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If you want to visit our home, best to make your visit at the beginning of the month. At 10 days to the end of the month we are pretty much out of fresh fruit and vegetables, and everything in jars and cans that we love are gone, which means we need to begin to eat the pantry foods (like squash and potatoes), the freezer food and a lot of eggs. It’s  depressing when you realize that you’ve eaten the last artichoke heart, last heart of palm, the last leaf lettuce and last night: the cauliflower. When the cauliflower gets eaten – it’s a sign. To counteract my own negativity about cooking once the fresh food is gone, I start pouring over cookbooks and online recipe sites to find something delicious and still in the cupboards.

I know that cooking from cookbooks has grown kind of antiquated, especially when you can find recipes from all the books on the internet anyway. Still, as a die-hard lover of books, I like just flipping the pages of an actual book and looking at the food photography on the page. There’s something really slow and satisfying about flipping back and forth over just a few pages, “ruminating” so to speak. It’s an act of love, an act of process and thought that I tend to enjoy – so books shall be part of it!

I have some go to books including:Skinny Bitch in the Kitch

I recently posted a lentil salad from Rory Freedman’s Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, but I don’t recommend the book as a good purchase unless you’re looking to cook vegan and need the info on what kind of foods vegans eat for nutritional supplementation.

New York Times Cook BookThe New York Times Cook Book. This book includes all the recipes that have appeared in the New York Times from the inception of including recipes in its pages. It is an awesome tome of recipes and stories about their origins and creators, but this book has a warning attached to it. The beauty and downfallYotam Ottolenghi - Plenty More of this book is the time span covered, which requires that you pay attention to your recipe choice. You could  find yourself eating something extremely bland from the early 1900s that was all the vogue once upon a time.

Yotam Ottolenghi is a favourite around our house. I started to get into Middle Eastern food when I met my partner. He comes from Middle Eastern roots and family that loves to stick with Middle Eastern foods. As I came to appreciate their striking flavours more and more, I began to search out recipe books thatYotam Ottolenghi - Jerusalem helped me navigate the spices and cooking techniques. Plenty More is Ottolenghi’s strictly vegetable-based cookbook, whereas Jerusalem gives you a kind of culinary tour of the city that houses at least 4 different distinct Middle Eastern cuisines. I had my father-in-law look over the Jerusalem book on one of his visits as he is frequently in Jerusalem, and he found it representative of the way Arabic, Israeli and Persian food mingle in Jerusalem and got kind of nostalgic about its series of pictures in the exploration of the book. What started as me asking him about specific spices, like zaatar, and how to know or discern its freshness in Canada – turned into a two hour long conversation about the different pictures in the book that represented specific areas of Jerusalem. A cookbook that can do that is pretty special.

Tonight, I wanted to fulfill a request to include sardines in a recipe. I searched the cupboard and found one can of Portuguese sardines in oil and began my recipe search. I found it in this new book by April Bloomfield. I am acquainted with some of her meat dishes because of the New York Times featuring her and including her recipes in their big red volume. However, I’d never tried any dish where vegetables take centre stage!Amy Bloomfield - A Girl And her Greens

In the recipe I tried, she suggests anchovies, I figured that sardines might double in. (They did, beautifully.) It was a weird recipe and kind of daring to present to my four year old – but he ate it – albeit, reluctantly smeared on toast. 

A note about sardines: first, anchovies are very salty, usually packed in oil, and are fishy. What is “fishy”? Some people describe fishy as a negative descriptor, as in “this fish must be old it’s fishy.” Fishy is undesirable. Yet, let’s stop just a minute, is fish supposed to have a completely neutral  flavour in order for it to pass as delicious? Fish does indeed taste fishy – old or not – so when you crack open that tin of sardines and toss them into the pot with oil, rosemary and garlic you will smell the smells of the ocean! It can be a good thing, think beach hut serving up fresh fishy fish on a sweltering summer night just as the salt breeze blows in off the Atlantic. That delicious smell frying away is your oceanic dinner. There’s my plug for fishy as a positive. Otherwise, the saltiness of the fish pairs really well with the bold flavours of garlic and rosemary. The bite of the tomato also pulls the sardine flavour even more toward a meaty savouriness rather than fishy nightmare.

Whole Pot-Roasted Cauliflower with Tomatoes and Sardines

  • 1 head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), white, green or Romanesco
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 whole oil-packed sardines, rinsed and filleted
  • ¾ teaspoon finely chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 ½ cups drained whole cannedtomatoes, trimmed of hard and unripe bits, diced
  • ¼ cup dry white wine, plus extra for cooking (I used cooking sherry)
  • 3 dried chiles, or 3 large pinches red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

I followed the recipes instructions meticulously, as found here:

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 450 degrees.
  2. Trim any wilted leaves and brown bits off the cauliflower, but leave healthy leaves. Put the cauliflower on its side on a cutting board. As if coring a tomato, core the base of the cauliflower: insert a small sharp knife about 1 inch into the base of the stem, make a circular cut to loosen the cone-shaped core, then pry it out and discard.
  3. In a deep, heavy ovenproof pot (with a lid), large enough to hold the whole cauliflower, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower cored side up; it should sizzle. Brown the exterior, turning it occasionally with tongs for even browning. This should take about 5 minutes; reduce the heat as needed to prevent scorching. Carefully turn over and brown the other side lightly, about 2 minutes.
  4. Remove the cauliflower to a plate and add garlic, anchovies and rosemary to the pot. Stir until garlic is golden, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, white wine, chiles and salt. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Return cauliflower to pot, cored side down. Baste with the tomato liquid and pile some of the solids on top. Simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes to thicken the tomatoes.
  5. Cover the pot, place in the oven and roast until tender, 30 to 45 minutes; a knife will go into the thick stems with almost no resistance. Check on the tomato sauce every 10 minutes or so; it should be punchy and intense but not too thick, so add a glug of wine if it seems to be getting too dry.
  6. Transfer the cauliflower head to a serving plate or shallow bowl and cut in half, quarters or thick slices. Spoon on all the tasty stuff left in the pot. Add a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of herbs. Serve immediately or at room temperature, passing salt and red pepper flakes at the table.

day 24 of 30: Healthy Eating ChallengeBreakfast:

Banana Peanut Butter Refrigerator Oatmeal (courtesy of The Yummy Life):

  • 1/4 cup uncooked old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup skim milk
  • 1/4 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter (may substitute PB2 powdered peanut butter)
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Pop it all in the fridge overnight and add fresh banana to the top in the morning

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Lunch:

Quinoa Grain bowl with artichokes, fresh peas, tomatoes, tofu and chickpeas.

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Supper:

1 slice Rye toast

1/2 a Left over Stuffed Pepper

Whole Pot-Roasted Cauliflower

1 bowl of Lentil soup made yesterday.

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The roasted Cauliflower was delicious, in my estimation, and a good beginning to eating away at the slimmer, and slimmer pickings in the cupboard. In the meantime, I have ordered another cookbook from Amazon (I try to limit myself to one cookbook a year, because so many don’t really work and you have to get rid of them). I was drawn in by many crostini recipes, lots of seafood and this amazing binding:

Polpo

I’m kind of going out on a limb with this book as I know nothing of the chef behind the recipes, but I’m willing to make it my annual purchase because of its binding. (Which in retrospect is probably not the best way to choose a cookbook…) It arrives tomorrow, so hopefully something will materialize from it in the next week.

On a bright note, I realized that as I started to write out my grocery list for next week it is significantly easier to do so when you can look back at everything you’ve eaten over a month. What a weird trip it is to look at over 20 days worth of food that way. I’m stewing over a reflection about it for month’s end.

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