Leslie Brenner's Cream of Celery Soup
David Lentz's Tweety Scramble

Julia Reed's Puree of Cauliflower with Curry


I kind of feel like I'm cheating. But here's the thing: all my binders of clippings? Sometimes they overwhelm me. They sit placidly on my bookshelves, glaring at me balefully each time I walk by. I feel like they're mocking me with their endless pages of soups and stews, cakes and cookies, things to cook and report on, and either lambast or praise. And in addition to all those hundreds of flimsy little clippings, pasted on loose-leaf paper carefully with rubber cement, I sometimes feel like I'm drowning (pleasantly) in cookbooks. You know what I mean? I'm so preoccupied with my newspaper recipes that my cookbooks get mostly ignored these days.

In an effort to pare down my life a bit, I decided last week to winnow out those books that I really don't need to have lying around anymore. I started by attacking a special section of cookbooks: The Best American Recipes. I collected these books sort of single-mindedly a few years back, enchanted by the idea that someone else was doing the work of going through magazines, newspapers, cookbooks and the internet to present, each year, a collection of The Best Recipes Ever. But in practice, I realized I barely cracked the books open (except to return repeatedly to this sauce, which really is among the best sauces in the world. Trust me). There was something too broad and vague about them.

So in a fit of determination and pigheadedness, I copied the recipes from each edition that I thought I might one day be interested in making, and got rid of the books (spanning the years 1999 to 2003). I was one step closer to a semblance of order. And lo and behold, some of the recipes I copied were even from the LA and NY Times! Serendipitous indeed. Two birds with one stone or whatever. So even though I didn't read these myself in the paper and clip them out, somebody else did and that was good enough for me. Almost. Which is why I feel like I'm cheating (yes, the problems in my life are mindblowing, aren't they). You'll just have to forgive me.

All of this long-windedness to segue into telling you about the cauliflower puree I made for dinner the other night - sigh. I need a stiff drink, I tell you, and it's not even 11:00 am. Julia Reed, Vogue profiler of senators and food writer extraordinaire (although I'm still wondering where she is these days), had her recipe for pureed cauliflower chosen from the New York Times Magazine for the 2002-2003 edition. The recipe consists simply of one head of cauliflower steamed and then blitzed in the food processor with butter, curry powder, salt, pepper, and a small amount of cooking water. You can add a spoonful or two of cream (which I did) to gussy it up a bit. That's it. The whole shebang. It takes less than 15 minutes to bring this to the table.

But I'm sort of ambivalent about this dish. Maybe because I don't need my cauliflower rendered into something akin to mashed potatoes to enjoy it? Or because my curry powder is from D'Agostino's and is as authentic as a pile of dirt?  I think this is another example of a dish that most people would like: it's fast and simple, but slightly exotic and different, appeals to finicky children - and adults - who don't like cauliflower (though if they like curry, inversely, would remain to be seen), and pretty nutritious. Ben, the bastion of taste outside of my crazy interior world, loved it and gobbled it up, proclaiming it to be a B+ dish. But me? I gamely ate a few forkfuls and then thought about how much I'd prefer a plate of steamed cauliflower tossed with oil and vinegar.

Oh well - at least I'm one recipe closer to order.

Puree of Cauliflower with Curry
Serves 6

1 2-pound cauliflower head
Heavy cream (optional)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more to taste
2 teaspoons hot curry powder, such as Madras
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

1. Trim off the leaves and cut out the central core of the cauliflower; break it into florets. Peel the core and slice. Halve the florets lengthwise.

2. In a medium saucepan, bring 1/2 cup water to a boil over medium heat. Add the cauliflower core and florets, cover, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.

3. Drain the cauliflower, reserving the cooking water, and place in a food processor. Add 1/4 cup of the cooking water, heavy cream, if using, the 2 tablespoons butter, the curry powder, salt, and pepper and process to the desired consistency, adding more cooking liquid or butter, if desired. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve immediately, or transfer the puree to a gratin dish and reheat in a 250-degree oven when ready to serve.