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Thursday, Jan. 4, 2007 01:00 am

Cauliflower power

It never tastes like a tree trunk, and it takes on any flavor

Untitled Document If cheese sauce is all you’ve ever had in the way of broccoli and its kissing cousin, cauliflower, then we need to talk. It is hard to mention one without the other, given the popularity of the newfangled hybrid Broccoflower, plus cauliflower is available not just in traditional virgin snow white but in shades of funky green and Barney purple as well. A food fight nearly broke out at a Seattle restaurant where four of us were debating whether our fab cauliflower dish was in fact broccoli. The reason to love cauliflower over broccoli is its elegance and grace. It never tastes like a tree trunk, and it takes on any flavor you wish, particularly if you roast it. Cauliflower loves a hot oven. Roasting is a surefire way to tenderize those florets and allow seasonings to soak in. The accompanying recipe is inspired by the aforementioned Seattle food fight. Done up Sicilian-style, with a sweet-savory combination of raisins, pine nuts, garlic, anchovies, and bread crumbs, this dish is intense without being rich. I re-created it with pasta, but it works beautifully all by its glorious lonesome.

One head white, green, or purple cauliflower, cleaned, trimmed, and cut into florets, about 1 pound Olive oil Salt and pepper 1 cup raisins, soaked in 1 cup white wine 1/4 cup pine nuts Four cloves garlic, smashed Three or four anchovy fillets, chopped At least 1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs, up to 1/2 cup 1/2 pound short pasta such as penne, farfalle, or gemelli 1 teaspoon salt Shaved Parmesan (optional) Small handful chopped fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place cauliflower in baking dish. Add olive oil to florets so that they are generously coated. Season with salt and pepper. Add raisins and wine, pine nuts, garlic, and anchovies, and stir to combine. Sprinkle breadcrumbs generously on top.
Bake uncovered until fork tender, approximately 45 minutes. After 20 minutes, check the liquid level; if the wine is completely evaporated, add a few ounces of water to keep the raisins from burning. For pasta, bring a pot of water to a boil and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and pour into serving bowl. Pour cauliflower and trimmings over pasta and mix to combine. Add Parmesan, if you are using it, and garnish with parsley. Makes three or four servings.

Culinary questions? Contact Kim O’Donnel at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.
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