Sunday, March 14, 2010

love letter

  The best meal I had in Syria was at a rest stop, believe it or not. We walked into the restaurant through the back door, past the outdoor grill and some wandering chickens and the smell of charred meat. I'm vegetarian in the US but I didn't want to miss anything new. More like, I didn't want to miss any shawarma or kebab.

So after a day of touring, we ate roasted chicken with garlic and olive oil, hummos, and fantastic eggplant. The best part of the meal was a plate of gorgeous bite-sized pieces of cauliflower, roasted and golden and drizzled with pomegranate molasses.

Cauliflower is the most unglamorous vegetable. It's kind of ugly and pale and tastes pretty funky if cooked poorly. Cauliflower is generally under-appreciated.

But don't get me wrong, I love cauliflower. When the campus grocery store ran out of produce last night, as they do more often than is acceptable, the only piece of vegetable that looked fresh was a lone head of cauliflower. In that light, the cauliflower was beautiful.
It may be presumptuous to call my rendition Syrian Cauliflower, but I've done my best to recreate the crunchy, sweet, roasted deliciousness.

Syrian cauliflower

one head cauliflower, cut into bite size pieces
1/3 cup bread crumbs
4 Tbsp. plus 2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses*

*available at middle eastern grocery stores, some specialty stores, and online

Cut the cauliflower into bite size pieces and place in a large resealable plastic bag with the olive oil and breadcrumbs. Seal the bag, and shake until the cauliflower is evenly coated. You want a thin coating to cover the cauliflower. Add more olive oil or breadcrumbs if necessary, but avoid anything resembling breading or a crust.

Spread cauliflower on a baking sheet and roast at 350 degrees, tossing with a spatula every five minutes until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the pomegranate molasses with 2 Tbsp. olive oil.

At this point, it will be difficult to stop yourself from eating the entire batch. If any makes it onto your plate, drizzle with pomegranate molasses mixture and serve warm.

Syrian Cauliflower makes a great side-dish or appetizer, but there are also so many more things to do with this type of cauliflower. I like to add some grated parmesan to the breadcrumb mixture and call the bite-size pieces "cauliflower croutons." You will want to eat them every day. Please please please try a handful of these in a spinach salad with avocado. Even better, drop a handful into tomato soup (or Fall Harvest soup!).

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