Friday, January 29, 2010
While I'd love to spend my days eating pork chops and pasta, sometimes restraint is in order. For those of us prone to indulgence but without the metabolism of a hummingbird, a little vanity can be an excellent motivating factor. So while I will love sugar, butter, cream, and bacon until I drop dead (and given that list, the day may not be far off), I do not like the idea of buying new clothes in bigger sizes. So, I try to find some balance with salads, light soups, and occasionally with a vegetable mish mash that adds up to a whole dinner.
For example, the other night, on the heels of a few particularly hedonistic days, I roasted up some asparagus and drizzled it with lemon juice, and sauteed cubed butternut squash with a little curry. Both turned out just fine, but the star of this odd little dinner turned out to be roasted cauliflower with sherry vinaigrette.
As a child, I found cauliflower pale, hideous, and utterly lacking in flavor. In typical 1970's style, my dad would sometimes bake it in a Corningware with grated cheddar cheese over it. In retrospect, this method flirted with the possibility of a gratin--had he added some cream and a fresh herb, or covered it with crunchy golden bread crumbs, perhaps I would have liked it better. Instead, it emerged just as white and lifeless as it went in, only now covered in orange Tillamook splotches. Cauliflower was among the many things I vowed not eat once I grew up, along with Brussels sprouts, beets, and asparagus.
Of course, things change, including your taste buds. Let's not forget that I once gagged at the smell of my dad's beer (although in honesty, I'm not sure to this day I could toss back a can of his Budweiser--I'm a Sierra Nevada girl). I now eat Brussels sprouts, beets, and asparagus with abandon. And I've even grown to like cauliflower.
In mulling over what to do with the massive cauliflower that arrived in our produce box the other day, a recipe in Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian piqued my interest. The cauliflower is roasted until carmelized and slightly sweet, then dressed with a sherry vinaigrette and tossed with raisins and parsley. The result is a pleasurable contrast of tart and sweet against a savory background. Next time, I would consider swapping dried cranberries for the raisins, and adding toasted pine nuts or walnuts--I think they would add fabulous texture and crunch. A little crumbled goat or blue cheese would not be out of place and would lend a luxurious element to the dish. And I'm certain you could substitute any number of fresh herbs for the parsley with excellent results. But the recipe is also wonderful just as is.
Roasted Cauliflower with Raisins and Vinaigrette
(adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)
1 head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into bite-sized florets
1/2 c. olive oil
2 T. sherry or balsamic vinegar (I like vinaigrette more acidic so added more vinegar)
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 400.
On a large baking sheet, toss cauliflower with 3 T. olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine remaining oil with vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the cauliflower from the oven and toss with 2 T. vinaigrette. Roast for another 15 minutes, or until it's cooked to your liking.
Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Then transfer to a bowl and right before serving, toss with remaining vinaigrette (I did not use all of it), raisins, parsley, and more salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.