Growing up, I don't really recall ever having cauliflower. Not that my mother considered it exotic or anything. I think we just didn't really consider it period. We were more corn, peas with carrots or green beans people. I'm sure cauliflower had it's place on crudite platters served at various gatherings and holidays, but I doubt I ever ate it and if it did, it was probably slathered in ranch dressing or a mayonnaise and sour cream based dip of some sort. As an adult I've treated cauliflower with the same indifference. But that was until my friend Jill recommended a Lebanese restaurant on Westwood Blvd. that served, she said, THE BEST cauliflower. "It's fried," she informed me with a naughty grin. "It's not even on the menu," she continued in a covert whisper. "You just have to ask for it,"
Being from the Midwest, I'm usually up for any fried food. So one day Mark and I ventured over to Westwood to the restaurant for this crazy secret fried cauliflower. Well once we arrived there it turned out the cauliflower was indeed on the menu. I must admit, it did take away some of the appeal that just anyone who wandered in could order it, rather than being one of the few people in the know. Regardless, we placed our order and when it arrived, it was not exactly what I expected. There was no batter. Not that I was disappointed but I just found it interesting. The cauliflower florets seemed to be just fried in hot oil, which gave them a really fantastic, slightly crispy outside and a very tender inside and they were not at all oily. I formed a new-found respect for cauliflower and since then I delight in the various ways it can be prepared. I love the curried cauliflower soup that Basix, a local restaurant makes during the winter months. At Orangette's recommendation, I've roasted it in the oven which gives it crispy edges similar to the Lebanese place. I've seen recipes that I want to try in which the cauliflower is pureed, like mashed potatoes. And then there's this recipe, which I found on Epicurious.
2 tablespoons finely chopped Kalamata olives (about 6) or other brine-cured black olives
2 teaspoons drained capers, finely chopped
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups 1-inch cauliflower flowerets (about 1 head)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
In a small bowl stir together olives, capers, vinegar, and 2 tablespoons oil.
In a large non-stick skillet heat remaining tablespoon oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and cook cauliflower, covered, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Uncover skillet and sauté cauliflower until tender and browned, 5 to 10 minutes more.
Transfer cauliflower to a bowl and toss with olive mixture and parsley. Season cauliflower with salt and pepper.
The carmelized cauliflower, which is great on it's own, is enhanced nicely by the addition of the salty olives, the pungant capers, the freshness of the parsley, and the tang of the vinegar. This might be the perfect way to eat cauliflower.