When was the last time you were surprised by a vegetable?
Surprised, not by the creative way it was prepared, or by the fact that it was exotic or previously unknown - but by an unexpected twist from a familiar - dare I say, boring - standby? I came home for dinner tonight, pulled out some veggies from the crisper - a cauliflower and a few blue potatoes - and started my usual meal prep. As I pulled the first leaf off a seemingly conventional cauliflower, I was floored. Yes, floored. Under the cloud-like heads - which fit so closely that they gave no indication of the secret beneath - the stems were purple! We've all had - or at least heard of - heirloom tomatoes, and the potatoes I planned to use were a pretty wacky blue, but heirloom cauliflower? What a pleasant surprise!
This is what it's like to know your farmer, and know that she or he is growing real food, passed down from generations with gorgeous "oddities" like purple stems and amazing flavor. I know exactly where to go on Market Day next Saturday, I remember the booth, the farmer's hidden smile at the way I said I just needed this tiny little cauliflower - I'm sure he knew its secret but wouldn't spoil it for me. This is what it feels like to be surprised by a vegetable, and - trust me - it's pretty amazing.
After taking about a hundred photos of the little beauty from different angles - I am a food blogger after all, if there aren't pictures than it didn't really happen - I decided to really feature my discovery, and make a plate of purple. Purple mashed potatoes surrounded by chili-spiked pan-fried cauliflower with their purple tails peaking out. Through the dinner prep, I had this goofy smile, like I was afraid someone would walk in and "catch" me playing with my food. I was that excited, buzzing with the thought of celebrating a secret color with my dinner! I boiled the blues and, when they were done, mashed them with butter, salt, and sour cream. For the cauliflower, I dipped the florets in a beaten egg and dredged them in a mixture of whole wheat flour, bread crumbs, and dried chile flakes. I pan-fried them in a bit of canola oil, until they were golden and nutty.
My good friend Terra was sitting in the living room, napping off the last day of her super-duper-detox fast. Three days of honey, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup... and nothing else. I don't think I'd last a few hours. I'm one of those people that lives to eat - I don't just eat to live. Anyway, I brought my hot, delicious plate of purple past the couch into the dining room. A few moments later, I see Terra peeping into the room, eying the food and looking very, very hungry. I held up a big spoonful of buttery purple potatoes and whispered:
I am the serpent...
this is Eden...
and you are Eve.
Terra smiled and said, "The thing is... Eve was pretty awesome." And takes a bite. The look on her face... that face, you know the one... that face is the reason I cook.
I hope you, dear reader, find an exciting vegetable someday, one that surprises you, floors you, and tempts your loved ones to recreate the fall of man. Be it in your garden, at the Farmers' Market, or perhaps only in your imagination, good luck finding your colorful culinary Eden.
Purple Mashed Potatoes and Chile-Spike Fried Cauliflower
6 Blue Potatoes, un-peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
2 Tbs butter
1 tsp sea salt
1 medium sized head of cauliflower
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 Tbs whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp dried chile flakes
1 tsp sea salt
Cover potatoes with water, and boil until soft. Drain and mash with butter, sour cream, and salt. Set aside. Heat 1/2 inch of oil in a shallow pan over medium heat until crumbs sizzles when dropped in. Break cauliflower into florets and dip in egg. Dredge in bread crumb mixture and fry until golden. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with sea salt. Share with loved ones breaking a master cleanse or religious fast.