Some foods, such as chicken breast or tofu, are a kind of “canvas” on which the chef can paint other and additional flavors, aromas and even textures.
Cauliflower is such a canvas. It has its own charms: beautiful appearance, creamy consistency, almost like nut butter in a soft form. But it also takes on any attractive flavor. French Louis XIV enjoyed stewing it in chicken or veal broth, seasoned with a little nutmeg and spread with sweet butter (a delicious recipe to this day).
Cauliflower is one of approximately 400 species of Brassica oleracea; along with broccoli (from which it was “trained” or propagated) flowering cabbage. All cabbage is one of the oldest vegetables cultivated and eaten, especially in the regions of Europe and the Middle East before written records.
New genetically modified versions of cauliflower are now emerging, such as orange cauliflower (25 times more vitamin A than the regular white version) and cauliflower cousin, Romanesco, tinged with avocado pulp or Chartreuse liqueur, whose futuristic fractals have been studied. architects to find new building models.
Cauliflower is also incredibly versatile in the kitchen: it can be eaten raw; lightly cooked; “Risen”; cooked, then mashed or mashed; steamed; stewed; fried; fried; fried; or just boiled. And, again, any of these preparations almost always have an additional flavoring agent.
I learned a new way to break cauliflower into florets, which always annoyed me with the cauliflower head’s tendency to “paint” or send little white ball bearings all over the cutting board, kitchen table and floor. After removing what you want from its core, slice it into 3/4 to 1 inch thick slabs. Lay the slab flat and cut any branch or along it, breaking off the size of the flower you want.
For rice cauliflower, simply grate the head with the coarse holes or beat it up to eight times in the bowl of a food processor. Beware of BB; they will be everywhere.
Buy cauliflower (now available all year round) with a head of cabbage; it should feel heavy for its size. The flowers should be tightly knotted together, with no large gray or brown spots to ruin them, and the leaves should be tight. Store in the refrigerator by removing the plastic wrap, wiping it down, and then wrapping it back in a paper towel and another plastic bag.
Cauliflower is rich in vitamins C, B and K, as well as several mineral salts. Its vitamin C levels are higher than orange juice.
Whole Cauliflower Roast
Adapted from Cooking.nytimes.com, Jamie Oliver, Jamie Cooks Italy, and Cook’s Illustrated Vegetables. For 4-6 servings.
- 1 whole head cauliflower, outer leaves removed, stem cut at base
- 1 28 oz can (whole, peeled or diced)
- 1 14-ounce can of tomatoes (whole, peeled or coarsely diced)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium onions, peeled, cut into quarters and each quarter cut into petals
- 6 anchovies in oil (or 2 teaspoons of anchovy paste)
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled, minced and coarsely chopped
- 1/3 cup dried golden or green raisins
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon of Provencal herbs, crumbled in the palm of your hand (or more, to taste)
- 1/2 cup green or pitted kalamata olives
- 3 tablespoons salted dried capers, rinse well and squeeze out
- Chopped fresh flat parsley for garnish
As if you are removing the core of a tomato or apple, remove the tapered part from the bottom of the core of the cauliflower. Lay your head aside.
Add the tomatoes to a food processor and beat 7-8 times (only) until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a bowl or container to prevent the processor bowl from leaking.
Heat an oven with a wire rack in the middle to 450 degrees. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, Dutch oven or cocotte that will hold an entire cauliflower head, standing on the bottom and covered, heat olive oil over medium to high heat and drop the onion petals into it, letting them fade and become translucent (6 -8 minutes, stirring occasionally).
Use a slotted spoon or spider to transfer the onion to a side bowl. Cook the garlic and anchovies (or anchovy paste) in oil in a saucepan, chopping them for 30-45 seconds, until they are fragrant. Add raisins, red pepper flakes, provencal herbs, olives and capers, cook and stir well, 2 minutes.
Add the onion again to the pan, then the chopped tomatoes, mix well and bring to a boil. Place the cauliflower head in the sauce, stem side up, pouring a little sauce over the cauliflower. Cover the pot with a lid and place in the oven for 30 minutes.
Remove the pan and, using large tongs, gently turn the cauliflower head in the sauce, now placing it stem side down. Pour some more sauce over the cauliflower and place the pan in the oven again, now uncovered, for another 10-15 minutes, until the blade of a thin knife enters and exits the cauliflower head in its center.
Remove the pot and let it stand uncovered for 12 minutes. Cut the cauliflower into wedges and serve with copious spoonfuls of sauce and other vegetables, garnished with chopped parsley.
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