Cauliflower ~ 1 video, 3 recipes!

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Cauliflower—not the most inspiring of vegetables. With its creamy white color and “brain-like” looking texture, it is often relegated to your grandmother’s crudites party platter with an equally appetizing side of ranch dressing. Hmm, will someone pass the whittled-down carrots nubs?

While living in Italy with Nonna, she shared her roasted cauliflower recipe (#1) with me. I think Italians really understand how to prepare vegetables. Nonna also told me how she uses roasted cauliflower with pasta—recipe #2. The soup recipe (#3) is my own invention born out of wanting to showcase how to make a “creamy” soup without using cream—and making it gluten-free, lactose-free and completely vegan.

I will be candid in saying that I was nervous about walking in to a TV studio, full of guys, to prepare, of all things, cauliflower—a vegetable that doesn’t conjure up images of culinary excitement. Well, by the end of the segment, off-camera during a commercial break, the studio was full of people lining up to finish off everything I had prepared. Not because I’m brilliant, it was because cauliflower is truly a delicious food.

With these three recipes, I hope you’ll be inspired to give cauliflower a chance to be released from its crudites status. It really deserves to be featured more. Brava Nonna!

Buon Appetito~

Mark

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower

2 heads cauliflower, cored and cut into equal-sized florets

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or non-stick foil.

In a large bowl, add the cauliflower florets, red pepper flakes, salt, black pepper and olive oil. Using your hands, toss together until the florets are covered well. Pour mixture onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, distributing evenly. Roast in oven for 15 minutes. Using a pair of tongs, turn the florets to a second side and continue roasting an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the florets are lightly browned and fork tender. Remove from oven and set aside to cool on the baking sheet.

Serve as a side dish to your favorite chicken, fish, pork or beef entrée. Serves 6 to 8.

 

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower with Spinach Penne Pasta

To roast the cauliflower:

2 heads of cauliflower, cored and cut into bite-sized florets

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 teaspoon Kosher salt, more or less to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more or less to taste

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, more or less to taste

For the “sauce”:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, finely minced

1 cup low-sodium boxed chicken, or vegetable, broth, divided

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound package spinach penne (regular or tri-color penne may be substituted)

3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish

Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped as a garnish

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place the cauliflower florets into a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil, adding the salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Using your hands toss the florets until they are covered with the oil and seasonings. Spread onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Roast for 15 to 18 minutes, until the florets start to brown. Using tongs, turn the florets over, continue roasting for an additional 10 to 15 minutes until side two is lightly browned and the florets are fork tender. Remove from oven and set aside to let the florets cool while you prepare the “sauce.”

For the “sauce”: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the oil and stir in the onions, coating well with the oil. Stir for one minute, making sure that the onions do not brown, and add 1/4 cup of the broth. Stir occasionally, until the broth is almost evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Add another 1/4  cup of the broth and continue stirring until the liquid has almost evaporated a second time. Repeat this step with the next 1/4 cup of broth. When the third batch of broth is almost evaporated, stir in ” teaspoon salt, 1teaspoon back pepper, and remaining 1/4 cup of broth. Stir until well combined, remove from the heat, and set aside. This is the “sauce.”

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add 2 tablespoons of salt and 1 pound of penne pasta. Cook the pasta as directed on the package.

Two or three minutes before the pasta is done, place the pan with the onion mixture back over low heat until it starts to simmer. When the pasta is al dente—tender but still has a bite, drain well and add it to the simmering onions. Stir until well combined. Taste and adjust the salt and black pepper. Stir in the roasted cauliflower and all of the drippings from the roasting sheet into the sauced pasta. Again, taste for seasoning, and adjust as necessary.

Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the cheese, parsley, and drizzle with another tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Plate and serve warm, garnishing with additional cheese. Serves 8.

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower and Saffron Soup

For the cauliflower:

2 heads cauliflower, cored and cut into equal-sized florets

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the soup:

8 cups canned vegetable stock (low sodium, gluten free)

1/2 teaspoon (1/2 gram) coarsely crumbled saffron threads

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 medium yellow onions, minced

4 large cloves garlic, finely minced

1 (15.5-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced into ½-inch-thick cubes

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Thinly sliced fresh chives for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or non-stick foil.

In a large bowl, add the cauliflower florets, red pepper flakes, salt, black pepper and olive oil. Using your hands, toss together until the florets are covered well. Pour mixture onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, distributing evenly. Roast in oven for 15 minutes. Using a pair of tongs, turn the florets to a second side and continue roasting an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the florets are lightly browned and fork temder. Remove from oven and set aside to cool on the baking sheet.

Meanwhile, place 4 cups of the vegetable stock in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the saffron threads, cover and allow the saffron threads to steep for 20 minutes.

In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, over medium heat, add the olive oil. When hot, add the onions, sautéing for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and tender, but not brown. [If the onions start to brown, reduce the heat and add a tablespoon of water to slow the sauté process.] Add the garlic, stirring for 30 to 45 seconds. Add the beans, potatoes, salt and pepper. Stir until combined and allow to sauté for 1 minute. Raise the heat to medium-high, pour in the saffron-infused stock plus the remaining 4 cups vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Once at a boil, cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Turn off the heat. Add the roasted cauliflower, with any of the brown bits from the parchment, and stir until combined. Use a stick blender in the pot to purée the soup until it is slightly chunky and almost smooth. [If you don’t have a stick blender, purée the soup, in batches, in a food processor and return to the pot.] Garnish with chopped chives.  Serves 8 to 12.

About the Author

Mark LeslieMark Leslie, seen cooking on NBC’s "The Today Show" and Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family," loves to cook for anyone with an appetite, vacations in Italy every year, and lives to eat his way through every plate of pasta and cone of gelato placed before him. His first book, “Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family,” tells of his life in Italy while cooking with an Italian grandmother. He shares his food experiences on his blog at www.beyondthepasta.com and has taught cooking classes in California, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, and across Alabama. While judging for high school culinary events, he was chosen by the US Department of Education to judge for their "National Education Startup Challenge." Mark can be regularly seen cooking on NBC-affiliate, WSFA-TV 12's "Alabama Live! each Friday, bringing easy, locally sourced recipes to central Alabama. His iTunes app “Beyond the Pasta” features helpful videos and more of Nonna’s family-style recipes that she shared with him, plus, upon its release, it was named “New & Noteworthy” by Apple. DaVinci Wines chose Mark as their "2012 Storyteller" in Language Arts—where they sent him to Vinci, Italy, to write about wine, food and life. Mark, his home and book have been featured in such national publications and blogs as House Beautiful, Paula Deen, Food Republic, The Kitchn, Apartment Therapy, Field & Stream, and The Daily Meal. A Chicago-area native and “Yankee” by birth, Mark has lived in Alabama for over 24 years, and celebrates the fact that he started life eating farina, progressed to grits, and finally arrived at polenta. Buonissimo!View all posts by Mark Leslie →

"Beyond the Pasta" is owned and operated by Mark Leslie. Unless otherwise specified all content, writing, recipes and photography is original and held in copyright through the Library of Congress. It may not be used without the express written consent of Mark Leslie.