Sunday, December 16, 2012

A bit of a head

She was a beaut.  Almost 10 inches across and possessed of that pristinely virginal, dewy appearance that is associated with Very Fresh Vegetables.

I found her yesterday at my local HEB, accompanied by others who were just as beautiful.  I wanted to take them all home with me, but my Inner Govenor, that voice of reason and sanity, said, "Just one, my dear."

Such are my struggles.

I brought her home, dreaming of all I could do with her.  Roasted, with Sri Lankan spices to eat with strained yogurt and fresh cilantro.  Steamed and whipped like potatoes with a little creme fraiche and white pepper as a bed for a succulent pork chop sauteed with Choucroute Garni and a buttery Madeira and shallot pan sauce.  Or perhaps those little pan-fried cakes with cheddar cheese, scallions and the chipotle cream sauce I had enjoyed so much a few weeks ago (keep in touch, the recipe for those is in the works).

But I was hungry for lunch and I had the unexpected luxury of a few hours to myself in my kitchen. So I separated out enough cauliflower for one serving, trimmed it and broke it down into small florets.  I tossed them with a little EVOO and some freshly ground sea salt and black pepper.

As the cauliflower was roasting in my toaster oven, I came up with a game plan: caraway and garlic would get gently fragrant with some EVOO in my skillet, then I would add the roasted florets, a little more S & P, then some half and half, a little creme fraiche and some leftover cooked penne pasta.  A couple of minutes before serving, I would toss in some leftover roasted lacinato kale that I had had for dinner recently (if you're like me, you often have some leftover kale in the fridge because you're the only one in the house who eats it).  Then I would heat everything through, plate it and cover it with a lot of finely shredded Fontina cheese.

And that's exactly what I did.

I felt like The Queen of Everything eating that pasta.  The bold and assertive flavors of the kale and the caraway, the texture of the roasted cauliflower and the creaminess and tang of the merest hint of cream sauce was balanced against all the chew of the kale.  Delightful and just sinfully rich enough to warrant considering a trip to the confessional.

What can you drink with this pasta dish?  Because these are assertive flavors, you'll want a bright, earthy red wine to accompany.  Try a pinot noir that is fruit forward and has a forest floor nose, such as The Four Graces Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, OR.  If you prefer white, I suggest you try one with plenty of fruit and high acidity, such as a chenin blanc, to balance the cream and cheese in this dish--there are plenty of affordable choices from South Africa.  As usual, ask your wine guy at Spec's for help.  They know their business.

Penne Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower and Kale in Caraway Garlic-Cream Sauce

2 cups cauliflower florets
4 Tbs. EVOO, divided
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2  cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. caraway seed
6 Tbs. half and half
4 Tbs. creme fraiche or sour cream
6 cups cooked pasta, such as penne, fusilli or rotini
1 cup leftover roasted kale (optional)
finely shredded Fontina cheese or Parmesan cheese for finishing (I use a Microplane coarse grater for this)

1.)  Toss cauliflower florets in 2 Tbs. EVOO, seasoning generously with salt and pepper.
2.)  Roast for about 20 minutes on a pan in a toaster oven, or under a broiler until nicely browned; set aside.
3.)  In remaining EVOO, in a large skillet, gently heat the garlic and the caraway seed over medium heat until fragrant, taking care not to let the garlic get too brown.
4.)  Add roasted cauliflower to skillet and stir to combine.
5.)  Add half and half and creme fraiche, stirring until smooth and just beginning to bubble.
6.)  Add cooked pasta and lower heat, covering with a lid to allow the pasta to gently heat through.
7.)  Stir the pasta once or twice during this process to coat it with the sauce.  It should be nicely moist and not too saucy.
8.)  Add leftover kale, if desired, and cover again for another minute or two.
9.)  Stir to incorporate kale and then divide pasta among four plates, showering generously with the shredded Fontina cheese.  Serves 4.  


  1. This looks fabulous! I have 2 giant heads of cauliflower sitting in the fridge right now, and I'm saving this to try out for dinner one night this week!

    1. Thank you, Lauren, and I hope you enjoy this pasta. Thanks for reading!