So for the first time in my life, I finally underwent that great American rite of passage: I spent a Saturday at an IKEA.
IKEA, as I’m sure you know, is a giant Swedish furniture company that used to be associated with throwaway dorm decor and recent graduates’ first apartment furnishings. It has somehow evolved into a place where full-blown adults buy Serious Furniture for their actual family homes, despite everything having comical Swedish names like the Flügenviška couch and the Tørmundbôrgæŋ chair. (OK, I made those up, but they’re no weirder than the actual names of things you can buy there.)
Generally speaking, you make a day of it, and start with the cafeteria, where you can have, among other selections, the famous IKEA Swedish meatballs. They are, and I mean this in the nicest way possibly, perfectly OK. They’re the kind of perfectly OK that McDonald’s or Olive Garden are, sort of nursery food for adults.
IKEA, including the cafeteria, feels as if located just to the side of the space-time dimension we inhabit, in a place that is a little strange but benign. You wander through the upstairs and its many rooms and then take the elevator downstairs and wander through the many areas dedicated to accessories to the room schemes upstairs. (Sofas and beds = upstairs; lamps and rugs = downstairs, if that helps), then go through and pick out your furniture selection, flat-packed, in the warehouse near the end.
Anyway, I didn’t go for the furniture, because at present I don’t need anything else and haven’t got anyplace to put it; though I did buy a bunch of food in the grocery area that I arguably didn’t need, including a “Vintersaga” soda, a “hops and malt flavored beverage” that tasted like a very minimalist version of Coca-Cola, which is to say it was alright.
I mostly went for the experience of it. Everything is minimalist, organized and tidy, just the way you imagine Scandinavian homes look. Eventually you begin to imagine a life lived in these theoretical rooms, one in which you are a very affluent Swedish architect in wire-rimmed glasses and a neat haircut, wearing warm flannels in muted colors, gazing serenely out the window of your minimalist, birchwood-floored house, where snow falls gently and large herd animals frolic, as your spouse prepares a healthy (and very Swedish) dinner while your children play quietly with tasteful educational toys.
This is the fantasy that comes over you, regardless of trivialities like your gender, sexual orientation, current marital status, age, occupation, bank account or social class. The lingonberry-tinted dreams that haunt you like a polite ghost are very good at getting into your wallet, because the Vikings achieved world conquest the minute they figured out stealing gold and lighting stuff on fire might be fun, but enticing people with lower-cost furniture they have to put together themselves was much more lucrative.
At any rate, the Superbowl is coming (remember that thing?) and you’re probably going to show up at a party with something, and everyone is making wings or bean dip, and what will you bring that’s different but still tasty (and possibly within the parameters of that New Year’s resolution you’re grimly determined to keep?)
This week’s recipe is a cauliflower dip, and let me assure you, it is, in fact, very good and also fairly easy to make. It’s good enough to fall into your regular roster of party stuff, and as a bonus, it’s vegan. Your Superbowl host’s veg-only cousin who loves football but long ago resigned himself to pretzels amidst the meat-intensive buffet will be pleased as punch and might even offer to help you put some furniture together.
I’m presenting the recipe mostly as given on the website Cookin’ Canuck, with other options for nuts (because hazelnuts can be scarce beyond the holidays) and telling you the following: I skipped the parsley, and felt lazy, so I used a bag of cauliflower florets, which is only 3 cups’ worth but still came out great.
If you haven’t been able to locate any shallots (also something that seems to ebb and flow in local produce sections, that I’ve noticed) I would say 2-3 individual, unpeeled garlic cloves or half a small sweet onion, sliced into wedges, will probably work OK here. And while a squeeze of lemon juice wasn’t mentioned anywhere, I tend to suspect it would be nice, if you like the idea.
Beyond that, enjoy! It’s also pretty thick — you’ll need a sturdy chip, and it might go better as a spread on toasted baguette slices — but that just means you’re less likely to drip and leave stains all over the new Flügenviška.
Roasted Cauliflower Dip
(adapted slightly from cookincanuck.com)
5 cups cauliflower florets
1 large shallot, peeled and cut into thin wedges through the root
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
¼ plus teaspoon salt, divided
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
3 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts (or almonds, pignoli or walnuts)
1 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper and add hazelnuts. Place in cold oven and preheat to 425˚F. When oven reaches about 300˚F (keep an eye and your nose on it), remove hazelnuts and tip onto a plate to cool.
Trim dry, gray-brown ends off cauliflower stems and slice florets into quarters. Add sliced shallot. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt, the paprika, rosemary and pepper. Toss to coat and spread on cookie sheet.
Roast until the cauliflower is tender and charred in the thinner/smaller bits, about 20-25 minutes; turn halfway through. (I honestly can’t tell if “turn” means to turn the cookie sheet back to front or to turn the cauliflower quarters over, so I just turned the pan around at the 15-minute mark and stirred everything around a little and it came out fine.)
Meanwhile, try to rub as much skin off the hazelnuts (if that’s what you end up using) as you can; you probably won’t get all of it, but that’s fine. It helps if you can chop them up a bit at this point.
Let the vegetables cool slightly when they come out. Cut the roots off of the shallot pieces and transfer all your veggies to a food processor with the hazelnut pieces and the rest of the salt. Puree the mixture until almost smooth. With the food processor running, drizzle in the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
Transfer the dip to a serving bowl, garnish with a drizzle of olive oil (if desired) and parsley. Serve with raw vegetables, pita triangles or tortilla chips.