(Cauli)Flower Power

As a child, you would have been hard pressed to get me to eat cauliflower – especially with that funky mustard sauce my mother would put on it. It looked like brains to me and, obviously, I had enough of those already.

But, as you might have predicted, that changed as I got older and expanded my culinary horizons. I learned how delicious it could be when roasted or even, a la Nick Ruscitto, sliced into a thick steak and grilled. Finally, I understood the appeal of this cruciferous veggie and I added it to my fall and winter repertoire.

Generally, I break a head into florets, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper and roast at a high temp until tender but not mushy. If I’m feeling fancy, I might add garam masala or some other flavorful spice mix for a tasty treat, eating the cauliflower as either a side or main dish, hot or cold. Easy.

I added leeks to the pasta because why not?

Recently, though, a couple of cauliflower centric recipes caught my eye. The first, Cauliflower Carbonara, came to my attention as I sought a recipe to use the five egg yolks I had leftover after making an Egg White Frittata. Waste not, want not, people! Between the resourceful use of those leftover yolks, the pasta shape (orecchiette), and the presence of pancetta, which makes pretty much everything better, this recipe was a winner. The process of turning yolks and pasta water into the most delicious and simple sauce is pure magic and so very Italian. Definitely try this one, friends.

The second recipe also combines pancetta and cauliflower, but instead of a creamy bowl of lusciousness, the result is a delicious salty, cheesy dish of yum. Yes, I said yum. If you don’t believe me, ask my neighbors who devoured the small container I brought over for our recent election results celebratory bonfire. I’ll definitely make this again, but next time I’ll decrease the amount of olive oil by a touch. Maybe I’ll make the olive dressing as directed, but not actually use all of it for the dish. Both recipes use a technique which I had not previously encountered – grating the garlic over the piping hot roasted cauliflower rather than “cooking” it in a traditional manner. I’ll also be doing that again.

The vegetables I used for these recipes were sourced (how fancy!) from my new favorite farm stand in Columbia County, Meisner’s Heritage Farm. I almost feel guilty recommending this place because I believe this is their last weekend to be open for the season, but it is real deal fantastic. The prices are incredibly reasonable, their baked goods are really nice (you should see the flakes in my car from the croissant I couldn’t resist diving into immediately) and the vegetables I bought were gorgeous. No, seriously, GORGEOUS.

I’m pretty sure the snowy white head of cauliflower I bought two weeks ago was the best I’ve ever had. It was so good that I drove back last weekend to get another, this time adding a beautiful head of purple cauliflower to my bag because I literally could not choose just one. The leeks (from that original frittata) were clean and a rich shade of green, and the Japanese eggplant I used in this recipe were stellar. I’m seriously considering taking a drive down that way today to grab a pie (hoping for classic peach) and another bag o’produce before they shut the barn doors for 2020…

Get cooking – there’s nothing better to do on a pandemic weekend in November. Other than eat pie, that is.

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