Monday, June 20, 2011

Grilled asparagus and cauliflower with roasted cherry tomatoes and fresh basil oil

Oh my goodness, friends.

Last week, I tested one of the best vegetable recipes I think I have ever come across! I modified it a little, but the basics were what made it so wonderful. I was so blown away by it that it took me a few days to remember how to form a sentence that didn’t include “mmmmm” and “oh my god!” Thanks to my great friend, Kevin Gibson, who shipped me his favorite cookbook, Ottolenghi, all the way from England, my taste buds were screaming with joy, and my nose was left wondering what that glorious fragrance was coming from the kitchen.

I wish you could have smelled the grilled asparagus as it sizzled on my new stove grill. It took me right back to the countless family bbqs we use to have as kids in Montreal (don’t you love how smells can take you back to a specific time and place in your life, literally putting you in an exact moment in time? I can literally see my father, bbq tongs in one hand, a cigar in his mouth, shorts, bare feet and an apron that my sister made for him when she was about 5, mom leaning out the back door with the newly washed corningware my father needed to put his masterpieces in....but I digress). I wish you could have seen the vibrant green asparagus with it’s beautiful black grill marks glistening in the light of the kitchen. Food art, for sure.

I wish you could have seen the beautiful color of the cherry tomatoes as they came out of the oven. And oh, the smell. I forgot how much more flavorful those beauties get when they are cooked - sugars caramelize and turn them into tantalizing little candies!

And the basil oil - oh - how do I explain the basil oil, and what it will do to you when you try it?

Better still - drizzle the basil oil over the grilled asparagus, roasted cherry tomatoes, and add grilled cauliflower - toss is all together, and what you have is a mouth watering, healthy vegetable dish that deserves a standing ovation (is it weird that I gave it one as I stood on my couch in the living room, making “mmm” sounds that might have left the neighbors scratching their heads? Perhaps...).

Kevin Gibson? You deserve a standing ovation for introducing me to this recipe, and the many sure-to-be wonderful recipes that I have yet to discover in this book. Thank you for this gift that will keep on giving! You are just lovely!

With love and gratitude,

Grilled asparagus and cauliflower with roasted cherry tomatoes and fresh basil oil

350g cherry tomatoes, halved
4 tablespoons olive oil
24 asparagus spears
1/2-1 whole head cauliflower (depending on my much you like it)
Salt and pepper

For the basil oil:
75ml olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
25g basil leaves
a pinch of salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350F. Place halved cherry tomatoes on a pan (it doesn't have to be lined with aluminum foil, but for easier clean up, you can do this). Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over top of them, along with salt and pepper to taste. Use your hands to toss them around to ensure they are completely coated with oil, salt and pepper. Place in the oven for 40 minutes.

In the meantime, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Clean off your asparagus, and blanch it (place them in boiling water, and once the water returns to a boil, after about 1 minute, immediately place the asparagus into ice water). Chop up cauliflower into desirable sized pieces (large enough to grill) and follow the same blanching procedure.

Place the blanched cauliflower and asparagus into a bowl. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons of oilve oil, salt and pepper. Ensure they are all coated. If you need more oil, don't be shy - add some more!

Heat up your bbq or grill pan. Place the vegetables on the sizzling hot grill, turning them after about 1 minute. They should have beautiful grill marks on both sides. Once done, place in a bowl.

To make the basil oil, blitz all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

Remove tomatoes from the oven and place in the bowl with the other vegetables. Pour the basil oil over top and toss. Serve warm. Serves 4-6.

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