October 5, 2010
This is my new favorite recipe! Not just because it’s quick, easy and tasty. (Though that counts for a lot.) Also because it has opened up a whole new stream of inspiration: turning sides into mains.
Cauliflower sauteed in brown butter with toasted breadcrumbs is a fall go-to side dish in my house. I was making this one night last week, after a particularly exhausting day. I finished cleaning and chopping cauliflower and just decided I was done. I couldn’t do more. Roast a chicken. No way! Sear steak. Who had time to pick up steak?! Cauliflower—a big ‘ol pile of it—would have to be enough, damn it.
But, of course, it wouldn’t be. Sigh.
Or… could it be?!
As I tell the story now, it seems a little silly. Obviously it could be enough tossed with some pasta. Duh. But, at the time, it was a eureka moment. Because we get into habits and go on autopilot. We cook things the way we’ve always cooked them. Even me. Especially when I’m moving fast to get dinner on the table.
My cauliflower made a kick-ass pasta dinner. I almost didn’t add the breadcrumbs—pasta and breadcrumbs?—but I’m glad I did. They add a nice texture and luxurious buttery toast flavor.
What’s your favorite side dish? Ever tried to make it a main? (Maybe you will now?) Share your inspiration!
Brown Buttered Cauliflower Pasta
(can be shared with kids 6+ mos)*
1 lb cut pasta
2 small heads fresh cauliflower, cleaned and cut into about 3 c of florets
6 Tbsp salted butter
1/2 c vegetable or chicken broth
1 lemon (juice of the whole lemon, zest of 1/2 of it)
1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
1/4 c plain breadcrumbs
parsley, for garnish
1. Put a large pot of salted water on medium-high heat (about 6 qts water to 2 tablespoons salt). Bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, saving a mugful of cooking water, and set pasta aside.
2. In the meantime, cook cauliflower—I like to steam it—until just fork tender. You want the florets to be cooked through, but just cooked through. Set aside.
3. Brown 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pot over medium flame. Add the cooked cauliflower just as butter turns a light nut brown. Cook for 5 minutes, then add a 1/4 cup of broth. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes or so, until cauliflower is tender enough to eat and broth has cooked off.
4. Add remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Once melted, add pasta, remaining 1/4 c of broth, lemon juice, lemon zest about a 1/4 c of cooking water (this is variable—your goal is to coat the pasta and have a light, glossy sauce). Gently toss to coat pasta and bring all of the ingredients together.
5. Season with salt and pepper, parmesan and breadcrumbs. Gently toss a few more times to incorporate. If the cheese and breadcrumbs soak up all of your sauce, leaving a dry pasta, add a bit more broth and/or cooking water. Taste and, if necessary, re-season with salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve!
*Note: This is great meal to share with little ones. Children eating finger foods can eat cut up pieces of pasta and cauliflower. For younger babies, puree a bunch of cauliflower and just a few piece of pasta. If you’d rather not feed your beginner eater butter or lemon juice (or any of the other ingredients), you can always puree some plain steamed cauliflower after step 2. Just be sure to cook baby’s portion a little longer so that it’s well cooked through.