Cauliflower comes from a large family of many different colors and shapes that grows in tropical and temperate climates around the world. Until lately, the last place you would find cauliflower is in a pizzeria, but with customers new non-gluten/keto mindset, it may be time for another look. Vegan and vegetarian diets are big these days and I’ve noticed that most families have at least one or two food-conscious individuals in them. Harnessing the power of cauliflower can accommodate these customers and capture that lucrative niche that corporations are too slow to take advantage of.
Apicius, who lived in the 1st century AD was an avid fan of cauliflower and his recipe of boiled cauliflower, cumin, leeks and fish sauce vinaigrette is still made today. In Sicily, there are so many varieties that even the terminology is complex. Local variations are broccolo, vruocculo, vruoccolo pieno or even the plural for broccoli which means “hard flower.” Some of these southern recipes are outstanding, like Cavolfiore alla Siciliana, which pairs cauliflower with raisins and anchovy and the Sardinian Cavolfiore alle Olive paired with green olives, dried tomato, onion, garlic and broth.
Cauliflower is high in fiber, low in calories and a cup of florets contain
100 percent of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin C. It also contains B6, potassium, vitamin A and folate. In order to retain these important nutrients you need to cook cauliflower. Some super-tasters attest that the more you cut cauliflower, the more sulfurous it tastes so pureed in soup can cause some unwanted smells. To alleviate this, many chefs cook cauliflower with cream or potato.
Big Head Cod and the Monsters
A giant head of cauliflower can be manipulated in many ways and is relatively easy to pair with other foods in the restaurant environment. It is usually not considered a “star of the plate”, but a lot of successful celebrity chefs are tweaking historic and regional pairings to create some innovative, (and, some may say, monstrous) cuisine using cauliflower. Here are a few:
- Bacalao con Coliflor, (Spanish Cod with Cauliflower,) fried salt-cod and cauliflower, garlic, Spanish paprika.
- Carpaccio of Cauliflower with cauliflower risotto and chocolate jelly with cauliflower velouté, cream as well as dried.
- Roasted whole cauliflower sliced down the middle and placed in the juice of broccoli and topped with broccoli puree.
- Dover Sole Ballotine A’ La Polonaise with cauliflower puree, caper-almond gremolata, potato tempura and glazed Romanesco.
- Maccheroni Con Cavolfiore, (Conchiglie Shells with cauliflower sauce) with raisins, anchovies, Pecorino and tomato.
- Indian Aloo Gobi Soup, with onion, ginger, chili, turmeric, coriander, cumin and potato.
- Cauliflower and Almond Crème Caramel topped with whipped almond cream.
Cauliflower may be a hard sell for some customers and kids, but numerous adventurous restaurateurs and chefs have morphed this vegetable into some delicious and readily recognizable dishes. Here are some other uses for cauliflower in the pizzeria or restaurant:
- Cauliflower Wings. Large chicken wing-sized florets dredged in egg and flour then deep-fried and tossed in your proprietary wing sauce served with blue cheese and celery.
- Cauli-Caesar Salad. (See recipe below.)
- Cauliflower “Ribs”. Grilled cauliflower leaving the stem on to hold like a rib while using your proprietary rib sauce to finish.
- Cauli-Mac. Mac and cheese with small sautéed cauliflower florets and cauliflower ricotta. (See recipe at PizzaToday.com.)
- Cauliflower Slaw. Shaved cabbage and shaved raw cauliflower, onion, parsley, sweet peppers and chopped raisin.
- Puglian Cauliflower Pasta. Cauliflower, pancetta, cherry tomato, Pecorino, garlic, dried chili and extra virgin olive oil tossed with orecchiette or capunti pasta.
Cauliflower can certainly offer your guests a great vegan/vegetarian alterative to turn to and it is easily manipulated and cost-effective. Here are some other food pairings to experiment with: walnuts, sweet potato, sesame, raisons, olives, onions, mustard, almonds, bread crumbs, cheddar, coconut, spinach, curry, potato, peas, tomato, vinegar, yogurt, ginger, gorgonzola, lemon zest, Parmigiano, sage, soy sauce, scallion, cashews, orange, tamarind, Brussel sprouts, chickpeas, miso lemon, parsley, barley, ricotta, pecorino, portobello mushrooms, basil, leek, chilies, garlic, mango, capers, anchovies, butter, carrot, collard, stilton, feta, swiss, cilantro, dill, chives, Havarti, lentils, gouda and curry.
After making hundreds of tableside Caesar salads from scratch at Entre Nous Restaurant in Chicago, I can honestly say that this wonderful salad must be the most popular salad of all time. This version, although not vegan or vegetarian because of the anchovies, accentuates the paired flavors of cauliflower and eggy-garlic with punchy anchovy atop the textural boldness of the romaine. The little crunchy cauliflower florets beat normal croutons by a mile! I learned this unique presentation at C’est Si Bon restaurant in Chicago and it always received “wows” when presented to guests.
John Gutekanst owns Avalanche Pizza in Athens, Ohio.