The Accidental Locavore is probably in a small minority that doesn’t swoon every time there’s a new Ottolenghi book. Not that I don’t own most of them, it’s just that I often find there’s something in the recipes that makes me think–really? However, what I’ve seen of his new book, Plenty More, is starting to make me a believer. Case in point, the cauliflower cake, which hit some of the big food sites last Friday. Besides looking pretty adorable with its red onion polka-dots, the idea of a savory cake was intriguing. Give yourself some time for this. Although there’s nothing difficult, you need an hour for baking and cooling. Probably serves 8 as a side dish, 4 as a main course with a salad.
- 1 small cauliflower, outer leaves removed, broken into 1 ¼” florets (about 1 pound)
- 1 medium red onion, peeled
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
- 6 jumbo eggs
- 1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/3 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 5 ounces coarsely grated Parmesan
- Salt and black pepper
- Melted unsalted butter, for brushing (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon nigella seeds
Preheat the oven to 400°. 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 ¼” slices 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.
While the onion is cooking, line the base and sides of a 9 1/2-inch/24-cm spring-form cake pan with parchment paper. Brush the sides with melted butter, then mix together the sesame and nigella seeds and toss them around the inside of the pan so that they stick to the sides. Set aside.
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 just smooth. Add the cauliflower, stirring gently (try not to break up the florets).
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. Serve just warm or at room temperature and enjoy!
My verdict: Gotta love it just for its looks! Tasted awfully good too! It turned out to be a bit of a project, but mostly for my screw-ups, not the recipe. The frost the night before killed all my basil, so I had to wait for Frank to arrive with it. Another problem was no baking powder (always check the expiration date) also until he showed up. A stupidly long search of the house turned up no spring-form pan, so I improvised with two 6″ cake pans. Muffin tins might be fun if you wanted to do individual ones. And try finding nigella seeds outside of Manhattan. Since I had them, black and regular sesame seeds were called into play. Poppy seeds or black mustard seeds would work too. We had the cake as a side dish with some simply grilled steak, but it would be fine on its own with a salad as a light dinner, lunch or brunch dish. You might be tempted to swap out broccoli for the cauliflower, but its flavor (and color) isn’t as subtle as the cauliflower, so let it shine in its own dish.
This piece is fabulous — especially because of the mysterious word cake, and all the special flavorings, and THANKS for warning us about baking powder expirations — who knew? Up cauliflower!