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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Flower Power

 I needed potatoes last night.  I was planning an all out seasonal autumn dinner with  skillet-braised pomegranate maple sausages and oven roasted baby brussel sprouts.I wanted a pillow of buttery mashed potatoes to  soothe the bold flavors of the other ingredients.  Oddly, I couldn't find a single spud.  Not even a gnarly looking one with spindly arms  hidden in the back of the potato bin.

I did have cauliflower, an underused and under appreciated  vegetable.  It's a bit of trouble to break down and to cook, but I've always loved caulifower. My  freshman year in college I ate it every day at the student center cafeteria. My father  purchased a meal card for me with the hope that I'd eat well as I adjusted to college life. I thought meals cards were skanky, but I had to eat. Food choices changed daily on the cafeteria steam table. Cauliflower was the constant.  It was always there, steamed to mush and swimming in cheese sauce.  God, I loved it.  Grainy, cheesy, salty, soupy, and delicious.  I ate it every single day.

Last night, I already had brussel sprouts roasting in the oven. I didn't need another vegetable; and there was no way  I'd be able to reproduce my college cauliflower, so I decided to treat  the cauliflower like potatoes. Granted, it wasn't culinary genius, but it was a preparation I hadn't tried before.  Never wanted to or needed to, until I was potato-less.

While the sausages braised with onions, pomegranate seeds, stock, and pure maple syrup, I whipped up the cauliflower.  I took 3 cups of chopped cauliflower and boiled it in lightly salted water for 30 minutes until fork tender before thoroughly draining it in a colander while reserving some of the cooking liquid.  I dropped the soft cauliflower into the blender with salt, cracked pepper, 2 tablespoons of butter, and 1/2 cup of grated parmigiano. I blended it on high speed until it was lightly whipped, adjusting the consistency as needed with stock and the reserved cooking liquid.
After it was light and fluffy, I spooned the cauliflower puree into a serving bowl, topping it with fresh thyme leaves.

Fluffy? Hardly a word  associated with cooked cauliflower. It was fluffy and as light as air.  Whipped. Creamy. (without any cream), and  buttery soft. 

 The bold and assertive flavors of the oven roasted brussel sprouts along with the tart pomegranate seed-spiked  maple caramelized sausages needed a calming canvas for balance. Quiet flavor. 
The softly seasoned pureed cauliflower was just the ticket.

Even better than mashed potatoes.

Go figure.

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