Sunday, January 18, 2009

Fun With Cauliflower

So one of the fun things about winter is finding great seasonal vegetables and discovering recipes that are more interesting than steamed or stir-fried. Cauliflower has become something of a marginalized vegetable, stuck somewhere between brussel sprouts and green beans in the boring veggie department. But many varieties of cauliflower can be anything but boring.

One early winter's day out at the Civic Center Farmer's Market, I stumbled across a bizarre looking head of cauliflower. This green fractal-esque vegetable, called Romanesco Broccoli, is an Italian variety of cauliflower, and according to the vendor has a light broccoli flavor with the signature crunch of cauliflower. I brought a head home, and took some time to consider how to prepare it.

At the end of last November, when it was actually cold in San Francisco, soup was just what we needed to fill our bellies. I tracked down a pretty simple recipe for cauliflower soup, made some adjustments for the ingredients I had in my kitchen, and got to work turning that Romanesco into something delicious.

Cauliflower Soup with Almonds

1 medium white onion, halved then cut into 1/2 inch thick slices (3/4 cup)
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon water
1 (2-lb) head of cauliflower, cored and cut into 1 inch pieces (6 cups)
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 3/4 cups reduced sodium vegetable broth
1 1/4 cups 1% or fat-free milk
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 handful of sliced almonds

Melt butter with water in a 4- to 5-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat. Add cauliflower and onion and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower begins to soften (do not let brown), about 5 minutes. Add coriander and cook, stirring, 1 minute, then add broth, milk, salt, and pepper and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and gently simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

While soup is cooking, toast almonds in a dry skillet over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant and a shade darker, about 3 minutes.

Puree soup in a blender in 2 batches until very smooth. Serve and top with roasted almonds.

This is a surprisingly light and fluffy soup; The almonds add a wonderful crunch and nuttiness to the soft flavors of the cauliflower. While maybe not filling enough to stand on its own, this soup would be a perfect starter to any dinner on a cold night.

Now that we're in the middle of January and spring seems to have magically found us once again, it seems we no longer have the need for winter fare. Still wanting to keep things light and healthy, we threw together this asian-inspired dinner with cauliflower as the star.
(The following recipe was cut in half from the original since we are only cooking for 2. Feel free to adjust the amounts of soy sauce or seasonings to taste.)

Pepper-Roasted Cauliflower

8 cups cauliflower, cut into small, even-size florets (from 1 large head)
1/8 cup soy sauce (or Nama Shoyu)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to coat. Allow to marinate for 20 minutes, tossing cauliflower occasionally.

Arrange the cauliflower in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast until tender and slightly blackened, about 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Ginger & Garlic Chicken

2 Cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup soy sauce (or nama shoyu)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Combine soy sauce, oil and sugar in a large bowl. Grate garlic and ginger into the bowl using a microplane. Whisk to combine. Add chunks of chicken, and toss to combine. Allow the chicken to marinate for 15 to 20 minutes. Saute in a skillet until sauce thickens and chicken is cooked through. Serve over rice.

These recipes were all pretty easy, and healthy to boot. As a bonus, we ended up with leftovers for lunch the next day. And cauliflower is fun again.


The Cauliflower Soup recipe was adapted from a recipe courtesy of Epicurious, and provided the recipe for the Pepper-roasted Cauliflower.


Laura said...

Veronica Romanesca! Did you buy some? I pickled mine this summer and we are enjoying it all winter. :) It's in my foodbuzz pic too. laur

Mr. Rosewater said...

Laura, yes, I found it at a farmer's market. They had a big beautiful pile of them. It is an amazing vegetable, yes?

Alpinebluesky said...

Your photo is wonderful! Thanks for sharing your recipe, I love the inclusion of coriander in the soup :)

Heather said...

Romanesco really freaks me out.

Mo Diva said...

I must try this!