In Praise of Winter Cauliflower

Winter cauliflower is nothing short of amazing! We planted a whole bunch of different varieties this year trying to figure out what does well for us. I’ll post the results on that sometime next month. More important I wanted to put this photo up of our gorgeous SEVEN POUND cauliflower head!! Thanks Matt for capturing this beast on film! Below is a great cauliflower recipe recommended by my friend Lane Selman. She is part of the OSU team that is helping us with variety trials and she also works at the downtown farmers market for Gathering Together Farms. How she find’s time to cook too is beyond me!

Based on Jamie’s Italy cookbook….

Cauliflower Risotto
(Risotto ai Cavolfiori)

serves 6

This is an absolutely delicious recipe. It’s quite unusual, and the best thing about it is that it makes a hero of the much-underloved everyday cauliflower. If you’re down at the farmers’ market, or at the supermarket, have a look around for a Romanesco cauliflower – it’s a similar size to a normal cauliflower but spiky and green. It also has a delicious flavor. The reason I love this dish is because it takes some all-time classic ingredients and puts them together in a great way. In Britain we normally eat cauliflower baked with cheese, and in Italy it is baked as a parmigiana with cream, cheese, and anchovies. All these flavors are in this risotto, with the added bonus of really crunchy chili pangrattato sprinkled on top – it gives an amazing kick.

2 handfuls of stale bread, torn into pieces
1 small can of anchovies, oil from can reserved
3 small dried red chilies
extra virgin olive oil
1 cauliflower
1 risotto bianco (recipe follows)
a handful of chopped fresh parsley
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese, for grating

Whiz the bread in a food processor with the anchovies, the oil from the can, and the chilies. Heat a frying pan with a splash of oil and fry the flavored breadcrumbs, stirring and tossing constantly until golden brown.

Trim the coarse leaves off the cauliflower and cut out the stalk. Chop the nice inner part of the stalk finely. Start making your risotto bianco, adding the chopped cauliflower stalk to the pan with the onion and celery at Stage 1. Add the cauliflower florets to your pan of hot stock.

Continue to follow the basic risotto recipe (below), adding the stock bit by bit until the rice is half-cooked. By now the cauliflower florets should be quite soft, so you can start to add them to the risotto with the stock, crushing them into the rice as you go. Continue until the rice is cooked and all the cauliflower has been added.

At Stage 4, when you add the butter and Parmesan, stir in the parsley, taste, and season. Sprinkle with the anchovy pangrattato, grate some more Parmesan over the top, and serve.

Basic Risotto Bianco

This is a great recipe for making risotto. You want it to be smooth, creamy and oozy, not thick and stodgy.

approx 2 pints stock (chicken, fish or vegetable as appropriate)
1 knob of butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
½ a head of celery, finely chopped
14oz risotto rice
2 wine glasses of dry white vermouth or dry white wine
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2½oz butter
4oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese

stage 1
Heat the stock. In a separate pan, heat the olive oil and butter, add the onions, garlic and celery, and fry very slowly for about 15 minutes without colouring. When the vegetables have softened, add the rice and turn up the heat.

stage 2
The rice will now begin to lightly fry, so keep stirring it. After a minute it will look slightly translucent. Add the vermouth or wine and keep stirring — it will smell fantastic. Any harsh alcohol flavours will evaporate and leave the rice with a tasty essence.

stage 3
Once the vermouth or wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt. Turn down the heat to a simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring and almost massaging the creamy starch out of the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take around 15 minutes. Taste the rice — is it cooked? Carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite. Don’t forget to check the seasoning carefully. If you run out of stock before the rice is cooked, add some boiling water.

stage 4
Remove from the heat and add the butter and Parmesan. Stir well. Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes. This is the most important part of making the perfect risotto, as this is when it becomes outrageously creamy and oozy like it should be. Eat it as soon as possible, while the risotto retains its beautiful texture.