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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, February 26, 2024

Confessions of a Cooking Fanatic: Starting Sohla’s ‘Start Here’

Confessions of a Cooking Fanatic

The thing I will grieve the most about leaving Boston is that I will not have access to the network of events and intellectuals that Boston ushers in. Spending a weekend at MIT’s iQuHACK? Attending Hilary Hahn’s performance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra? Listening to Sohla El-Waylly’s book conversation at the Harvard Book Store?

Last November, I purchased my first cookbook for myself (a dangerous precedent). As shared in many of her videos with New York Times Cooking, El-Waylly’s goal is to build intuition in the kitchen, and her debut book, “Start Here: Instructions for Becoming a Better Cook,” walks you through developing your own tastes. The cookbook proved itself invaluable with pictures of the step-by-step instructions. Last night’s adventure: a double batch of coconut cauliflower korma.

Now, I confess that I do not shop for recipes in a way that is true to the chef’s intentions (we are attempting to stick to a budget). This usually means skipping some nuts, seeds and spices in a recipe, or ingredients that I know I will not use in another recipe before they go bad. And as I’ve developed my cooking intuition, I am more confident leaving out certain ingredients and knowing that the final dish will be okay.

Now, I’ve been building my house’s spice collection for the past two years, and am looking for every opportunity to reap the benefits. If you are still assembling your spice cabinet, consider using two of the three spices. This is also a vegan meal, so what you’re not spending on meat or dairy, consider spending on spices that will last you many meals. Here’s my version of Sohla El-Waylly’s coconut cauliflower korma:

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion
  • 2 inches of ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup of neutral oil
  • 1 medium cauliflower (quartered)
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 3 Thai green or serrano chilis (though we used jalapeños)
  • 8 pitted prunes

Optional ingredients:

  • ¼ cup of almonds
  • Cinnamon stick (or ground cinnamon)
  • 3 green cardamom pods (or ground cardamom)
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  1. Cut half of the onion into thin slices. “Frizzle” the slices (fry to somewhere between crispy and caramelized) for about 12 minutes in a medium pot. Remove onions to a plate, leaving behind the oil.
  2. Simultaneously, make a garlic, ginger and onion puree with the other half of the onion. Grating the ginger and garlic and finely dicing the onion also works.
  3. Optional: toast the slivered almonds in the pot, about three to five minutes, and remove to a separate plate.
  4. Salt the sides of the cauliflower and sear in the pot. After five to seven minutes, flip and sear the other side of the wedge. Transfer to a plate.
  5. Add the onion puree to the pot with the spices. Stir frequently while the mixture caramelizes. After five to eight minutes, add the coconut milk, half a can of water, the chilis and the prunes. Let this come to a simmer before returning the wedged cauliflower to the pot.
  6. Let this cook, partially covered for 20–30 minutes. Serve with steamed rice.