It seems to me that cauliflower is the current “It girl” of the vegetable world, and out to knock kale off her throne. I have never been a big fan of cauliflower (or broccoli, for that matter), but I consume these nutrient-rich vegetables out of a sense of duty. However, there are ways to make cruciferous vegetables taste really good, and this is one of them. I had cauliflower leftover after making a curry-scented vegetable stew (another good way to disguise cauliflower) and it seemed like a smart idea to reintroduce it in a totally different form. This time I changed up the seasonings to include ginger, chili, garlic, cumin, and turmeric. Served with a cool yogurt and cucumber sauce, these spicy, colorful pancakes made a very good lunch. So think of cauliflower as a blank canvas of sorts, and start pairing it with bold flavor pals; the combinations may make you a convert, just like me.
Cauliflower Pancakes with Raita
(serves 3 to 4 as a lunch or light dinner)
Cut into medium-sized florets:
14 ounces of trimmed and rinsed cauliflower
Place the florets in a steamer and steam until very tender. You will be mashing the cauliflower so cook it thoroughly. While the cauliflower cooks, whisk together, in a large mixing bowl:
3 large eggs
3 1/2 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin seed
2 to 3 grinds of fresh pepper
You will have a fairly thick batter. Add to the batter and stir in to blend:
1 small clove of garlic, finely minced
1 scallion, white part minced and green part thinly sliced
1 heaping tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2-inch slice of fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
1/2 a small serrano chili, finely minced (about 2 teaspoons)
When the cauliflower is tender, remove it from the steamer, place it in a medium bowl and mash it coarsely with a fork or potato masher. Add the warm cauliflower to the batter and stir well to blend. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary. Place a wide non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add:
3 tablespoons canola oil
When the oil shimmers, carefully portion the cauliflower batter into the pan with a 1/4 cup measure (this will yield 10 to 12 pancakes, make them smaller if you like). Smooth the tops of the cakes and fry until nicely golden on the underside. Turn and brown the opposite side. Remove the pancakes to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and keep warm in a 200°F oven until all the pancakes are cooked. Serve immediately with wedges of fresh lemon and raita.
For the raita, stir together:
6 ounces plain yogurt
4 ounces seedless cucumber that has been coarsely grated and squeezed dry in a double thickness of paper towel.
Season the mixture with salt and pepper, a pinch of ground cumin and additional chopped fresh herbs. It is particularly good with chopped mint.