetables that had been left behind. I decided to make a curry. Rather than cooking the vegetables in the curry, I roasted them separately—making them deliciously caramelised and full of flavour. The curry base comes together in a flash, and an assortment of toppings takes it to the next level.
Although it’s winter here, you wouldn’t really know it by the produce. There are a few pumpkins here and there, but the rest of what’s available seems very consistent—tomatoes, potatoes, corn, onions, courgette, limes, chayote, avocado, etc. One thing I have seen a lot of are beautiful orange marigolds—overflowing in the back of beat-up trucks, stacked over shoulders in large bunches, carefully escorted by little girls in white dresses. I often find myself peeping into courtyards, searching for glimpses of a bright orange bouquet. They are so vibrant and joyful.
After some research, I learned that these flowers are also linked to Dia de Los Muertos. “Orange-colored marigold flowers, known in Mexico as cempaxochitl, are one of the iconic symbols which encircle Mexico’s Day of the Dead traditions. Cempaxochitl is the flower’s given name in Náuhuatl, and translates to mean the “twenty flowers” —cempa–xochitl— colloquially referred to as flor de muerto and is appointed as the flower-of-choice on every Day of the Dead ofrenda.”
Back to the curry— I was initially hoping to make a Thai green curry, but then realised I had no coconut milk left. I contemplated using almond milk but I thought that might be a bit unusual. I settled for a tomato-based curry similar to the one I learnt to make in India, using what I had at hand.
Blend up garlic, onion, lots of ginger and some tomato purée (we had run out of fresh tomatoes) plus salt and coriander stems, until smooth.
Heat a good glug of neutral oil on medium heat. Fry off spices (I used fennel seed, cumin seed and quite a lot of curry powder). Then add tomato mixture and cook down until rich and thick and oil has come to the surface (30 minutes or so).
While that is cooking down, pickle some onion in lime juice and leave to sit in the fridge for a bit.
Roast the cauliflower with olive oil and turmeric, and the eggplant with olive oil and ground cumin, in a very hot oven, you want crispy not soggy!
Once the veggies are roasted, you can dish up! Rice, then curry sauce, then roasted veg, topped with pickled onions, some roasted peanuts in sesame oil, and extra coriander. Serve with lime cheeks and a little Greek yoghurt with olive oil and turmeric.
There is a curfew in Lisbon on the weekends now, requiring citizens to stay at home after 13.00. I get up early to get to the market and drink café cheio before the curfew strikes.
On my way there I find a note on the white cobblestone. Reading it closely, I find out it is a part of a love letter. Deeply emotional. How did it end up here? Who wrote it? Why is it ripped apart? Are they still in love?
Not many merchants offer cauliflower, and it’s difficult to find a good size cauliflower. I talk to someone that tells me that this hasn’t been a good year for cauliflower, and growing it without the use of pesticides is challenging.
Sage infused brown butter
Back home in the kitchen, I roast the cauliflower leaves with leeks and some olive oil in the oven.
The head is steamed and served with sage infused brown butter. The deep and savory sage becomes all crispy when added to the butter.
I drizzle it over the soft cauliflower, that soaks up the caramelized butter really well. Some lavender brings colour and a floral flavour nuance that I’m very fond of. Realising that we will be more people that initially expected for this meal, I added what could be found at home in order to make sure everyone’s apetite was satisfied.
We served it with crushed, crispy potatoes and boiled eggs.