My dear dressed-up cabbage flaunting your best Sunday attire,
How do I love you, little cauliflower? Oh, there are many, many ways: I love you for your delicious, crumbly gratins baked for an hour in the oven on Friday evenings; I love your Monday night soups quickly whirled together and seasoned with mushrooms and herbs de provence; I love your lazy Sunday afternoon curries served with coconut rice. But I think best of all I love you slow-roasted at 400-degrees for about a half-an-hour.
[See: the two times in the past week I’ve roasted two fine specimens while lingering impatiently outside the oven door, wrenching it open every so often to give the pan a good shake.]
But who are you, really? Mark Twain wrote that you are “nothing but cabbage with a college education” and if so, I think we may have rubbed shoulders at a public university. In other ways we are similar: originally of the Mediterranean, high in vitamin C, unpretentious and liking simple things such as olive oil and sea salt.
Wikipedia tells me you are a variety (Botrytis Group) of Brassica oleracea in the family Brassicaceae. An annual plant, you reproduce by seeds. Your colors can range from green (in the B. oleracea Botrytis group) to orange, to purple, which has roots in Southern Italy. You are low in fat, high in fiber, folate, water and vitamin C.You arrive to our local markets in October and may have origins in Cyprus — certainly you are from the Mediterranean, which thus explains my passion for you (as I love all things related to that region).
I have written about cauliflower before but I find it interesting that after my affection for the dressy cabbage recently resurfaced, I read this article in the Los Angeles Times. Not to jump on the bandwagon, but there’s truly little preventing a full-blown love affair with this pretty crucifer.
My new favorite thing to do is find an organic, healthy-looking blossom and, after washing, cut into smallish pieces and coat with olive oil and salt. I then roast it until easily pierced with a fork, and when it’s alternately soft and crispy with good blackened bits along the sides of the pan, I pick at it gingerly with a spoon while hovering over the pan waiting for it to cool. There is not much more to say than: dearest cauliflower, can’t you be in season all the year-long?
Roast Cauliflower for Cold Winter Evenings
One head cauliflower, green leaves discarded, washed and cut into pieces
Roasting pan (I use my faithful le Crueset gratin dishes)
Pre-heat oven to 400 F. Place the cauliflower in a bowl and liberally coat with olive oil and salt. Spread the cauliflower in the pan and roast for about a half-hour, checking every so often to stir. Roast until cauliflower is soft and melty (and a little crispy, if you like), and the oil is bubbling (sometimes this takes a bit longer than a half-hour).
The other night I married this with my other love, roasted asparagus, and an herb-y risotto, and green beans.