It was Saturday morning, a hot morning in July. As always, we woke up thinking about the farmers’ market. Should we buy a side of salmon from Mike? Don’t forget the bacon. Would Michelle still have tomato starts? Hogsback Farm had some gorgeous basil last week and we didn’t buy enough. As Lu watched her Saturday morning cartoons, we talked about what we might find and what we might eat later in the day.
Every stall was bursting with beets and dark greens and rainbow chard and raspberries. Tiny ripe raspberries! Lu and Danny bought a slice from the farmer on the island who built a wood-fired oven rolling cart. Since it’s gluten pizza, I went shopping for the vegetables first.
Jasper and I talked about the brined baby turnips she taught me to make, the ones that slightly ferment and sour in the refrigerator over the course of the week. I’ve become addicted to slices of them in my stir-fry . Everything tastes a little bit more interesting with those. We checked in on the week and laughed.
At the next stand, the farmer brought her baby, who was now sitting up and smiling. I cooed over her for a moment then looked down. Purple cauliflower! Vibrant. It almost hurt my eyes. I gathered an armful of produce and set it down on the burlap-covered table to find the cash in my pocket. I had to stop and take a photograph. Everything glowed with the light in that moment.
I ran to Danny and Lu, sitting on the grass listening to a local guitarist. “Look!” I shouted. “Look at this purple cauliflower!”
Look, I know I’m a geek. Maybe you think I’m weird that I grew so excited about a purple cauliflower at the market, and then again when Danny was rinsing it in the sink. I had to photograph it both times.
But this is who I am. I’m a vegetable geek.
Here’s the thing. I love all food. It all intrigues me. But 90% of the time, when we eat our meals, Danny and Lucy and I are eating what we think of now as essential foods: vegetables in season, meat that comes from sources we trust, wild salmon, nuts, tofu from the island tofu factory (I’m more of a fan than Danny is), heirloom beans we cooked ourselves, ripe fruit, sweet potatoes and purple potatoes, eggs (so many eggs that Lu has asked for a break), aged cheese, some whole grains like brown rice or quinoa or buckwheat, some local honey, a bit of coconut sugar, olive oil from Italy, coconut oil, and seeds that intrigue us. (Try the salty seeds recipe from Gluten-Free Girl Every Day and you might stock fennel seeds in your kitchen, the way we do.)
Most nights of the week, our dessert is ripe fruit. Have you ever gone a couple of days without eating anything with sugar and then tasted a ripe raspberry? Goodness! One or two nights a week, we have dessert, like the coconut-cherry crisp we created for Food52. We used to eat desserts far more often, since we were baking all the time. But then I realized I was partly baking so often because I was trying to give the people what they want. Could we have a successful website without new recipes for cookies and pound cake and bread all the time? Well, we’re finding out.
After all, we really love cauliflower.
It has taken me years to listen to my body and know what I want to feed it. We honestly don’t eat much processed food. When we do, it’s a very occasional splurge. Or we’re trying out products to see if they are good enough to recommend to you. On a typical day, we’re eating the same set of ingredients, over and over, foods we find essential.
Cauliflower, for example.
There’s a funny part to our job I rarely write about here. I get emails, dozens of emails, a day, begging me to try the latest products (“gluten-free crescent roll dough in a can! finally, it’s gluten-free and just like the one you ate when you were a kid!”) or gluten-free treats the companies hope we will blog about for free. (“We’ll send you a sample!”) Over the last couple of years, the requests run 10 to 1 toward junk food over food with ingredients I recognize.
And I receive emails every day from people who read this site or maybe they have just googled gluten-free and found us or seen how many Twitter followers I have who write to say, “Can’t you please use your influence to petition [Big Food Company] to make [my favorite junk food from my youth] gluten-free?”
Actually, no thank you.
Last week, I pissed off a lot of people on Facebook, apparently, when I mentioned my concern at the the growing cry for every packaged, processed food to be made gluten-free. Why can’t we just eat real food? Well, let’s just say I wasn’t flavor of the month with some people that day. I was called an elistist, a snob, a jerk, and other names. The hate mail poured in. The consensus seemed to be this: don’t take away my junk food. I want to feel normal.
Folks, I’m not trying to take away your junk food. Guess what? I don’t have that power. And there is plenty of gluten-free junk food already on the market. I’m not trying to tell anyone how to eat. As I wrote in our cookbook, everything we write and cook here is merely an offering of what we have enjoyed. I’m not saying I’m better than you or I eat entirely healthy all the time. But I also think the occasional homemade pie, consciously chosen, is healthy.
What I’m saying is this: junk food, even if it’s gluten-free, is not the answer for me. It might not be the answer for you either.
Big business has discovered gluten-free. I can’t tell you how many people wrote to me recently and said, “Did you hear? Dunkin’ Donuts has a gluten-free donut!” Well, fact is, I don’t really care. If I’m stuck at an airport after a long flight, I might try one. But I’d probably eat a banana or a bit of cheese instead.
I’m not the target audience for all these emails. I’m a cauliflower geek.
Have you ever made cauliflower rice? I know that people who are trying to avoid grains use it as a substitute for rice in dishes. I’m less interested in that than trying to celebrate the cauliflower as a vegetable. I’m a huge roasted cauliflower fan. But what might it be like raw?
Danny chopped up part of this purple cauliflower with a sharp knife and diced it down to the size of rice.
Well, that was simple. And crunchy delicious in a salad with beet greens, Beecher’s cheese, and herb pistou.
I find these days that I’m interested in photographing food in the same light, at the same time every day, just to see how it looks different from the day before. I take a walk every morning now and the cow is in a different part of the field every day. I’m just drawing my candle every day.
So we’re not the right people to ask if you want a big food company to make your favorite processed food without gluten. If you want a recipe for the purple cauliflower you bought at the farmers’ market, however? We’re here.
Beet Greens and Purple Cauliflower Salad with Herb Pistou
We rarely eat salads with lettuce anymore. Lettuce is just so boring when there is arugula in the house. Or dark kale. Or chard. Or beet greens left over from the beets we bought at the farmers’ market. More and more, I find satisfaction in using every bit of food we buy, rather than always seeking out the next best thing.
Danny made this herb pistou, which is a pesto without the cheese or nuts. It’s a bright green drizzle of a thing, lovely on summer salads. In this case, we used some cauliflower rice, some beet greens, a bit of aged Beecher’s cheese, and some pistou. Since we had the pistou in the refrigerator, we had lunch in 5 minutes. Now that’s my kind of meal.
- Put the herbs and garlic into a food processor. (You can also use a blender, if it’s a strong one.) When everything is pulverized, with the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. When the pistou is bright green and emulsified, turn off the food processor. Taste the pistou. If you want, add a pinch of sea salt.
- If you really want to create great flavors, do this by hand in a mortar and pestle.