Until very recently, whenever I’d pass the cauliflower display in my local market, I’d mumble to myself….”what the #$%^ do people do with cauliflower anyway?” I mean, I’m a cook with fairly well rounded tastes, comfortable cooking and eating just about anything, but for some reason, I have avoided, ignored, and dismissed cauliflower for years. It could be that I never remember having it as a kid, it just wasn’t a part of my mom’s cooking routine, and therefore I never developed a taste for it when I was young. It could be that the few times I’ve had it served to me and actually liked it, it was either deep fried, or drowning in a cheese sauce, and as much as I’m a fan of cheese and ANYTHING fried, to me, that whole route seems to defeat the purpose of eating vegetables in the first place.
Whatever the reason for the lack of cauliflower in my kitchen, a few days ago I found myself staring at a large pyramid display of the buggers at my local Whole Foods, and decided that it was time to make friends with the weird albino vegetable wrapped in cellophane. I bought a head of it, drove home, and proceeded to scour my cookbooks for a suitable recipe with which to end my cauliflower drought. It didn’t take me long to find this one in one of my favorite cookbooks, The Olives Table: Over 160 Recipes from the Critically Acclaimed Restaurant and Home Kitchen of Todd English . It is a breeze to throw together, easy for one of the kids to prep in its entirety, and is really delicious in a way I never thought cauliflower could be….like without being a “deep fried cheese bomb”.
I’m OK dressing up veggies with herbs, spices or a light sauce in order to keep them interesting and get the kids to like them, but I do think its important to let them know they’re actually eating veggies by not working so hard to disguise them entirely. I want the kids to learn to love veggies for their purity of flavor and wholesome goodness, and not because they are a vehicle for more deep fried fat in their diet. This recipe scores nicely in that regard.
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped peeled ginger or 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 bay leaves, crumbled
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 head cauliflower, leaves intact
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup water
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Place first 8 ingredients in a small bowl and mix together until well combined. Set aside.
- Place the cauliflower, leafy side down, in a baking pan just big enough to hold it snugly, and drizzle the honey mix over it. Add 1/4 cup water to the pan, place the cauliflower in the oven, and bake until golden brown, about an hour. If at this point, the sauce in the bottom of the pan is looking thick and taking on too much color, add another 1/4 cup of water to the pan, and cook until the cauliflower is well browned and soft, about another 30 minutes.*
- Remove cauliflower and slice it. Pour the cooking liquid over the slices and serve.
- The first time I made this I cooked it in an 8"x8" metal baking pan, and didn't add water until the 1 hour point (in keeping with the original recipe). Sadly, by then the honey had burned, and adding the water just gave me a looser burnt honey sauce (Boo). When I next made it, I baked it in a round ceramic souffle ramekin just large enough to hold the head of cauliflower, and added 1/4 cup water at the start. At the 1 hour mark I added just enough additional water to lighten the honey to a sauce consistency and at the end of cooking was rewarded with a delicious golden elixir of honey and spice to drizzle over the cut cauliflower...perfection.