Friday, November 17, 2006

Recipe, Schmecipe

I was saying to Cranky today that ever since I've had this blog, I don't use my cookbooks quite as much.
I'm one of those people who think it's kind of unimaginative to write about a recipe somebody else dreamed up, that I replicated, and photographed, and I ate it, and it worked (or it didn't), and that's my story, where's my gold star?
I mean, I WILL do that. I'm not a total snob. I've blogged about my success with Jacque Pepin's homemade pork sausage recipe, and that's because it so amazed me to even be able to do this at home, I wanted to share it with the rest of you. I've bragged about Deborah Madison's uncanny recipe-writing skills, something I know because I've followed them carefully despite my initial apprehensions (she's a genius; trust her, and then once you've done that, take it from there — trust me).
But blogging publicly seems to make me want to be a little bit more original than just following Recipe 101 — to take chances, to blaze trails.
Within reason.
Look, I only know what I know because of what I've learned so far, and a lot of that has been book-learning.
Or newspaper food-section recipe learning.
Case in point: A roasted cauliflower recipe I saved from the New York Times a few years ago. Here's the learning curve: It was the first roasted cauliflower I had ever tasted, and it was good. No, really good. But the recipe was needlessly complicated. It produced "overage," if you will; too much garlic-infused olive oil, which we were told to "save for another use." Also: many, very messy, steps, including a blender, an oven and a stovetop. Yeesh.
However, from that recipe I learned about flavors. The sexy, burny flavor of roasted cauliflower. The sultry blend of olives, lemon, garlic and capers in oil. The — oh, hey, maybe that's it. Yeah, that's all. Enough.
So here's today's sleek spin on a byzantine recipe, "cookiecrumb-style."
I cut up my beautiful green cauliflower into florets (saving about 1/3 of the head for another fun project; more later). I sauteed these succulent chunks in (cue the religious music) Bacon Fat from Fatted Calf Bacon! It just happened to be in the pan, left over from yesterday (and anybody with half a brain can tell you cauliflower is almost meat). This grease had all the salt I needed; none extra added.
Saute until brown corners happen. This is where the flavor is. But it won't be done yet.
Now: Smash a big, fat clove of garlic. Add it to the pan with a bay leaf and a fresh lemon leaf. Drizzle — nay, glug — a demi-bath of white wine over this. Apply lid to pan and frizzle until the florets are to your tender-crunchy liking.
With me so far? Yes. Take a slotted spoon and remove the cauliflower to a bowl (and put the lid over the bowl). Throw away the two leaves, but save the garlic. In the pan, you will now add chopped (pitted, duh) kalamata olives in the quantity of your preference and chopped capers, also ITQOYP. Oh, plus a moderately intelligent portion of olive oil. Your call. And chop up the garlic and add it, too.
OK: Sizzle, fast. The cauliflower is threatening to cool off!
Happy? Yep. So dish the florets on serving plates and spoon the magic over.
Photograph. Eat.


Shauna said...

I LOVE it. I'm trying that tomorrow. And I'm with you -- I have a hard time following traditional recipes anymore. This makes it more than a little silly sometimes that I am working on a food memoir with recipes. Oh well. Life is full of absurdities.

cookiecrumb said...

Here's the thing, Shauna. I shared an idea, not a recipe. And you want to play with it. How cool.
(Oh. Were you expecting up to *follow* the recipes in your book?)

Stacie said...

I think I learned how to really cook from Deborah Madison. I took what I learned from making her recipies and went on to change and expand them (cooking in a veg cafe) and make new ones from there... great stuff, and that cauliflower looks slammin!

Katie said...

That's how I like to cook....if only I would remember to write down what I did before I have the second glass of wine....
Ingredients duly noted for my next cauliflower...was that 2 or 4 glugs of wine? In the pan, right?

cookiecrumb said...

Stacie: Hey, that's a neat thing I didn't know about you.

Katie: In your mouth, silly. :-)

Shauna: Typo above. "up" was supposed to be "us," and now that comment makes a little more sense.

Shauna said...

Oh heavens no! I don't expect people to follow my recipes. But they do. People write to me all the time and say, "I'm missing a 1/4 teaspoon of this. Can I still make it?" Recipes are only a guide, really. But you, my dear, you won't need them!

cookiecrumb said...

Shauna: Bless their hearts for cooking at all, say I. And once they've gained a little confidence and developed their palates, they'll stop needing your help on such a fine-details level. (And thanks to you for turning them on!)
As for needing recipes: I've made a Deborah Madison savory {{bread}} pudding (I put protective typographical coating around the gluten, Shauna) many, many times. But I can't remember from time to time HOW to do it, so I still consult the book, even if I change the ingredients.
I'm a lot more successful at winging it with things where technique is less of an issue: soups, etc.

Moonbear said...

I follow recipes. I am only occasionally really creative in the kicthen. Deborah Madison is one of my heros. Tonight for my beloved's birthday I served her Eggplant Torta. This is a winner. I really appreciate the foodie blogs! They give me so much encouragement. I also made the Romanesco/Quinoa salad featured on Lucillian Delights. That was a winner too. I had never before dared to romance with romanesco.
And, I do understand what a demi-glug is, even thought this is probably a cook's technical term.

cookiecrumb said...

No, my dear Moonbear. You already know how to riff. You told me so. (I'm using that pie idea you executed for my Thanksgiving dessert; just gonna leave out the leeks and sub cream cheese for the goat... Oh, and a drizzle of honey.)
Excellent birthday wishes to your beloved.

KathyF said...

I know what you mean, about blogging and recipes. I never followed them exactly, but now I am determined to go my own way. I don't post recipes word for word, so I pretty much have to discover something new if I'm going to use it on Wednesday.

(My daughter caught a peek of the recipe I didn't follow last night, and accused me of not following it!)

And Mollie Katzen was my teacher, not Deborah Madison, though I have eaten at Greens and lived not far from Santa Fe. But Mollie's books were around when I started really cooking, that is, when I became vegetarian. It's all her fault.

cookiecrumb said...

KathyF: It's wonderful how much we learn from fellow bloggers, too. I'll see something on somebody's blog and "hafta" have it... But it'll come out my way. :D
(Mollie Katzen is awesome. I had lunch with her and a bunch of other food types once; she's beautiful.)
Is your daughter cooking yet?

Anonymous said...

Hi cookiecrumb, I generally cook that way, too. Only with baking I prefer to dig out the scales (that's perhaps why I don't bake that much). And I've never tried cauliflower this way, so I'm curious to try this, even without ITQOYP .... -- um, but I'm curious nevertheless -- what is ITQOYP?

Anonymous said...

... meanwhile I found out:
ITQOYP = in the quantity of your preference.
sigh. acronyms are hard in case english is not your mother tongue.

cookiecrumb said...

Anonymous: Wow, you did a good job, then, deciphering my silliness.
Now, as for scales... I have one, somewhere out in the garage. I know I should be using it, especially for baking. Maybe today. I will let your comment be my encouragement. So thanks!

Jennifer Jeffrey said...

Roasted cauliflower is one of my very favorite things! Sounds like a good time to put it on the dinner menu...

Anonymous said...

Joining in late via Ilva's post today.

Just wanted to chime in with the don't-follow-a-recipe bent. I can't seem to do it, even if I try [and I don't try very hard]. Writing down amounts and crafting a recipe for others to follow is difficult for me. I'm always winging it. [So] I love that you're talking about this.

cookiecrumb said...

Hi Jennifer. Me too, but this was even faster. It had never occurred to me to try getting browned bits on cauliflower in a saute pan.

Hey, Karina -- I can't pretend to be a complete natural. It has taken me years to feel comfortable. And I'm still learning. Yay!