Cauliflower, the hearty veggie cousin of broccoli, kale and cabbage, is mimicking everything from pizza crust to rice to mashed potatoes. But it’s a star in its own right—no reinvention needed. From appetizers to main dishes, restaurants are featuring florets in a variety of ways.
Lampo Neapolitan Pizzeria
Cavolfiore al forno, $6
Lampo in Belmont is known as much for its blistered-crust pizzas as it is for its ample small plates, meant to be shared. Our pick? The roasted cauliflower dish, made with garum (a type of fish sauce), Calabrian chile and mint that’s served at room temperature. Co-owner Mitchell Bereens says the idea for the dish came from a series of books he was reading about modern cuisine and food history. They talked about how different Italian food was before Christopher Columbus brought things like tomatoes from the New World, which most people associate with “traditional” Italian cooking. Bereens found garum was used in ancient Rome, and he countered the salty fish sauce with sugar and acid, like in Thai cooking, but added lemon, white wine, parsley and Calabrian chiles, which are often used in Southern Italy.
Milan Indian Cuisine
Lasooni gobhi, $6
The lasooni gobhi dish at Milan is true to its name (lasooni means “garlicky” and gobhi means “cauliflower”). The dish arrives at your table a fiery red color, but the tangy sauce is only on the medium side of hot, with just a slight kick at the end. And the batter on the cauliflower is light—not greasy or heavy, perfect for a starter. The cauliflower florets are coated in a lentil and corn batter along with fresh garlic, salt and pepper and deep fried. The crispy pieces are then cooked in the restaurant’s “special sauce”—a zesty tomato base with in-house ground spices, with more garlic and sherry vinegar added.
Cauliflower “steak,” $12 ($6 as a side, above)
In the vegetarian world, main dishes are often treated as an afterthought (think mounds of pasta), but The Fitzroy puts cauliflower center stage, serving a slab of it roasted with a Bold Rock cider beurre blanc. First the “steak” is seared at a high temperature for color and texture and then finished in the oven. The cider sauce is an homage to Normandy, France, a place renowned for its cider, where it is often used in cooking.
Crispy cauliflower, $10
As with all good things, the idea for this crispy cauliflower dish came to Parallel 38 owner Justin Ross in a dream. He had been watching The Hundred-Foot Journey the night before, and he dreamt he was cooking and making cocktails in a garden where all of the spices were growing on bushes and trees and were prepped and ready to go. The spice base in this dish is a chaat masala/pink peppercorn mixture that is sprinkled on the cauliflower after it’s flash-fried. The blend of chaat masala (cumin, coriander, ginger, mango powder, hing, chili powder, salt and pepper) and the pink peppercorn (the soft berry from the Brazilian pepper tree) adds an unexpected crunchy coating to the dish. And the tangy champagne vinaigrette is a nice counterbalance to the sweet, fruity peppercorns.
The Alley Light
Cauliflower gratin, $10
This dish arrives at your table with a satisfying thud: a hefty white casserole dish heaping with cauliflower. This traditional French country comfort food is meant to be savored: The cauliflower is slow roasted with garlic, bay leaf and olive oil and dolloped with smooth pillows of Mornay sauce made with Comté and parmesan. Chef/owner Robin McDaniel says The Alley Light will switch to a butternut squash gratin once the weather cools. We can’t wait.