The trendsetters over at Food52 recently told me that I could unabashedly pluRonk a whole cauliflower onto my table and call it dinner. Not just any cauliflower, though: it was this one, simmered in a rich, flavorful broth, then roasted on high high heat until the edges were singed, the whole orb a glistening golden. Then I could plunk it on my table and call it dinner. I needed zero convincing to try this one.
I will confess, though, that I only had one cauliflower in the fridge, and I was nervous that it wouldn’t be enough to feed four of us. Since I’d bought a beautiful fillet of shad the previous day, I decided to roast that alongside the cauliflower. This meant that the cauliflower wasn’t our only main dish, but no matter: it was a pièce de résistance all the same. The inner flesh was soft and flavorful from the broth, and those outer bits, well – I could eat them all day long.
The sauces didn’t hurt, either: one was a whipped feta, made with a bit of yogurt and some softly whipped cream. The other was a savory fig compote, made by heating and steeping dried figs with capers until everything was soft, then blending the mixture until it was smooth. Sweet and briny, it was the perfect compliment to the silky cauliflower.
The Menu: As promised, here’s what we served for dinner that night:
- Leek Apple Walnut Soup (totally vegan, really delicious)
- Cauliflower with whipped feta and savory fig spread on the side
- Simply roasted shad (smeared with a bit of the fig jam; roasted with a few segments of lemon, flaky salt, and a drizzle of olive oil)
- Platter of leeks, turnips, and carrots roasted in equal parts miso and olive oil for about 45 minutes, until soft and browned
- Bulgur salad with eggplant and tahini dressing (from our friend Jana; super tasty)
- This orange marmalade cake, served with whipped cream fortified with a bit of sour cream. Great combination
Dinner was simple, but we really enjoyed it. And had we skipped the shad, we wouldn’t have missed it.
Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Feta and Savory Fig Spread
Adapted from Alon Shaya, via Food 52
Serves 2 as a main course with leftovers, 4 as a side
For the cauliflower:
1 whole cauliflower, leaves removed, stem trimmed
2 1/2 cups dry white wine
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup salt (don’t worry – it doesn’t make the cauliflower too salty. Remember, you’re seasoning 10 cups of liquid.)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
1 bay leaf
Heat oven to 475° F. Bring wine, oil, salt, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, sugar, bay leaf, and 8 cups water to a boil in a large pot.
When broth is boiling, carefully lower in cauliflower, reduce heat, and simmer 15-20 minutes, turning once at the 10-minute mark, until a knife easily inserts into center. Using 2 slotted spoons or a mesh strainer or spider, transfer cauliflower to a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan, draining well. Roast, rotating pan halfway through, until brown all over, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer cauliflower to a plate. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil; sprinkle with sea salt. Serve with whipped feta cheese and/or savory fig compote. (recipes below)
That broth, by the way? Do not throw it away. It makes a fantastic base for soup and stew, and works like a charm as the cooking liquid for grains. I made some killer wheatberries in it right after removing the cauliflower.
For the whipped feta:
4 oz. feta cheese
1/2 cup whipping cream
3 oz. yogurt or sour cream
Put feta in a medium mixing bowl. Use a fork to mash the feta until mostly smooth (some chunks are okay). In a separate bowl, whip cream until it just barely holds soft peaks. Fold whipped cream and yogurt/sour cream into feta until combined.
For the fig compote:
1 cup dried figs, stems removed, halved
2 tablespoons capers plus 1 tablespoon caper brine (okay to skip if using salt-cured capers)
1/2 cup brewed chai tea
Bring chai tea and 1/2 cup water to a simmer in a small saucepan. Add figs and capers; simmer 5 minutes. Then remove from heat and let steep 1 hour. Blend cooled mixture using immersion or regular blender until smooth.