I wasn’t allowed to be a picky eater as a kid. If I complained or refused to eat my meal, I was…convinced to finish what was on my plate (let’s just say that there were threats of the wooden spoon coming out of the drawer). Not that I, or my sister, were bad eaters. We ate almost everything even though we liked some dishes less than others. There were, however, a handful of foods I was allowed to refuse, because my parents recognized that no matter what punishment I was threatened with, my revulsion was too strong to eat them. A few times I threw up the offending foods and that cemented their fate. There was tahini (which I can’t stand to this day), dried fava beans with spinach (cooked spinach still makes me gag), and black eyed peas. I was allowed to eat something else when they were on the table.
On the other hand, one thing I always loved was cauliflower. My mom always made it the same way: stewed in a tomato sauce. I loved the texture and the taste and to this day, it’s my go to vegetable. I usually just cut it up, toss it in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast it in a 425º F oven until it caramelizes. We usually eat it tossed with the simple garlic lime vinaigrette that makes everything better.
When I saw the recipe for this savory cauliflower cake, I knew I had to try it and it didn’t disappoint. Not only is it a beautiful looking cake, but it has a lovely light taste (that even cauliflower haters could like) and a texture that’s not too dense but substantial enough to be satisfying. It makes a fantastic brunch dish, along with a green salad on the side.
Cauliflower Cake – Slightly adapted from The Kitchn (Originally from Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi)
1 small cauliflower, outer leaves removed, broken into 1 1/4-inch florets (about 4 cups)
1 medium red onion, peeled (6 ounces)
5 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
7 large eggs
1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Parmesan or another aged cheese
Melted unsalted butter or vegetable oil, for brushing
2 teaspoons white sesame seeds
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds (or more white sesame seeds)
Salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Place the cauliflower florets in a saucepan and add 1 teaspoon salt. Cover with water and simmer for 15 minutes, until the florets are quite soft. They should break when pressed with a spoon. Drain and set aside in a colander to dry.
Cut 4 round slices, each 1/4-inch/5-mm thick, off one end of the onion and set aside. Coarsely chop the rest of the onion and place in a small pan with the oil and rosemary. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until soft. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Transfer the onion to a large bowl, add the eggs and basil, whisk well, and then add the flour, baking powder, turmeric, Parmesan, 1 teaspoon salt, and plenty of pepper. Whisk until smooth (but don’t overmix) before adding the cauliflower and stirring gently, trying not to break up the florets.
Line the base and sides of a 9 1/2-inch/24-cm springform cake pan with parchment paper. Brush the sides with melted butter or oil, then mix together the sesame seeds and toss them around the inside of the pan so that they stick to the sides (this is optional, you can skip it if you want, but it does look beautiful when you unmold the cake). Pour the cauliflower mixture into the pan, spreading it evenly, and arrange the reserved onion rings on top. Place in the center of the oven and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown and set; a knife inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean. Remove from the oven and leave for at least 20 minutes before serving. It should be served just warm, rather than hot, or at room temperature.