The Cauliflower Defense League
Some time ago, a food writer friend who is also a restaurant critic came for dinner. It was winter and I had prepared a hearty meal including cauliflower gratineed with browned butter and Parmigiano- Reggiano. As soon as he arrived, my friend went straight to the kitchen to check out what I was cooking. He oohed and ahed over the homemade cavatelli, and practically drooled at the sight of the fennel dusted roast pork and ribs sizzling in the oven. But the cauliflower stopped him in his tracks. “I hate cauliflower”, he announced with a long face. I must admit, that stopped me in my tracks! I happen to love cauliflower in all its forms, so it never occured to me that anybody might not. How could anyone not like cauliflower, I said. But he had had a traumatic encounter with it when he was a kid and wouldn’t even consider trying my version.
I’ll be honest, I don’t have much patience with picky eaters. I’m not talking about people who can’t eat something for whatever reason (and I really appreciate it if they let me know BEFORE they come for dinner). But why single out a great vegetable like cauliflower to avoid? Think of all the things you can make with it: toss it with whole wheat orecchiette and bacon (the recipe is in my book Fresh Taste of Italy), braise it with black olives and garlic (1,000 Italian Recipes), or coat it with eggs, cheese and breadcrumbs and fry it until crisp (The Antipasto Table). I also find that it is one of the best vegetables to cook in a slow cooker. And do I need to tell you how full of anti-oxidants it is, and how low cal? That’s why I formed the Cauliflower Defense League, whose sole purpose is to encourage the enjoyment of more cauliflower.
Take for example the creamy cauliflower soup I made this week in my slow cooker. It was incredibly simple and so good. I had a little jar of golden-hued wild whitefish caviar in the refrigerator, so I decided to garnish the soup the way the way I had had it in Paris last year, with a spoonful of caviar in the center and a sprinkle of chopped chives. I loved the way the sweet, creamy soup contrasted with the salty cool caviar. If you don’t want to go for the caviar, serve the soup with crumbled blue cheese, or grated Parmigiano, or leave it plain and enjoy it as is.
I hope you will do yourself a favor and join my Cauliflower Defense League. Our slogan is Eat Cauliflower and Enjoy!
Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Caviar
1 large cauliflower, about 2-1/2 pounds, trimmed
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
4 cups chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream
Caviar and fresh chives (optional)
Cut the cauliflower into 1-inch pieces and discard the tough stems. Place the caulflower in a large slow cooker with the onion and chicken broth and salt and pepper to taste. If necessary add a little water to just cover the cauliflower.
Cover and cook on low 5 hours or until the cauliflower is very soft. Transfer the cauliflower to a blender and puree until smooth. Taste for seasoning. Add the heavy cream. Serve hot, plain or garnished with caviar.