A true story about an untrue story: During my dictionary-reading, daydreaming, dancing, painting-my-nails-with-twink-ing youth, I tried writing a Baby Sitters Club book. I didn't know it was "fan fiction" at the time, due to the internet not being widespread - the only people I knew who had it was my cool cousins who lived in Auckland, and my uncommonly tech-savvy Nanna. No, I pridefully considered it something of a manuscript that I could mail to Ann M Martin, and she would then be so grateful and impressed that she might publish it or something. (Fun fact: in the plot I may have unwittingly and independently invented the concept of grills/jewelled clip on braces. I kid you not.)
I have a point. It is this: at the time of all this writing, I did not believe in self-editing. It was probably a bit of youthful vanity, as well as how I knew the Baby Sitters Club every which way to Sunday and they're pretty easy to write once you get the hang of things. I would just write and write in my big notebook and then declare it all perfect. Fast forward to this year, when I went to a course where we were advised to reread everything we write for online then cut it in half, so it appeals to the fickle, short attention spanned readers. I'm better at editing now, but am still resolutely long-form in my blogging, no matter what the experts say.
Wait, this is the point: Christmas is coming, everyone's tired, nobody has time, so I'm going to try make this blog post much shorter than usual by editing myself more ruthlessly. I could've just said that at the start of this blog post, but um, I'm not that good at self-editing. And what other food blogger's gonna freely divulge their questionable, oblivious fan-fic past? (Because if there are others, can you let me know? I bet we'd be great friends.)
This recipe is a convergence of a few different ideas that I had, turning into this: Halved capsicums, with a halved tomato tucked inside each half. Once roasted, fill a further time with scorched, crisp cauliflower pieces. It doesn't sound like much but I promise you it's brilliant.
While I'm getting confessional, around the same time I also attempted to write a young adult novel about a teen girl who wins a radio competition to meet her favourite girl band who she's obsessed with but she has to shave her hair first. Then her, her mum and her best friend fly to New York and meet the girl band. And make friends with a nightclub singer. (I'd just seen Pretty Woman for the first time, so I called the nightclub The Blue Banana.) Gotta admit, I did think it would make me a Teen Millionaire. (It didn't.)
Roast Capsicum with Roast Tomato and Fried Cauliflower
Two firm red capsicums
Two ripe tomatoes
Five or so cauliflower florets
Rice bran oil
Set your oven to 220 C (450 F) and put a sheet of baking paper on an oven tray.
Halve your capsicums, carefully removing any seeds, membraney stuff and the green stems. Half the tomatoes, slicing out the green bit. You also want to slice out the dividing wall of flesh - no need to worry about the seeds, all good if they're in or out - but you want to make sure there's a bit of a cavity for the cauliflower later.
Sit a halved tomato inside each capsicum half, so they fit/spoon together. Over each, sprinkle about a teaspoon of oil and a pinch of brown sugar. Scatter over a little salt and lightly dust with cinnamon, then roast for 30 minutes or until softened, wrinkly-skinned, and slightly scorched.
While it's roasting, finely slice up your cauliflower florets into small pieces. Heat up a couple of tablespoons of oil in a pan and throw in the florets, stirring a bit but allowing to sit as well so it browns thoroughly. Remove the tray from the oven, roughly fill each tomato cavity with cauliflower and throw over some thyme leaves. Serve, with rice or pasta or bread or anything you like.
They're flipping delicious (of course they are, or I wouldn't be telling you about them.) Something in the sweet, smoky red vegetables and the nutty, crunchy cauliflower with the rich thyme leaves makes it feel like you're eating so much more than a few vegetables sitting awkwardly on top of each other. Anyway, they only sit awkwardly at first. Give the tomatoes and capsicums some time under the oven's heat and they start nestling and burrowing into each other like sleepily benign cats, leaving plenty of space to add the cauliflower. Add anything you like to this - feta, coriander seeds, sesame oil - but I like it clean and plain and simple.
This afternoon I fly up home for Christmas with my family. I'll be a bit sad not to be hanging out with Tim over this time but I can't wait to see whanau, to sleep, to eat, to hang out with the cats, to listen to our old Christmas cassettes and CDs, and to generally be thankful for the good things in life. What else can you do?
Witness the swiftness: this blog post is nearly finished already, while normally at this point I'd still be describing at length the emotions I feel when I eat cauliflower. Also: you may have noticed that the blog is looking slightly different, I had a tutu round and managed to score much bigger photos and a better font already for my header image. Am amazed I have any readers at all, considering how long my usual blog posts are and, upon reflection, how gross the font was on my previous header image. Give yourself a pat on the back for your perseverance!
Title via: It Won't Be Long Now, sung by the amazing Karen Olivo from the (presumably - I've never actually seen it) also amazing musical In The Heights, from the genius mind of mondo-babe Lin-Manuel Miranda.
I bought Ria Hall's EP this morning and have already listened to it many, many times. Best of Me is still my favourite song off it but I Am A Child struck me as particularly beautiful, all contemplative and dreamy but slowly building in momentum.
Pieces of a Man is one of my most-loved Gil Scott-Heron records, and while I don't have a favourite track off it, When You Are Who You Are i songs that always makes me happy.
Next time: You know what, I reckon I can get another quick blog post in before the big day itself. I'm thinking last minute Christmas food gift ideas and several cat photos (well, that's what I do when I'm at home - chase round after the cats with my camera.)