Here's a great way to use cauliflower for two dishes. Brocoli Pastetta is what's in the picture above. In American cuisine, we'd call these cauliflower fritters. You slice the cauliflower just so, par-boil it, then batter and fry it. Damn. So good. Because you can only use the nice slices for the Pastetta, you have a bunch of little cauliflower bits left over, that's what makes the Pasta con Brocoli, which is my favorite pasta dish.
Maria makes this combo about 2 or 3 times a year and I go crazy for it. In my mind they both seem like they would fall into the "comfort" food of Sicilian cuisine. So good.
I've made both dishes with her a few times and I can now lay out the recipe for both of them
Yield: this recipe, made with two heads of cauliflower, makes a big pile -- great for appetizers for around a dozen folks or so.
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1.5 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2.25 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 cup dried parsley
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 5 eggs
- 2 cups water
- 2 large heads of cauliflower
- canola oil for frying
- Make the batter first: mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
- Beat in the eggs and water, cover the bowl. Let the batter rest while you prepare the cauliflower.
- Core the cauliflower and separate into flowerettes. Save the nice, tender bits of green stem, cut out the core and eat it as you work. You'll use the green stem and small bits of cauliflower for the pasta.
- Slice the cauliflower so that the stem structure holds it together.
- Rinse the sliced cauliflower in cold water.
- Boil the cauliflower slices until just tender. They should just slide off the tip of knife when you stab them.
- Lift the slices out of the water (save this water) with a strained spoon or basket and shock them in ice water to stop them from cooking further.
- In a heavy pan (cast iron, or enameled cast iron is ideal), heat about an inch of oil until you can just see small wisps of clear smoke.
- Batter the slices of cauliflower and carefully slide into the oil; cook until golden. Watch the heat on your oil; after the first batch goes in and cools down the oil, it will heat up again and you can back off the heat a bit.
- Drain on paper towels or on a rack.
- Serve hot, room temp, or cold. And hide some for yourself; these go quick.
Pasta con Brocoli
Yield: this recipe, made from the remains of two heads of cauliflower, is good for a pound of penne pasta. That's a lot of pasta. Easily feeds 6 with salad, bread, etc.
Although the recipe below doesn't mention it, you can also throw in a handful currants and/or pine nuts when you add the cauliflower.
- Left over bits of cauliflower from Brocoli Pastetta. My guess is that you'll have around 4 cups of bits.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, medium, diced small
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- one tin of anchovy fillets
- pinch of saffron (optional)
- crushed red pepper
- 1/2-3/4 cup grated parm
- 1 pound of penne, cooked al dente
- In the same water you boiled the cauliflower slices in -- boil the bits. Bring the water to a boil, then cover the pot and turn it off and let the cauliflower steep in the hot water as you prepare the sauce. These bits get pretty soft.
- Heat the olive oil in a big sauce pan on medium-high. When the oil is hot, saute the onions until soft, but not browning.
- Add the sliced garlic and all but one fillet of the anchovies.
- Stir with a fork and crush the anchovies into the onions.
- Add the saffron if you've got it.
- Cook until mixed up and the anchovies have melted away into the onions and garlic; a couple minutes.
- While you wait, eat the remaining anchovy on a piece of crusty bread.
- Lift the cauliflower bits out of the water and into the saute pan; don't worry if there cauliflower bits are a bit wet; you want the water to help make the dish saucey.
- Add a pinch (or more if that's your deal) of red pepper flakes and saute until the cauliflower is all mixed in with the onions.
- Add a 1/2 cup or so of cauliflower water and reduce it down a bit. Maybe cook/high simmer for 3-4 minutes. In lean times, add a bit more water to stretch the dish out.
- Stir in grated parm and penne and heat through. Serve with crusty bread.