Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cauliflower, Purim & Balance

My friend Sophie called and told me she's inspired by the recipes I post and was wondering why I stopped. While I really enjoy blogging and posting, it has become somewhat of a chore, instead of an expression of self. I told her that I felt swamped by other responsibilities and felt like my creativity has been stifled. When I post about a subject, I generally research facts and try not to ramble. Also, I want my recipes to have photos, and haven't been so good with the camera in the kitchen. It feels like too much effort and if something's gonna give, the things that I do for my personal pleasure are going first.

Sophie passed on a great tip that she received when she felt blocked in her artistic work. I can't remember it exactly, but the gist of it was to be creative in a bite size time frame. This was inspiring to me and felt much more manageable. Surely I can find 15 minutes in my overloaded schedule to invest in my creative self?

That was a couple of weeks ago. I thought about blogging or writing or anything really but I didn't do much about it. Then I started planning my Purim party. That's creative, right? I thought of people I haven't seen in a while. Nieces & a sister-in-law that have new babies and are no longer able to join us at Shabbos meals. My childhood friend & her fiancée. Our neighboring friends with whom we have shared previous Purims. I started toying with menus.  As my menu grew, I noticed a trend of Indian foods and thought how much fun it would be to have a theme. I crossed out the non-themed foods, searched the internet for recipes I didn't have and created a menu that I was very proud of.

The Menu:
naan, split pea dahl, basmati rice, saag (spinach), chana masala (curried chickpeas), patta gobhi (cabbage), gobi (cauliflower - recipe below), beef samosas, sweet tamarind sauce, green tamarind sauce, lemon rice, tandoori chicken & pickled carrots.
So where's the balance? That's what I'm asking myself. It was a great menu but took me all day to prepare. So many ingredients, so many steps. It was very satisfying to create a variety of foods - some of which I had never seen or tasted before. But so much effort. In a more balanced state of mind I might have... skipped the samosas? Baked challa instead of naan? Unlikely. The samosas replaced traditional purim kreplach (meat wrapped in dough) and the naan enhanced the dinner in a way that challa could not. Instead of trying to find shortcuts, I think I need to embrace the extremist part of me that insists on authenticity. And hire more help...

mustard seeds, turmeric, curry leaves, ginger, olive oil

sauce for lemon rice

I chose to share the cauliflower recipe today. I wish I had the ability to share the aroma and flavors of this dish. The smell was intoxicating and every bite a flavor explosion.

Indian Cauliflower Recipe
  • 1 head Cauliflower, cut into florets
  • nigella
  • 2 Carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 Onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 Plum Tomatoes - chopped
  • 3 cloves Garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 inch Ginger, grated
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Nigella seeds (also called black cumin seeds, onion seeds or black caraway)
  • ¼ teaspoon Fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon Turmeric powder
  • ¾ teaspoon garam masala
  • ¼ teaspoon Amchur/dry mango powder - (I used lemon zest instead)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Cilantro leaves

Add cauliflower to boiling water with 1 teaspoon salt and cook until just done, about 10 minutes. Drain.
Heat oil in wok and add nigella, cumin and fennel seeds. When seeds start sputtering & your kitchen smells like Indian heaven, add onions and fry until translucent.
Add carrots and garlic and cook until done- about 10 minutes.
Add salt, garam masala, turmeric powder and mango powder. 
Add tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.
Add cooked cauliflower florets and mix everything.
Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
Garnish with cilantro leaves. 

It's really important to feed our creative sides, and it's frequently abandoned when the going gets tough. Blocking out 15 or 20 minutes is not a major commitment, but can have great results. It leaves me feeling fulfilled and allows me to change my attitude of expecting accomplishment to that of enjoying the process.

To good health, great food and wonderful friends,


  1. No way you couldve skipped out the naan and samosas. Heaven!! Maybe share the samosa recipe with us?? Thanks for a delicious meal!

  2. OMG! looks incredibly delicious as is definitely the case for any food u make!

  3. You described the cauliflower dish so perfectly! every bite gave another burst of flavor. yum! everything was yum! thanks for having us over and thanks for the recipe.

  4. WOW- Incredibly impressive and sounds amazing!