Saturday, July 29, 2006

Roasted Cauliflower Gratin with Gorgonzola

By Thursday evening I knew I had to do something with the head of cauliflower in the cooler. I bought it last Sunday with no recipe in mind.

Then I though that a dish of roasted cauliflower topped with bread crumbs and gorganzola cheese would liven up a dreary day. What better way to brighten to the bland white flowers the cousin of broccoli.

The first time cooked this dish was at my in-law's house. But I've lost the recipe, which I believe came from Fine Cooking. Everyone, including my brother-in-law, loved the dish. It's refreshing nuttiness seemed to be a hit.

Like the pizza rice from Tuesday night, I used the roasted cauliflower to use up a few ingredients that have been lurking in the cooler.

There is no recipe for this dish. This is one of those side dishes that came together as I cooked.

To get started, cut a head of cauliflower into flowerets, about 1/2-inch across. In the meantime, set a 10-inch Dutch oven over a medium flame to pre-heat. When hot, pour a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in the oven.

Sweat a bit of sliced onion (about 1/2-cup) until translucent. Then add the cauliflower to the onion and stir. Watch the heat. Too much and you'll burn everything.

With the flame adjusted properly, it'll take 5 to 10 minutes to see the cauliflower change color. At first the flowerets will turn a creamy yellow. Then as you stir and toss, the peaks will turn to a golden brown.

Be patient. This part takes time to thoroughly brown the cauliflower. Turn the heat down a notch if it's browning too fast. Give it a small boost if nothing's happening.

What you're looking for is a rich golden brown color and nutty aroma. When brown, leave the cauliflower in the Dutch oven. Stir in some sun-dried tomato pesto (about 1/2-cup) and the juice of one lemon. A tablespoon of chopped fresh oregano or parsley (I didn't have any) will liven the dish.

Top the cauliflower mixture with several hands of bread crumbs. I made my own from the remains of a rustic garlic loaf. It's best to moisten the bread crumbs with a little olive oil.

Then top the dish with crumbled gorganzola cheese and place the lid on the Dutch oven. Scoop a shovel of hot coals (or 20 charcoal briquettes) onto the lid. Bake 10 minutes or until the cheese just starts to brown. You'll know the roasted cauliflower is done when the nutty aroma wafts up to you.

Enjoy ...

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