The Cowgirl Chef: Cooking with cauliflower

Posted Wednesday, May. 21, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

Cauliflower flatbread

Makes 1 (14-inch) flatbread

• 2 cups cauliflower florets

• 1/2 cup almond meal

• 2/3 cup grated mozzarella cheese

• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

• 1 egg, lightly beaten

• 1/4 teaspoon sea salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put florets in a steamer basket in a saucepan along with an inch of water and cover the pot. Turn the heat to high and, when it boils, reduce to medium-high and check every few minutes until the florets are cooked but still firm. This should take about 10 minutes. Remove florets and let cool.

2. Put florets in a small food processor and pulse into tiny pieces — not a puree. Pour into a bowl.

3. Add remaining ingredients, mix well, then turn the mixture onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and form into a round disc, about 14 inches in diameter. Pat it out so it’s even. Bake about 25 minutes or until the edges are brown and crispy and the flatbread is baked through. Serve right away.

Cowgirl tip: I used mozzarella in this recipe, which can easily be made into a pizza crust by omitting the parsley and swapping out with basil — or leaving it out altogether if you want, but I like the herb flavor throughout. You can also go Tex-Mex by using Monterey Jack and adding cilantro and/or finely chopped jalapeño, then top as you would a tostada.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 89 calories, 5 grams fat, 4 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams protein, 35 milligrams cholesterol, 115 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 49 percent of calories from fat.

Cauliflower-pistachio velouté

Makes 4 servings

Velouté means “velvetiness” in French. It is a creamy soup or sauce.

• 4 cups cauliflower florets

• 1/2 cup cream

• 1 cup water

• 1 teaspoon sea salt

• Pistachio oil, for garnish (see note)

• 2 tablespoons roasted and crushed pistachios, for garnish

1. Put florets in a saucepan with 2 to 3 inches of water. Cover and turn heat to high. When it boils, reduce heat to a simmer and let cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cauliflower can easily be pierced with a fork. Pour off the water, reserving 1 cup. (This step may be done in advance and the cooked cauliflower florets may be refrigerated.)

2. Put cauliflower, cream, water and salt in a blender and puree until the consistency is smooth and souplike. Add more water (or more cream) if needed. If the soup needs to be rewarmed, pour it back into the saucepan over low heat — or if you’d like to serve it cold (and I often do), refrigerate until you’re ready to pour it into bowls. Garnish with a swirl of pistachio oil and a sprinkle of pistachios.

Note: Pistachio oil is available at specialty grocers.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 121 calories, 10 grams fat, 7 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 26 milligrams cholesterol, 513 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 67 percent of calories from fat.

Cauliflower-goat cheese dip

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

• 1 small head cauliflower, florets removed

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• Sea salt and pepper

• 1 small clove garlic, minced

• 4 1/2 ounces creamy goat cheese, at room temperature

• A small handful of fresh chives, finely chopped

• A few drops of Tabasco

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. Toss cauliflower florets with olive oil and a pinch of sea salt and pepper directly on the cookie sheet, making sure they’re well coated. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes, checking on them every 10 minutes or so and turning them so they brown evenly. (This step may be done in advance and the florets can be refrigerated.)

3. Put florets and remaining ingredients in a small food processor and pulse just until combined — that way, you’ll have a chunky dip. Refrigerate for an hour or more so the flavors can come together. Serve with tortilla chips or crackers, or stuff some in a baked potato.

Nutritional analysis per 2-tablespoon serving: 82 calories, 6 grams fat, 3 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 11 milligrams cholesterol, 64 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 64 percent of calories from fat.

Roasted cauliflower salad

Makes 4 servings

For salad:

• 1 large head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), florets removed

• 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

• Sea salt and pepper

• 10 cherry tomatoes, halved

• A handful of arugula

• 1 tablespoon fresh dill, finely chopped

For vinaigrette:

• 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard

• 2 tablespoons capers, chopped

• 2 garlic cloves, minced

• 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

• 1/2 cup olive oil

• Sea salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put cauliflower florets on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of sea salt and pepper. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes, making sure to turn over the florets about halfway through, so they brown on all sides.

2. Meanwhile, make the dressing: In a jam jar, mix mustard, capers, garlic and vinegar along with a pinch of sea salt and pepper. Let sit for 15 minutes. Add oil and give it a good shake. Set aside.

3. When the florets are done, remove from oven and let cool slightly (or let them cool completely — this salad is delicious at room temperature, too). Put florets in a large bowl along with tomatoes, arugula and dill. Add dressing and gently toss. Serve right away.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 372 calories, 35 grams fat, 15 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, no cholesterol, 192 milligrams cholesterol, 6 grams dietary fiber, 79 percent of calories from fat.

— Adapted from “Ottolenghi: The Cookbook” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (Random House, $35)

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

A few years ago in Paris, I went to dinner at my friend Julie’s. She served a roasted cauliflower salad from a new cookbook she’d bought after eating at Ottolenghi restaurant in London.

“Cauliflower,” I thought. “How, um, interesting.”

I put a spoonful on my plate to be polite.

After that, I had another, larger helping, and maybe one more after that. I don’t remember how much cauliflower I ate that evening, but I went home and immediately ordered the Ottolenghi cookbook for myself. I made the recipe I had at Julie’s and then started developing my own, mixing cauliflower with grains, making vinaigrettes and even developing a recipe for cauliflower galettes with chipotle crème fraiche for my cookbook, because I now loved cauliflower so.

As do the French — so much that one of their most commonly used terms of endearment is “mon petit chou,” or simply “chou-chou,” both short for chou-fleur, which is French for cauliflower.

Maybe it’s their love of this veggie that makes it grow so big in France — often larger than a basketball and much heavier, which is OK as long as you remember to bring your lime green wheely cart with you to the market.

In the U.S., I’ve yet to see a cauliflower even half the size of the French ones.

My own cauliflower crush started with that recipe from Ottolenghi (my adaptation is below). Not long after that, I found cauliflower as a silky puree underneath a delicate white fish at one of my favorite bistros near the Bastille, and I knew something was up.

Later, back in the U.S., where food seems to have trends rather than seasons, cauliflower had been anointed the new “it” vegetable alongside kale. It was everywhere. In pizza crusts for the gluten-free. As “mock” mashed potatoes for the carb-free. Thickly sliced and served as “steaks.” Tossed in hot sauce and served like Buffalo wings.

What made cauliflower suddenly chic? Probably the roasting, which caramelizes and crisps the outside, leaving the inside tender, thereby turning cauliflower’s ho-humness into hubba-hubba. If you ask me, serving it naked — with only a bit of olive oil, sea salt and pepper — is the best way to eat it, and right off the pan, like popcorn.

I may make tacos with the last bits of roasted cauliflower in my fridge, along with some black beans, cheese and avocado for dinner. Photos to appear on your Pinterest feed soon.

Ellise Pierce is the author of “Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking With a French Accent” (Running Press, $25)., @cowgirlchef.

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