Every fall, we were waiting impatiently for the cauliflower to come to markets. It was a special time for us because we could only have fresh cauliflower once a year when it was in season. Cauliflower was the highlight of autumn cooking because we knew there would be a delicious dish coming. My mom used to save some of the cauliflower that we would eat raw while the dish was getting cooked in the oven. She also pickled cauliflower in big jars with other vegetables such as green tomatoes, cabbage, celery, and carrots to have ready for winter.
Last night, when my husband asked me about what other Romanian mouth watering dishes we should make, the cauliflower dish, that doesn’t really have a name, was the first one that came to my mind. He liked the idea and went to the supermarket right away to buy cauliflower. It was pretty late when I started cooking it. I was so curious to find out if it would come as tasty as the one I knew in my mom’s kitchen knowing that the cheese, the other main ingredient, would be different especially in taste. Towards my surprise, the dish came out delicious. That was why I could not wait to share it with you.
Here’s some interesting information you may want to consider if you are not a cauliflower fan. Before passing it up in the produce department you should know that cauliflower adds many beneficial effects to many aspects of your health. Regular rotation of cauliflower in your diet brings an abundance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals necessary to fight cancer, boost brain health, heart health, help with detoxification, and have digestive and anti-inflammatory benefits. Now you understand why cauliflower was described as a superfood. Cauliflower is a very versatile vegetable that can be eaten raw, in salads, or in casseroles. You just need to be creative. Some people may not like its smell when cooked. Cheese is a good ingredient to include in a dish to tone its smell down. I did just that for my dish. I broke it down in nine easy to follow steps.
Step 1: Pick two medium size cauliflowers. Fresh cauliflower has no brown marks. You will need to cut off those brown areas. All parts of the cauliflower are edible. However, I threw away the leaves and kept the stalk that I sprinkled with salt and ate raw. (Your kids may like them. I loved them when I was a kid.) Break the heads in smaller pieces and place them in a pot with just enough water to cover them. Add 4 – 5 finely cut cloves of garlic, or as many as you want, and a little bit of salt. Depending on how salty the cheese is you can add more salt later. Boil half covered on medium heat until the cauliflower is tender and not mush. Cauliflower boils pretty fast. You should check on it in about 15 – 20 minutes.
Step 2: Grease a 2 1/2 quart or 2.3 liters casserole with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Shred or cut in small pieces five types of cheese or as many as you like. A mixture of a variety of cheeses will give the dish a better consistency. I used between 4 – 8 oz. for each Sharp Cheddar, Swiss Cheese, Mozzarella, Feta Cheese, and Cottage Cheese.
Step 3: Completely drain the cauliflower using a colander and transfer it to the casserole.
Step 4: Add the cheese mixture and a tablespoon of butter of your choice and mix them with the cooked cauliflower without mashing it. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 – 25 minutes until the cheese is all melted.
Step 5: In a small bowl, mix a tablespoon of sour cream, a tablespoon of chopped parsley and cilantro, and some of the cheese mixture, mostly Mozzarella for its stringy texture, that it will be used as a topping.
Step 6: Cut some colorful peppers in small pieces and lightly sauté them in a small pan with about two tablespoons of butter. Add about two tablespoons of bread crumbs and mix them with the hot butter until they become brown.
Step 7: Take the dish out of the oven and spread evenly the sour cream mixture and an whisked egg on top of it. The sour cream mixture forms a barrier that stops the egg from “running” into the cooked cauliflower.
Step 8: Cover evenly with the peppers and the bread crumbs and place the dish into the oven. Broil until the egg forms a golden crust.
Step 9: Remove the dish from the oven. Serve warm. That’s it. If you are a vegetarian do not add the egg. You will eventually get a golden crust because of the cheese topping. It looks pretty good, doesn’t it? Wait until you try it. It tastes even better!