Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Charred Cauliflower Bowl

Often, when I tell people I love to cook, they ask me, "What's your favorite thing to cook?" I suppose they're just making conversation, but I never really know how to answer a question like that. Are they looking for a specific dish, or maybe a general category like "chicken"? Either way, I don't have a favorite thing to cook. What I love about cooking is that there is always something new to try, so I rarely repeat recipes more than once or twice (except for a few staples).

That being said, there are some ingredients that I just can't get enough of, one of which is cauliflower. Weird, I know, but in my defense, I'm writing a blog purely devoted to food. I should be allowed a few bizarre food obsessions. On my first grocery trip to my beautiful new grocery store, I found a lovely head of purple cauliflower. I knew I wanted to do something fun with it, and I got my opportunity a few days later when I was assessing my lunch options.

Toss the cauliflower florets with a little olive oil, then dump them into a searing hot pan set over medium-high heat. It may smoke a bit, but if it becomes excessive, take the pan off the heat, lower the temperature, and stir the cauliflower while you wait for the burner to cool down. If the smoking becomes really excessive, perhaps (ahem) because you didn't read your own recipe notes from the first time you made this and used high heat instead, run frantically with your pan to open the window, only to remember that you have a balcony, for God's sake. Proceed out to the balcony and try to look casual while you stir your smoking pan of cauliflower in the dark (because of course you're making this at 10 pm for tomorrow's lunch) *. And don't forget to partially support the heavy pan with your wooden spoon, giving it some nice burn marks.

Charred spoon, charred cauliflower.

Ah, well. Luckily the dish wasn't ruined. I considered waiting to make a different post in which I didn't screw up my own recipe, but I decided that would really just be misrepresenting myself. Last night was a typical occurrence in the FFF kitchen.

If you've managed to not smoke the living daylights out of your pan, return it to medium-high heat with a bit of olive oil and fry up some scallion bits until they're crispy (I cut mine on a bias because I was feeling ~fancy~). Toss everything in a bowl with some cilantro, sunflower seeds, and lemon juice, and there's lunch!

*There are no photos of this part, for hopefully obvious reasons.

Charred Cauliflower Bowl with Crispy Fried Scallions
Yield: 1 serving
Inspired by smitten kitchen

Approx. 9 oz cauliflower florets (any color)
2.5 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 scallion
1-2 sprigs cilantro, anywhere from roughly chopped to finely minced 1,2
1/2-1 tbsp lemon juice (from 1/4-1/2 of a lemon), to taste 2
1/4 c sunflower seeds 2,3
Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Heat a (preferably heavy-bottomed) pan over medium-high heat. While the pan heats, toss cauliflower florets in a large bowl with 1.5 tbsp olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  2. Once the pan is very hot (a drop of water will sizzle in it), dump in the cauliflower florets. Let them char, stirring only occasionally, until they've got some black spots. This will probably take about 5-7 minutes, but it can vary a lot depending on the type of pan.
  3. While the cauliflower does its thing, slice the scallion on a bias, separating the white and light green parts from the dark green parts.
  4. Transfer the cooked cauliflower back to the bowl, adding the cilantro, dark green scallion parts, lemon juice, sunflower seeds,  and more salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings/lemon juice as needed.
  5. Return the pan to medium-high heat with the remaining tbsp of olive oil. Add the light scallion parts and cook, stirring constantly, for 30-60 seconds, until the scallions are brown and crispy.
  6. Drain scallions on a paper towel, then add to the bowl with the cauliflower and toss.
  1. Chop the cilantro very roughly, or even leave whole, if you want a bold, herby bite. Mince it more finely if you'd like it more integrated with the other flavors. I went for somewhere in between, leaning toward minced.
  2. This recipe has an almost endless capacity for variation. Some ideas to get you started: use mint instead of cilantro, swap out the lemon juice for lime juice, or use pine nuts instead of sunflower seeds. You could try adding a Middle Eastern flair with some za'atar and pine nuts instead of cilantro and sunflower seeds. If you go that route, you could also throw in a handful of fresh parsley and use a basic tahini dressing instead of the lemon juice. Another option would be to turn this into a grain bowl, adding couscous or quinoa, for example.
  3. I didn't use these the first time, hence their absence in the first picture. The second time around, I used a palmful, but next time I'd definitely add a whole 1/4 cup, as written here. Feel free to use roasted or raw, salted or unsalted (just adjust the amount of salt accordingly).
  4. The first time I made this, I ate it warm. This time around, I just took it from the fridge and let it sit for a few minutes so that it wasn't too cold. Both ways were delicious! If you're going to eat it at a later time, though, I'd suggest reserving some of the salt to sprinkle on shortly before eating. Otherwise it sort of gets absorbed and you may find yourself wanting more.


  1. Hi Allison, This looks delish....and I love cauliflower too! So happy to be following your food blog. You are an amazing woman and I'm so proud of all your accomplishments. Can't wait to get great recipes from your blog! Love ya! XO Mrs. Scandura (at this point, you can call me Marie...LOL!)

    1. Thank you! I'm glad you like it :) Let me know if you make it, I love to hear other people's takes on recipes!

    2. You did make me LOL with your connotations in the recipe! Hope you're settled into your new apt and not going to have to many smokin' hot recipes! I actually had a smokin' house the other night while cooking asparagus....funny story....but the asparagus didn't burn....bottom of the stove, now that's another story....LOL! Catastrophes are part of cooking! Can't wait to tell you about my cauliflower! XO-Marie

  2. While I basically never cook, I may read these simply for the narrative experience. Although entirely successful dishes may be less exciting.

    1. Luckily for you, Sam, I rarely have "entirely successful dishes".

    2. Well, that's good to hear. I was worried about my prospects. And what time zone is this website in?

    3. Yeah, just noticed that...working on it!