Mark Twain wrote that “A cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education.” Funny.
Think about it. Cauliflower: B.A., M.A., Ph.D.–and that is just one of those plain vanilla white cauliflowers.
Who even knows how many degrees one of those splendid romanesco cauliflowers has? Probably a well-earned Juris Doctor degree at the very least.
If you are not familiar with the neon-hued romanescos, you are in for a real treat. The romanesco cauliflower, which tastes a bit like broccoli, is a natural approximation of a fractal. Each bud in the spiral floret is composed of a series of smaller nearly-identical buds. These agricultural wonders didn’t occur naturally in nature, though. It is believed that they were the result of selective breeding in 16th Century Renaissance Italy. They are, by design, so spectacular that I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find them pictured among Leonardo’s doodles in his Notebooks.
Whatever its degree and pedigree, cauliflower is having its moment.
Sur La Table Cooking School has a whole class devoted to sublime cauliflower recipes including wok-fried cauliflower rice and an amazing cauliflower-crusted grilled cheese sandwich. “Cauliflower steaks” are making an appearance on the menus of fine restaurants (see Farmhouse Restaurant at Roger’s Gardens in Newport Beach.) Just Google “cauliflower recipes” and watch your screen explode with options.
Last night, as I struggled to find something interesting to cook for dinner, I came across this Martha Rose Shulman recipe for Sicilian Cauliflower wth Black Olive Gratin. Who wouldn’t find that recipe title appealing? I certainly did.
- 1 generous head white cauliflower (2 1/2 pounds)
- 1 small onion (finely chopped)
- 3 T. extra virgin olive oil (or more)
- 4 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1/2 sweet red bell pepper (diced)
- 16 imported oil-curred black olives (pitted and chopped) Save a few whole olives for garnish.
- 3 T. minced fresh parsley
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 C. freshly-grated Parmesan
- Break cauliflower into medium-sized florets, toss florets in a generous amount of olive oil with salt and pepper, and bake in a 375 degree F. oven for 10-15 minutes.
- Heat 1-2 T. olive oil in a large skillet.Sauté onion and red pepper over medium heat for approximately three minutes. Add a pinch of salt and the chopped garlic to the pan. Cook for about 30 seconds until the garlic is fragrant and translucent. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chopped olives.
- Using a large ceramic baking dish, place the cauliflower in the baking dish and add the onion and olive mixture. Stir in the remaining olive oil, the parsley and half the cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread the mixture out on the baking dish and sprinkle the remaining cheese on the top.
- Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Serve hot or warm.
Here is the link to the original Martha Rose Shulman recipe from which this recipe was adapted: http://Martha Rose Shulman’s Sicilian Cauliflower and Black Oliver Gratin