It may be time for you to rethink the cauliflower.
"There's always that expectation with cauliflower that it's not going to be very good," said Shane Lyons, head chef at Distilled (211 W. Broadway, 212-601-9514, distilledny.com). "There's a negative connotation for a lot of people who had it prepared soggy and mushy and flavorless."
For a cauliflower dish that isn't soggy and mushy and flavorless, try Lyons' roasted take on the superfood, currently on the menu at the Tribeca restaurant. It's a variation of a dish the chef has been tweaking since his days at Nosh in Colorado Springs. It currently contains pumpkin seeds, a shiro miso sauce and basil and snap peas, which are coming into season.
"It's one of those dishes that I have in my wheelhouse that I know works," said Lyons.
The key to working with the spongy veggie is starting with a dense, dry cauliflower, cutting off the florets and roasting it on medium heat with a decent amount of oil. You want enough oil because the vegetable will absorb some, and you want enough heat otherwise it'll absorb even more. Once it's roasted, you can drain off any excess oil.
When ready, the side, which is a good source of vitamins C and K thanks to the cauliflower and snap peas and heart-healthy magnesium from the pumpkin seeds, can be paired with almost anything.
"You could go the light route, such as fish and salad, or, if you're eating more like a savage, chicken wings and pate," said Lyons. "You can find a balance in between with this hearty vegetable."
A good time to buy cauliflower is around June and August, though it's almost always in season.
"It's one of the most consistent things you can buy in terms of price and size," said Lyons. "The cauliflower never seems to change."
If your cauliflower is wrapped in cellophane, Lyons recommends taking a small paring knife, laying the cauliflower with the stem towards you and then making a rotational cut through the root so you can take the plastic and root off in one swoop.
"If you're making a lot of cauliflower, it can save a lot of time," said Lyons.
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds, lightly seasoned with butter
10 Thai basil leaves, picked
20 snap peas
Shiro miso sauce (see recipe)
In large skillet over medium heat roast the bite size cauliflower florets in canola oil until they are brown and begin to get tender.
Once the cauliflower is almost cooked through, add 1/3 cup of the miso sauce, or more if you prefer, and some vegetable stock to deglaze the fond that will build up on the skillet. Be sure to use as little vegetable stock as possible so that the cauliflower becomes glazed with the miso, not the stock.
Once you glaze the cauliflower, add the snap peas and cook them until they become bright green and al dente.
Turn off the heat and toss in the basil and pumpkin seeds.
Garnish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some more basil leaves.
Shiro miso sauce
1 cup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons white wine
1/2 cup garlic confit
1/2 cup shiro miso
1/4 cup confit oil
Puree ingredients until smooth