Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Jon's longer bio and his Roasted Cauliflower with Tomatoes recipe

 Hi all. Ashley did a nice job introducing me, but I figured I would write a short post to explain a little more about myself and why I'm experimenting with vegan/vegetarian dishes.

In my professional work I do IT work for the University of Illinois's Library. I have degrees in both Computer Science and Library Science. (You can read more about that over at [my website |]).

There's a couple of useful things to keep in mind when reading my recipes:

  • I'm not vegan or vegetarian. Given the nature of this blog, I felt compelled to explain why I am not a vegan. I have never been a huge meat eater, rarely eating steak and usually seasoning any meat pretty heavily. However, I did discover as I cooked more for myself I could prepare meat in ways I liked. My wife Colleen grew up on an organic farm which did raise and butcher animals. She's well-versed in the cycle of raising and slaughtering in a more humane way than the factory farms. We have been trying to cut back on our meat consumption and buy from local farmers who actually provide pasture animals with pasture and don't cage their chickens. This means learning to have a greater part of our diet supplied by non-meat foods.
  • No meat substitutes. Since we are still meat eaters, I don't tend to cook recipes substituting meat with ingredients like tempeh or tofu. I also avoid processed products like veggie burgers and tofu dogs. If we're craving meat, we just have meat. I'm trying instead to discover how to bring out the tastiness of actual veggies. That's not to say I won't use tempeh or tofu, but I'll likely end up using such ingredients in more traditional ways. I leave meat substitution to experts like Ashley. 

    I'm a home cook. I have little formal training. I did do a stint at Hardee's in high school where I often was the only cook in a very busy kitchen, but that's all. Cooking has always been enjoyable and the past few years I've been actively striving to to become a better cook. Being a book nut I frequently read cookbooks, seeking to build up some techniques as well as working recipes to suit them to my tastes.
I'm looking forward to sharing recipes that I find that are vegan in various cookbooks, or can be tweaked to be vegan. I loves spices, so you'll notice a variety of spices in my dishes. If you live in an area without any Indian or Mexican grocery stores, I think it's well worth ordering online through a dealer like Penzey's. Without spices, I find a lot of my dishes lack a sense of wholeness.

Now I'm off to page through my latest acquisition, 660 Curries.

Roasted Cauliflower with Tomatoes (Bhapa Phul Gobi)

I never was a huge fan of cauliflower as a kid, but this recipe taught me it was merely unadorned steamed cauliflower I disliked. Aside from me, this recipe hasn't had the greatest record converting cauliflower haters. Still, it is a hit with folks who like cauliflower and sways over many of the indifferent. I don't cook it as much as I'd like as Colleen remains staunch in her opposition to cauliflower.

The recipe comes from the cookbook Extending the Table. Extending the Table reads like a church cookbook with recipes from around the world rather than just one congregation. Not surprising, given the fact it is a compilation of recipes from Mennonite missionaries. The included stories of missionary work may turn off some, but I find adds an unusual charm to the book. The book does a good job of presenting samples of cuisines around the world with easy to obtain ingredients.

This recipe for cauliflower caught my eye for use of a garlic-ginger-onion paste in oil to form the base of the dish. This was my introduction to a technique I learned was common in Indian and Asian cooking. Nowadays instead of following the recipe as given in the book I ended up using a more general garlic-ginger paste that I try to keep on hand. It is wonderful for using in quick stir frys or veggie side dishes during the week.

Garlic – ginger paste:

  • 1 cup ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • ½ cup garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

I use about a 1 to ½ ratio of ginger to garlic and it seems to scale up or down pretty well. Put the ginger and garlic with a little bit of water into a food processor and blend in bursts. The paste will creep up on the sides, so have a spatula ready to push stuff down. If it lumps and blending doesn't seem to be working, add a little water. I typically put it into several small canning jars and freeze all but one of the jars, leaving one for cooking through the week. Don't forget to leave some space for expansion while freezing.

Roasted Cauliflower:

  • 3 Tbs Garlic-Ginger paste
  • 1 cup chopped onions

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into pieces

  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1 canned diced tomatoes (or 4 tomatoes, sliced)
  • ¾ c. peas
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. Cayenne
  • ¼ cup water

Put the oven on at 350 degrees.

Blend the onions and garlic and ginger paste in the food processor until the onions become incorporated in the paste.

Chop up the cauliflower and place into a casserole. You want something that will not spread out the cauliflower too much but also be deep enough to contain the tomatoes and water. You'll also want a cover or a lid.

Cook the oil in a pan at medium heat. Add the paste and cook till brown.

Add tomatoes, peas, turmeric, sugar, salt, and cayenne and cook till the tomatoes start breaking down.

Add this to the casserole dish, along with some water. Cover and put in the oven for about 20 minutes, till the cauliflower is tender.

Sometimes I uncover the dish for the last few minutes to dry out the cauliflower a bit so it doesn't get soggy, sometimes I don't.

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