Monday, May 26, 2008

Cauliflower Week

Much like the photo from mushroom week, this one is more a tribute to the fascinating world of vegetable diversity then, say, something I actually ate. This is actually a fractalish cauliflower, where as the kind I ate were the somewhat less mesmerizing non-fractalish kind. Still, vegetablesarefriends is nothing if not a showcase for our leafy comrades at their most beautiful.

I was a little surprised when talking to people about cauliflower to find a certain degree of anathema for them. On more than one occasion, friends told me they absolutely can't stand the stuff. Where does this latent hatred come from? After actually trying cauliflower, I can't really figure it out. It doesn't seem to have a strong enough taste to really cause a big reaction. In fact, it reminds me of a less obtrusive broccoli, and broccoli seems to receive a much less virulent reception. The only thing I can think of must be an aversion to the texture--it can be almost gritty at times, and really who wants to eat something that offers the sensation that it should be washed again and not stored in a sand box.

I tried it roasted and steamed with cheese sauce and always ran into this texture problem. It wasn't completely off putting, but I never found myself eagerly reaching for a second serving. The cheese sauce did help the most though, as cheese sauce often will. Also, when I had it roasted, I dipped it in a blend of blue cheese, sour cream, and some kind of Greek cheese, and that made it a little better. I hate to say what I'm about to, as I feel I'm like a broken record, but the obvious solution to the texture problem is to turn to souping.

I used my mother's recipe which is essentially the same as for the curry carrot soup you may remember from carrot week. For a refresher, you saute some onions with butter in a pan. When those are cooked you add a head of chopped cauliflower and cover with chicken broth (or vegetable broth). Cook until the cauliflower is soft and add curry paste. Then you pop it in a blender until you get a delicious soup without any grittiness! Easiest way to eat cauliflower, that I found.

I also made some Indian food with tomatoes and cauliflower that turned out nicely. I'll just add the link to the recipe because it came off a blog which deserves credit and because I'm too lazy to write it out:
I haven't looked at too much one the site, but it seems to have some good stuff! I wanted to make an aloo gobi, but apparently that is traditionally a combination of cauliflower and potatoes. Those of you who know me, know that I hate potatoes above most things. It seemed a little early to cure that one, so I opted for a less dry curry. Interestingly, cauliflower is apparently often used as a substitute for potatoes in low-carb diets because it has a similar consistency (a gross one) but without the starch. In fact (and this is why I'm telling you this), according to Wikipedia, cauliflower is used to produce a potato substitute known as fauxtato. Isn't that great? I could scarce think of a more enchanting name for a fake spud.

On that note, the end of cauliflower week. Thanks for reading and have a happy Memorial Day!

Next week: eggplant!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cucumber Week

I'm not really sure who Arthur Cucumber is, but apparently you can buy this "mouse mat" for the only somewhat exorbitant price of £6.50. Of course, this entails going to a website called "Violent Veg" which normally this site would not support, but which seems to be much less about vegetable scare-mongering than the name would suggest. Well now that I've appropriately advertised and assuaged all guilt about swiping this pic, I can move on to the real substance of cucumber week!

I'm certainly glad I saved cucumbers for summer (believe me, where I live May is full on summer), for they're quite a refreshing vegetable. I no longer wonder (not that I really previously did) about the phrase "cool as a cucumber." Well except as regards the switching of meanings of "cool" from the obvious temperature definition "somewhat cold" to the more abstract "calm and collected." Otherwise, its a perfectly apt simile. On the subject, this particular cliche is actually one of the more international ones, as I and a few of my friends will remember learning the phrase "koel soos 'n komkommer" in our Afrikaans class. Where was I? Oh right, the real substance of cucumber week.

I started off with some sweet and sour tuna with a blend of cucumbers and orange bell peppers on top. The tuna wasn't really sweet or sour, proving some recipes to be misleading, but the cucumbers added a refreshing crunch. Once I realized the orange bell peppers weren't carrots (which took a surprisingly long time actually), they weren't bad either.

In order to feature cucumbers more prominently I tried a mix of fresh cucumbers with some soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and garlic. I was not a fan of this combination, but it may be well worth trying for those of you who like rice wine vinegar on things. I wanted to try the chili powder, lemon combination, mentioned last week, on some cucumber as well, but so far I have not gotten around to it. I still have half a cucumber left though, so I may try it today.

I tried not one but two of my old friends, the soups. Nothing says summer like a cold cucumber soup. One of the soups was mostly cucumber with some garlic and dill. The other was a bit fancier and included nuts and possibly raisins. Actually I'm not even really sure what I was eating, but it was tasty. Cucumbers are now approved the join the long list of vegetables that are so nicely souped.

Beyond soup, my two favorite cucumber experiments of the week involved the making of cucumber limeade and the purchasing of tzatziki sauce. I got the idea for cucumber limeade offline, and found it surprisingly enjoyable. The cucumber cuts the sourness of the lime nicely and makes it all the more refreshing for it. Of course, cucumber is also nice just floated in water which has the added bonus of making you feel like you're at a ritzy spa (or is that just me?). As for the tzatziki, I imagine its supposed to go on some delicious shawarma or gyros, but I found it could be just fine as a dipping sauce for plain pitas. Thank you, random Middle Eastern market near my house.

That about wraps up cucumber week. As for next week, I've been getting a lot of outside pressure to tackle artichokes, but I'm resisting it for now. Do I really need to develop a taste for something so extravagant? And what's with only being able to eat part of the leaves? Anyway, I'm going a different way instead.

Next week: cauliflower!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Announcement of Cucumber Week

This is the much ballyhooed (well okay, barely ballyhooed) interim post that I promised a few weeks ago. Its been a hectic few weeks, but I should be back up and running soon. I haven't tried too much crazy vegetable goodness, but I have been keeping up with previously friended vegetables. I've been souping veggies like mad trying to get them out of my refrigerator.

In the world of fried vegetables, I discovered that ordering vegetable tempura is a good idea but only in small amounts. How soon one becomes over tempura-ed! It does make for a fun game of "try to guess what vegetable is under the fried bit." Broccoli flowerlets are pretty easy to guess, but yams and squashes require biting into and, in some cases, chewing for a bit before identity can really be verified. At the festival last weekend I was able to tried some fried green tomatoes which were delicious. There's something I'll miss about living in the South. Unfortunately, they didn't have fried okra at the festival as I'd assumed, but I did have some this morning at brunch. (Apparently fried okra is a brunch food?) Not bad, though I feel I'd be wary of okra in other contexts.

Now for the excitement of the coming week. I had some cucumber in a salad at a dinner party last week, and it seemed innocuous enough. Thus I thought I'd go ahead and make the announcement that cucumber week cometh in case anyone has any good recipes. Hopefully, I didn't lose too many readers with the hiatus!