You haven’t heard from me lately because my passion for writing has waned a bit, as I’ve grown tired writing fluff. Sure, what I’ve written is true, but it’s a small taste of a juicy cornucopia you and I would both thoroughly enjoy. Alas, we’ll be cracking no such nut today, but I felt a little inspired to write anyway and thought I’d give it a try.
Speaking of food, my birthday just passed. Last year I bought myself two nice santoku knives, so this year I bought a professional cooking course to complement them. It’s a six-month deep-dive into plant-based meal preparation, and it’s intense enough for scuba gear because sometimes I feel like I’m drowning. Basically, I watch/read lessons, think I totally have a grasp on things, do an exercise, and fail miserably. The good news is I learn a lot, and the second time around I usually ace it.
Here’s my “test” from today, which was to simply roast some cauliflower:
I currently live in a cooking-school-unfriendly environment. My kitchen is a few wire racks with a convection oven/microwave combo, one electric burner, and a rice cooker. The nearest water is a football field away across a mall parking lot, and many ingredients are either expensive or difficult to find (or both). Also working against me is that I can’t stand throwing away food (this will make sense in a minute), and I’ve already had a lifetime of doing things my way (read: taking shortcuts). Even so, I’m determined to make this work and learn something here.
Which brings me to what I love about this course – I am forced to be better. I’ve had to do almost every assignment twice: first, my way; second, the right way. The circus is getting ready to move to a new city, so everyone is shedding their extra food. Someone left a bag of frozen broccoli in our communal kitchen (no, eww, I don’t cook there). By the time I found it, it had thawed, but it hadn’t gone bad. When it was time to do this project, I remembered I had thrown that bag into the refrigerator, so I went to see if it was still there. What luck (I thought)! It was. Completing this project with soggy, defrosted broccoli would be much more cost- and time-effective than walking a kilometer to the grocery store to buy overpriced cauliflower.
So as not to talk your eyes off about this, let’s just say I learned many things during my broccoli roasting endeavor. 1) Soggy broccoli is not going to roast well, even after toweling it off and dousing it with oil. 2) Broccoli and lemon are not friends, which I should have remembered from the pigmentation preservation lesson. 3) Garlic can make anything reasonably palatable.
Fast-forward past a disappointing side dish, a dog walk, and a long, expensive trip to the grocery store (one small head of cauliflower here is about $4). I again fired up my sad, little oven to what it claims is 250C (a little on the hot side but I don’t think this thing really gets that hot, and for sure it loses a lot of its heat when the door is opened — an oven thermometer is on my “when I get back to America” wish list). I cut and washed the cauliflower and prepared the lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic. I feel like perhaps you would have preferred I also put the salt and pepper into ramekins, but I am short on ramekins, this wasn’t a stir-fry needing fast add-ins, and I know that about two turns of my salt mill equals about 1/4 tsp. of salt. Plus, I enjoy twisting my salt and pepper mills directly over my food; it makes me feel like I’m in a TV show.
After snapping a photo of my mise en place, I placed the cauliflower on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The paper was a little browned already, I admit, from my broccoli debacli, but it was the only parchment left in my rental container, and I didn’t want to buy more before I move in a few days. I placed flat sides down and larger pieces toward the edges of the pan.
Time to bake! I did 10 minutes on the dot and then flipped the little white trees to brown for another four. The resulting cauliflower was a vibrant white, whereas the broccoli was an unappealing shag-green. The texture provided a slight resistance to the tooth without too much of a snap, and the flavor was slightly sweet with hints of spice on the tongue. I think. I already ate them all.
(On the upside regarding the broccoli, I just ran out of the veggie smoothie I usually make for my dog, so it won’t go in the trash. He’s not particularly discerning about his food.)
Maybe it’s a little weird that I haven’t blogged in a year, and now you’re getting this, but I feel like this little slice of insight into circus life. I hope you found it as enjoyable as I found the cauliflower. Feel free to shoot me a comment with any questions you may have about circus, online cooking school, or my life.