By now, most of us have tired of winter, snow and root vegetables, and we’re daydreaming of sunny days filled with tomatoes and eggplant. But if there’s one thing my family never tires of, it’s the delicious cauliflower winter brings.
Growing up, one of my mother’s special treats was fried cauliflower, schnitzel-style. Cauliflower florets are cooked briefly in water then dipped in flour, egg and breadcrumbs and fried. There aren’t many dishes that get better than this.
But it’s a lot of work. And a lot of oil. I found that with a little patience, and much less oil, you can achieve the tenderness of the florets with the crispy outside layer, by simply spraying some oil, drizzling olive oil, sprinkling some salt and roasting at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.
Want to make it even simpler? Roast a whole cauliflower, for not only delicious, but also impressive, appetizer (or, serve it as a full dinner on its own). Israeli master chef Eyal Shani serves this creation in a number of his restaurants. Shani’s version for a roasted cauliflower requires pre-cooking it in water.
Being lazy, I put the whole cauliflower on a baking sheet and wrap it with parchment paper and aluminum foil (parchment paper prevents the aluminum foil from touching the cauliflower during the roasting) and roast it in 350 degrees for one hour or until a knife can be inserted easily into its center.
Then, increase oven heat to 400 degrees. Remove the aluminum foil and parchment paper, drizzle the cauliflower with olive oil evenly (about 2 tablespoons worth), and sprinkle with salt. Roast until the outside is crispy to your liking (about 45-60 minutes more). I eat it just by picking the florets with my fingers. You can add a dipping sauce on the side, such as bagna cauda.
Here’s a cauliflower salad that’s fresh enough to remind us of summer:
Cauliflower, water cress, pine nuts and spelt salad
Spelt, a wheat species from Eastern Europe, is available at health food markets. substitute with any wheat grain you prefer such as farro or wheat berries.
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup spelt
¼ cup pine nuts
4 cups water cress or baby arugula
¼ lb. crumbled feta
For the yogurt-herb dressing:
¾ cup Greek yogurt
¾ cups basil leaves
½ cup mint leaves
4 green onions, green part only
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1. Oven to 375 degrees. Separate cauliflower to small 1-2 inches florets. Spray and a rimmed baking sheet with oil, spread florets on baking sheet and spray with oil. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, sprinkle ½ teaspoons kosher salt, mix with your hands and roast for 45-50 minutes, flipping cauliflower mid-time for even roasting. Cool on a rack.
2. Cook spelt in 4 cups salted water. Bring to boil, lower heat and cover pot and cook until tender, about 50 minutes. Strain and keep aside.
3. Roast pine nuts on a skillet over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until golden. Remove immediately from skillet and let cool in a bowl.
4. For the yogurt-herb dressing, put all ingredients in a mixer and mix until smooth. Transfer to small bowl.
5. When ready to serve, very gently mix cauliflower, spelt, pine nuts, water cress and feta in a large bowl. Drizzle some of the dressing, serving the rest of the dressing on a side.