We’re doing some very different and strange things to vegetables as we venture into the New Year.
Ricing a vegetable has gone mainstream with grocery stores actually doing it for you and frozen vegetable packers jumping on the bandwagon. If we can make it into a noodle a la The Spiralizer, it seems to add value. I can’t tell if we are doing all this to get the kids to eat more vegetables, or maybe to get we adults to eat more healthy stuff, or if we are just bored. Vegetable transformation certainly ended strong in 2016 and seems to be continuing into 2017.
Don’t misunderstand my comments. I’m not opposed to this trend. Anything to move away from processed foods is a good thing. Riced cauliflower is awesome when converted into fried rice, and I’ve been making zucchini “noodles” since I first had scallops with them at the now-closed Magnolia Grill in Durham about 30 years ago. There is, however, something very satisfying, especially during the winter months, to the slightly caramelized, just-plain-good roasted anything. Cauliflower is an excellent candidate.
This recipe, like most, has a story. My barber Frank Cutler is my summer corn connection and a pretty good cook. Normally I distrust folks who don’t like mayonnaise or raw tomatoes (I’ve had to overcome this because my own daughter is anti-mayo and raw tomatoes) but Frank has proven his worth. A number of times I’ve shared a meal with him and his neighbors at his Pamlico River house. One afternoon, Frank announced that he wanted to roast some cauliflower and asked me how to do it. I went with the traditional, cut into florets and tossed with oil, salt and pepper.
“I think it with would be good with sun-dried tomatoes,” Frank stated. Hmmm. I responded: “What if we used oil-packed sun-drieds and used the oil from the tomatoes to toss the cauliflower?” So we did and it turned out pretty good.
Back in my kitchen, I added Peppadew peppers. Even better. Peppadew peppers have a flavor that is both sweet and a tad spicy depending on their pickling brine. In Frank’s kitchen, he added chopped bacon. Even better. A recipe can always be a work in progress. Later I threw in the Gruyere cheese and this recipe was complete and ready for public viewing.
Here are a couple of tips and tricks: I like the sun-dried tomatoes on the olive bars in grocery stores today. They tend to be more flavorful and I really like the herb blend that that’s added to the oil. I always get a bunch of the oil as I dip out the tomatoes. And while you are right there, you can get the Peppadew peppers as well. I like to line my baking sheet with foil to increase the heat reflection, and non-stick foil makes the cauliflower easy to remove. Plus cleanup is easier.
Sure, try the novel and new, but don’t forget the tried and true. The more methods we use the better cooks we become, and the more fun food is to prepare and enjoy.
Fred Thompson is a Raleigh cookbook author and publisher of Edible Piedmont magazine. His latest cookbook is “Bacon.” Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roasted Cauliflower with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Peppers, Bacon and Gruyere
Fred Thompson suggests serving this cauliflower with steak, a pork roast, pan-roasted grouper or as a meal by itself. Add a green something and you are good to go. With high acid foods, you usually want a stable white wine like a Sauvignon Blanc, but this dish breaks a few rules. I like a pinot noir with the cauliflower.
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
12 or more oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, cut into strips
4 tablespoons oil that the tomatoes are packed in (more if needed)
12 or more Peppadew peppers, cut into strips
4 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled, optional
1/4 to 1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
Heat your oven to 425 degrees.
Place the cauliflower, tomatoes, oil, peppers and bacon, if using, in a large bowl. Toss until everything is very well coated with the oil. You can add more oil (even olive oil) if you need to.
Line a baking sheet with foil. Spread the cauliflower mixture out over the foil in a single layer.
Place in the oven and roast for about 15 minutes or until the tips of the florets are beginning to brown and the cauliflower is getting tender.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle the cheese over the cauliflower. Return to the oven for a minute or two, and then remove from oven and stir to fully combine the cheese with the cauliflower. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Yield: 4 servings