It could have been otherwise: Smoky Cauliflower Frittata

I'm in the middle of a spinning vortex of business planning (I'm legal!), fruit sourcing, fall and winter garden sowing, preserving summer's excess, and trying to enjoy the bountiful fruits of our labor with garden curated meals as often as possible.  As much as I'm stressed, it feels really good not to have a case of the Monday's come Sunday night.  Instead, I'm excited for the week ahead and what I will learn, cook, harvest, and sow.  And in times of heaviness, of which we've had plenty this year, I appreciate the lightness --the laughter, the humor, gaggling chickens, and the "I still can't believe we live on an island and raise ducks" and "Am I really starting a jam business?!" Exciting, yes, but do I often throw myself into tizzy of radical doubt still?  Absolutely.  I remember writing a long and winding email to an old literature college professor back in my early twenties, asking for advice on my career path.  I had been working my tail off in an investment bank for two years, gaining experience, earning good money, and learning unfathomable amounts about obscure topics like sovereign bond finance and Argentine inflation statistics.  I was miserable and had hatched a plan to apply to graduate school to study economic sociology - a compromise between my genuine interest in economy and my guilty banker conscience.  I had applied to several schools and was well on my way to making the change - and then, I had a severe case of second guessing myself and decided that I must instead, really want to study literature -- and teach it.

As that professor so perfectly described, "you were well on your way to a career in economics -- you obviously have the talent and skills as well as sense of social justice to ask questions in the context of sociology.  You then seemed to have cast everything into a state of radical doubt and decided that what you would most desire professionally is an academic and scholarly life".   Yes, why yes I did.  I cast everything into a state of radical doubt and then I ended up taking a different path altogether.  After quitting my job and circling the globe with my best pal Lila, I realized that I wasn't ready to commit to either notion of myself - as literature professor, or economic scholar.  I signed up for a Masters at Columbia in Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences, honestly not because I thought I could use it, or even that I found it particularly exciting (I did not), but because it felt like a good way to contextualize what I had learned the few years prior, and it would let me test run graduate school.  A very expensive test run.

Then, as quickly as I had left finance, I found myself back in it, determined to pay off my grad school debt.  And I kept going, moving from one bank to another, gaining experience and padding my savings.  I continued to struggle with my search for meaning when life allowed me a bit of sacred downtime.  I yearned for home, for evergreens, big cloudy skies, and rugged coastlines.  I missed my family 3000 miles away.  I agonized over a relationship I was in that was making it very difficult for me to envision leaving New York.  I wondered about family, my relationship, and career, and how it would all work out.  I wondered if I had made the right choice all those years ago.

Smoky Frittata

Smoky Frittata

It wasn't the path I planned to follow -- it wasn't meaningful, or soul enriching, or change-making like I had envisioned the path I would take.  It was not fulfilling, as I had so desperately craved when I wrote that letter.  I still struggle with this.  But then I think about my professor's reply, a decade old now, buried in a journal nearby.  She talked about Sartre and the inability to know if a decision is "the right one".  But then she said, " maybe fulfillment will come from an altogether different and surprising direction.  Maybe you will realize only decades later that your life has indeed been meaningful in the process of living it."

That's when I chuckle and smile to myself and ramble outside to feed the chickens.  I couldn't have planned this path, with its hairpin turns, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Whatever you choose, it "could have been otherwise," as the poet says.  I choose to share a recipe for a pan fried cauliflower frittata, since I only had one not-so-beautiful cauliflower to harvest this summer due to what appears to be club root in my soil.  It needed to be celebrated, but frankly needed some window dressing.  I could have chosen haricot vert - which is looking slender and delectable - or a zucchini recipe for the gourds that are overtaking my garden - and perhaps I will next week.  For now, pull out your cast iron, grab some farm eggs, and cook.  The rest will figure itself out.

Smoky Cauliflower Frittata

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's awesome vegetarian cookbook Plenty


Serves 4-6

1 small cauliflower, cut into medium florets

6 eggs

4 tablespoons greek yogurt (Ottolenghi uses creme fraiche - I use what's handy)

2 tablespoons dry mustard (I used Colemans, you could also substitute dijon)

2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika

*3 tablespoons smoked spring onions, finely chopped

5 ounces mozzarella, grated (not the fresh kind)

2 ounces mature cheddar, grated

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

*"smoked spring onions"?  Yeah, not a common pantry staple.  A girlfriend and I smoked and pickled some spring onions last year and they're pretty insane.  I use them for anything that needs a hint of smokiness - like this frittata, which originally called for smoked scamorza - a type of smoked mozzarella.  If you have smoked mozzarella, use that in lieu of the regular mozzarella and sub green onions or chives for the smoked onion.  If you don't have either, who cares? It'll still taste great, just not as smoky.  Maybe up the smoked paprika an extra teaspoon for a little extra oomph.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Simmer the cauliflower in a pot of boiling water for 4-5 minutes until al dente.  Drain and dry.

Break the eggs into a medium size bowl, and whisk in the yogurt, mustard, paprika, and onions.  Stir in three-quarters of the cheeses and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a medium sized cast iron pan.  Fry the cauliflower for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown on one side.  Pour over the egg mixture and use a fork to redistribute the cauliflower.  Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Scatter the rest of the cheese on top and finish in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes.  Cut into wedges and eat on its own, or with a dollop of greek yogurt and a green salad.