Wednesday, October 12, 2011

As I mentioned on the show, Monday, I hated cauliflower as a kid. I think the first time I ever ate it willingly was when it showed up on the table hidden under a lake of yellow cheese sauce. Now what kid could resist that? (Don't answer I know there are hard core veggie haters in this world.)
I think a big part of my strong dislike for a lot of veggies had to do with their executions. Boiled or just steamed does not do it for me. That is the sort of fare hospitals serve (and airlines used to).
I think I really grew to love this vegetable when I started learning Italian cooking. So many wonderful combinations for this native Italian vegetable.
Anything in a gratin dish with béchamel and cheese becomes magic in my mouth! But don't stop there. Add bacon, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes and I'm in the throes of ecstasy! Those are the ingredients in the Brazilian treatment of cauliflower gratin pictured above which I made on Monday. I will not go into a treatise on Brazilian food here but suffice it to say that Brazil's rich immigrant history make it's cuisine just as precious!

Couve-flor Gratinada

1 cauliflower
2 oz of bacon into small cubes
2 oz of dried tomatoes into strips
2 oz canned mushrooms
1 cup parmesan grated
2 oz of Mozzarella grated
2 cups ) of milk
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Grating of fresh nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Melt butter, add flour and stir until golden. Add milk,
stirring vigorously. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, 2/3 cup of parmsan and
set aside.
Fry the bacon. Add tomatoes and mushrooms. Reserve. In a
baking dish, place the cooked cauliflower followed by the béchamel, bacon mixture and topped with cheese. Bake until golden.

Another of my favorite recipes for cauliflower is also a grantinee with the addition of eggs and ham. It's one that will disappear quickly from your table. Again, it's got béchamel and cheese so what's not to love?

Cauliflower Sformato

1 medium cauliflower
2 tablespoons butter plus more for the baking dish
Béchamel of 1 tablespoon butter, 1 1/2 tablespoons flour and 1 cup milk.
2 extra large eggs, beaten well
1/4 pound boiled ham, julienned
Freshly ground black pepper
Grating of fresh nutmeg
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Wash, trim, separate into florets the cauliflower and boil in salted water until tender. Drain well and set aside.
Melt butter in a large skillet and add cauliflower turning the pieces so each is coated. Remove to bowl and let cool.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Make béchamel and add all but 1/4 cup in with the cauliflower. Add eggs, ham, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and 2/3 cup of the cheese mixing well.
Butter baking dish and turn mixture into it spreading the contents smooth.
Spread the remaining béchamel over, sprinkle remaining cheese and dot with small pieces of butter.
Bake for 30 minutes or until a golden crust forms on top.
Let cool some before serving.

I can't tell you for sure whether the next recipe is from Puglia or Sicily as the pasta used (orecchiette) is definitely a Puglian classic but the ingredients sing the song of Persephone, the goddess who returns to the island of Sicily every spring. In any case, this is a recipe I come back to time and again. If you want to tempt the goddess to return soon, drizzle a little truffle oil (black or white) on your serving. I don't know who wouldn't come back from the underworld for a taste!

Orecchiette in Cauliflower Sauce

1 head cauliflower, divided into florets
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 anchovy fillets, rinsed
4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1 dried Calabrian chili chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes)
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 pound orecchiette
Grated pecorino

Cook cauliflower in plenty of salted, boiling water until tender. Remove with slotted spoon. (Do not discard water.)
Heat oil in a large skillet and add anchovies, mashing them into the oil with the back of a wooden spoon until they dissolve.
Add garlic and chili and cook briefly. Add cauliflower and mash into pan with the back of a wooden spoon.
While you are cooking the above, cook the pasta in the same water in which you cooked the cauliflower adding water if needed.
When pasta is done, transfer to the skillet with a slotted spoon.
Add some of the pasta water to sauce if needed to thin it out.
Garnish with parsley and serve with pecorino cheese.


  1. Wait till you try the cauliflower dishes I make.
    Your life will change, and you will have discovered a new religion. LOL!
    You are something else.
    talented, kind, gracious and so informative.
    Wish you great success with your blog.
    Suvir Saran

  2. Thanks for you kind words. I have yet to try the party cauliflower from your first book.
    Tasting your recipes is like a religious experience!