September 4, 2009


A creamy head of cauliflower nestled among green leaves is like a small treasure. As it matures, I fold the large leaves over the head to protect it from sun, which keeps it white.

I have a disappointing crop this year: a woodchuck managed to get into the garden earlier in the season (I didn't have the electric fence low enough) and chomped on various brassicas, which I'm sure he found scrumptious. Small cauliflower heads resulted, as well as set-back broccoli, fewer brussels sprout plants and one less cabbage. My dear dog Ginger died last summer; she used to be vigilant in keeping the woodchucks away. So now I have to be more vigilant with my fencing.

Cauliflower is one of my favorite early fall foods and I have three favorite ways of preparing it, two of which come from Marcella Hazan's Classic Italian cookbooks (the ones I have are out of print) and one from my mother. All require first cooking the cauliflower till tender, which I do by cutting off the large stem and breaking into two inch florets, then steaming for about 12 minutes.
  • For a salad, season liberally with olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt and serve warm or at room temperature.
  • For a pasta sauce––only for anchovy lovers––saute chopped garlic and anchovies in a good amount of olive oil, breaking up the anchovies into a paste. Then add the cauliflower, breaking it into small pieces with the back of a wooden spoon. Add salt and crushed red pepper. Put over pasta (it's good with penne) and add some chopped parsley.
  • Lastly, from my mother, is fried cauliflower. Dip the florets into beaten egg, then into flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Shaking off excess flour, fry till golden on all sides in vegetable oil (1/4 inch of oil in wide skillet). Sprinkle with more salt if desired.


  1. Lovely...want to try your mother's recipe soon! As a teenager i was set loose in the caulifower patch my left arm covered with hundreds of rubber bands. My job was to reach the leaves of cuatiflower with right hands to bundle over flower and tie off with a rubber band. The row was to the tree far as i could see, the delight was the rubber bands were differing colors and I still like cauliflower!

  2. My mother has a similar recipe for fried cauliflower--except once she fries it she stews it in tomato sauce and a little bit of lemon to make a kind of "comida," which is Ladino. She tends to make the dish for the holidays. Although once in a while, if my sister and I ask, she'll make it for dinner. My mother's family comes from the island of Rhodes in Greece (although they are not Greek) --there was a big Sephardic community there back in the day and now a large group of them are in Seattle. Anyway, the dishes are very similar to the Syrian dishes. But I have a feeling my family's dishes are a bit more tomato sauce based...

  3. That dish sounds delicious Yael. We too have lots of tomato sauce based foods: for one, my mother always cooks green beans with tomato sauce, then there is okra with tomato sauce (usually for holidays) and tomato sauce flavored with tamarind with kibbeh, called Keftess. That's usually eaten over rice. This all makes me look forward to Rosh Hashanah meals next week.

  4. I always find it so interesting/funny how similar the cuisines of different Sephardic traditions are--but with slight tweaks here and there. We have the same green beans which we call Fasoulia. And then Okra which we call bamya (sp?). We have a dish called Keftes de Prassa, aka fried leek patties (although you can do it with other vegetables too. It's just that my mom doesn't.) I can't believe Rosh Hashana is next week-- my mom is making cauliflower I think!