Hola chicas! (and Chicos!)… And anyone who doesn’t identify within the traditional bi-gender paradigm!
I’ve been thinking recently about how my eating habits have evolved over the past 6 years.
When I came out to the island from Alberta, I was a carni-saurus-rex. Of the carnivore variety, not the circus. I loved my meat. Steak. Hamburgers. Chicken wings. I ate meat and I ate it indiscriminately. More meat! More meat!….
….Fast forward 3 years and I’m in a gender studies class learning about food, culture, and how it relates to the citizens of the world, the planet, and the animals. Holy shit. I was in trouble. I immediately swore off all things flesh and dove head straight into vegetable and tofu-land….
….Moving along 1 year later and something profound occurs to me: Eating vegetables and fruits that produced with or without chemicals and/or shipped half way around the world is not much better than eating meat. Especially when that meat is local, small scale, organic, pastured meat. Hm. Dilemma.
So I went back to eating meat. Slowly. In moderation. I tried to buy from local producers who are doing things “right” and even now, 2 years later, I try to limit my intake of meat to a couple times a week tops. I get most of my protein from legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas as well as grains like quinoa and pretty much any nut and cheese I can dig my claws into.
Why am I re-hashing all this history? Because I think it gets lost in translation on the blog. I think someone is a really good chef when they can make vegetables the star of a dish. Or at the very least, make them as interesting and exciting as the protein. But in the meat-obsessed culture of gourmet food, the “side” often goes over-looked. It’s an after-thought. Even by home chefs who really care about the entirety and holisticness of a meal – like myself. I want to make something brilliant and unfortunately – despite my fight to maintain a plant majority diet – a lot of what I end up posting has fish or meat as the main event.
This rambling is more of a reminder to myself that plant-focused meals can be gourmet too rather than a reminder to you. But while we’re here, why not ask ourselves how we can challenge chefs and ourselves to create more sustainable, Earth friendly, gourmet dishes?
…And that’s how I came up with fancy-pants creamed cauliflower vanilla puree. Served with some marinated mushrooms, you have one swanky appetizer. Or top a grass-fed steak with those same mushrooms and you’ve got yourself a seriously gourmet side. Whichever you prefer…
In all honesty, it was inspired by a dish we made one night at The London Chef. I took Dan Hayes’ idea and I ran with it. I hope you will too.
Fancy-Pants Creamed Cauliflower Vanilla Puree with crispy fried florets
Yield 4 servings
- 1 Small to Medium Sized Cauliflower, greens removed and cut into florets of equal size (approx 2" pieces) + 2 Florets broken into small pieces.
- 1/2 Spanish Onion, peeled & diced.
- 2 Garlic Cloves, peeled & chopped.
- 1 C Cream or Homo Milk.
- Small Handful of Pecorino Romano Cheese, grated.
- Tbsp or 2 of Butter, room temperature.
- Half Vanilla Bean, cut in half and seeds spooned out.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
- 1 C Vegetable Oil.
- Course Sea Salt & Fresh Cracked Black Pepper.
- Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees F.
- As that heats, toss the 2" chopped cauliflower with a glug of olive oil and a good helping of salt and pepper. Arrange as a single layer in a baking pan, cut sides down. Place in heated oven uncovered for about 15 minutes. Shake the pan/flip the florets and then roast a further 10-15 minutes until tender with good color on them.
- As the cauliflower roasts, place the onion, garlic, cream and vanilla bean and seeds into a medium sized pot. Slowly heat over a medium temperature setting, stirring very often to ensure the cream doesn't burn.
- Once the cauliflower is done, add that to the mixture.
- Add the cheese and the butter, stir well.
- Using a hand blender or food processor, puree until smooth. Be careful - it's hot! Cover and set aside.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a wok over medium heat. When it reaches 350 degrees, or a piece of white bread turns brown in 30-40 seconds, it's ready. Carefully place the tiny cauliflower florets in the oil with a slotted spoon and fry until golden. Remove with that same spoon and drain on paper towels. For more information on frying, click here.
- Plate the puree and top with some marinated mushrooms cut on the diagonal, or a steak cooked to your liking (cut the same way) - and maybe some chopped mushrooms, finishing off with a few pieces of the crispy cauliflower.