For the current edition of Cook the Books, we are reading Climbing The Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India by Madhur Jaffrey. The title clearly says what the book is about. What it doesn't say is that the volume includes a set of 32 recipes, which, I must admit, I browsed first (I guess that means I started reading the book from the end). Next, I will admit that I chose the recipe before knowing where it was mentioned in the book. It's that as soon as I read the title, Grandmother’s Cauliflower with Cheese (Cheese Vali Gobi), I knew I would make it, because I like cauliflower and I am always looking for recipes where i can use my homemade cheese (formaggio fatto in casa).
The recipe is mentioned towards the end of chapter 12:
In the dining room, there was a long, formal dining table and, joined onto it, two other dining tables of decreasing quality. There was a chair for my grandfather at the head of the formal table, a chair for my grandmother to his left, and more chairs for the grown-ups on either side. Farther down, at the tables of lesser quality generally reserved for children, chairs gave way to benches. We children were so far away from the head of the table that I did not know until I was told years later by my aunt Saran Bhua that my grandmother was a vegetarian and that she had invented the East-West dish spicy cauliflower with cheese that we all loved so much.
In the introduction to the recipe, Jaffrey says that she doesn't have her grandmother's exact recipe:
I never asked her, being too young at the time to know better. But the recipe that follows is a good approximation... and utterly delicious.
I can perfectly relate to the contents of the first sentence. I wish I had known better and asked for the recipes of dishes I enjoyed as a child (right now, for no particular reason, I am thinking of my aunt Lucia's giardiniera, pickled vegetable medley).
Back to "the East-West dish spicy cauliflower with cheese," my rendition is a variation of Jaffrey's approximation, since it includes some changes to the list of ingredients. Jaffrey adds a note regarding the chiles to use. I had just oven-roasted three Round of Hungary peppers (peperoni) — a.k.a., pimento cheese peppers, a sweet variety that has thick flesh and is my current favorite pepper to roast — and decided to chop them and add them to the cauliflower.
As you can see in the photo of the dish, I used some white and some purple cauliflower, so the dish was quite colorful (both cauliflower and peppers were acquired at our farmers' market). Here is the list of the other adjustments I made to the given recipe:
- fresh turmeric (curcuma), grated, like the ginger (zenzero), using my Microplane grater
- a small, whole peperoncino (red hot chili pepper), instead of the hot green chiles and cayenne pepper
- half a tablespoon of ground coriander (coriandolo), instead of one tablespoon
- fresh parsley (prezzemolo) from my herb garden, instead of cilantro (which to my husband tastes like aluminum)
- no cream
- half a cup of grated homemade Montasio cheese of my own production (two slices of which are portrayed in the photo below), since I did not have any Cheddar cheese ready for consumption
I don't know how different my rendition is from the dish mentioned in the book. What I know is that I loved what came out of my oven and will certainly make it again. In fact, I already have some peppers in the fridge that I have roasted with the idea of adding them to my next realization of this recipe.
This post contains the roundup of the event.
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