Thursday, June 17, 2010

Recession Fever and The Reviled Vegetable Bowl

Question: Who goes to a vintage clothing shop and gets more excited about the used cookbooks than the clothing?

Um...Hopefully more people than just myself?

Last week, a friend and I went out to browse the vintage shops along Bloor and Lansdowne. We went to Vintage 69, a multi-level collective of preloved goodies with a gorgeous, airy and bright feel to it. We made our way upstairs and I eyed several pretty sundresses that I knew wouldn't fit me. I didn't try them on; I figured it was better to picture myself in them, in my mind, rather than actually disappointing myself in 3D.

We got to chatting with the saleslady, who was obviously very keen to make a sale. I noticed a purse hanging up; it had a lovely embroidery which had caught my eye.

"Oh," she said, noticing my interest, "that's a vintage Fendi. My friend got it for me, and she doesn't do knock-offs, that's the real thing. I'll give it to you for $40."

I took it into the other room to look at it carefully. Now, I'm no expert in bags, in fact, up until I was in my early 20's, I used an old, stained liquor store tote as a 'purse'. So maybe I'm wrong here, but I'm
pretty sure Fendi didn't go through a 'pleather' period. The stitching inside was coming out and I felt in my gut that if I were in the presence of a vintage Fendi, if I was about to be gifted with the kind of shopping horseshoe our sartorial urban legends thrive on, I'd know, right?

Anyways, I DID find this fantastic cookbook by Madhur Jaffrey, who is a renowned author of Indian and Far East cuisine. Score. We then went to eat at Nazareth, an Ethiopian restaurant that is one of the hidden gems of Bloorcourt Village. It more than lived up to its reputation for incredibly tasty food, served in massive quantities for very few dollars.

And speaking of massive quantities, guess what I got in my CSA food box yesterday? And guess for how much? No, seriously, guess, because you won't believe that this horn-a-plenty of fruit and veggies only costs me $12 every two weeks. I still, after almost a year of getting a food box, cannot believe that such a system exists, where I pay my $12 and get a heap of local-grown food bought directly from the farmers. It's like a produce Costco with a conscience.

If I seem obsessed with money and not spending large amounts of it, it's because I am. I have no job, no prospects and the one freelance job I was doing went atomic on me last night. Husband is having to pay for just about everything right now, and honestly, I will never be comfortable with that. I had read all about the recession and understood that it happened to 'other people'. I just didn't think it would reach me too. But here I am, contemplating the fact that I'm not owed anything by life, not job stability or even decent wages. And I'm going to have to just suck it up.

So, in my efforts to not waste either money or food, I decided to use up the cauliflower that was sitting in my fridge. I found a recipe for Cauliflower Bhaji in my new, used cookbook. It's a funny vegetable. Everyone seems to hate it. In fact, I did a Google search using the words 'Cauliflower' and 'Hate' together, and it came up with over 2 million hits. There is even a "Cauliflower Haters" Facebook group. Crazy.

Well, for such a widely despised vegetable, it sure is pretty. I cut it up and threw it into the colander for a rinse, and the stalks turned this incandescent sort of green, like it had stored up the daylight and was glowing just for me.

And finally! A use for the insanely hot dried chilies I'd bought a big bag of, thinking I could crush them with mortar and pestle and use them instead of ready-made chili flakes! Only to realize they're so hot, it's instantaneous evacuation of your nasal cavities and vaporizing of your taste buds! Get me some milk, please! Quick!

It was a really easy recipe to follow, and without a picture of the finished product prepared by the talented Jaffrey to daunt me, there was no pressure, no expectation of the end result. Oh sweet Lord, it was good. Yes, it was really spicy - there is, after all, 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper and 2 Insane-o dried chilies; if you make this yourself, you may want to adjust the amounts. But it was also incredibly tasty and, served on some basmati rice, or with a naan bread (my next project from the cookbook) and tzatziki or baba ganoush, it is just the thing to warm the belly and sweat out your recession blues.

Cauliflower Bhaji, with a couple of add-ins by me, by Madhur Jaffrey a la From Curries To Kebabs:

1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cardamon (my addition)
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp mustard powder (my addition due to lack of mustard seeds)
3/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp corn, peanut or olive oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds (I didn't have them, so I used fennel seeds instead)
1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
2 whole dried hot red chilies
1-inch piece of ginger, first cut into thin slices, then stacked and cut into thin slivers
1 cauliflower head, cut into smallish florets, about 1 1/2 inches wide.
1/2 cup peeled and finely chopped tomatoes
1/2 peas (my addition)


1. Combine the coriander, cumin, turmeric, cardamon, cayenne, mustard powder (if using) and salt in a bowl. Add 4 tbsp water and mix. Set aside.

2. Pour the oil into a large pot or pan with a lid and set over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add the mustard seeds (if using) cumin seeds and chilies. Once the seeds start to pop, which doesn't take long, put in the ginger, stir and then the cauliflower. Fry the cauliflower till it starts browning, stirring continuously, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the spice paste; cover and let simmer over low heat for about 5-10 minutes.

3. Stir in the tomatoes and peas, replace the lid and cook for another 6-10 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender. Serve with a large dollop of plain yogurt and salt and pepper to taste.


  1. Delightful. I love it and yoo.

    xo mrsbs

  2. ooo, this looks good. I am one of the few people that love cauliflower. Glad the cookbook is working out already!

  3. Thanks Noodle! Love you too!

    Temperance, the cookbook is amazing! So many spicy new things to try!
    And I'm totally craving Nazareth, as predicted.

  4. This looks so good! I can't wait to try it. And I've had so many people tell me that Nazareth is great. I really must go. Thanks for lovely post.

  5. Thanks for the kind words, Jess!

    And yes; get Beast and go to Nazareth (or go by yourself; who am I to tell you what to do?)What a lovely experience it'll be! Try the vegetarian platter - sooo good!

  6. Did Cameron tell you about my plans to buy a sitar? Some say it's ridiculous, bordering on insanity (name starts with an L). When I do you cook and I will perform a most delightful Raga Bhimpalasi for the preparation of such a sacred meal......

  7. Noah, he did indeed tell me of your sitar plan and how L isn't too keen on it! And how you circumvented that by tuning your gitar (see what I did there?) to sound like one. Clever clogs!

  8. You are awesome!!!!

    Love Jonathan K