I traveled by car and plane for more than 24 hours — to spend only a few days at home before I leave again for Asia. On Tuesday, I finished filming on a beautiful location near Zilina, Slovakia and departed for Vienna, Austria around 6:30pm. When I reached the airport hotel at 9:30, I debated if I should put the luggage down and have a quick visit to Old Town — I had never been to Vienna before. It was fortuitous that I decided to check my emails before heading out. What I saw was a disastrous email from Lufthansa to tell me simply that my Wednesday morning flight from Vienna to Frankfurt was canceled. For the next half an hour, I frantically tried to rebook myself online, but there was no available flights from any airline to take me to Frankfurt in time to catch my flight back to San Francisco.
It turned out that there was a strike at Lufthansa and no flights from the airline could take off or land on the day I was to travel. Panic stricken for a moment, I dashed out of my room. There is an ancient Chinese proverb that describes the heart that wants to return home as a flying arrow 归心似箭 — I suppose that was the fastest thing imaginable in the olden times. I thought of the proverb as I shot myself like an arrow across the street to the airport. After running around like a madwoman all over the airport, I secured a ticket from Austrian Airlines to fly me to San Francisco via Washington DC. The flight took much longer than my original itinerary, but it managed to get me home on Wednesday night. The silver lining is that unexpected challenges like that teach us to never take anything for granted.
For dinner, I made cauliflower “steaks” with mashed cauliflower for the girls, and beef steaks with mashed cauliflower for Peter and me. The girls loved their vegetarian steaks. I tasted some from their plates and they were absolutely scrumptious — if I may say so myself. The mashed cauliflower is so creamy and satisfying that no one could believe it’s just cauliflower.
Cauliflower Steak with Garlicky, Nutty, Cheesy Mashed Cauliflower
Ingredients for Cauliflower Steaks:
2 cauliflowers (use only the center 2 inches of each as the “steaks” and leave the rest for mashing)
Extra virgin olive oil spray
Salt to taste
A few generous dashes of ground turmeric, cumin, smoked paprika, coriander, oregano, cayenne pepper
Ingredients for Mashed Cauliflower:
The rest of the cauliflower (florets)
4 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed (2 cloves for each batch)
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (separated)
2/3 cup freshly shaved parmesan cheese
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
2 cups milk (1 cup for each batch)
Salt to taste
Dashes of red pepper flakes
1 clove of sliced garlic and some more pine nuts for garnish
Preheat oven at 425 F.
Cut off the leaves and the stem of the cauliflowers. Slice a 2 inch thick steak from the center of each cauliflower to make the steaks.
Spray the foil lined baking dish with olive oil. Spray the “steaks” with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and a generous amount of the spices.
Roast the “steaks” for 25 to 28 minutes, until browned and tender in the middle.
As the cauliflower steaks are roasting, cook the rest of the cauliflower in 2 batches.
For each batch, heat 2 teaspoons oil in a pan or wok on medium high, and sauté garlic until aromatic, add cauliflower florets and stir for a minute, add salt and 1 cup of milk. Turn stove to medium low and close the lid. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the florets are soft but not mushy.
Blend each batch of cauliflower with 1/2 of the pine nuts and parmesan in a large blender. I did it in my Vitamix.
For garnish, heat the last 2 teaspoon oil in a small saucepan, sauté the sliced garlic until brown and crispy, add a fistful of pine nuts. stir for 1/2 minute and turn off stove.
Alternatively, you can also roast the cauliflower florets instead of “steaks” and serve with mashed cauliflower.