Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Conquering the Cauliflower

Cauliflower looks like broccoli's undead cousin.  It's the zombie of vegetables. I've never cooked it before.  I have only one memory from eating in a high chair, and that is eating boiled cauliflower and then projectile vomiting all over the tray and nearby kitchen table.  We're talking The Exorcist here.  I don't remember how it tasted other than I thought it was vile.  Maybe I had a stomach bug that day?  Who knows.  But my little mind firmly associated cauliflower with barfing.  Regardless, after that, I considered it to be made of pure evil and refused to eat it. Over the years, I would take a bite of someone's cauliflower gratin and find it similarly nasty. 

In the last few years, I started eating at nicer restaurants with chef's tasting menus.  I was eventually confronted with cauliflower soup, when obviously I would never choose to order it from a regular menu.  As someone who prides herself in eating pretty much anything, I was too embarrassed to tell the server that I didn't want to try something as innocuous as cauliflower.  So, I ate it, and was shocked to discover that it wasn't as repulsive as I remembered.  But, it had been presented in a different way instead of boiled into mushy flavorlessness (and then boiled some more for good measure).  I actually kind of liked it, but I didn't think about trying to cook it myself at that time.

Last week, Dave and I spent a week on St. Barth, which is a French island.  Being French, all the restaurants there are appropriately foodgasmic.  One night, while we were having a glass of champagne in a restaurant's bar, we were served a plate of raw veggies with a mildly spicy dipping sauce.  Among them, the craptacular crucifer.  But, I decided to give it a try since Dave was eating it and not dying.  The weirdest thing happened.   I liked it!

So, I decided to try and cook some at home, for the first time ever.  I picked a recipe that involved onions and some heavy seasoning.  Here is the result:

This was my version of 101 Cookbooks' Spicy Cauliflower with Sesame.  Or, as I call it, "Spicy Onions with Cauliflower and Sesame," because my one "medium" onion was actually gigantor, and I decided to use the whole thing anyway in case I didn't like the cauliflower.  I also made some steamed tofu as a side dish.

The result for this dish was decidedly mixed, through no fault of the recipe.  I, perhaps erroneously, decided to use the cauliflower as a meat substitute in a main dish during my week of post-vacation healthy eating.  For Dave and I, it just didn't work.  Although the spiciness was good, the cauliflower was bland.  Maybe it needed to absorb more flavor from the onions?  Maybe it would have worked better if I had cilantro or basil? Regardless, I didn't dislike this dish. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give it a "meh."  I ate the whole thing, but enjoyed the onions more than the cauliflower.  I think this would have worked much better in a smaller portion as a side dish for some meat or a different vegetarian main course.  It might also work for someone who actively likes cauliflower, rather than someone who is trying it out for pretty much the first time.

I'll definitely try other cauliflower recipes, but I'll start small with a side dish, or perhaps a soup.

Spicy Onions with Cauliflower and Sesame
slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks
Serves 2


1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 medium yellow onion, finely sliced (or in my case, one really big onion)
1/4 tsp turmeric
sea salt
7 oz cauliflower, thinly sliced
2 dried red chiles, stemmed and halved (I removed the seeds as well)
1 tsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1 garlic clove, grated
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 jalapeno, seeds and finely chopped
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (I didn't have any)

1) Cook the cumin seeds.  In a medium large skillet with a lid that will fit (for later), heat the oil.  Add the cumin seeds and cook over medium high heat until they crackle, about 30 seconds.   
2) Add the onions and cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they become soft and begin to caramelize.  Then add the red chiles, sesame, garlic, and half of the ginger.  Cook for one more minute.
3)  Add the cauliflower and reduce heat to low.  Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes, until just tender.  (I cooked it for 5 and it probably needed a little more time).
4) When the cauliflower is done, remove the lid, increase the heat to high, and stir in the jalapeno and remaining ginger.  Dish into bowls and sprinkle with cilantro.  


Michelle said...

Go you for trying something that you so disliked! :D I like cauliflower, but alas, I lack any really stellar recipes for it. My standard is steamed cauliflower with mayo, mustard, and cheddar cheese - but it's a recipe for hiding the cauliflower, which defeats the purpose. Spicy cauliflower sounds good. . .

Scienter said...

Give it a try and let me know what you think! I think it would have been better as a side dish. But, it's also too complicated to be a side dish if you KWIM. Especially on a work night. But, it was good and if you can get Chris to make a main course on the grill or somesuch, it would be worth it to try this.

I'm going to try another cauliflower recipe soon and see how I feel about it then.

Steaming cauliflower is SO much better than boiling it to death. Hopefully your kids will never have to go through what I did when trying cauliflower for the first time. ;)


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