So the best thing to do, if the kitchen is not your own, is to ask questions: Would it be helpful if I made the potatoes or the salad or if I manned the grill? (If the answer is no, back away.) In your own kitchen, the best thing to do if you’re cooking with friends is to man up and ask for help: Could you make the green beans, Serge? Because communication — while really difficult for fellows to master — is the key to collaborative kitchen joy.
Q. Once and for all, what does “blanch” refer to? Is it the act of plunging in boiling water and then plunging in ice water? Or is it just the boiling water part, and the ice water is not necessary in all applications?
A. The “Larousse Gastronomique,” first published in 1938 and one of the holy books of the culinary trade, defines blanching as the act of lightly cooking raw ingredients in boiling water and then either refreshing them in cold water or simply draining them and cooking them normally.
That said, the blanch-and-refresh method is awesome, as you’ll discover if you try your hand at this recipe for Venetian cauliflower, by David Tanis of The New York Times. Get cooking!
Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
1 cauliflower, about 1 1/2 pounds
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
Pinch of saffron, crumbled
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup currants
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1. Cut cauliflower in half from top to bottom, then remove the core. With a paring knife, cut into very small florets of equal size. Blanch florets in boiling water for 2 minutes. Cool in cold water and drain.
2. Put olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add saffron, cinnamon, fennel seeds, coriander seeds and red pepper. Season well with salt and pepper.
3. Add lemon zest, currants, raisins and cauliflower florets. Toss with wooden spoons to distribute. Cover with a lid and cook for about 5 minutes more, until cauliflower is tender. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with pine nuts and parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.