Cauliflower is a pretty classic grain-substitute for people who avoid grains for health reasons. It’s bulky, low in carbohydrates, and a good absorber of sauce. It has a nice, nutty flavor, but not so strong that it overpowers whatever it accompanies. Cauliflower is gracious like that.
Roasting cauliflower, like brussels sprouts, tends to be a good way to attract the skeptics and convert the cauliflowerphobes. Roasting brings out flavor and leaves appealingly browned florets and soft, steamy stems. You can roast cauliflower on its own and serve it with salt and pepper, butter or olive oil, parmesan cheese, parsley, lemon juice, etc.
My aim: Make a cauliflower pilaf, treating the vegetable like rice. Mix it with well-browned onions.
This came out just like I wanted. I’ve eaten it so far as a side to roasted chicken with sauce, on its own, fried in butter with eggs for breakfast, and tossed with sautéed mushrooms and kale with lots of parmesan and black pepper for dinner. Cauliflower pilaf is a keeper.
- 1 head cauliflower (white or yellow)
- olive oil
- butter and/or schmaltz (chicken fat)
- 1 large yellow onion
1. Heat oven to 450F. Chop cauliflower small. Keep florets separate from stems, and cut stems into very small pieces.
2. In a large cast iron pan or a deep baking tray, spread cauliflower pieces so they’re all exposed. Coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
3. Roast until browned (time will vary depending on size of the pieces and how hot your oven really is. I did this while I was cooking a chicken anyway). When the cauliflower is cooked (very soft with browned edges), take it out of the oven. Using a knife, like a big chef’s knife or rectangular chopping knife to chop it up. You don’t want to mash it, you want it in small pieces like rice, and this cutting is easiest when the cauliflower is hot. Chop until it’s small or you’re sick of chopping.
4. Slice an onion very thinly, into strips about an inch or two long. Heat a very large skillet (I used the same large cast iron skillet for both the cauliflower and the onions, just waiting until the cauliflower was done first). Add butter and/or schmaltz and let it heat up a moment/melt.
5. VERY SLOWLY cook the onions in this pan. I heated the onions up at first, added some salt, and stirred the onions around for a minute or so, and then turned my burner down to very nearly its lowest setting. I left the kitchen and did homework, checking the pan every 5-10 minutes and giving it a stir. You want the onions to burn but not brown. If you’re worried about leaving them unwatched, get a stool and a book and perch near the onions. You don’t want to get impatient and hurry them into cooking.
6. Meanwhile, the cauliflower has been drying out a bit, which is great. When your onions are done, stir the cauliflower bits into the onions and mix well. Adjust for salt and serve.
~ You can reheat this in a pan or microwave. For a pasta-like meal, sauté some mushrooms in butter, add finely chopped greens (like red kale) and cook until wilted, and then add leftover pilaf and stir. Grate parmesan or similar cheese on top liberally, and add lots of black pepper.
~ This is a great side dish for chicken or meats. It absorbs sauces nicely.
~ It also works well for breakfast: Heat a lot of good butter, crack in an egg, break the yolk, and stir. Then sprinkle on a cup of the pilaf and mix it in. So good!