February 16, 2015

Blog the Twenty-seventh: On Cauliflower 'n Pasta Two Ways.

Sweet Pasta Soup
or Savoury Pasta Sauté

Cauliflower is understandably unpopular.  It makes a bad first impression with its raw, vaguely acned, perhaps fungal visage [and that new green spiked hybrid looks all Martian, doesn’t it?]; its whiteness is more off-white than creamy; its neutral aroma, off-putting for its very neutrality. 

And yet, drawn out, it’s like that phlegmatic friend of yours, whose features are content to remain immobile most of the time, and who is slow to speak and speaks few words, but with a mildness that grows pleasant as it becomes familiar, and which in time is belied by a sharpness of wit and acuteness of perception that is all the more winning, once recognized, for the dullness of its delivery.  One comes to savor such dullness.

I have a subset of Gentile friends who like to say, “I don’t like vegetables, but I like your vegetables.”  One is tempted magnanimously to accept such praise as one’s due, but truth is that the praise, if due, is not due me but rather my people.  In fact, it may be that it’s not due so much to our working magic with vegetables as Gentiles wreaking havoc with them.  The traditional Gentile boils cauliflower down just short of pablum, and then smothers it with butter, cream, or cheese, or else some eclectic concoction of overbearing spices and/or arbitrary toss-ins.  The reformed Gentile is worse yet, erring by defect rather than excess, intent on convincing the rest of us that cauliflower tastes great raw—which is not true, unless you’re a bug, a rodent, or a vegan—with the ulterior motive of getting us to eat healthy rather than happy, on the strength of some rat’s having lived longer or run his wheel faster when fed proportionately ridiculous portions of it for six months.  All this does cauliflower wrong. 

You have to understand cauliflower’s temperament to cook it right.  Its flavor runs deep.  It satisfies the way milk’s does, with a comforting depth of homogeneity.  It quiets you down with contentment.  You must embrace it as you would an oversized uncle.  A new way of preparing cauliflower has emerged among the vegans that seems to recognize this avuncular substantiality, namely roasted cauliflower “steak” (now there’s sublimation for you).  You cut a thick slab (the “steak,” as it were), oil it up, season it, and then roast it in the oven till browned.  It looks good, but I’ve never tasted it.  I’m suspicious, knowing that one way to render vegetables palatable to some eaters is to char them, because they like anything charred, just because they like char.  Such a victory over vegetable aversion strikes me as Pyrrhic, although I’m willing to look the other way if it means an easy-to-make alternative "steak" for those pesky vegans.

But if you want your cauliflower to be not merely acceptable but delicious, and delicious not merely cosmetically but natively, then try it with pasta.  In fact, cauliflower provides a beautiful example of two styles of pasta with vegetables my people make—what I’ll call pasta soup and pasta sauté

A pasta soup is a minestra, or vegetable soup (of the chunky sort), with pasta mixed in, the minestra of all minestre being the celebrated minestrone, which uses a panoply of vegetables.  Such pasta soups are steamy with broth, sweet from a base of onion sautéed golden, rosy from bits of tomato, redolent with herbs, amiable, comforting.  A pasta sauté, in contrast, is slick with the olive oil in which it is sautéed, savory with garlic in abundance, spicy with red peppers, anchovy, olives, or capers, glistening, alluring, arousing.  The one is the girl you want to date, the other the girl you want to marry.  [If I don’t say which is which, I can’t justly get in trouble, can I?]

The fact that cauliflower takes well to either style of seasoning testifies to its amiability.  It can partner with either the sanguine or the choleric, supporting either in the role of straight-man or wing-man, biding its time until you are taken unawares with its own unprepossessing charm.  (And he’s the guy the girl always marries in the end, isn’t he?)  This versatility of cauliflower in turn testifies to a strange phenomenon of my people’s food, which is that the very same style of seasoning reiterated on different vegetables yields variety rather than monotony.  The two pasta styles I am about to describe to you can be done with any number of other vegetables, but with the effect in each case of bringing out the given vegetable’s flavor, rather than merely replaying the familiar flavor of a favorite seasoning.  There is something so simple about the seasoning, that it enhances rather than decorates, the way deftly applied make-up diaphanously magnifies natural color rather than paints on artificial color.

Indeed, the way that traditional Italian red-sauce restaurants ruin Italian food is by thickly layering over-seasoned tomato sauce (and melted mozzarella) over everything, for a satisfaction as familiar as it is monotonous.  The contemporary Italophilic foody makes the same mistake by pouring “E.V.O.O.” all over everything.  My people want translucency in their seasonings.  Sauces and seasoning should accentuate the flavors of what they’re added to, not overlay flavors of their own; they should varnish, not paint; offset, not occlude.  

Right seasoning is the mean between too much and too little.  When you achieve the right amount, it declares itself to your taste—it shines cauliflower!  "It"?  What's the "it"?  Is it the cauliflower?  The cauliflower shines cauliflower?"  —"It" is not itself "a" cauliflower, but the shining itself of cauliflower:  it is cauliflower-shining.  "It's the ellipsis of an article, I see that, but what is there in that?"  —Exactly:  nothing!  In the there there is no-cauliflower, only a dumb subject anticipating, the there/where cauliflower shines.   I could say it better in German, if only I spoke German.  But much better than saying it is tasting it, because bottom line is that you only know about cauliflower-shining from tasting "a" cauliflower cooked right.  So maybe we should get back to cooking one right."

My people’s styles of seasoning get differentiation from variation.  The styles are not only simple but subtle, so that small variations have exponential effect—garlic whole, crushed, sliced, or chopped; yellow onion, Spanish, or spring; extra virgin olive or regular, with or without butter; a lot of tomato, a little tomato, or no tomato; vinegar or lemon, wine vinegar, white, red, or balsamic—every such difference in seasoning makes a difference to the dish, every variation a distinction.  Where the simplicity is subtle, the balance is delicate:  a little too little, and you’re insipid; a little too much, and you’re crass; just right, and your vegetable is happy, you’re happy, and your eaters are happy.  Everybody’s happy. 

By the way, there’s a near irresistible temptation to overdo it when you try to make your pasta your dinner rather than only a first dish.  It won’t seem like enough dinner because neither God nor Nature wills it to be, but you will otherwise, so you figure you’ll beef it up with some protein and superadd some pizzazz.  Next thing you know you’re indiscriminately tossing handy meat scraps into your pasta, and sundry spices from the rack, like some demiurge with culinary A.D.D.  You may well at first feel buoyed by such spontaneous combustion, and fancy that a big bowl of it will make you happy, but that’s not nature’s way. Nature delights in variety and distinction.  You can fill your belly with your amalgam, but you can’t sate your appetite with it, because your nature won’t be fooled, and neither will your soul—which is why you keep eating it in vain, until stuffed yet not sated, and then enter dessert.  You don’t have the power to make a fool of your nature, Gentle Reader, only of yourself.  So why not instead eat right and be happy?

Cauliflower Pasta Soup

Try cauliflower in a pasta soup for a first dish, steamy, sweet, and bathing in broth.  This is a classic style of the food of my mother’s people, so homey and simple that I’ve never seen it in a restaurant—maybe because it’s too light to posture as a main course—and all the more delightful to Gentile friends for that. 

As usual, I begin by cutting up my vegetable and putting it to soak in cold water while I work up its salsina for it—its “little sauce.”  At the store I’m sure to choose a plump, white, fresh cauliflower, free of any blemishes of age or misfortune.  At home I turn it over, tear off the radial stems, and cut out the core; then I start pulling off the larger florets, until I get to the smaller ones that cluster amorphously, which I cut at the base to tear apart into pieces of comparable size to the larger florets. One and all go into a bowl of cold water for a reviving soak.

Now I need a very large onion or equivalent—cauliflower has a sweet tooth, lacking sugar of its own—maybe a nice big Vidalia or Spanish onion, or else a couple of smaller yellow onions.  I like to cut my onion in half vertically with the skin still on, cut away the root at bottom and the pompidou at top, and then easily pull away the peel.  I put the onion flat side down on the cutting board, cut it horizontally once, twice, or thrice, depending on size, and then slice it vertically as thin as is safe for my curled fingers tucked in and away from my chef’s knife sliding downward and forward.

Into my big sauce-pot I pour out a pool of olive oil, probably regular olive oil, although perhaps half regular and half extra virgin (depending on my confidence in the tastiness of my regular olive oil and/or my cauliflower).  Then in goes the mound of onions, which I shower with salt.  On goes the heat to medium-high, along with the sauce-pot cover, for an initial steaming.  When I hear sizzling, I uncover and toss the onions well in the oil, then re-cover for a few more minutes of steaming.   

When the onions are well sweated, I remove the cover and turn down the heat to medium, and let them dry off and sizzle, until they transition from pale and herbaceous to golden and dulcid, which is well short of browned.  During the sauteing, although it is not traditional to do it, I might slip in one very small garlic clove sliced into very fine slices, to disappear into the mound of onion before anyone knows it’s there.  I might also toss in hot red pepper, either whole to be fished out later, or chopped to pervade and permeate, if I think my Gentiles can handle the truth.

In any case, at the first sign of any gilding of any of the onion, I add in some chopped tomato, with its own ration of salt, and mix it in with the onion.  Although it’s not only not traditional to do it but even ridiculous, I do seed my tomatoes first, by slicing them in half horizontally on a plate, and gently squeezing the seeds out of each half along with rivulets of juice (perhaps to be strained back into the sauce-pot later).  I want only a few tomatoes—three, four, or five, depending on size—because they are there only to color the cauliflower broth.  To be sure, the tomatoes you use must be delicious, whole plum tomatoes imported from Italy—never not imported, never not whole—but their mild acidity and redolent aroma are there only to back up the cauliflower from behind, like a fruity Cyrano de Bergerac.  I want my cauliflower soup to end up orange, not red; and to taste of cauliflower, not tomato.

Balance in this dish is everything:  underdo it, and it will be bland; overdo it, and it will be banal.  The cauliflower’s the thing.  If it is upstaged, then all you have is tomato soup with cauliflower floaters, and tomato soup is such a bad idea, cauliflower floaters ain’t gonna help it.

As the chopped tomato cooks down for a few minutes into an oniony salsina, I might add in another aromatic—a couple of fresh basil leaves in summer, if I have them; or a pinch of marjoram in winter, if I feel frisky.  I would not use any herb of stronger scent than basil, nor any dried spice of stronger savor than marjoram.  Moreover, I consider these two to be seasonal alternatives rather than culinary equivalents, the former lightening the dish with an aura, the other deepening it with an underlayer. 

Fresh herbs and their dried counterparts are different in species.  This may not make scientific sense, but it makes culinary sense, and culinary sense has no obligation to offer demonstration, for it deals with primary simples known immediately and hence self-evidently to taste.  Fresh herbs are tasted by the nose, through which they rise to fill the head, whereas dried herbs attack the tongue, where they pinch, poke, or tickle their way down the throat.  The one arouses above with its perfume, the other stimulates below with its pungency. 

My mother’s people use very few kinds of herb or spice, and usually sparingly.  My mother only uses fresh basil and parsley; I’ll also use fresh rosemary and thyme.  My mother only uses oregano, and not much of it; I’ll also use dried marjoram or dried basil for a sort of oregano-light, and dried thyme or sage for poultry or fish.  My mother will use black pepper, now and again; I use it everywhere, and nutmeg together with it only now and again.  I usually have anchovy and bay leaf at hand, my mother never does.  That’s it.  There’s a rack of only six spice jars on my counter; my mother has only half as many in her cabinet.  On my counter there are also two bottles of olive oil, regular and extra virgin; and four bottles of vinegar, both red and white wine vinegar and balsamic both dark and white.  Together with garlic or onion, that’s all the seasoning I use; but as with the seven notes of a musical scale, the variations are infinite.

To see that, stick your nose into that pot and take in a big whiff of that salsina, and remember it, to see how it transforms after the cauliflower has cooked in it with water to create its own cauliflower broth.  Drain your cauliflower and add it into the pot with a shower of salt, and flip it over and over from below with a spatula, until it is besmirched with salsina.  Then cover the pot again for five minutes of sweating, with another flipping in between, until the cauliflower looks imbued with the salsina

Now it’s time to add liquid for cooking.  Traditionally, one adds only water (which it’s a good idea to have boiling), so the vegans have the ancestors on their side this time.  One could instead add chicken broth, but I find it overwhelms the cauliflower, and you end up with cauliflower floaters in chicken soup, which is better than cauliflower floaters in tomato soup, but not distinctive.  I find the golden mean is half boiling water and half chicken broth, enough just to cover the cauliflower.  Proportion of quantity is as important here as balance of flavors.  To get that cauliflower to yield a cauliflower broth, and a tastey one, you must have the right amount of liquid as well as of seasoning.  Too much liquid will make for a watery broth, but you do need enough broth.  Pasta soup is eaten from a soup bowl with a soup spoon, and every spoonful of cauliflower with pasta should arrive in a puddle of delectable cauliflower broth.  Now you always have the back-up of your pasta boiling water, if you come up dry; but you have to be careful, because too much of that will dilute your cauliflower broth.  But needing some pasta water is better than coming up with an excess of dilute cauliflower broth that can be boiled down briskly only at the price of overcooking your cauliflower.  If you find yourself in this bind, the thing to do is make sure your pasta is quite al dente, to supply the lost mettle. 

But try to get it right in the first place, which means tasting as you go.  You also mash as you go, to break the cauliflower down into spoonful bits.  Traditionally, you do this with your baletta or wooden spoon, but I’ll confess to yet another ridiculous habit of using a potato masher for one general mashing, once the cauliflower has softened sufficiently.  It’s best not to overdo it—you want a distinctly chunky cauliflower soup—but if you do, again, just make sure your pasta is distinctly al dente to make up the difference.

Your pasta needs to be not only spoon-sized, but small enough to share the spoon with some cauliflower cum broth, so you want only enough cooked pasta to equal the cauliflower in bulk, not more.  The traditional thing, which is both best and tedious, is to break down spaghetti into inch-lengths, the pile of which you then crush in a kitchen towel, for some variety of length.  There are of course also little pasta shapes for sale, like little shells, into which cauliflower bits and broth abscond, which is a very nice effect; or little orechiette that play the part of miniscule serving platters; ditallini are fine, but somehow boring.

In any case, boil your spoon-sized pasta until well short even of al dente, to finish cooking with the cauliflower in its broth.  Do not drain the pasta.  Rather, transfer it with a sieve or slotted spoon, making no effort to drain off any pasta water.  In fact, once all the pasta is transferred, if the cauliflower pasta doesn’t look soupy enough, add more pasta water to cover.  You might even finish cooking it covered, so as not to lose liquid, once you think you have the proportion right.  Be very careful not to overcook the pasta, cooking it to very distinctly al dente, to allow for further softening while it cools down a bit before serving.

As ever, salt is all important, and you must taste and correct for salt both before and after adding the pasta.  How much salt?  Enough to make the cauliflower taste cauliflowery.  How do you know?  You don't, your tongue does.  (Not really, but you know what I mean, so why ask questions you know I won’t answer?)  In my opinion, it’s a better mistake to put too much salt than too little, because although it’s true you can always add salt but you can’t take excess away, you also can’t trust Gentiles to know to add salt if you put too little.  A little too much salt will likely taste tasty to them, even if for the wrong reason, but at least it will be tasty, which is better than not. 

Of course, there’s always grated cheese to be added, which is always salty Pecorino Romano.  You’ll certainly need some at table, and you’ll also need to badger those Gentiles to keep that cheese moving around the table; but you can also sneak a little palmful into the cooking pot after turning the heat off and before serving, because, again, Gentiles can’t be trusted to know they like grated cheese.  However, even more traditional than adding grated cheese to the cooking pot is to add remnant crumbs leftover from the grating of cheese.  This no doubt began as a practice of frugality, so as not waste any precious cheese in the days of penury (up north they’ll even cook with Parmigian’ rind to extract every last bit of flavor), but in these more prodigal times one could artfully use a fork to simulate the cheese crumbs of penury.

As I’ve complained oft before, Gentiles can’t be trusted to know how much pasta they want for a first dish either, and tailoring portions to their preconceptions involves much fuss and bother, so I’ve found the best thing to do is present a big serving bowl of it to be passed around for each to serve themselves, leaving the bowl ready to hand for second servings, which they would not unreasonably be unlikely to ask for, if you had served them an individualized portion the size of which they made a big fuss about.

Cauliflower Pasta Sauté

Okay, I’m sick of it:  even some of my most loyal followers complain that my posts are too long.  What does that mean?  If you need a break, take a break!  This is a good time.  Come back later, if you like, or tomorrow, or never, for all I care.  [It’s not as if I’ve gotten any donations to keep doing this, you know.]  My posts are as long as they need to be.  How long is that?  Well, there’s the thing itself; and then there’s you; and then there’s the ratio of how much you don’t know about it.  I’m not the thing; I’m not you; I’m not the ratio.  I’m just filling in the gap.  The gap, that’s on you, dude. 

My recipe for a cauliflower pasta sauté is originally from Marcella Hazan, but there's no way it comes from where she comes from.  Its style is manifestly southern, and it was an instant favorite with my family, so I hereby claim it as a food of my people by way of repatriation, for if it was not ours first historically speaking, it is manifestly ours in the order of Nature and mind of God, whence I claim it as our eternal birthright, as the West was claimed not by way of historical precedence, but by manifest destiny.  Besides, I've tweaked and perfected Marcella's recipe as only a native son could, so let  the Parmesan precursor give way ...

Now whereas the seasoning of my mother's pasta soup wants to harmonize with the delicacy of cauliflower's flavor, the pasta sauté engages its depth mano a mano with the deep savoriness of much garlic, the dense fruitiness of extra virgin olive oil, and the visceral pungency of anchovy [I wouldn't mention the anchovy at table, however, given prejudices as invincible as they are intolerable], and it's delightful to see cauliflower not only hold its own in such company but even manifest its mettle in the melee.

I break up the cauliflower as before, although this time into extra large floret-chunks, and put them to soak in cold water.  I put a big pot of water to boil with a palmful of salt, to be shared later in turn by first cauliflower then pasta.  Meanwhile, I chop much garlic fine—as much as a clove per eater.  For a large cauliflower that will feed six, as many as 6 medium cloves of garlic (or equivalent), each of which I gently crack with palm & knife-handle against the cutting board, to loosen the skin; then cut the ends off, pressing the peel down with the knife while pulling the clove away from the peel; then halving each clove, I slice each half flat-side down lengthwise a few times, then crosswise thinly.  In the end, there's a nice size mound of finely chopped garlic bits to be scraped into the very generous pool of extra virgin olive oil I've poured out into my large frying or braising pan–large enough to later sauté both cauliflower and pasta together in, with oil enough for both as well.

Once the water comes to a rolling boil, I add in the cauliflower, and also put the pan of olive oil over medium heat. I want the garlic to sizzle golden, not brown, so I flip frequently, and adjust the heat as needed.  Meanwhile, I chop a couple of anchovy fillets very fine.  I only ever buy anchovy fillets in clear jars, under olive oil, so that I can see that they are lovely, plump, pink, meaty fillets (although I never make use of the supersaturatedly anchovyed oil they're preserved in). As soon as my garlic is golden and sweet smelling, before any gilding, I take the pan off the heat and scrape in the finely chopped anchovy together with some hot red peppers or pepper flakes (sometimes I instead toss a few into the pot of boiling water, for a milder, more permeating, and less palpable effect). With my spatula I mix and mash the anchovy into the garlic and oil, leveraging the residual heat until it dissipates and the oil quiets down.

In under 10 minutes, the cauliflower should smell good and have cooked to al dente, tender but still firm, and when I see that the moment is imminent, I put the pan of seasoned olive oil back on medium heat to reheat it, flipping the garlic and anchovy to preempt any browning.  As soon as the olive oil begins to sizzle anew, I grab a slotted spoon or sieve to transfer the cauliflower from the boiling water into the pan of seasoned oil; then out comes the potato masher (although a wooden spoon would do) for gently breaking down the big cauliflower florets into a chunky mash. 

Now begins the long imbuing of the cauliflower with the seasoned olive oil.  It will need to dry off before it begins to sizzle in the oil and sauté, so you'll want a steady sizzle, lively but not harried, so as allow the seasonings time to deeply permeate your mash, but without reducing your mash to a mush (but if you do, the mush will still taste good—just make sure your pasta is distinctly al dente).

When you're in the mood to do it, you'll also want to freshly grind lots of black pepper all over the cauliflower mash.  My mother always said either one or the other—red pepper or black, not both—and for that reason I thought it Barbary excess when I saw both used together in Siclian cooking—but then I tried it in secret and liked itso I am ready, contrary to wont, to accept the scientific justification that they affect different parts of the tongue and so have different effects, and ascribe the prohibition of my mother's people to a frugality of penury.

You'll also want to taste for salt, needless to say [I wish], and if that Heideggerian schtick above about cauliflower shining doesn't convince you of the importance of enough salt to draw caufloweriness out of cauliflower, I have no-thing left to say to you.

In sum, you keep sauteing and seasoning until the cauliflower tastes delicious, no?

Then you bring your pot of water back to a boil, and put in enough penne to equal the cauliflower in bulk when cooked, which will no doubt be less than the full pound, counting on a doubling by boiling of the bulk.  Cook the penne to short of al dente—still too firm, so that bits get stuck in your molars—and be sure the water is salty enough that the penne taste tasty, before you use the slotted spoon or sieve to transfer the dripping wet penne into the pan of sizzling cauliflower. 

Then raise the heat to medium-high and flip the pasta over and over with and into the cauliflower, adding more cooking water as necessary to keep everything slick and slippery, but not watery, and when it's shiny to your eye and heady to your nose and tender to your tooth, toss in a goodly amount of fresh Italian parsley, coarsely chopped, as a bright overtone for both eye and nose.  Serve up the cauliflower pasta sauté; hot and fresh, with tangy Pecorino Romano, a black pepper mill, and a little creamer of the cooking water at the table too, in case someone's pasta should need loosening up.

Enjoy the shining


Cauliflower Pasta Soup

* Saute much onion, thinly sliced, until golden, in a pool of regular olive oil, over medium heat.
* Add several pelati (whole peeled tomatoes from Italy), roughly chopped, perhaps seeded, with a sprinkling of salt. Cook the pelati down for five minutes or so into a chunky little sauce.  (You could add basil in summer, or a pinch of dried marjoram in winter, if you have it and feel like it.) 
* Add in your cauliflower broken down into florets, and flip them in the sauce until bespattered with it. Shower with salt, cover, and steam for five minutes or so, with a flip or two in between, until the cauliflower flushes sweaty. 
* Now add boiling water and chicken broth in equal measure, to just cover the cauliflower. Bring the liquid to a simmer, put the cover on the pot ajar, and simmer lively until the cauliflower florets are soft enough to mash into a chunky soup. Finish cooking the cauliflower chunks to quite al dente (very firmly tender), tasting and correcting their broth for salt. (You could add hot red pepper, if you like it hot.) 
* Boil spoon-sized pasta (such as small shells, orecchiete, or spaghetti snapped into inch-lengths) until still well short of al dente; use a small sieve or slotted spoon to transfer the dripping wet pasta from its pot into the cauliflower pot, to finish cooking together with the cauliflower in its broth. Add pasta cooking water as needed, to keep the cauliflower soup soupy.
* Off heat, add Pecorino Romano, grated, crumbled, or both. Serve in pasta bowls with soup spoons, and grated cheese and hot red pepper on the table.


Cauliflower  Pasta Sauté

* Boil big chunks of cauliflower in a big pot of well salted water until still quite al dente (still firmly tender). 
* Meanwhile, in a large frying or braising pan, sauté an abundant mound of chopped garlic in an abundant pool of extra virgin olive oil over mild heat until just golden. Off heat, add in one or two anchovy fillets, chopped very finely, and use a spatula to mash and mix it into the garlic and oil. You could also add hot red pepper, if you like it.
* When the cauliflower is near ready, return the pan of seasoned oil to sizzling over medium heat. Add in the boiled cauliflower and mash it down into a chunky mass. Sprinkle it with salt and an abundant lot of freshly ground black pepper. Then flip the cauliflower mash over and over in the seasoned and sizzling oil, and sauté until delicious, adding more of whatever it asks for as you go.
* Bring the pot of cauliflower water back to a rolling boil and add in penne. Cook to short of al dente, tender but still too firm. Taste the penne and mix more salt into the water, if needed, before using a small sieve or slotted spoon to transfer the dripping wet penne in to the pan of sizzling seasoned oil.
* Now raise the heat and flip and fold the cauliflower mash over and into the pasta, adding cooking water as necessary to keep everything slippery, sautéing the pasta until glistening with the cauliflowered oil. The smell of it should go to your head. To finish it off, mix in a fistful of fresh parsley roughly chopped. Now it should be down right pretty.
* Serve it up fast, hot and fresh, together with grated Pecorino Romano, hot red pepper flakes, and a black pepper mill at table. You could also supply a creamer of the cooking water, in case someone likes it slippery.