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Friday, May 11, 2012

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Garlic, and Walnuts



After nearly four years of marriage, a lesson that I keep having to relearn over and over and OVER again is this:  Paul is physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually incapable of being able to read my mind.  Especially when it comes to birthday celebrations.

Now, Paul is a smart guy.  He seriously has one of the most brilliant minds of anyone I have ever met.  However, when it comes to the romance department, I have to say he probably has as much Romeo in him as Pluto the Dog.  Sure, he's had his moments which have made my spirits soar with the hope that maybe he has finally learned what it takes to be a "Prince Charming."  Here are a few:


  • Shortly before we were married, he sent me a beautiful bouquet of flowers with a note proclaiming how excited he was for our wedding day.  
  • When I was pregnant with Matthew and my quickly expanding midsection was making it difficult to find ANYTHING that fit, much less something remotely fashionable, he surprised me with a beautiful maternity dress from Ann Taylor.  I wore that dress all throughout the pregnancy and, even though it is a maternity outfit, it remains one of my most favorite outfits!
  • For our anniversary last year, he planned a glorious event-filled day.  He set up a sitter for Matthew and then we went on a long bike ride, followed by lunch at a little Greek cafe, a walk along the beach, long conversations in the sun, a fancy dinner at a scrumptious Italian restaurant, and a communal ice cream sundae for dessert.  It was so wonderful to spend so much quality time together.
  • When leaving for work early some mornings, he will program the coffee maker to brew a fresh pot for me and leave a sweet love note next to my empty coffee mug.


Yes, Paul has had quite a few moments of pure romance and thoughtfulness.  However, there have been a couple of misses in recent years:


  • For my birthday one year, Paul bought me some summer clothes.  It was a sweet thought...but they were all size 15 on up.  I normally wear a size 4-6.  I was going through a bit of an insecure period of time with my body and immediately burst into tears when I saw the tags.  I think I traumatized him because he has not bought me any clothing since.
  • For Christmas, I bought Paul the complete Calvin and Hobbes hardcover treasury because I knew how much he loves that comic strip.  He gave me a calendar.
  • At 6:00 pm the night of my birthday, he asks me what I want him to make me for dinner.  I then had the pleasure of entertaining our extremely fussy baby while he ran out to the store to collect all the ingredients and then frantically prepared the dish by 9:00 pm.  By which time, we had to quickly inhale our food because the baby was extremely grumpy and screaming because Paul insisted on keeping him awake so he could see me "blow out the candles."    
  • And for my most recent birthday, Paul came home late and then immediately began reheating the leftover Manicotti from dinner the night before.  Swoon.


Paul tells me that it is just as much my fault as his when things do not go over so well as far as birthdays go because I do not tell him exactly what I want him to do for me.  I, on the other hand, do not want to have to plan out my own birthday celebrations.  I know that he would be more than willing to buy whatever trinket I desire or take me to the romantic restaurant of my choosing if I would just lay it out for him.  However, in my hopelessly delusional female mind, I want him to want to plan out a romantic evening, dinner, present, whatever!  I want him to think "I am going to do this for her because I know she will love it!"  I have no idea what he was thinking when  he decided reheating leftovers was something that I would love to have for my birthday dinner.

However, I need to realize that when it comes to gifts, dates, and celebrations I do need to be more specific with him.  Even though he knows me well (sometimes I doubt he does), he will never be able to interpret what exactly it is I desire.  If I get into the habit of being more vocal about what I would like, generally speaking, then perhaps he can fill in the details.  For example, I should have told him that I wanted a nice dinner out for my birthday.  Then, I could leave it to him to figure out what restaurant, whether to bring Matthew or not, etc.  For the past few Christmases (after the infamous calendar incident), I created an Amazon wishlist to make it easier for him to get an idea of what I would like as a present.  He has appreciated that (and I LOVE my new kitchen scale!).  Because the bottom line is that he  truly loves me and really desires to make me happy.  He just is unsure of how exactly to do that half the time.

Ignore the crazy hair.  It was VERY windy that day.

Anyway...marriage is all about communication and I know that it is something Paul and I struggle with on a daily basis.  And despite how much I love to pick on him for his lack of romance or forethought, there is no one I would rather be married to than Paul.  He is kind, generous, hard-working, and loyal.  Nobody can make me laugh like he does (nobody can irritate me quite as much, either).  He is my person, now and always.  And I thank God every day for the gift of my wonderful husband.

Alright, enough mushy stuff...

The recipe I want to share today is a delicious vegetarian pasta recipe that we enjoyed very much for dinner this past week.  Have you ever roasted cauliflower?  If not, you should.  I like cauliflower raw, but roasting it adds a wonderful nutty complexity to its flavor.  Toss it in with some hot cooked pasta, a roasted garlic sauce, toasted walnuts, and a generous helping of Parmesan cheese and you have an excellent, healthy meal that is a treat for the taste buds.

If you are looking for an alternative to regular spaghetti and meatballs, give this recipe a try.



Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Garlic, and Walnuts
from Cook's Illustrated



2 heads garlic, papery skins removed, top quarter of heads cut off and discarded
6 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 head cauliflower (about 1 1/2 pounds)
Table salt and ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 pound campanelle, fusilli, or bow tie pasta
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 – 3 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves, chopped
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
¼ cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Adjust oven rack to middle position, place large rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees.

Place garlic heads, cut-side up, in center of a piece of foil. Drizzle ½ teaspoon oil over each head and seal packet. Place packet on oven rack and roast until garlic is very tender, about 40 minutes. Open packet and set aside to cool.

While garlic is roasting, trim outer leaves of cauliflower and cut stem flush with bottom. Cut head from pole to pole into 8 equal wedges. Place cauliflower in large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste, and the sugar.

Remove baking sheet from oven. Carefully transfer cauliflower to baking sheet and spread into even layer, placing cut sides down. Return baking sheet to oven and roast until cauliflower is well browned and tender, 20-25 minutes. Transfer cauliflower to cutting board. When cool enough to handle, chop into rough ½-inch pieces.

While cauliflower roasts, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta.  Cook until al dente. Squeeze roasted garlic cloves from their skins into small bowl. Using fork, mash garlic to smooth paste, then stir in red pepper flakes and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Slowly whisk in remaining 1/4 cup oil.

Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup cooking water, and return pasta to pot. Add chopped cauliflower to pasta; stir in garlic sauce, ¼ cup cooking water, parsley, and ½ cup cheese. Adjust consistency with additional cooking water and season with salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice to taste. Serve immediately, sprinkling with remaining ½ cup cheese and toasted nuts.

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