Venetian Cauliflower

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In her book , Mary Oliver wrote about the peculiar life force that we call habit, and how it gives shape to our inner lives, “In the shapeliness of a life, habit plays its sovereign role… The hours are appointed and named… Life’s fretfulness is transcended. The different and the novel are sweet, but regularity and repetition are also teachers… And if you have no ceremony, no habits, which may be opulent or may be simple but are exact and rigorous and familiar, how can you reach toward the actuality of faith, or even a moral life, except vaguely? The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us. Our battles with our habits speak of dreams yet to become real.”

Daily cooking has become a habit, a form of self realization, or an addiction.  Even on the days that I don’t have to cook, I will make something — a special after school snack, a healthy dessert or a fruit salad — just to mess around in the kitchen for a while. In the methodical preparation of food, life’s focus is simply on flavors, aromas and colors.  All other concerns fall away and turn into a haze of steams.  As I mix different spices, I conjure up faraway locales and the lives I could have lived in those places — some I have visited, and others I’ve only dreamed about. 

My need for daydreaming and quiet solitude, which used to be fulfilled only by reading, is now satisfied in the kitchen as well.  I can enjoy the pleasure of my alone time while being of service to my family.  I can have my cake and eat it too. 

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Venetian Cauliflower

Ingredients:

1 cauliflower

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 red onion, finely sliced

Pinch of saffron, crumbled

⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

A dash paprika

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper

½ teaspoon lemon zest

½ heaping cup raisins

¼ cup almond slices

1/4 cup water or chicken broth

Note from Chef Chen: This may look like a long list of ingredients, but it is actually a very simple dish to make.  I just put a generous amount of my favorite spices together with caramelized onion and raisons to cook the cauliflower.

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Preparation:

Cut cauliflower in half from top to bottom, then remove the core. With a paring knife, cut into very small florets of equal size. Blanch florets in boiling water for 2 minutes. Cool in cold water and drain.

Put olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and cook, stirring, until softened and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add saffron, cinnamon, coriander seeds, cumin, turmeric, paprika and red pepper. Season well with salt and pepper.

Add lemon zest, raisins and cauliflower florets. Toss with wooden spoons to distribute. Add water or broth. Cover with a lid and cook for about 5 minutes more, until cauliflower is tender. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with almond slices. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Adapted from:  cooking.nytimes.com

Fresh Peas, Snap Peas with Prosciutto & Food For Thought

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I set out to write down some thoughts about taking care of our minds with healthy information as we do our bodies with healthy food, but the writing got a little too long winded and philosophical that I decided to share the recipe first.  This way you can skip my pedantic musing on something you might not have come here to read. 

The fresh peas and snap peas are in season and you should definitely enjoy them now if you haven’t already!

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Fresh Peas, Snap Peas with Prosciutto

Ingredients:

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1.5 oz. prosciutto, roughly chopped

1 shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minsed

1 cup fresh green peas

1 heaping cup snap peas

1/4 cup chicken broth

Preparation:

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add prosciutto, onions and garlic; cook until onions are soft and prosciutto begins to crisp, 5 – 6 minutes.

2. Add peas and stir to coat, 1 minute.  Add chicken broth and cook for another minute.  Add snap peas and toss until the broth is reduced significantly.  Serve hot.

The recipe makes 2 servings as main dish or 4 as side dish.

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Adapted from: saveur.com

Food For Thought

In Tolstoy’s A Calendar of Wisdom: Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul, Written and Selected from the World’s Sacred Texts, the thought on January 1st is that of his own: “The difference between real material poison and intellectual poison is that most material poison is disgusting to the taste, but intellectual poison, which takes the form of cheap newspapers or bad books, can unfortunately sometimes be attractive.”  Though published in 1904, his lament sounded prescient considering the volume of intellectual poison available on the internet today that many of us don’t understand.

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The modern human animal spends upwards of 11 hours out of every 24 in a state of constant consumption. Not eating, but gorging on information ceaselessly spewed from the screens and speakers we hold dear.

The sheer amount of information available to us — 800,000 petabytes (a million gigabytes per petabyte) in the storage universe and 3.6 zettabytes (a million petabytes per zettabyte) consumed by American homes per day, expected to increase 44-fold by 2020 — is mind-boggling.

In Clay Johnson’s book Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption, he compares the overabundance of information to that of food.  Just as we have grown morbidly obese on sugar, fat, and flour—so, too, have we become gluttons for texts, instant messages, emails, RSS feeds, downloads, videos, status updates, and tweets.

Johnson writes: “It’s a matter of health and survival. Information and power are inherently related. Our ability to process and communicate information is as much an evolutionary advantage as our opposable thumbs.”  But he cautions that we’re wired to love certain kinds of information, most notably affirmation, so we seek out information that confirms, rather than challenges, our existing beliefs, “Just as food companies learned that if they want to sell a lot of cheap calories, they should pack them with salt, fat, and sugar — the stuff that people crave — media companies learned that affirmation sells a lot better than information. Who wants to hear the truth when they can hear that they’re right?”

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I think about my girls when I ponder  this question.  How do they sift out the significant and the true from the poisonous and false in the wild wild internet?   As parents, how do we compete with the incessant bombardment of  information/disinformation/misinformation spewing from  the internet, and  to tell them what they don’t like to hear?