One of my all time favorite vegetables is cauliflower. And one of my favorite words in French is the word for cauliflower, chou-fleur (“shoo flur”). So I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite recipes for how to make it.
Last year I went to dinner at my friends Corey and Yann’s house in Provence. I was going to contribute a vegetable to the meal so I picked up un chou-fleur at the market. I put it down on the kitchen counter but when I walked away and glanced back, it struck me as one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. Of course, it helped that it had become part of a beautiful vignette among the antique French crocks in the corner of Corey’s kitchen. (More photos to come of her lovely village house in another post, and trust me, you want to be sure not to miss it.)
Chou means cabbage, and fleur means flower. I actually think all forms of cabbage are just as gorgeous as flowers — regular old green cabbage, vibrant red or purple cabbage, brussels sprouts and broccoli. Not only visually beautiful but since they are cruciferous vegetables also phenomenally good for you!
One of my favorite ways to eat chou-fleur (and all the other members of the cabbage family) is to roast it in the oven. It just doesn’t get any easier to create something delicious than to cut it into pieces, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then roast in the oven for about 30 minutes. Yum, yum, just like that.
And when you’ve got an abundance of tomatoes, I like to roast them and then add as a topping to the cauliflower when it comes out of the oven. The tomato topping is also terrific on toasted bread (easy to make as crostini for an appetizer), as a sandwich spread (add to your mayo to really elevate a roasted chicken or turkey sandwich), or as a topping for pasta.
I normally use plum tomatoes but you can try with any type. The really great thing about roasting tomatoes is that even when you buy tasteless tomatoes in the winter, roasting them transforms them into luscious little nuggets of the most marvelous concentrated flavor.
Cut the tomatoes into quarters, arrange skin side down on a pan lined with parchment paper or non-stick foil, then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with a few grinds of black pepper and sea salt.
Roast at a low temperature — I usually put my oven at 300 degrees — for an hour to an hour and a half. The tomato pieces will release a lot of juice and begin to shrivel; they’re almost done when the edges have started to caramelize. Watch them towards the end of the roasting time to ensure that lovely caramelization doesn’t start to burn. Remove from the oven and let cool. At this point, I’ve been known to pop them into my mouth like candy, so you might want to make extras so you have a few to snack on.
Chop the roasted tomatoes and place in a bowl, including scraping all the oil and bits from the pan, then add some capers, as much as you like, and stir together. You can also add some chopped fresh basil, which I usually do but today it was all gone from my garden.
Prepare your chou-fleur by cutting into florets of similar size. Tip: Be sure to cut the from the stem side. If you cut from the floret top, you’ll have tiny grains of cauliflower everywhere. Cutting from the stem ensures the pieces will remain intact.
Line a baking pan with parchment paper or non-stick foil — I find this makes for the easiest cleanup and as the chou-fleur roasts and the edges caramelize, all those good little bits won’t stick to your pan. Place the cauliflower florets on the pan, drizzle liberally with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with fresh ground black pepper and salt (I use sea salt or kosher salt). Toss together until the pieces are coated, then spread out on the pan in one layer. Roast for approximately 30-40 minutes at 325-350 degrees. Everyone’s oven is different, you’ll need to check after about 20 minutes to make sure the cauliflower is roasting evenly….if the edges seem to be getting too dark, lower your oven temp by 25 degrees. You want it to roast slowly so it becomes nice and tender with lovely browned edges.
Now you have lovely roasted chou-fleur! And to serve with your roasted tomato topping, just arrange your chou-fleur on a platter or in a bowl and spoon the tomato mixture on top. As I think feta cheese is a perfect addition, I crumble feta on top and add a sprinkle of chopped basil or parsley for garnish. However, you could add any kind of cheese you like (hello, parmigiana!), because this is YOUR chou-fleur now.
If you try this recipe and like it, leave a comment and let me know! And if you have other additions you especially like for roasted chou-fleur, I’d love to hear about those as well.