Jennifer Klinec is a interesting and brave woman who leaves her safe and expected corporate job to open up a kitchen school in London and then spends much more time in Iran in a very precarious relationship with the son of the woman she is learning to cook Persian food from. I prefer to travel the world of Middle Eastern Cooking through cookbooks and books because of the political climate in countries like Iran that make it dangerous for travelers, particularly women to journey there. I look at Klinec with admiration for her courage but shake my head a bit at the chances she took with Vahid--even after receiving a "temporary marriage" status. I guess you can't help loving who you love, but as for me I'll stick to armchair travel to Iran.
The food descriptions were my favorite parts of the books as Klinec's appreciation for food and flair for describing it come across beautifully not just with the Persian dishes and ingredients but the Eastern European recipes she grew up cooking with her mother and the many cuisines she tried along the way. I had tagged a few recipes to make in Sirocco by Sabrina Ghayour, one of several Persian cookbooks I own but sadly, my local grocery store's gourmet section seemed to be missing the usual grape leaves and preserved lemon I rely on them for. I had a plan A,B, and C but because of my procrastination, found myself madly googling harissa recipes at the store, as it was something I had on hand.
It ended up being kismet as I found a recipe for a Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Warm Harissa Hummus from Olive magazine that sounded fabulous and as I already had all of the spices and basics at home, led to me just needing to grab a head of cauliflower, a pomegranate and some coriander.
Vegan Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Warm Harissa Hummus
(Serves 2 to 23
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder (I used Aleppo pepper)
1 large cauliflower, larger leaves trimmed
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp chili oil
1/2 pomegranate, seeds scooped out
small bunch coriander, leaves torn
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (400 g / 15 oz) tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp tahini
1 lemon, juiced
1 Tbsp harissa
Heat the oven to 200 degrees C or 400 degrees F. Put the vegetable oil and spices into a bowl with salt and pepper and mix. Add the cauliflower and toss around well--making sure it is well covered with the seasoned oil. Put on a baking pan and roast for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hour or until the stem is tender when pierced with a knife.
Meanwhile, whisk together the red wine vinegar and chili oil with some salt and pepper, then stir in the pomegranate seeds.
Near the end of the cauliflower's cooking time, heat the olive oil in a pan with the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook gently for 5 minutes until soft, then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the chickpeas and heat for 2 minutes, until warm. Tip pan into a food processor with the tahini, lemon juice, harissa and 150 ml of water , and whiz to a puree. Put the hummus in a small pan and keep warm until the cauliflower is ready.
Serve the roasted cauliflower on the warm hummus with the pomegranate seeds and the dressing drizzled over, plus a sprinkling of coriander leaves.
Notes/Results: This cauliflower takes only time and a few exotic spices and ingredients, but little effort to prepare and it is delicious. A good mix of flavors and definitely spicy spicy, but without a strong burn. The cauliflower is tender and takes on the flavors of the cumin, coriander, turmeric, and chili and gets a burst of tart acidity from the vinegar and pomegranate seeds. I may start stirring harissa paste into all the hummus I make--it adds another layer of flavor and a bit of heat and the warm hummus is a nice addition to the dish. I think it would be a spectacular recipe to serve during the holidays with its jewel-like colors and exotic flavors and would appeal to meat eaters as well as veg-friendly and gluten free friends. I will happily make it again.
The deadline for this round of Cook the Books is today, November 30th and Claudia will be rounding up the entries on the CTB site soon after. If you missed this round and like food, books, and foodie books, join us for our December/January pick, The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh and hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats.
I'm also sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.
And finally I'm linking up to this month's Foodies Read. You can check out November's Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.