Wednesday, January 19, 2011


cauliflower "mac and cheese"

No this is not the long-awaited-since-yesterday "what I cooked for the holidays pt 2." Today I am talking about cauliflower, which we were getting in alarmingly large quantities this fall. Like, if you think cauliflower looks like brains, these babies came from the head of a total giant. Beyond enormous.

Unlike Nathan, I am a big fan of cauliflower, which I usually steam until tender and serve with olive oil, lemon and parsley. I also love it breaded and fried, which, let's face it, is not a bad preparation for any food, really. Except maybe fruit. Apples would work, but can you imagine breaded fried pineapple, or berries? Yuck. I wonder if anyone's tried that.

Anyway. With such unimaginable amounts of cauliflower, I decided to branch out and try some new ways of making it. I thought about the delicious cauliflower I've had at Indian restaurants and Middle Eastern pita joints, but ultimately I stayed a little closer to home.

First I tried a simple oven roasted recipe from Ina Garten, which employed pine nuts, parsley, olive oil, lemon juice and whole cloves of garlic. It's from her book How Easy Is That, and it really did seem like it would be.

ina garten's garlic roasted cauliflower

Parboiled garlic cloves and chopped up cauliflower florets are tossed with olive oil and baked in a 475° oven for 20 minutes. Toss with lemon juice and toasted pine nuts, (or walnuts if you're put off by the astronomically high price of the former), and sprinkle with parsley and that's all there is to it. Unfortunately, my version fell a bit short. Perhaps there was something off with my oven temperature, because my cauliflower was a little too brown, but not yet cooked through. It was one of those situations where I probably should have just put everything back in the oven, but was too hungry to wait. Impatience does not a good cook make.

My second cauliflower dish was a play on macaroni and cheese. I created a rich bechamel sauce with butter and blue cheese, and then stirred in my cauliflower florets. After I time, I sprinkled the top with breadcrumbs and baked the dish in the oven. With a little parsley and chopped scallion for color, this was cheesy and good, but no match for the pasta laden original. And, like this previous dish, the cauliflower wasn't cooked evenly. While some of it was meltingly tender, cooked through with buttery cheese, other bites were almost crunchy. It was very strange. I think I probably should have boiled the cauliflower and then put it straight in the oven.

improvised cauliflower bake

While the flavors of both these cauliflower dishes were good, they both suffered from being unevenly cooked. I hate hard crunchy cauliflower, (although I admit it's no good mushy either), and I failed to reach that fork tender ideal. It wasn't a huge failure, but both dishes had their shortcomings.

blue cheesy cauliflower

I think I'd prefer to make macaroni and cheese in lieu of trying my cheesy cauliflower again, but I'd definitely try Ina's recipe out again, especially if I can get my hands on some pine nuts without losing an arm and a leg.

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