Sunday, July 19, 2015

Blistered Cauliflower with Cilantro-Sesame Sauce

My friends often asked me for my favorite restaurants. As someone who practically lives for food, I should have a few in my mind. But, I really don’t. I don’t like eating out too much (well, not anymore). I guess age is a terrible thing, not only to my looks but also messed up my palate. The foods that excite me these days are fresh ingredients, prepared as simply as possible. For instance, one of the most hair-standing meals of my whole Turkey trip was a simple halved cherry tomato sprinkled with salt flakes. I swear, at that moment, as simple as it was, the flavor of the tomato exploded in my mouth. I couldn’t really describe the taste, except it tastes like….well, tomato. Lesson learned: the experience of taste is far more than the combination of its individual flavors.

Coke addicts will tell you that once you experience that high euphoria, there is only one way to forget it – keep doing it. This is exactly how I feel at the moment. I have been attempting to re-experience that simple explosion of the natural flavor of the ingredient. Well, unfortunately, in the United States, my student budget does not allow for the type of vegetables, that taste good raw. A little bit of cooking is often called for to intensify the flavors.

I do feel that this blistered cauliflower with Asian-inspired pesto sauce does some justice to the ingredients. Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that simply does not look interesting. It is pale, with no distinct flavor, and the shape seems like it just copied its more popular sibling, broccoli. But, magic happens when these florets get the blazing 450-degree heat from the oven – the roasting process brings out the previously sublime nuttiness of the cauliflower, and blisters the edges of the florets with a touch of smokiness. These used-to-be boring vegetables suddenly turn into addicting nuggets, and I end up looking like a crack-addict eating straight from the baking sheet.

I don’t know about you guys, but personally, whenever I having a good charred food, I crave for a fresh, light and tangy sauce as a palate cleanser. The only thing this is more disappointing than the lack of the right sauce for the right food is accidentally posting your bad selfie on Instagram. Here, I make my version of vividly green Sicilian pesto sauce to dollop over the blistered snow-white florets. The combination of sourness, sweetness and savoriness from the sauce, and smokiness from florets creates a very balanced experience. I cannot say anything more than “it is simply delicious”. Sometimes, life just craves simplicity, and I am perfectly ok with that.

Before going into the oven..

Ingredients for blistered cauliflower
-       one head of cauliflower
-       Olive oil
-       1 tbps of paprika ( I used the dark paprika I bought from Turkey, but you can use smoked Spanish paprika)

-       Preheat the oven to 450 degree.
-       Slice the cauliflower so that both sides are flat.
-       Place the cauliflower strips on to the baking sheet.
-       Drizzle with olive oil. This is the time to channel your inner mother Tereasa, and be generous.
-       Bake for 25 minutes.
-       Sprinkle salt as soon as the baking sheet is out from the oven.

Ingredients for a pesto sauce
-       1 ½  cup of cilantro (both leaves and stalk)
-       2 tbps of golden rasins
-       1 tbps of fish sauce
-       Zest of one lemon
      2 tbps of black sesame seeds
-       1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
-       4 big cloves of roasted garlic
-       Juice of half lemon
-       2 tbps of water


-       Roast the garlic along with the cauliflower.
-       Put everything in a food processor, and pulse until you achieve smooth jade-green liquid.

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