It’s cruciferous vegetable season. Who is excited? This is good stuff. Well, at least some of it. I don’t think all brassica (turnips, cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, etc.) are created equal in terms of flavor. But apparently some portion of the population can use genetics as an excuse for disliking the taste of these foods. Brassica plants contain something similar to the bitter compound phenylthiocarbamide (PTC), and scientists found that humans have dramatic variations in PTC sensitivity, with some people being “taste blind.”
I won’t let you use your genetics as an excuse! We humans can overcome nature when we want to.
Somewhere along the way in reading my cooking magazines, email newsletters, and online media, I came across a recipe for using cauliflower as pesto. For some reason (genetics?), I liked the idea of obliterating the cauliflower and transforming it into something mostly unrecognizable.
Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto
From The Washington Post
6 to 8 ounces dried linguine or other thin pasta
plus reserved pasta water
1 small (13-ounce) head cauliflower
1/2 Cup unsalted almonds (or pine nuts)
2 or 3 dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped (I used oven-dried tomatoes from my garden that had been frozen)
1-ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or other similar hard Italian grating cheese, chopped
1 medium clove garlic
1 Tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed
Small handful flat-leaf parsley leaves
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
3-5 Tablespoons olive oil, to taste
2 to 3 teaspoons sherry vinegar, to taste
Cook linguine according to the package directions in a large pot of salted boiling water. When draining, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Keep pasta warm while preparing the pesto.
Cut the cauliflower into chunks, placing them in the food processor as you work.
Stop when the bowl is about halfway full to allow space for processing (it is much easier to do this in two batches rather than forcing all the cauliflower in and having to pulse and stir repeatedly-trust me).
Pulse until crumbs appear couscous-like. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Toast the almonds in the oven or in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat until lightly browned, paying close attention and stirring to avoid burning. Cool, then put in the food processor. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, the cheese, garlic, capers and parsley. Process to a chunky bread-crumb consistency, then add the mixture to the mixing bowl with the cauliflower in the bowl.
Stir in the oil, 2 teaspoons of the vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and crushed red pepper flakes to form a pesto-like mixture. The yield is several cups, likely more than you need for 4 servings of pasta.
Add the pasta and toss to coat. Add as much of the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to create the desired consistency. Taste, and adjust the seasoning, adding the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar as needed. I found that the recipe needed extra oil (which could be added in an earlier step also). It may be more accurate to gauge the flavor and texture once everything is stirred in with the pasta.
I had all this leftover cauliflower pesto, and I didn’t want to keep eating it with pasta. Fortunately, I remembered hearing that you can use a cauliflower mixture as a pizza crust.
Adapted from Quick, Cheap Kitchen
Approx. 2 Cups of my leftover cauliflower pesto mix, or just raw cauliflower ground in a food processor
1/4 Cup shredded mozzarella
3 Tablespoons of flour
dried Italian seasonings to taste, around 1 teaspoon. I used a bread dipping seasoning mix (basil, parmesan, onion powder, garlic powder) plus oregano
salt and pepper to taste
Toppings: Whatever you want! My example:
2-3 Tablespoons prepared basil pesto
2/3 Cup swiss chard stems
3/4 Cup cherry or grape tomatoes
A sprinkling parmesan cheeses
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Microwave cauliflower in a glass bowl for about 8 minutes. Let it cool some, and then transfer to a cheese cloth or clean dish towel to squeeze out any excess water.
Mix together cauliflower, egg, mozzarella, herbs and spices in a large bowl. Spread the cauliflower crust out into a big pan using a rubber spatula. You can use a Silpat, parchment paper, or grease the pan and scatter with cornmeal or semolina. Bake the crust about 10-15 minutes. You will see the crust star to get very dark on the sides.
While the crust is browning, prepare toppings.
I sautéed my swiss chard stems in olive oil.
And halved the tomatoes from my garden (this is the last of the ripe ones!)
Add the pesto, swiss chard, halved tomatoes, and cheese. Lower the oven temperature to about 375 degrees and return the pizza to the oven to bake for about 10 more minutes, until the cheese is melted.
The result was wonderfully indulgent. There must be a significant amount of “good fats” in each serving. It’s basically eating pesto on pesto after all! I had no trouble finishing the whole pizza myself in two days. That’s pretty impressive for cauliflower.