Or, in praise of the mushy vegetable.
It's not in vogue to eat mushy vegetables. They must be crispy and seared. Fried or pickled. They must snap, appear vibrant green rather than murky olive. But, can we admit that mushy vegetables are kinda good?
I'm talking good in an nostalgic way, sure. The way mushy green beans taste like your summer camp in the Catskills. Or how mushy, underseasoned peas take you to the time you licked your baby brother's spoon clean.
But also good in an objective way. Cruciferous vegetables are unequivocally stinky when they're cook to oblivion -- but isn't that the whole point? Sauerkraut, boiled cabbage, collard greens and ham hocks. All overcooked, the opposite of al dente, all delicious.
Leave it to April Bloomfield to take the cliché of the greenish-gray British veg and turn it into something delicious. This recipe is adapted from her excellent new cookbook, A Girl and Her Greens: Hearty Meals from the Garden.
I made one modification out of necessity. I was cooking for vegetarians and someone allergic to fish, so anchovies were out of the question. In went capers, lentils, and some caramelized onions to give this some brine and body. I served this as the main course -- like a whole roast chicken and leg of lamb -- and carved it tableside. No knife needed though. The cauliflower was soft and I used a serving spoon.
(adapted from April Bloomfield's A Girl and her Greens )
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Trim and core cauliflower. Heat olive oil in a cast-iron pot (I used a 7-quart Le Creuset) and sear the cauliflower on all sides. Remove cauliflower and add 3 diced garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons of capers, and 3/4 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary. Stir until fragrant, then add 1 28-oz can of peeled plum tomatoes (cut the tomatoes before hand), 1/4 cup dry white wine, 3 large pinches of chili flakes.
Return cauliflower to pot and baste with tomato liquid. Simmer for 5 minutes until the tomato mixture is thickened, then cover and place in oven and roast for 30-45 minutes, depending on your preferred mushy level (I did 45 minutes for peak softness). Every 10 minutes, baste the cauliflower with the tomato liquid.
In the meantime, cook 1 cup of beluga lentils in a separate pot (rinse them, cover with 2 cups of water, bring to boil until water is at surface, then cover and simmer on low until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes). Sauté three sliced onions (pearl onions are fun, too) in olive oil until golden brown.
When the cauliflower is ready, mix the lentils and onions with the tomato sauce and serve.