Cauliflower. The vegetable you either love or hate. As I child, I was a fan of its doppelgänger, the broccoli. I believed that broccoli is to Stephanie as spinach is to Popeye the sailor man. Hence, broccoli was practically the only vegetable I would eat and I thought that it was what made me strong. When it came to cauliflower, the smell would turn me away but I was intrigued by its familiar appearance to my dearly beloved broccoli. Yet it wasn’t green like broccoli, nor green like spinach, so I wouldn’t become as strong as Popeye.
My only recollection of cauliflower ventures as a child was eating my grandmother’s “Gratin au Chou Fleur” (Cauliflower Gratin). But I also remember sitting at her table on the “banquette” in the dimly lighted yellow wallpaper room eating her Gratin au Chou Fleur with the faint smell of Cauliflower lingering in the room. It wasn’t until recently that I began to make new POSITIVE memories with cauliflower.
It all happened when my mom did a cleanse and cauliflower rice was a recipe that was featured. My grandmother (Mamie for those who don’t know her yet) was visiting during this time and fell in love with the cauliflower stir-fry. Flash forward a few months later when I spent my summer with her in France. She lives in a small town and her family is still based there. Her younger brother spends his days taking walks throughout the town visiting people and tending to his garden. At the end of the summer season, he had an abundance of cauliflower. Every time I would visit him, I would get a garden tour with an update of what he was harvesting and leave with a cauliflower. And every time he would stop by Mamie’s house while on his walk, he would bring more veggies and yet another cauliflower. Mamie’s recipe book was very limited when it came to cauliflower. Her recipes included the gratin and the stir fry. I wish this wasn’t true for me but sadly it was…until now! My mom recently added this recipe to our growing collection. This version gives the cauliflower a bite; no more soggy bites and no more stench. Yup, you heard me right! NO MORE STENCH! So with Thanksgiving just around the corner, bring in more veggies (to make up for all that pie) to your diet in a way that will please everyone.
- 1 cauliflower head
- 5 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- ¾ teaspoon finely chopped rosemary leaves
- 1 ½ cups pureed tomatoes
- ¼ cup vegetable broth, plus extra for cooking
- 3 large pinches red pepper flakes, more if you like spicy
- salt, to taste
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Put the cauliflower on its side on a cutting board. Core the base of the cauliflower ( insert a small sharp knife about 1 inch into the base of the stem, make a circular cut to loosen the cone-shaped core, then pry it out and discard).
In a deep, heavy ovenproof pot with a lid (I used a lodge cast iron pot), heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower cored side up; it should sizzle. Brown the exterior, turning it occasionally with tongs for even browning, 5 minutes. Turn over and lightly brown the other side, 2 minutes.
Remove the cauliflower and add garlic and rosemary into the pot. Stir until garlic is golden, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, vegetable broth, chiles and salt. Bring to a simmer. Return cauliflower to pot, cored side down. Baste with the tomato liquid and pile some of the solids on top. Simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes to thicken the tomatoe puree.
Cover the pot, place in the oven and roast until tender, 30 to 45 minutes. Check on the tomato sauce every 10 minutes or so. If it becomes too thick, add a bit more of vegetable broth.
Transfer the cauliflower head to a serving plate and spoon the sauce from the pot over the cauliflower. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
Recipe inspired by the New York Times