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Cauliflower Three ways


For years, every spring, summer and fall I’ve made my weekly pilgrimage to the Union Square Green Market to buy the freshest vegetables grown by local farmers  in season.  All winter we have been limited to root vegetables  and other farm products like cheese, bread, charcuterie, organic chickens, pork, lamb and goat and just-caught fish. We know spring is here. that the season has started, when ramps, tiny wild leeks, first come to the market. They will reign supreme for a few weeks and I’ll cook them every which way until I get sick of them and then the asparagus come and so it goes. Every week there is more to play with and one day you might say to yourself. “I think I could be a vegetarian.” But then its time for cabbage and Brussels sprouts, squashes and pumpkins, Rick’s 30 varieties of potatoes,  parsnips, parsley root (my favorite) and cauliflower-orange, yellow, chartreuse, and purple –but no matter how pretty, for those who don’t like it,  it’s still cauliflower.

I happen to love it and prepare it in many different ways.  I don’t have a recipe for the quickest and most usual way I prepare it.

Preheat the oven to 375°.  In a large bowl crush three garlic cloves with 2 teaspoons sea salt with a pestle.  Add 2 tablespoons of any preferred herb or combination of herbs, finely chopped, stirring well to combine. Dribble in about 1/4 -1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil and set aside> Separate the cabbage into florets of uniform size. Toss in the herb-oil mixture; spread on one or two baking sheets and cook until soft and golden, about 15 minutes or desired degree of doneness.

But here are some actual tested recipes.

tortitas de coliflor

One of the most popular vegetables at Zarela were our broccoli cakes and I’ve taken to making them with different vegetables and they are all delicious.  I especially like these that I came up with the other day.

2 cups very finely chopped cooked cauliflower (I steam it but it’s alright if you boil it)

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro

1 minced jalapeño chiles (optional

1 cup grated cotija cheese

2-3 tablespoons all-purpose flower

1 teaspoons salt (be careful, the cheese  might be very salty)

2 eggs beaten

Oil for frying.

Combine all ingredients and let sit for about 15 minutes in the refrigerator.  Form into 3-inch round patties about 1/2 inch thick.  Heat the oil to rippling over medium-high heat and fry until golden on each side. transfer to a plate orf pan covered with paper towels to drain well. Serve as is or with Salsa ranchera (recipe follows)or Salsa de tomate con chipotle.Escabeche_pickled_vegetables_250



Escabeche Casa del Sol – Photo Laurie Smith- for Saveur magazine

There once was an excellent restaurant called La Casa del  Sol in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, across the border from El Paso, Texas owned by our dear friends The Estavillos. During the time I lived there (1973-83) there were no really good, more elegant restaurants in El Paso but you could cross the border into Mexico and have a great meal. Then 9/11 came and crossing the border became a huge ordeal and we lost Casa del Sol. They served this delicious escabeche with tortilla chips as a snack. This will serve around 8 -10 people


¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil

12 cloves garlic, peeled

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut into wedges

4 carrots, peeled, trimmed and sliced

1 tsp black peppercorns

1 tsp dried thyme (I use 4-6 fresh sprigs  and remove them before serving)

1 tsp dried oregano (I use 4-6 fresh sprigs and remove them before serving)

1 tsp dried marjoram((I use 4-6 fresh sprigs and remove them before servi

8 bay leaves

1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into florets

4 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and chopped

1 ½ cups white vinegar

3 medium zucchini, trimmed and sliced

One 1lb jicama, peeled, trimmed and cut into ¾” dice

Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add garlic and onions and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to medium and add carrots, peppercorns, thyme, oregano, marjoram and bay leaves. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

Add cauliflower, jalapenos, vinegar, and 1 cup water. Stir well, cover, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. 4. Add zucchini and jicama. Cover and cook for 5 minutes more. Vegetables should remain crunchy, so do not overcook.

 Transfer to a bowl and discard bay leaves. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve at room temperature. Store in sealed container in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

cauliflower fritters


Cauliflower Fritters with or without cheese

At the restaurant we made these without the cheese but the ones you see here do have the cheese. Though don’t look  quite as good as the original and are harder to make, they are delicious


(Cauliflower with Ranch-Style Sauce)


l small cauliflower (about l  3/4 pounds)

2  l/2  teaspoons salt, or to taste

l/2 cup flour

Freshly ground black pepper

3 eggs, separated

Vegetable oil for deep frying

3 – 4 cups Salsa Ranchera (recipe follows)


Cut cauliflower into large florets. Bring a large saucepan of water (at least 2 quarts) to a boil; add 2 teaspoons salt or to taste. Add florets and cook at a rolling boil about 3 minutes. Drain and plunge into ice water to stop cooking at once. Drain again and dry on paper towels.


Combine flour with l/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste) and a generous grinding of pepper in shallow tray or deep-rimmed plate. In heavy saucepan or deep-fryer, heat oil to 375 . While it is heating, beat egg whites in mixing bowl until stiff but not dry. Add yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Have Salsa Ranchera ready, heated just to a simmer.


Roll the flowerets in seasoned flour. When oil is heated, shake off excess flour, dip florets in egg mixture, and fry in batches until golden. Do not crowd pan; watch temperature to be sure it stays close to 375 . Remove each batch as it is done and drain on paper towels. Pour Salsa Ranchera over hot cauliflower and serve at once.


Serves 4 – 6.


beaten eggsflourfrying


(Ranch-Style Sauce)


This is wonderful with the fried cauliflower, but I use it in many other ways. It is a great accompaniment to corn fritters or any grilled fish. I use it to make a “red” version of chilaquiles (see recipe, p. 000) with a light tomato sauce instead of a creamy tomatillo sauce. It is delicious on pasta as well.


3 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

l medium onion, sliced

l twenty-eight-ounce can tomatoes (choose brand without added puree; do not drain)

3  fresh jalapeno or serrano chiles (see p. 000), unseeded, coarsely chopped

5  sprigs cilantro

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


In medium saucepan, heat oil until rippling over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion; saute 3 minutes, stirring often. Crush tomatoes with your hand and add to garlic and onion. Add chiles and cilantro; stir well to combine. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring often, another l0 minutes. Let cool about l0 minutes.

Working in batches if necessary, puree the mixture in a blender. Return the sauce to a boil when ready to use, stirring often to keep it from sticking.

YIELD: about 4 cups.






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