My home has always sincerely welcomed vegetables, but my sister’s full-on vegetarianism required making some adjustments. Instrumental to these dietary modifications has been the “Cooked Veg” section of the “Ottolenghi Simple: A Cookbook,” published in October 2018. It is one thing for vegetables to be cooked poorly or cooked well; it is quite another to have a party of vegetables and spices popping off in one’s mouth with every bite.
The book’s author, Yotam Ottolenghi, originally hails from Israel and immigrated for a culinary career in England. The cookbook is a collection of 130 easy Middle Eastern-inspired recipes from a critically-acclaimed chef. After trying out his vegetarian recipes, it is easy to see how he earned his accolades.
In preparation for dinner one week ago, my mom and I leafed through the Cooked Veg section and salivated. We ultimately decided on the curried egg and cauliflower salad. In his description of the dish, Ottolenghi wrote, “This is what Coronation chicken [spiced chicken with creamy mayo-based sauce] would taste like if you replaced the chicken with cauliflower and hard-boiled egg.”
We started cooking immediately. After preheating the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit, we cut up the cauliflower florets into one-and-a-quarter to one-and-a-half inch florets and the onions into half-inch wedges. Well, I didn’t cut up the florets so much as butchered them. Some chunks resembled underground fungi networks, and others looked like little Q-tips. My cooking is unique, to say the least. My mom’s expert advice: call it “rustic,” and call it a day.
We then mixed the florets and onions into a bowl with two teaspoons of curry powder, three-fourths of a teaspoon of salt, and pepper to taste (See photo). We popped them onto a parchment baking sheet and into the oven and roasted them for 15 minutes. While the vegetables were roasting, we prepared the vegetables’ spiced, creamy egg counterpart.
We hard-boiled all the eggs and broke them into chunks with the back of a fork— or attempted to. In my mind, the egg crumbled beautifully under the dispersed pressure of the back of the fork, and the smooth slicing of the fork prongs. In reality, the eggs were hard to break apart, and when they did they were messy: sometimes the egg white crumbled to leave an intact yolk, or an egg would look like it encountered Wolverine but still came out in one piece. It was much easier to cut them up with the side of the fork and then mash them. How rustic.
We then mixed the egg mash with the yogurt, mayonnaise, tarragon, the remaining teaspoon of curry powder, lemon juice and one-fourth of a teaspoon of salt. We had to swap out some ingredients. Instead of cumin seeds and chili flakes, we used cumin powder and cajun seasoning/paprika. Additionally, less mayonnaise and more yogurt improved the nutrition and lightened the creaminess of the texture. Once the vegetables had finished roasting, we mixed them and the egg mash with sauce into one big bowl. At the end, we added tarragon, squeezed some lemon juice and topped it all off with lemon wedges.
Next time you are craving some cauliflower, seeking some spice or just yearning for a change of Poughkeepsie pace, try out this recipe. A little taste of Middle-Eastern cuisine can go a long way.
Serves four to six
1 medium cauliflower
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon mild curry powder salt and black pepper
9 large eggs
6 tablespoons Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons mayonnaise (this is the full amount, not our adjusted amount)
1 teaspoons chili flakes (or 1/2 teaspoons other crushed red pepper flakes)
1 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and roughly crushed
2 lemons: 1 squeezed to get 1 tablespoon juice, 1 cut into 4-6 wedges, to serve 1/2 cup tarragon, roughly chopped