Thursday, January 8, 2009

Cauliflower? I hardly know 'er!

Cauliflower is among my favorite vegetables. And that's saying a lot, since I love, love, L-O-V-E love vegetables. Oh sure, there are the childhood favorites-to-hate. To be honest, I still don't particularly like lima beans, though Brussels sprouts redeemed themselves with an amazing cameo in S's egg scramble surprise that we had over Christmas. And eggplant? I *still* can't believe how many years I wasted as a child picking it out of stir-frys and pastas.

Cauliflower has never occupied as ambiguous a spot in my eating repertoire. No, it's always achieved a perfect balance of sweet and nutty and tender. Like its cousin broccoli, it takes almost no prep time and makes a fantastic side dish in minutes. Forget steaming or boiling (read: leaching the flavor and nutrients out, one over-steamed minute at a time): instead, try sauteeing the florets in olive oil with some slivered garlic. Or, try today's recipe.

Some background on the genesis of this recipe: I ate dinner alone earlier this week, because B was away with his cycling friends. It had been a very long day at work, so I decided to order take-out from Pizzeria Delfina (on a delicious block in Mission Dolores; read page 16 of the January Gourmet for a shout-out to chef-proprietor Craig Stoll, or at least to his taste in espresso machines). I have ordered a lot of take-out from this restaurant, and never, until the other night, have they actually had available the "Spicy Cauliflower" advertised on their website. But I was in luck! Not only did they have it on the menu that night, but also B was away. I don't at all enjoy B being away (though sometimes I do enjoy sleeping diagonally in the bed), but I did get to enjoy the whole dish on my own. So I did. Promptly. Also I ate some pizza and some insalata tricolore. Then I went to bed. (Then I woke up the next morning with a sore throat and stuffy nose, but that's another, much less interesting, story.)

All I could think about after breakfast the next morning was the cauliflower. Specifically, how beautifully the spiciness of the Calabrian chiles and the saltiness of the capers married with the cauliflower. As it is a whole ten-minute drive to Pizzeria Delfina, and I was in clearly in the mood for some more cauliflower as soon as possible, I decided to make my own spicy cauliflower for dinner at home. I don't have access to Calabrian chiles, but I do have some dried ground Serrano chiles from my parents' garden this summer. And I always have capers in the fridge.

The flavor of the recipe below is very similar to that at Delfina, but after making my version, I've decided that the even shade of light nutty brown on theirs can only come from deep-frying. So you'll have to settle for a more variegated version here, with shades of white and brown. B and I had ours as a side with pasta, but it would go very well with any red meat.

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower
Inspired by Pizzeria Delfina

Serves: 2-3 people, as a side dish
Time: 10 min active, 45 min total

2 T. olive oil
1 head cauliflower, stem discarded and remainder broken into 1 1/2 in. florets
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 t. capers
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Pour the olive oil into an 8x8 in baking pan. Toss the cauliflower, garlic, capers, and red pepper flakes in the olive oil. Place pan in oven. Roast cauliflower for 30 min total, or until edges are lightly browning, tossing florets several times during roasting.

P.S. Some of you may know that we're having a (rather large) group of people over for a cinnamon-themed brunch this weekend. Expect a recipe or two on the theme next week!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Just an FYI that there's another PD now in Pac Heights: 2406 California St (between Fillmore St & Steiner St). Can't wait to try this, especially because I have a very large jar of capers in my fridge!