Thursday, 12 January 2012

Cauliflower steaks with olive relish

I am not athletic. Growing up my parents never forced me to play any sports, so I did not. Also, in high school I was one of those girls who always skipped gym class. When I did show up I would hide in the corner, or behind other people, or I would forget my gym shoes or gym shorts, or fake injuries; whatever got me out of having to physically exert myself.

My life took a dramatic turn in my first year of university. I allowed myself to fall victim to the freshman 15...20. It seemed to happen all at once, all of the sudden I was no longer the stick person I had always been. For the first time in my life I was motivated to exercise. I started at the gym, on the stair-master. Eventually I gained enough confidence to get on the treadmill and would run, maybe 5 minutes at a time. 

Over the years Mike has also tried to get me into some other physical activities like playing frisbee, tennis, biking and golfing. I even bought a snowboard the first year I moved to Vancouver but after a few painful mountain outings, my snowboard was banished to a dusty corner, unused for many years, except for the occasional borrowed adventure. Last winter, despite all of my efforts to avoid it, I ended up again on a mountain, with my snowboard and Mike. Somehow, Mike managed enough patience to spend the day with me and to teach me how to make it somewhat successfully down the hill (part of the decent was mediated by falls) and also how to turn on my board.

One of my most valid excuses for not going snowboarding was the cost of a lift ticket, it is expensive. This excuse was invalidated last winter when my friends started to go to Mount Seymour, only a 30 minute drive away, on Mondays for free ladies' nights. I was terrified to join in at first, that it was night, that I would fall off the lift, that it would be icy, that the drive up the mountain would be scary (I worry too much I know), but, somehow, I had fun. And I kept going and even improved a teeny bit.

This Monday, like last year, I was nervous for the first day out on the hill. As I said in my last post I am trying to relax, so I went out with some friends and was surprised how quickly I was able to pick up where I left off, not an expert but able to have a good time. Now, the memories of wintery Monday nights - riding up the chairlift, looking down on to the city and up at the stars, and speeding (sort of) down the crunchy white slopes - are coming back to me, making me a little less apprehensive about the cold rainy season ahead. The best part about Mondays? Pizza and beer at Campagnolo Roma after a night at the top of the world.

For Christmas, my mom got me a subscription for Bon Appetit magazine. I have a nice long list of recipes from this magazine that I am eager to try. The first recipe that caught my eye was this recipe for cauliflower steaks. The recipe sounded really simple and I worried it might be bland but the picture looked really appealing. I had to taste it. I made it for supper tonight and was pleased with the result. Mostly I really enjoyed the taste of roasted cauliflower. The olive relish adds some pizzaz to the steaks and a side of pasta makes for a more filling supper.  

Cauliflower steaks with olive relish
Adapted from Bon Appetit
I served a small side of pasta with the steaks to make the meal more filling. The original recipe is made with a tomato puree which I used as a topping for the pasta. Garnish with fresh parsley or basil and parmesan or goat cheese if desired.

1 cauliflower head (at room temperature)
1/2 cup kalamata olives, finely chopped
3 sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
3 garlic cloves, quartered
5 plum tomatoes, quartered
2 - 3 cups prepared rotini

1 - Start by removing the leaves and trimming the stem of the cauliflower head but leaving the core intact.
2 - Slice the center of the cauliflower into four 1/2" steaks.
3 - Finely chop 1/2 cup of the cauliflower ends (not part of the steaks).
4 - In a bowl mix finely chopped cauliflower with chopped olives, sun-dried tomatoes, 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, parsley, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. Season with sea salt and pepper.
5 - Preheat oven to 400F.
6 - Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in an ovenproof iron skillet over medium-high heat.
7 - Cook cauliflower in skillet, 2 minutes per side or until lightly browned.
8 - Put cauliflower steaks on a large baking sheet and place in oven. Roast cauliflower steaks for 15 minutes or until ready to serve.
9 - Add another tbsp of oil to skillet and add garlic cloves and tomatoes.
10 - Cook the tomatoes until golden browned, tossing once or twice.
11 - Roast garlic and tomatoes in oven for about 12 minutes
12 - Let tomatoes and garlic cool slightly then process in a food processor with a pinch of sea salt and a dash of lemon juice.
13 - Serve cauliflower steaks with olive/cauliflower relish, a small helping of pasta and pureed tomatoes.

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