Caramelized Cauliflower with Oranges, Olives and Saffroned Cous Cous

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Cauliflower makes me comfortable. If I see it a grocery store, I heave a sigh of relief: “I know what I can do with this,” I say to myself. The store manager eyes me warily.

Last time cauliflower made an appearance on the blog, I cooked it like a steak for a bunch of vegans. Well the leftover cauliflower florets from that dinner were sitting in a bowl in my fridge last week and inspiration struck again. Here’s what I did.

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Cooking for Vegans (Watermelon Salad, Cauliflower Steaks & Coconut Lime Rice Pudding)

I was flipping out on Saturday because I’d extended a dinner invitation to an awesome friend named Isaac (he directs stunning music videos, check them out here) and Isaac is a vegan. But not just a vegan: a vegan with a nut allergy. I was already cooking a “thank you” meal for Lizzie Leitzell, my cookbook photographer, and her boyfriend Kyle. They’re mostly vegetarian, so we were already dealing with a meatless meal, but now I had to cook one without eggs, without milk, and without that most wonderful of ingredients: BUTTER. What would I do?

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Don’t-Miss-The-Meat Vegetarian Chili

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I love chili, but ever since reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and watching “Food Inc.” I have a hard time making it with ground beef. Of course, on special occasions, I make Michael Symon’s recipe with slab bacon and pork shoulder, but last Wednesday wasn’t a special occasion. No: it was just a weeknight and as I found myself wandering the aisles of Gourmet Garage, I wondered: “What if I just get a bunch of vegetables and beans and cook them the way I cook Michael Symon’s chili? Ya know: with beer and chilis in adobo and freshly ground coriander and cumin seeds?” The results, as you can see above, were so good even Craig agreed: “I don’t miss the meat!”

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How To Host A Vegetarian Dinner Party (Answer: Mushroom Bourguignon)

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My friend Lisa was there at the very beginning of this blog. Six years ago, she and I would have debates about the worthiness of olives, we’d sing songs about pumpkin cake, and often we’d cook together. Then I moved far away to a country called Brooklyn and even though Lisa and I still saw each other socially, we’d rarely cook together. Three years passed. In that time, my cooking improved immeasurably and Lisa got engaged. Life is funny that way. And now that I’m back in Manhattan and Lisa still has an appetite I decided to invite Lisa, her fiance Eric, our friend Ricky and his new boyfriend David over for a sumptuous feast. Only problem: Lisa still is (and always has been) a vegetarian. What would I make for dinner?

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We Go Together Like Beets And Carrots

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Let’s play the Kevin Bacon game with beets and carrots.

Beets are in Borscht; Borscht comes from Russia; Russia was part of the original U.S.S.R.; “Back in the U.S.S.R.” is a song by The Beatles; The Beatles have a song called “Glass Onion”; onions are part of what the French call Mirepoix; carrots are in Mirepoix too.

Therefore: beets and carrots are separated by six degrees. You can bring them together with the logic above or use this Epicurious recipe from Suzanne Goin for Roasted Beets and Carrots with Cumin Vinagrette, Chickpea Puree, and Flatbread. (Diana and I skipped the chickpea puree and flatbread and instead bought sourdough and cheese from the farmer’s market where we also bought the carrots.) It’s a bright colorful preparation and a fun unexpected pairing. Like linking Kevin Bacon and Shirley MacLaine…

(Kevin Bacon was in “A Few Good Men” with Jack Nicholson who was in “Terms of Endearment” with Shirley MacLaine. Guess that wasn’t so hard to link.)

(Note: the above photo was edited by James Felder of Snapshot Artifact. Thanks James!)