Not as good as tri-tip, but I’ll take it.

I was biking home from work on Thursday doing what I always do when I bike home from work: fantasizing about what I’ll eat for dinner.  I really, really wanted tri-tip. I knew we had a tri-tip in the freezer, but determined that in the time it would take to defrost and cook it, I would have given up on a real dinner and given in to my no-cook defaults: a two-head-of-lettuce salad or a bowl of cereal.

Trying to remember all the contents of our refrigerator, I did a little brainstorming.  We had some sausage and pork chops, but much as I love it, pork just does not replace the umami of beef.  I wanted deep, red, rich, spicy; a flat-out savory flavor with no hint of sweetness.  When I’m feeling rather healthy and vegetarian and in want of some meaty protein, I often turn to our good friend, the garbanzo bean.  Also, I love the name.  I gather that most cooks call them chick peas because garbanzo is a little ridiculous as far as names go, but it reminds me of the muppet Gonzo, whom I love about as much as I love these beans.  To bulk up the beans, I thought maybe cauliflower could work… it has a nice texture and the quality of absorbing flavors.  Oh! And mushrooms, we had mushrooms.

Gilles arrived home (also by bike) about 40 minutes after I did, and I had already started cooking.  He said, no kidding, “I was really craving tri-tip on my ride home.”

“Good; me, too.  So we’re having cauliflower and garbanzo beans.”

Actually, it turned out great.  And we made tri-tip the next day.


Curried Cauliflower and Chick-pea Toasts topped with Roasted Oyster Mushrooms

For the toast spread:

1 head cauliflower

1 15 oz can or 10 oz dried garbanzo beans, soaked if necessary, drained, and rinsed

1 medium white or yellow onion

1 bunch cilantro

2 tbs curry powder

2 tbs olive oil, split between cooking and blending

1 tbs sesame oil

1/2 lemon, juiced

chili powder

salt, to taste

For the roasted mushrooms:

1 lb oyster mushrooms

olive oil

balsamic vinegar

To spread on:

1-2 baguettes

Put it together:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare the head of cauliflower by removing the stem and leaves, coarsely chopping, and rinsing under cool water, set aside. Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans and set aside. Chop the onion and cook with about a tbs of olive oil in a heavy, oven-safe pan over medium heat until it softens, about five minutes. Add the garbanzo beans to the pan, but do not add more oil (they cook up really nicely in a dry pan). Cook until the garbanzo beans are nicely browned on one or more sides, watching that the onions don’t burn.

Getting going!

Add the cauliflower to the pan, and sprinkle the curry powder over the top.  Give it a few turns with a wooden spoon and cook for a minute more on the stove top.  Transfer to the warmed oven, and let cook until the cauliflower is soft, about 15-20 minutes.

While all this is going on, you can rinse and de-stem the oyster mushrooms.  Place into a heavy, oven-safe dish and toss with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar; just enough to coat the mushrooms. Cook in the oven for about 15 minutes, until browned and tender (I nearly burned my mushrooms, here, so keep a close eye. 15 mins may be too long).

Everybody in!

When the cauliflower is cooked, add the whole mixture to your food processor (you could alternatively use a blender), along with the bunch of cilantro, the other tbs of olive oil, sesame oil, lemon juice, a few cracks of salt, and a splash of water just to make sure everything will turn.  Blend!  If the mixture is too thick, add more water or olive oil until it blends easily.  Pause to check and adjust the flavoring. You may want to add some chili powder if your curry powder isn’t very spicy.

Almost there!

Of course, you are probably super-normal and buy your bread at the store.  We, on the other hand, insist on keeping around a container of dough that takes up a quarter of the space in our refrigerator. So this was going on in the background:

Slice your baguette, and top with a big spoonful of the bean & cauliflower mixture, and then one or two roasted mushrooms.  I sliced some persian cucumber to go alongside all of this bread action.  Enjoy!


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