Entertaining is not something I do very often, and post-pandemic(ish), it has become an even more infrequent event. But...at least twice a year, I get to enjoy my family coming to visit for a long weekend. Incorporating consideration for their likes and dislikes in my style of cooking required slight tweaks before vegan, but was generally easy meal planning. That has become a fair challenge now that I'm vegan only because spices and layers of flavor make vegan dishes and spices / layers of flavor are the hardest to match with individual tastes.
I dare say that I've gotten better and better at meeting that challenge with each visit and my family is no longer slightly apprehensive when I cook for them. I'll never forget my dad on one visit in particular early on in my vegan meal-planning. Me: "You like the potatoes, Dad?" My dad with a mouth full of potatoes (strange because he is always courteous about not talking with his mouth full, but in this case, needed affirmation immediately as if one was in a state of emergency): "Uh huh. wait...They ARE potatoes, right?" Me (laughing): "Yes, they are potatoes." My dad visibly relaxed, finished his mouth full, swallowed and said "Then, yes, I like them very much."
There is no longer a little bit of fear underlying any fork or spoonfuls of my cooking or for twisting plant ingredients and making them look, taste, or feel like the beloved animal-based versions of cooking. Now, they happily sit at the table and indulge in some of my best cooking; most recently like my Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese or my Overnight "Boma" Coconut Oats (and it did bring back the fond memories as I had hoped in the post)! So, when I roasted a whole cauliflower, smothered it in an indulgent sauce and topped it off with a vibrant green drizzle, they had firsts and seconds and loved it!
Sustainability Spotlight: As in my story above, things that are different illicit pangs of fear in humans. Why? Evolution of course (hopefully, you aren't tired of that reasoning, but hey, folks, evolution makes us act and behave in ways that reverberate through the ages)! Our society and technology has progressed faster than our evolutionary behaviors can modify and we are playing "catch up." You don't have the feels for what should scare you, but rather what used to scare you, in other words.
According the evolutionary biologist (and professor emeritus at University of Washington), Gordan Orians (as quoted in this cbc.ca article), we are more afraid of snakes (primates oldest predator and therefore a built in evolutionary code for humans as their successors), than climate change because we have evolved a response to something that has killed humans (us) over thousands of years. Climate change hasn't been linked to many deaths widely in media, though the World Heath Organization (WHO) is tracking estimates and has been for over 10 years; see this factsheet for futurist predictions. So, humans have not built in a fear factor for climate change.
The article link above goes through various other human fears and why those fears are no longer relevant in modern society and what we should "actually" be fearful of with what causes human death. The most interesting comparative is the fear of short term influences on human lives and small scale threats that we can otherwise "control" with modern society leaning heavily on advances in infrastructure, science, medicine, and socio-political influences. What our human brains cannot fathom is long-term affects, like climate change. "Threats to our environment are so dangerous because of their enormous consequences and because they're likely to slip by our natural detection system. 'It's easy to say we have a global problem and have to think globally, but that doesn't really affect the nervous system.'" ( cbc.ca).
So, the fear of changing how we eat, our overall composition of diet or how we access food sources is a battle that is raging between evolution and our long-term successes as humankind. Access to food is an evolutionary requirement embedded in us at a very base level and the access we have is animal-based largely. Suggesting that humankind change the way it eats to plant-based, is therefore, sounding emergency alarms in every human brain when it's suggested.
However, to live a life more sustainably, we can circumvent these fears in some ways by showing immediate benefits for our body and mind and convince people to "just try it." The food won't poison you, and it's very delicious. Stay on the diet for 3+ months, and you have a whole new outlook on life. Vegan diets have been shown to "heal" various diet-based diseases and medical afflictions simply by eating well. If you feel good, that will be all the evolutionary data your brain needs to keep on living a vegan lifestyle.
Since a vegan lifestyle supports planetary health, we also circumvent the fact that climate change isn't on your fear factor radar. In other words, climate change still doesn't have to "compute" in your evolutionary brain as a fear, but rather, you will organically and naturally be fighting for our future and the future of this planet just by trying something new and switching to a plant-based / vegan diet.
So, let's be less fearful in our lives, and live a little better; make this recipe for your next entertaining meal for others and enjoy being the spark that might inspire great and influential change of removing any reason to be fearful of being vegan and supporting sustainability in combat of climate change.
1 extra large cauliflower (trimmed; remove leaves and notch the underside with an "X" shape around the stem / core. Pull vigorously to remove.)
1/2 cup unsalted, roasted & toasted (dry pan ~5 minutes) sunflower seeds
1 handful parsley
3 garlic cloves (chopped)
1 jar fire-roasted bell peppers (drained)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 large serving spoon "scoop" of tomato paste
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp Aleppo pepper
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1/2 cup avocado oil
Avocado Green Goddess Sauce from my Sheet Pan Tofu & Veggies recipe
1 bunch watercress (trimmed)
1 handful fresh basil
1/3 cup veganise
1 small handful fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
1/4 cup plant-based yogurt (I used Forager - plain)
2 tbsp avocado oil
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 lemon (juiced)
2 garlic cloves (chopped)
1 ripe avocado
1/4 cup filtered water (to thin - as needed)
Roasted Green Beans:
2-3 large handfuls of fresh green beans (trimmed)
1 tbsp olive oil
herbed salt (to taste)
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F.
In a 5-qt Dutch Oven set 1/2 full with filtered water, bring water to a boil. Add the whole cauliflower, cover the oven and cook the cauliflower for ~10 minutes.
While your cauliflower steams, add all ingredients of the Turkish Sauce to a high-speed blender. Blend on high until smooth (~1 minute for Vitamix; possibly longer for other brands).
Remove cauliflower from the oven using heat proof gloves (this is the easiest way but if you don't have heat proof gloves, you can get creative and use other utensils, just try not to "poke" or pierce your cauliflower).
Set your cauliflower onto a clean towel to "drain" any water. Drain the water (save water for indoor plants once cool!) from your Dutch Oven and wipe the inside dry with a towel.
While your cauliflower drains, cut a 24 x 24 piece of parchment paper and set aside (not too far, you need it soon!)
Again with your gloves (or utensils), tip the cauliflower over and using a large spoon, drop Turkish sauce down into the cauliflower florets and spread over the entirety of the bottom of the cauliflower.
Place the cauliflower right side up on your prepared parchment paper; lose the gloves / utensils.
Using the paper edges (gather them up over the cauliflower a bit), lower your cauliflower into the dry Dutch Oven and pour / spread the remaining Turkish sauce over the rest of your cauliflower generously; be sure to coat all sides!
Slide your cauliflower into the oven (uncovered!) and bake for 40-45 minutes until the outside looks a bit "dry" and created a crust-like exterior on your cauliflower. The Turkish sauce should be slightly browning but still reddish in color. Remove from oven (Carefully! it's incredibly hot!).
While your cauliflower roasts: blend all ingredients of the Avocado Green Goddess Sauce in a personal blender till smooth. Set aside for now.
While your cauliflower roasts: add green beans to a silpat lined pan, drizzle with olive oil & mix with your hands right on the pan to coat all green beans. Spread out evenly on pan and sprinkle with herbed salt (to taste). During the last 18 minutes of your cauliflower bake time, slide green beans into oven on your second rack and roast for the remainder of the cauliflower bake time. Remove from oven (Carefully! it's hot)
Slice cauliflower like a cake in the Dutch Oven and remove pieces using a spatula to a large platter trying not to overlap pieces materially (you want that green sauce over every single piece!) Alternatively, you can plate singularly and drizzle with the sauce - up to you!
Drizzle the platter with the avocado green goddess sauce. In a separate serving dish, add all green beans.
Serve cauliflower with green beans to applause and (what tastes like) the ultimate in healthy indulgence that is vegan cooking!
With love & hope for a better future for all of us - Jamie