Sunday, January 11, 2009

Love In the Time of Cauliflower

On a still snowy night in Brooklyn, a strange occurrence came to pass.  

In a world full of chocolate cake and creamy pasta, fried potatoes and flaky croissants, on a particular chilly night this week I found myself wandering the kitchen, hungry for...cauliflower.  Cauliflower and only cauliflower.  I was disoriented.  Admittedly with a mouthful of 98% sweet teeth, while I do like a helping of good veggies from time to time, cauliflower...this was complete untrodden territory.  I didn't know where to start.  But strange things happen on winter's nights, and when the wind brings change I always believe you best blow along with it.  

So cauliflower it was.  Trimming two large snowy heads the little florets emerged as a bowl full of air-popped popcorn ready to be buttered.

As my kitchen is regretfully a short walk and two subway stops away from the closest movie theater, what was a girl to do with this lot of white stalky veggies?  Recently having read an article in Bon Appetit featuring a festival of latke variations, I recall a recipe for pureed cauliflower, patted into spiced cakes and fried like the classic potato dish.  

"Hmm..." I muttered, twiddling my thumbs, eyeing the cauliflower.

As loopy and deliciously devilish as I was feeling in the flurry of this mysterious cauliflower craze, on that night fried didn't exactly strike me as the way to go.  Less because of lots of oil and more because the spattering and spitting of frying intimidates me enough to generally opt for other, less splattery methods of cooking at home.  For example, I'm quite partial to my oven, that being, coincidentally, exactly where I decided this cauliflower was headed.

Which led to the next question: frosting is to cake like _____ is to cauliflower.  Recognizing that the cauliflower was going to need a finishing flourish, something to dress it up, make it pretty, something to seduce hungry stomachs away from juicy steaks and make them say under their breaths, "Hey, you doin,"  I searched for the answer.  Finally, I penciled in almonds.

I penciled in lemon, capers, and golden raisins*.

From the pan on the stovetop, a shimmering, sweet and nutty dressing to make the lovely baked cauliflower "latkes" indeed, loveable.  

As the cauliflower baked on parchment in the oven, and the smell of the vinegary, golden raisin-sweet topping sizzled its way into the air, there was no mistaking it, I'd fallen hard for that odd, bumpy white flower of a food.  I was crushing completely for cauliflower.

The final dish made me gasp, "Who knew that cauliflower could be so...beautiful!" An affair I'll remember, the latkes were especially nice paired with sausages and a leafy pile of steamed kale.  They'd be delicious too with some good ol' red meat; indeed you could have your cauliflower and steak too.  

If the old warning is true, that when making a face while the wind changes, take care for it might stick that way, well the wintry winds of cauliflower may just have left my face stuck in a oo-oo-oo that's good smile.  

For strange things do happen, and delicious surprises often lie in the least expected vegetables.  

Baked Cauliflower "Latkes"
adapted from Bon Appetit
 *topping inspired by the cooking of Chef Anthony of Gramercy Tavern

For the latkes:
2 medium heads of cauliflower, trimmed to just the florets
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lemon, zested
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 C bread crumbs, unseasoned
3 eggs

For the topping:
2 T olive oil
3/4 C almonds, toasted, roughly chopped
1 T capers
1/2 C golden raisins, plumped
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Boil 1/2 the cauliflower until tender.  Finely chop the second half and reserve.
2. Drain and puree the boiled cauliflower with garlic, lemon zest salt and pepper until smooth.  Stir in chopped cauliflower, bread crumbs and eggs forming a thick, chunky batter.
3.  Drop heaping tablespoons of the batter onto a parchment lined baking sheet and gently flatten them to about 1/2 in thickness.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until lightly golden brown on top.
4.  For the topping, heat olive oil in a saute pan and add almonds, capers, raisins, lemon juice, salt and pepper until warmed.
5.  Spoon topping over latkes and learn to love cauliflower!

30 2 inch latkes

1 comment:

cia007girl said...

Hi Shimmy girl. This looks delicious! Very Italian-esque with raisins and capers.