Remember the Naked Chef?
You know, the guy with the cool hair, very energetic, talks fast, cooks even faster, Jamie Oliver? About 10 years ago when he became famous, he was referred to as the Naked Chef. These days he is simply Jamie. I did not understand what the nakedness was all about back then. I tried out as I looked and cooked some of his recipes. They were all good but after a while I thought they were too simple, too minimalistic. Not worth spending my money on his cookbooks because in those days I believed that only cookbooks and recipes with a long list of ingredient that took a long time to make were worthy. After a while I stopped using Jamie’s recipes. Only years after, under the influence of Ina Garten and cooking as a personal chef for nearly 4 years in other peoples’ kitchens (The food had to be fresh, quick and easy to prepare), I finally learned that cooking good food doesn’t necessarily mean using long and elaborated recipes. It’s not about killing myself in the kitchen in order to make good food, to make other people happy.
As I changed my approach to cooking, I realized that I prefer to use good ingredients and only do little to them in the process of cooking. I understood that when I shopped for ingredients of lesser quality (sometimes, but not necessarily, cheaper) I needed to work harder to make them taste good. But still, it was not nearly as good as when I used higher quality products (sometimes, but not necessarily, cheaper/the same price/cost more) which did not require any messing around with. This is how I’ve been cooking in the past 7 years. Naked.
Well, not literally.
I invest more of my attention and time to read the labels on products at the grocery stores so I can make better choices when I buy food. I’m not saying I do a 100 % perfect job but I do my best to buy ingredients that are fresh, local, organic, sustainable, and seasonal. It’s good for me and it’s better for the environment. Another approach to the nakedness “thing” is when I read the labels, I look for those products with the shortest list of ingredients where I know what all/most of the words mean! Then, back in the kitchen, I don’t have to work so hard to make those products taste good because they are already beautiful and their flavor is as it should be.
About two weeks ago, friends invited us for dinner. The guy cooked some recipes from this cookbook,
I love cookbooks, so I had to take a peak.
The book was beautiful and had many recipes I immediately wanted to try out. The photos of the natural, unfussy food were amazing too.
The food our friend cooked was simply delicious.
So, of course, I had to buy the book.
And cook from it.
As for reading recipes… Jamie’s recipes are of the few that I actually enjoy reading. (Most recipes are written in such a boring and technical way…) It feels like he is really talking to me. I can feel myself getting energized just by the way he writes them, as if he is standing in my kitchen only a few feet away (I wish), and the photos only add that extra kick in the butt to make me jump off my seat and get cooking.
But these days, there are other ways in which I find Jamie Oliver inspiring. He is not only a very talented chef, business man, and fun to watch and read, but his passion about food exceeds way beyond his home and restaurants’ kitchens. He is passionate about teaching people about good food, how to raise it, and how to cook it.
You know that bad food is making people terribly sick.
Oliver is doing a very important job in schools and cafeterias in England, and wanting to do so in the US as well, teaching parents, children, schools, and the lunch ladies about real, healthy, good food. I don’t want to go into much detail because in this video below Oliver does a great job.
|Also, make sure to read “Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children” by Ann Cooper. The book has eye opening information about the food kids eat in the schools’ cafeterias and offers healthy recipes. Ann Cooper works with the legendary Alice Waters.|
Now watch this:
For the original whole baked cauliflower with tomato and olive sauce, click here. I made a few changes, here’s my version:
Whole cauliflower in marinara sauce and olives
Adapted from “Cook with Jamie” cookbook
1/2 red onion, peeled and sliced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 large head of cauliflower, outer green leaves discarded
a handful of black olives, pitted
1 anchovy fillet, sliced
a handful of fresh parsley
20 oz. tomato/marinara sauce, or canned chopped plum tomatoes
a splash of red wine vinegar
ground black pepper
First, find a pot in which the whole cauliflower will fit, leaving an inch around.
To the pot, add the onion, garlic, and a drizzle of oil and slowly sauté for about 10 minutes over medium heat until softened. Add the olives, anchovy and parsley and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the tomato sauce and about 1/2 cup of water, and a splash of red wine vinegar, season with salt and pepper. Stir everything together and bring to the boil.
Gently add the cauliflower to the sauce. Half of the cauliflower should be in the sauce, half above it. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, put the lid on and let it cook on low heat for about 30-40 minutes.
NOTE: I think an even easier and faster way to do this is to cut the cauliflower into florets and cooked it totally immersed in the tomato sauce.