I’ve always been a little biased against cauliflower. I love my veggies and all, but cauliflower has always seemed a little dull, like a poor man’s broccoli. Less flavor, more ornery texture, it’s what’s always left in the dregs of a platter of crudite. Sure, I eat cauliflower now and then anyway, but usually find that I like it best when it’s either a) pureed into oblivion so you’d have no idea the soup before you was once those little white trees or b) spiced to high heaven so that it finally has some flavor.
But as it turns out, there’s another route towards making cauliflower that much more palatable and (dare I say it?) fun to eat. In early 2007, Susan at Food Blogga posted this ingenious way to jazz up a decidedly pedestrian veggie. And it works! Just dip the bite-size cauliflower bits in an egg white base, roll in breadcrumbs, and bake until they’re golden and crispy. Delish!
I had intended to serve them as an appetizer, but they were so good and so filling that we just kept snacking until we were too full to eat anything else. I can imagine that kids will fall for this new way of making cauliflower (and might even want to get in on the dipping action themselves), but they’re great for adults, too. Susan served them with a homemade olive tapenade, but being an olive hater, I improvised and subbed in roasted red peppers for the olives. Doing so makes the “tapenade” a little less salty, so we ended up sprinkling the entire dish with feta, which added a cool creaminess that worked fabulously.
Crispy breaded cauliflower with roasted red pepper “tapenade ” (serves 4)
1 medium head of cauliflower
4 egg whites
2 cups plain breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
½ cup roasted red peppers
2 Tbsp good olive oil
1 Tbsp minced fresh basil
1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
2 Tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
A couple of pinches of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup feta (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 400. In one small bowl, place eggs whites. In another small bowl, place breadcrumbs seasoned with a little salt and pepper.
2. Meanwhile, break the cauliflower into small florets. Dip each floret in the egg, letting any excess fall back into the bowl. Then dip in the breadcrumbs, turning the floret until it is completely coated. Place the breaded cauliflower on a baking sheet lined with tinfoil and lightly coated with cooking spray (for easy clean-up).
3. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until golden, turning the florets over halfway through.
4. While the cauliflower is baking, mince the peppers, combine all other “tapenade” ingredients and mix well.
5. Serve straight from the oven with the “tapenade” on top or on the side. Sprinkle with feta. Best eaten right away while still hot and crunchy.