Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Chou-fleur parte deux

Since I've been buying about two heads of Cauliflower a week, making roasted Cauliflower for snacks, after a while,  the little wheels in your brain start turning and you start wondering "what else can I do with this?"  Maybe it's all the cooking shows I watch (Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmern as much as possible, Ina Garten on occasion) or maybe the synapses in my brain decided to throw a party, because I suddenly got this stroke of genius - or, I thought it was genius.  I wouldn't know for certain until I pieced it all together.  I was going to take pictures for posterity, but camera batteries were dead, and when your synapses are groovin' to the beat, you don't want to stop the music.  So, I took some pix after the fact - hence the paucity, but you'll get the idea.

I started thinking - what goes with cauliflower? It's so bland, and most of America is used to eating it with broccoli, cheese sauce, or some other gelatinous white mass thrown over it.  You know what I mean.  White on white - so bland....so white bread.  Where is the excitement? Where is the color? Here's a tip for you - Part of food tasting good, is looking good - well sometimes - you can get some nice lookin' food that is tasteless, but I digress (as usual...now I see where Ben gets it from)

What goes with cauliflower? Bacon, or bacony-type stuff (except Bacos - "child, PUHLEEZE" to quote Chad Ochocinco - if you don't follow football, right now you are scratching your head and going "WHUT?!!" to yourself), ham goes with cauliflower, walnuts go with cauliflower, umm...garlic, EVOO, salt, pepper, cheese...OK - we're off to a good start here.  Anchovies and capers too - in moderation because I hate anchovies with a passion - but if you sneak them into a dish - you won't even notice they are there, and I promise you - they will give a lushness and depth to the flavor.   Here are my scribblings in my creative frenzy...

Now I think I have my basics - I just have to foist it on my unsuspecting family, who is most likely expecting something more along the lines of chicken cutlets.

BTW - best timesaver ever. Trader Joe's frozen pasta - plain.  I bought this on a whim, because much to my chagrin, my local Trader Joe's was out of penne pasta - Joe, how could you DO this to me? Fusilli is just too screwy for what I have planned.  I did find penne in the freezer though, and decided to give it a try - ZOMG - 3 minutes in the microwave, even though I screwed it up - see, I put the whole BAG into the microwave - little did I know there were TWO BAGS INSIDE the main bag - I was wondering why I couldn't find the line mentioned in the directions..."Place bag line side up".  Now I know.  It worked anyway, and I got PERFECT al dente pasta in 3 minutes.  Except I didn't have pasta water which I wanted for the recipe - no matter, substitute some vegetable broth instead.  Problem solved.

This was not a difficult recipe - but there are a few parts - as always printable recipe is HERE

Breadcrumb Topping

1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 Tbs. butter
2 cloves garlic - crushed and diced fine

Brown the breadcrumbs in a frying pan on medium heat, stirring frequently until browned. Remove from pan, set aside. In the same pan, melt the butter, then add the garlic - cook for a few minutes medium low, until garlic is tender. Remove from heat, add the breadcrumbs and toss. Set aside.


1/4 cup EVOO (more or less)
2 cloves garlic crushed and diced
1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (depends on how much of a kick you like)
2 anchovy filets, crushed to a paste (I promise you will NOT taste fish in the sauce.)
2 Tbs. capers
juice from 1/4 of a lemon
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/3 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup romano cheese
1/3-1/2 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
3 oz. chopped pancetta (Citterio has a package - I used the whole thing)
1 head Cauliflower, broken into 1 1/2 inch pieces and roasted (recipe follows)

8 oz. Penne pasta - cooked and drained (or 1 1/2 packages of Trader Joe's frozen penne pasta - it's 1.5 lbs cooked)

1.  Toss Cauliflower with about 2-3 Tbs of  EVOO, place on baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for about 30 minutes, turning/stirring about every ten minutes or until golden brown. Set aside.

2.  Heat the EVOO for the sauce - add the garlic and pancetta - cook over medium heat until the pancetta begins to brown.

3. Add the red pepper flakes, anchovies, capers, walnuts. Continue cooking until pancetta is golden. Toss in the parsley, squeeze in the lemon juice, add the cauliflower and mix well.  Remove from heat.

4.  Place pasta in pasta bowl, and pour sauce over. Add about 1/3 cup broth, mixing until pasta is evenly coated. (It will "thin out" the pancetta/cauliflower mixture a bit and allow more even coating)

5.  Add romano cheese, toss again.

6.  Garnish with a generous sprinkling of garlic breadcrumbs and serve immediately.  Goes well with a green salad and some white wine.

(This is a yummy wine btw - has a strong pear aftertaste, it's lovely!)
I was really surprised at how well this turned out.  If you are a vegetarian, simply omit the pancetta and anchovies, and season with some sea salt - smoked if you have it.  My family ate it up - literally.  It's flavorful, and all the ingredients just mesh so well together.  The hint of lemon with the capers is yummy.

I know this is not a recipe for "nouveau" chefs, but if you just follow it one step at a time, you'll be fine - it's not difficult to make.  If you are overwhelmed, let me suggest this - make the breadcrumbs the night before, and make the cauliflower first - it's ok if it sits around while you make the sauce - then, that's the only thing you'll have to make.  Have your breadcrumbs ready, and your pan of cauliflower.  Put out all the ingredients you need ahead of time - it helps keep you focused, so you are not fumbling around for something while your dish is burning on the stove.  If you are OCD, you can always put them in the order you use them (I do that sometimes)  Organization is the key to less stress in your kitchen.  You can do it! :-)


  1. OMG that looks SO DAMN good. this is one of those kind of meals that i could live off of, olive oil and pasta are two of my favorite things in the world. i like the breadcrumb night before idea too!
    ps...it's my birthday in a week. can you just SEND me this pasta already made!? ha. wish that was possible :P

  2. Well, you could also roast the cauliflower a day or two before, and crisp it up under the broiler before you use it. Then you would just need to boil the pasta and make the "sauce" - that's a piece of cake. :) All you do is throw everything into a pan and cook it - the pancetta is already diced, just need to smash the garlic, the capers are in a jar, the anchovies in a can. Oh..you need to chop the parsley - but that's easy enough :) oh and the walnuts are in a bag already in pieces :)

  3. Or easier yet - have one of your friends make it for your birthday dinner! *grins*