Saturday, February 22, 2014

Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Curry Vinaigrette: Dressing the part

I've been on a mission to adultify my apartment lately. I'm cognisant that my use of "adultify," which autocorrect keeps trying to change to "adultery," likely makes me sound less adultified, but I'm embracing it.

Like an adult.

I've been in my apartment, a one-bedroom, one-bath, barely-sustainable space with finicky plumbing and marginally more privacy than a prison cell, for four years. When I moved in, it was perfect. I didn't mind the kitchen cabinets that didn't close all the way, the tile floor that never seemed to get clean or even the lack of air conditioning, because it was mine. The first apartment that I didn't have to share with a roommate who refused to empty the dishwasher or take the garbage out.

I loved the way my hand-me-down furniture filled the space with memories of my grandmother and family. I loved knowing that the couch was always free for me to collapse upon in the same sweatpants I put on every night. I loved being able to take over the kitchen for hours on end without impatient eyes watching me from across the room.

The novelty of it all was enthralling. Until it wore off like lipstick on a water glass, and I discovered that I actually wanted my kitchen cabinets to close and my floor to look clean, and might like an air conditioning unit so I didn't melt into myself every summer.

In my mind, however, it was only a temporary space. A place I would briefly pass through on my way to my real adult home with all the adult things that one decides they need after a certain age. Rugs, throw pillows and blankets that don't come from Target, bookshelves filled with dog-eared cookbooks, and framed pieces of art that didn't already come that way.

I didn't mind that my apartment didn't have any of these things, until, well, I did. Perhaps an aftershock of turning 30, or maybe just a desire to make this environment where I sleep, cook and watch Netflix into more of a home. At the very least, a place that didn't evoke the reaction, "When did you move in?" from new visitors.

These past few weeks, I've slowly started thinking about these grown-up sort of things - how giant red pillows and a mustard-colored chunky knit throw from West Elm might brighten up the couch that I collapse upon in those same sweatpants every night; whether I want to mount my landscape of the New York City skyline on a standard canvas frame or frame it like a picture so the extra canvas overhang becomes part of the aesthetic; and how to keep my new rug from getting irreversibly soiled.

They're all small little things, minor adjustments really, that have already made me feel better about the state of life when I walk through the front door, and think, "Home." Like I might actually fool someone into thinking that I'm not still floundering through each day without complete conviction of my purpose.

Dressing the part until I am the part,
I suppose, and using the physical space of my apartment as proof that I've in some way become a grown-up.

Even if I do still blast Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus with the reckless abandon of someone half my age.

So I'll continue to pretend -- to flip through the pages of Elle Decor for aspirational inspiration, to buy flowers from the farmers market and put them in an actual glass vase, and to dress up my lunch of roasted florets of cauliflower with a vinaigrette that doesn't come from a screw-top bottle from aisle 12 of the grocery store.

Because infusing oil with the essence of apple, onion and curry spices is the sort of thing that grown-ups do to adultify a vinaigrette.

A few small tweaks that make all the difference in the world.

Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Curry Vinaigrette
Adapted from The Lemonade Cookbook
Serves 4 as a side

Notes: As per my usual kitchen coarse, I reduced the amount of oil used in this recipe. Rather than roasting my cauliflower with 1/4 cup of oil, I used 1 tablespoon and a trusty slip of parchment paper so it wouldn't stick to the baking sheet. I find this method still creates perfectly browned and crispy-edged roasted cauliflower, so do with that what you will.  I also reduced the amount of almonds (as much as I love them, 1 cup seemed a tad generous), and added chickpeas for a bit of protein. Finally, I opted to cut the vinaigrette recipe precisely in half as I tend to prefer salads on the minimally dressed side. I suppose this is what happens when you become an adult. Or are trying to continue fitting into your jeans.

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets (approximately 2 lbs)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup whole almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup garbanzo beans

Curry Vinaigrette

1/2 cup olive oil + 1 tablespoon
1/2 Granny Smith apple, halved, cored, and coarsely chopped
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon tumeric
1/2 tablespoon curry powder, preferably Madras
1/2 tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon orange juice
Sea salt, freshly ground pepper to taste

For Cauliflower:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss cauliflower florets with olive oil and spread out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper, then roast, stirring about half-way through, for 25-30 minutes or until browned on the edges, and easily pierced by a fork. 

For Vinaigrette:

While cauliflower is roasting, heat the tablespoon of oil in a small pot over medium-low heat. Add the green apple and onion, and sauté, stirring frequently for 5 minutes, or until they begin to soften and turn fragrant. Stir in the turmeric and curry powder, and cook about one minute, watching closely so the spices don't burn. Pour in the remaining 1/2 cup of oil, and stir everything together. Bring the oil to a low boil for approximately one minute, then turn off the heat and let come to room temperature.

Carefully strain the oil into a small container, then discard the apple and onion, reserving the infused oil for the vinaigrette. Allow the curry to settle to the bottom of the container.

In a small bowl, combine the mustard honey, vinegar, lemon and orange juice. Whisk together, then season with the salt and pepper to taste. Pour in the oil, taking care to avoid disturbing the curry sentiment at the bottom. Lightly whisk until the ingredients just come together. Store in the fridge or use immediately.

For Assembly:

Toss cauliflower with the raisins and chickpeas. Plate, and drizzle with the vinaigrette, to taste. Top with the toasted almonds. 


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Sound Bites: Sushi Park Edition

Because there's not always time for a full meal…

1. The recipe I'm dying to make - Bucatini with Butter-Roasted Tomato Sauce via Bon Appétit- While quinoa is usually my jam when I'm cooking for myself at home (as opposed to, you know, at a library), pasta is what I crave when all the signals are red, I can't find a parking spot and Bruno Mars is on every radio station. This dish will clearly solve all my life's problems, and after I eat it, I'll never have to hear "Locked Out of Heaven" ever ever again.

2. What I've been drinking - 2011 Morelli Sangiovese - I picked up a bottle of this way-too-easy-to-drink red red wine at the recommendation of Whitney of Brunellos Have More Fun on one of those Friday nights when I really needed a way-too-easy-to-drink red red wine. (See: Bruno Mars, life problems) I was planning to tell you how well-balanced it is even before reading the description on domaineLA's website that articulates the same, so I'm feeling preeeetty proud of myself. I'm basically a master sommelier now. Holla.

3. Where I've been eating - Sushi Park - True story. Three point five years ago I went on a first date with a rather dishy English bloke who never called me again even though I was like a total charmer in my merino wool sweater and denim skirt combo, and offered to go halvsies on the bill. I was a little sad face because he was a little hot face, but he did leave me the best gift a guy can give a girl who is me: the name of his favorite restaurant in LA. While it took me three years to make it to the second-floor-of-a-strip-mall sushi hideaway, it's quickly entered into my top five dining destinations in Los Angeles. I love that it feels like a discovery, even if it wasn't my own, and love that each bite of the obscenely fresh fish elicits the kind of eyes-rolling-back-in-head reaction that is necessary for a girl who is dating her food. Uni > Spooning. Sushi Park, 8539 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069, (310) 652-0523

4. What I've been watching - her - I haven't been quite able to figure out why this movie from Spike Jonze left such a strong impression on me. It's not the typical sort of film I gravitate toward (aka ones that tie up into neat little happy pink bows), but it both charmed and depressed me in a way that makes me wonder how and why that happened. So now I want everyone to go see it so we can have a long discussion about it at a coffee shop in Silver Lake while wearing our black skinny jeans.

5. My new edible obsession - Fage Vanilla Fruyo - This is basically dessert disguised as yogurt. So that's nice. Plus there are actual flecks of vanilla bean in there, which is also nice. I'd totally sit around with my girl friends talking about it for like an hour. "Giiiiiiiirl, this yogurt is like running at the beach in February good." True story, by the way. Sorry, Chicago friends.