Cooking the Books: Smothered Cauliflower with Yellow Tomatoes

Guess what, Nerds! I am starting something new around here…let me introduce Cooking the Books, a new feature? series? (what am I, fancy?) on this here blog. I have a bit of a cookbook collection. I also get food mags, A LOT of food mags. I tend to read my cookbooks like novels for inspiration, and I dutifully read through my magazines every month and tear out the recipes that I think look delicious. (Except for Fine Cooking, I don’t tear anything out of my Fine Cookings, they stay intact and go right into my bookshelf.) But then I rarely actually USE them. I will go back through the cookbooks for more inspiration, and I will look for recipes for things I am craving on the interwebs, and then promptly modify it to my tastes. I thought it might be fun at least once a month or so, to find a recipe that looks good and cook it EXACTLY as presented (to the best of my ability) and report back to you all. There you have it, Cooking the Books (my other job is in finance, “cooking the books”, GET IT?!?!)

I knew immediately what my first one would be, because this is one of the most gorgeous things I have ever seen. I mean look at it.

Photo courtesy of Food & Wine

Photo courtesy of Food & Wine, August 2013

Gorgeous. And it sounded intriguing. Cauliflower dredged in flour and caramelized and then cooked with yellow tomatoes? OK! Topped with runny eggs? Heck yes.

The plan for these is to cook them exactly as directed. I will set a timer if an estimated time is given, and I will try to follow the directions and cooking times exactly as they are presented. Here goes…

Recipe: Smothered Cauliflower with Eggs (recipe here)

Source: Heidi Swanson in the Food & Wine Magazine August 2013 issue

Time required: 40 minutes

Servings: 4

Right off the bat, I do not have marjoram leaves or herb flowers for the optional garnish. Good thing it’s optional. I DO have chervil. I do not think this is the most appropriate substitution, but it’s green, so it will look pretty! Additionally, I suspect the one pound of yellow tomatoes they call for were intended to be the size and heft of your standard field tomatoes, but my little farmers’ market didn’t have those. They had these:

Yellow

Yellow

They apparently ALSO had a faulty scale, because they told me that I had just over a pound, and my scale told a different story. Luckily, I had little yellow cherry tomatoes in the house, so I could supplement. I ended up with EXACTLY a pound.

See? Exact.

See? Exact.

Also, oddly enough, this recipe called for a 10 ounce head of cauliflower. That would be a really tiny head of cauliflower. I got one of the smaller ones (at Whole Foods, none of the stalls at my little farmers’ market had cauliflower either, I am going to have to start going to the bigger market) and it was THIRTY ounces. Easy enough to fix I guess, but none the less, not exact.

OK, now that that’s out of the way, let’s do this.

First, I set the timer for 40 minutes.

I then started a medium sized saucepan of water with a good dose of salt to boil.

As the water boiled I sliced the cauliflower and chopped the tomatoes. They referred to cutting the cauliflower in slabs. I took that to mean cutting it vertically into steaks. I got two good steaks and the rest of it kind of fell apart. No matter, I just used the smaller pieces. I also chopped the tomatoes. It calls for 1 pound with 3 cups in parentheses.  I did not get three cups, maybe 2 and a quarter?

Not three cups

Not three cups

Once the water boiled I added the cauliflower and timed it for three minutes. I drained it and patted it dry and tossed with the flour. I heated the olive oil over medium high heat in my 12-inch frying pan, and browned the cauliflower. It didn’t recommend a length of time, but it was probably eight or ten minutes total to get it browned on both sides, like so:

browned

browned

While the cauliflower was browning I grated the lemon peel on my microplane grater. When the cauliflower was browned and caramelized, I added the tomatoes, red pepper, lemon peel and a good pinch of salt, turned the heat down to medium and cooked for five minutes as directed. It was pretty clear at this point that I did not have enough tomatoes. I get the impression the tomatoes were supposed to completely cover the cauliflower, and when the cooked down a bit, they were supposed to be really saucy with a fair amount of liquid in the pan. There were definitely not enough tomatoes to do that.

I toasted two tablespoons of sliced almonds over low heat while the tomatoes were cooking down. I kept the heat low and it took about five minutes.

After the tomatoes cooked down, I cracked four eggs over the tomatoes and cauliflower. The instructions said to make four wells in the tomatoes to crack the eggs into, but there was not enough tomato sauce to make wells in, so I just cracked them over the top, turned the heat down to medium low and covered to cook until the eggs set. Instructions said it would take about 3 minutes, but it probably took closer to six or eight before the eggs set completely. Once they had, I took the pan off the heat, sprinkled on the almonds and chopped chervil for garnish, and voila.

my version

my version

Verdict: The timing was right on, the 40 minute timer went off just as I finished photographing the final dish, which was great. This dish grew on me, actually. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t sure about the first bite. By the end, I was sad it was gone. And I had it for breakfast the other day and it actually reheated pretty well, even with the runny egg, and it was delicious. It absolutely needed more tomatoes. I think I will double the amount next time, because it would have been really really great with more “sauce.” Yellow tomatoes are really sweet and not as acidic as red tomatoes. The cauliflower had really good flavor. The lemon seemed kind of random but was actually really nice. I couldn’t really taste the red pepper, so I may add a touch more next time. And a runny egg makes everything amazing. The almonds added some good texture. It was really nice. Not as pretty, but delicious. I will make this again, I suspect.

In other news…

What I am reading: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

What I am listening to: El Camino by The Black Keys. I somehow missed out on The Black Keys being a thing until recently. A friend reminded me of them this weekend and I put the album on my phone and have been listening to it quite a bit. (That and Neko Case, which is good for headphones at my desk listening. The Black Keys are great for walking to work or cooking listening.)

Things that have captured my attention this week:

The Quotable Jane Austen for Evil People from The Toast made me laugh a lot.

That Zillow commercial where the woman and man are looking for a house and chatting via Skype and then she  and the kid walk into their new home and he is there in uniform to surprise them? AH MAH GAHD, I cry EVERY time. And it’s on a lot.

Do you guys watch Scandal? You should totally be watching Scandal. I cannot wait until it comes back. First season is streaming on Netflix, Season Two is streaming on Hulu. Watch Scandal.

“Guess what day it is?!” This commercial best be on every Wednesday for the rest of the time that I am on this earth.

I had a fried chicken throwdown at my house the other night. And by throwdown I just mean that I used two different methods to prep the chicken and then a couple of my besties and I tried to decide which one we liked better. I used a recipe that Bon Appetit called the best fried chicken ever about 18 months ago, which is tossed with spices the night before, then dipped in buttermilk and egg and dredged in flour and cornstarch the day of, and then a more basic, chicken in buttermilk overnight and then dredged in flour the day of. We actually came out somewhere in between. I liked the extra flavor that the spices gave the chicken but it was a lot of extra kick, and there is something to be said for the simplicity and purity of your basic buttermilk brine. I think maybe next time I will try to split the difference. Use the spice combo from Bon Appetit and temper it by combining that with buttermilk to marinate overnight. I guess I’ll just have to make it again soon, so I can tell you about it. The thing that I don’t have to try again, but will definitely be making again??? A corn salad based on the very famous and VERY delicious Mexican street corn from Toro. Not to worry, I will be telling you about that soon. Very soon.

Football is back in our lives. Football has its issues for sure, but there is just something about Sundays in the fall and winter, football on the tv, people in my house and something delicious on the stove that is absolute perfection.

Grown ass classy lady moment of the week: I gave myself a stomach ache twice because I ate too many fried chicken leftovers for lunch. Congratulations Meghan, you are a puppy.

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