Last Friday,  I had my cooking chums over. We enlisted the help of Jenna Helwig of Rosaberry who merges our recipe requests and designs a delicious menu. Everyone assembled at my apartment at 11am and we got to work on our first recipe. Jenna took out the ingredients for Balsamic Parmesan Cauliflower. Before she could say a word, three of us asked, “what’s the best way to cut cauliflower?” It seems I wasn’t the only one who had botched this task ending up with odd shapes and tons of cauliflower confetti.  There actually is a right way to cut cauliflower and because I didn’t capture Jenna’s technique on camera I had her explain:
First remove the leaves. Next stand the cauliflower on its base and cut into quarters. Cut the florets from the stalk. To make smaller florets, don’t cut from the top of each cauliflower cluster; that makes too big a mess. Instead cut the stems and the florets will break apart much more cleanly.
The key here is to cut florets from the base of the cauliflower not from the top. Directing your knife where the cauliflower branch meets the base and voila’, no more mess. Another good tip is to wash the cauliflower after you cut it when you can access all surfaces. Perhaps you, my savvy readers already had correct cauliflower cutting down pat but this was news to our group. I am now wondering how many other prep jobs I’m mangling in the kitchen. 

cooking snacks: fennel and finger radishes
As we cooked, we talked about our favorite recipes and ingredients. When it came oregano, my friend C asked Jenna “I see you’re using fresh oregano but Ina (Garten) prefers dry, it’s the only herb she prefers dry.” It soon became clear C knows an awful lot about Ina. We tried to stump her reciting Ina recipes we loved and she knew and had made them all. Roasted Shrimp Cocktail Yum. Brisket? Of course. Butternut Squash Soup? A classic. First there was Julie and Julia and now C and the Contessa. I asked C for her top 3 Ina inspirations, her reply “only three? Herb Marinated Pork Tenderloin, Lemon Chicken and Garlic Cauliflower.” I agree wholeheartedly about the Lemon Chicken but personally would have to add Roasted Brussels Sprouts to the Greatest Hits list.

After a couple of hours, our cooking was complete and we sat down to eat. We made spaghetti squash with olives and cilantro, a lemony red lentil soup, parsley-Dijon salmon, coconut kale and of course our cauliflower. We tasted everything and commented. First place, if I recall, went to the soup and the salmon with the cauliflower close behind. Can’t wait for next time.

Kale Goodness
Spaghetti Squash or Tushy Squash?
Cauliflower before being balsamic-ed
Balsamic-Parmesan Cauliflower
(adapted from Cooking Light)
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
2 Tablespoons EVOO
½ Teaspoon Kosher Salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place cauliflower on the baking sheet cut side down and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes or until starts to brown.
Stir the balsamic vinegar and Parmesan into the cauliflower and return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
Yield: not enough cauliflower for five veggie-loving women, you may want to double the recipe depending on your audience.

Be honest, did you already know how to properly dismember your cauliflower? Are you an Ina-phile? Favorite Ina recipe? Favorite cookbook? Favorite cauliflower preparation? 

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