From cabbage to cauliflower

I was going to talk about cabbage today, but then I had lunch.

To be fair, a couple things transpired before that. First of all, the sun was shining. Brightly. It was just pouring through the windows. And while I love cabbage, I tend to seek out its company when the days are damp and grey and bleak and I can pretend I am a Russian babushka slurping my soup or melting into my braise, safe and warm, as the wind or snow or my drunken husband bangs outside the door. In other words, not today.

Secondly, I went to the doctor. I've been dealing with a stress fracture for a couple months now and this morning I went to get the results of my latest x-ray. And, triumph! There are no signs of nothing, baby!

Sunshine, celebration. I needed something dazzling, not downtrodden.

On my way home I stopped by the grocery store and cauliflower was on sale for a mere 78 cents. It was a short leap from that to chermoula. Cher-what, you say? Chermoula. It's a herb sauce that varies, as these things do, depending on whether you're in Algeria or Morocco or Tunisia. As a constant, it'll contain cilantro and garlic.

The version I tried comes from Martha Rose Shulman, an expert on Mediterranean cookery and one of my favourite recipe writers. I discovered Mediterranean Harvest last summer and have since returned to it over and over and over and over again. I've even made some things from it twice. Those of you who know me will find that shocking. The recipes are laid out clearly, focus on seasonal ingredients and, most importantly, work.

With this one you're going to need a mortar and pestle. Sorry, Mom. You start by plucking the leaves from bunches of cilantro and parsley. It takes awhile but I wouldn't worry about it. You can munch on the stems as you work and listen to some old records (today it was Janis Joplin and Hank Williams) and sing along. You should also prepare yourself because you're about to wage full-scale war on those pretty, innocent, little herbs. You snip them with scissors, then assault them with a sharp knife and you're not done yet, oh no. You mash some garlic and salt to a paste in your mortar, add the disappearing leaves and pestle away until they dissolve. Those are Martha's exact words. Once you've eradicated the herbs it’s time to add a bit of heat (cayenne pepper), a lot of zip (fresh lemon juice) and some olive oil to round it all out. Your heap of herbs have been reduced to a slick, bright-green paste. Victory! The spoils of war, in this case, are fresh and lively. The chermoula glitters and sparkles like a jewel in the sun. It is intensely pungent, herbal, emerald-sharp.

My lunch today was a plate of roasted, caramelized cauliflower (what a crucifer!) with a dab of chermoula on the side. It was vivid and bright and just right for today – for the sunshine, for the promise of spring, for the chance to walk normally again. Light to celebrate light.

And, just so you know, chermoula is said to pair well with fish, heck all seafood, grilled meat (dolloped on top or as a marinade), roasted winter squash, carrots, and all sorts of grilled vegetables. I don’t know about cabbage though. Let's talk about that some other time. For now, I’m off to celebrate, with whiskey and salted caramel ice cream!

Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman

2 cups cilantro leaves (about 2 bunches)
1 ½ cups parsley leaves (about 1 bunch)
4 garlic cloves, halved and (if they’re there) green shoots removed
½ tsp salt
2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted then ground
1 tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp coriander seeds, toasted then ground
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed

Chop the cilantro and parsley leaves using a pair of scissors. Point the tip down into the measuring cup and snip away. Then, chop the herbs very finely using a sharp knife.

Put the garlic and salt in a mortar and squish into a paste. Add your spices and mix. Add some of the chopped herbs, a little at a time, and grind until the herbs begin to dissolve. Continue until all the herbs have been incorporated. Add the olive oil and lemon juice and mix again. Taste and adjust the seasoning. If you find it too lemony add a bit more olive oil.

Makes about one cup.


The creamiest of them all

Shit. I've gone and done it. A blog.

Well, there's no turning back now.

Hi, hello.

How are you?

Today has been a creamy day. Last night, while I was giving the contents of my fridge a little once-over, I noticed a carton of cream languishing on the top shelf. My eyes popped when I spotted the expiry date: January 18th. I swore I had until the 23rd, maybe even the 24th, to use that baby up. In fact, all sorts of possibilities had been churning through my head. There was that chocolate mousse, a decadent pie, or some ice cream options.

But push came to shove, today was January 18th and I had over a cup of cream to contend with. What's that you say? Just dump it down the drain? I'm afraid you don't know me very well. But that's okay, we're just getting started here.

About me. I'm not much of a waster. I'm the kind of girl who will go out of her way to find a recipe that takes care of those last two anchovies and the wilting bunch of celery at the back of the fridge. So, when I say I have a cup of cream to finish, by God, even if it clogs my arteries or queases my stomach, I'm going to finish it. I mean what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. Am I right?

Just a few months ago I got my very first, very own waffle maker. It's been a tumultuous love affair. Every week or so, for about an hour, things get pretty hot and heavy. The kitchen windows steam up and, more often than not, I'm left smiling and satisfied. But while I have no complaints, the waffle maker gets a little disagreeable about all the time we spend apart, especially since she whiles it away with a motley crew of cooking contraptions in a dark, kinda dank cupboard. She has a point, I suppose.

To appease my waffle maker I've been making a lot of waffles, a lot of different ways. I've done them with sugar, without, with whole eggs, separated eggs, milk, buttermilk, eggnog, cornmeal, oats. I've got the ratios down pat. But then I stumbled upon an unusual specimen in M.F.K. Fisher's With Bold Knife & Fork. The recipe was curious for a couple of reasons. First of all, your typical leavening agents, baking powder or baking soda, are nowhere to be found. Secondly, there is cream. A lot of cream.


Anyway, I think you might like it. It's pretty simple. You separate a couple eggs and beat the heck out of the yolks. You don't stop until your arm is numb. You add a cup of rich cream alternately with sifted flour and things start to get interesting. A smidgen of melted butter gives the batter a glossy sheen and finally, as you fold your egg whites in, it becomes the perfect consistency. Trust me, I'm well-versed in wafflery. You dollop it in your waffle maker and the love affair is re-kindled!

And the waffles? They are remarkably light and creamy. The crust is the merest gold (like the skin of your blond friend come end of August) and the insides are a soft, snowy white. They are delicate and dainty. Lady-like.

You need to handle them with care. I warmed up some canned blueberries in syrup, adding a touch of rosewater. The heady perfume was just right but the juice left the waffles stained and soggy. I think a dusting of icing sugar would be nice or, if you really want to lap it up, some gently whipped cream.

Gigi's Waffles

2 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup (4 oz.) sifted all-purpose flour
1/8 cup (1 oz.) salted butter, melted

Separate the eggs. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks hard, with a wooden spoon, for at least five minutes. Add the cream and flour, alternately, beating constantly. Add the melted butter, still beating.

Using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold them gently into the batter. Cook according to your waffle maker's instructions and/or whims.

Makes about eight 4 1/2" square waffles