Saturday, January 20, 2007

What not to boil

Would you believe me if I told you that I voluntarily got up at 6:00am on a Saturday morning, when I could have otherwise been sleeping in? Well I did. Today was an important day, a day that all New Havenites across the 3 mile city have looked forward to for more than a year: The Destruction of the New Haven Coliseum. This decades-old structure was in the midst of a complicated political strife for some time, and eventually the city got its act together to finalize its destruction early this Saturday morning. Greg and I had prime seats in a city-sponsored early morning tailgate on the top of a parking garage. The garage was about 500 feet from the Coliseum, and we were on the 7th floor. Here are a few photos (sequential from upper left -> upper right -> lower left -> lower right):

Pretty cool, hu? After the explosion, we spent the rest of the morning trying to get breakfast with our friends Alex and Joy. Everywhere was packed, until finally we went to our favorite greasy spoon joint, where they serve buttery eggs, toast with little packets of jam and hash browns like they have at McDonalds. I know, not the pinnacle of all things delicately flavored - but for a slightly-out-of-it morning (e.g., following a night involving alcohol, or when getting up at 6am for silly reasons like watching a giant building implode), Clark's Dairy is just what the doctor calls. After waiting two hours for our food (Two hours! I know!), Greg prepped himself for a night trip to the 30th birthday party of a high school friend, and I prepped myself for a trip to Toronto.

Now, the last time I flew on an airplane, I was headed to Minneapolis to give a presentation in front of a group of people I was very nervous to be in front of. The night before, I tried a new moisturizer and woke with a red rash across my face so hideous I didn't even bother documenting it with a photo. Many ice-packs, some anti-inflammatory topicals and a good night's sleep left me okay 24 hours later. But the time before that trip, I flew to Arizona for thanksgiving, and I spent the night cleaning up after a very, very sick dog... then I missed my flight. The time before that, I was flying first to gut house destroyed by Katrina in New Orleans, then to a wedding in Indiana, and by the time I got home, Greg and I were engaged. I.e., exciting things happen when I travel, and it's not always what I would expect. This trip is to Toronto. It's for five days, and it's the first time I've ever been out of the country. Before leaving my blog to the mercy of the internet black hole for a week, I thought I'd post a new recipe.

In case you couldn't tell, today's recipe has something to do with cauliflower. And not just any cauliflower - this is purple cauliflower. I picked it up from a local market with the idea that I would roast it. I've been reading a lot about roasting cauliflower, and it sounds like the perfect method to cook this cruciferous vegetable: roasting concentrates and intensifies flavors. The subtle flavor of its normally creamy white version could use such culinary modification. Plus, I wanted to take a photo of it. Green and purple are complementary colors - what did the inside look like, I wondered? After I roasted it (with a few red onions to boot), the purple color became quite intense, taking on a bluish tone. I love the striations.

I drizzled 1" cuts of cauliflower with olive oil and grated sea salt. The salt helps draw out moisture to hasten the roasting process. I roasted mine for about 40 minutes, although I think next time I'd cut the cauliflower into small florets instead of slices cook the vegetable more uniformly. Once roasted, this cauliflower tasted truly wonderful: intense, earthy, but somehow not too heavy... I'm not sure if I'll bother boiling cauliflower again.

Speaking of what not to boil, I wasn't sure what to serve this with, since I wanted to the vegetable flavor to be the start of the show. I decided on a way to cook gnocchi that I've tried before. The first time I fried raw gnocchi, they were dumplings I had made myself (i.e., irregularly shaped and a little soft). It was quite good. Then I tried frying the store-bought version (i.e., regularly shaped and with a firm texture). That was awesome, and something I've been repeating lately because it was so awesome. (Yes, I will use that word). The outside of the gnocchi becomes crisp and buttery. The inside is composed of soft potatoey goodness. It's like an adult version of a french fry, except you want to drench it in butter, cheese, and anything else you'd make pasta with.

I decided to fry the gnocchi and make a quick pan sauce of red peppers, green onions and light cream. Red peppers, I give a thumbs up to. Green onion? Not so much. Although the photos have green onion in it, I would replace that with a little parsley next time - the flavor of the onion was just a too strong. I could also envision this with a sundried tomato / roasted pepper sauce. Oh yum, now I want to cook it again! Ignoring my daydreaming and back to the cooking: I served this version with green beans that turned a fantastic bright green after I steamed them. Mmmm. I think that'll sum up my review of this dish : )

Enjoy this recipe, and even if you never roast cauliflower or don't want to bother with the pan sauce... fry up some gnocchi and serve it with fresh cheese and grated black pepper. I promise you that you'll never boil gnocchi again. It's really delicious.

Roasted Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower
1 red onion
1/4 cup olive oil
Freshly grated sea salt and black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees
  2. Cut the green base of the cauliflower and peel back any leaves. Wash thoroughly by holding upside down under running water. Slice cauliflower into thin slices (1/2-1") or cut into florets of uniform size. Cut red onion into 1/2" slices. Keeping the thickness of the cauliflower uniform is important to ensure all pieces cook evenly
  3. Place vegetable pieces on baking sheet. Brush oil over one surface, salt and pepper to taste, and repeat process for opposite side
  4. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, depending on thickness (should be fork tender). Keep on eye on the oven to prevent the cauliflower from burning

Pan Fried Gnocchi with Pepper Cream Sauce and Roasted Cauliflower
Serves 4

1 package store bought gnocchi (1lb)
4 tbsp butter
1 large red pepper, chopped finely
1/4 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped*
3/4 c light cream
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 head roasted cauliflower, cut into small florets
  1. In medium fry pan, melt butter. Once the butter starts browning, add gnocchi and toss to coat. Continually toss and fry gnocchi for 4-5 minutes, until gnocchi are soft throughout and golden crispy on the outside. Drain on several paper towels if desired (I did)
  2. Add chopped red pepper to pan and cook over medium heat until softened, approximately 3-4 minutes.
  3. Return gnocchi to pan; add parsley and cream. Simmer over low heat for an additional minute and then season with white pepper.
  4. Toss with roasted cauliflower and serve.
(*note, of course in my version I used green onion, as you can see in the pictures... but I am sure this would be much better with parsley instead... )


Anonymous said...

Hey, thanks for the comment. Nice to see others that aren't family happen in once a while.
I'm guessing by the looks of your food photography that you read SmittenKitchen?
And I read something about your dogs and their eating habits. Check out if you don't know her already. When she writes about the antics of her four dachsunds, I laugh so much I cry.

Anonymous said...

FRY? Wow...I've never thought of doing that with those wonderful potato dumplings. I have found the most wonderful store brand at World Market. I'm so going to try this!

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to try the purple cauliflower. It is so pretty!

Let me know how you like the Glass Castle. It is a great book...very hard to put down.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the kinds words you left on my blog.

My husband and I absolutely love gnocchi! Now you have inspired me to make some. Pan frying them? Oh, that sounds fabulous! I'll definitely make the cream sauce too. And how can you not love purple cauliflower? Thanks!

Food "Blogga"

Anonymous said...

It has got to be worth getting out of bed for an explosion! Especially if it is not from your kitchen! The purple cauliflower looks intereting - I have never seen one but will now be on the look out. Here in New Zealand, we have a brocoflower - a limegreen cross between broccoli and cauliflower - to me it tastes like grass!