Saturday, April 24, 2010

Colleen McCulloch and Cauliflower

Pindar and Catullus

I was excited to receive the new issue of JASNA News (Jane Austen Society of North America), with a book review I did of Colleen McCullough's novel, The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet.  Mostly because I think it's one of the better book reviews I've written:  I'm pleased with it!  (Paul's comment was, "Reads like 'The Spectator,'" which is high praise from him!)  I don't think JASNA will mind if I copy it here, mentioning that you can join at   If you click on the review it blows up to readability.

Also, a nice breakthrough on the low-carb front. Now I can cook all my favorite Chinese dishes, because cauliflower rice turns out to be so delicious. We couldn't decide if we liked it just as well as rice, or maybe even a little better. It was that good. I read several recipes, and tried cooking it in two different ways, to see which would be best. Since I don't have a food processor, I used one of those flat graters to grate the cauliflower. It grates very easily, into rice-sized bits, and just took a few minutes. I do have a blender, which has Grate and Grind buttons, but I was afraid to use it, thinking it might render the cauliflower into pulp.

Then, I sent half the grated cauliflower down the hall for Paul to microwave for 6 minutes with a spoonful of water in it, while I stirred the rest of the grated cauliflower in a skillet with a little olive oil. They were done at about the same time, but mine was a clear winner. The flavor was better. The other was fine, and looked more like plain boiled rice, but had a slightly "microwave" flavor. And it's easier to just stir it in a skillet than send it out to be microwaved anyway.

Tonight's dinner was a family classic, Ma Po Bean Curd. A spicy, easy to cook Chinese dish you can make with either ground pork or ground turkey. It went really wonderfully with the delicate, slightly nutty cauliflower rice!

Ma Po Bean Curd

1 large box or 2 smaller boxes tofu, drained and cut into small cubes
Half pound ground pork or ground turkey
chopped garlic, a little ginger if desired
1 bunch of scallions, chopped
1/4 lb. Chinese peapods
1 Tb. Chinese hot chili and garlic sauce (I use Lee Kum Kee brand, and lots of it - we like spicy stuff)
2 Tb soysauce (I use the low sodium Kikkoman brand)
2 tsps. cornstarch dissolved in a little water
2/3 cup chicken bouillion
2 Tb. olive oil
black pepper
a little sesame oil

Cut bean curd into small cubes and place in a pot of boiling water. Cook, stirring a few times, until it reboils. Put bean curd into a colander to drain.

Heat 1 Tb. olive oil and stir fry the ground meat in a wok. When brown through, add 1 Tb. chili and garlic sauce, and 2 - 3 Tb. soy sauce, and stir. Add chicken bouillion, bean curd, peapods and half the chopped scallions. Stir.

Cover the wok and cook for 3 minutes (over fairly high heat), stirring once. Thicken with cornstarch, then remove from the heat and stir in sesame oil, black pepper, and the rest of the scallions. Serve over faux rice.

And Peter's blood sugar readings ranged from 125 - 137 today, two weeks after starting the low carb diet. A lot different from the 300s a few weeks back!  We'd all be happy eating Cauliflower Rice instead of real rice, forever and ever, amen.

Here's what the rice looks like (picture borrowed from the Cave Man Food blog).


StuckInABook said...

I'll be avoiding that book, then! (Love 'Janeitis Irritabilis')

Debbie Cusick said...

Oh I do agree about McCullough's book, though you certainly wrote it far more eloquently than I could ever have hoped to! It was so bizarre, but bizarre in a fascinating train-wreck sort of way as long as I thought of the characters as having nothing to do with P&P, but merely being people who coincidentally had the same names.

I'm glad the cauliflower rice worked out so well for you!

Ellen said...


I just finished putting the second half of our analysis and discussion of Jill H-S's Unbecoming Conjunctions on my "Reveries under the Sign of Austen" and what struck me as I was finishing is just how the author wants to rewrite Austen to be something she's not: an aging male with syphilis Mr Woodhouse is not, nor Anne Elliot laughable. The chapter on NA would be very worthwhile were it written for a general audience reading English -- on fashion in the book. Here the author is able to stay within compass because there is an area of Austen's NA not yet delved thoroughly.

Many sequels want to rewrite Austen -- marry Fanny off to Henry Crawford for example (which ignores a lot about Crawford which would make Fanny miserable and about him which would make him bored quickly with her). This one too, but look what it mirrors in the author. She probably missed the hard rock of P&P as well as the gifts offered the reader's desires.

I wish Mary Bennet had been done justice to by Austen. It hurts me to see her mock a reading girl but this is no justice to reading girls.


Unknown said...

What a great review - I was very disappointed in this novel.


Meredith said...

What a fantastic review! I have never read Ms. McCullough's book. I wonder if she did intend as a joke or parody, if she did, it doesn't seem like it has been too well received!