Cauliflower is nothing but educated cabbage
“Cauliflower,” wrote Mark Twain, ”is nothing but cabbage with a college education.” Cauliflower is indeed a cultivated member of the cabbage family and was being planted in the American colonies by the 1600s. Each group of immigrants that brought along cauliflower, mainly the English, the Sicilians and some Asians, took its own approach to handling
cauliflower’s noncommittal flavor, from taming it down even further with cream and eggs to punching it up with bold spices. Even now, southern cooks rarely rave about any intrinsic tastiness in naked cauliflower, but they do appreciate its willingness to play well with other ingredients.
In eating at La Petite Grocery in New Orleans last week, we ate some delicious cauliflower, which had been roasted and then served with a parsley, caper, and garlic dressing. Chefs are finding new ways with cauliflower and I am finding it more and more on the menu.
Most cauliflowers grow in large heads of thick white clusters, shielded from too much sunlight by broad, deeply ribbed leaves. However, some new varieties produce small heads with astonishing, vibrant colors, such as orange, canary yellow, deep purple, and bright green. I found the purple and green variety at Whole Foods and brought them home to try a recipe from Domenica in New Orleans by Chef Alon Shaya. It was a great dish and a wonderful way to prepare cauliflower.
Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Goat Cheese
2 ½ cups dry white wine
1/3 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 bay leaf
1 head of cauliflower, leaves removed
Whipped Goat Cheese and assembly:
4 oz. fresh goat cheese
3 oz. cream cheese
3 oz. feta
½ cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. olive oil plus more for serving
Coarse sea salt (for serving)
Roasted Cauliflower: Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Bring wine, oil, kosher salt, juice, butter, red pepper flakes, sugar, bay leaf and 8 cups water to a boil in a large pot. Add cauliflower, reduce heat, and simmer, turning occasionally, until a knife easily inserts into center, 15-20 minutes.
Using two slotted spoons or a mesh spider, transfer cauliflower to a rimmed baking sheet, draining well. Roast, rotating sheet halfway, through until browned all over, 30-40 minutes.
Whipped Goat Cheese and assembly: While cauliflower is roasting, blend goat cheese, cream cheese, feta, cream and 2 Tbsp. oil in a processor until smooth; season with sea salt. Transfer whipped goat cheese to a serving bowl and drizzle with oil.
Transfer cauliflower to a plate. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with sea salt. Serve with whipped goat cheese.
Do ahead: Whipped goat cheese can be made one day ahead. Cover; chill.
Another way to use cauliflower is to roast it with spices. In this recipe, cauliflower can be used as a side dish or as an appetizer.
Taken from The New Southern Garden Cookbook by Sheri Castle:
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon curry powder, preferably red sambahr-style
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 cups 2-inch cauliflower florets (about 1 pound)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Mix the sugar, salt, pepper, curry powder, cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne in a small bowl.
Place the cauliflower in a large bowl. Drizzle with the butter and oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle the spices evenly over the cauliflower and toss to coat.
Spread in a single layer on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring every 5 minutes, until the florets are crisp-tender and browned on the edges, about 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.