Two things have been haunting my refrigerator this week: cauliflower and eggplant. Naturally, they'd work together in some sort of Thai or Indian curry. But, we're just not in the mood, and I haven't felt like chopping and assembling.
Finally, I forced myself to cook the cauliflower. The sandwich plate real-estate that would normally be home to oven fried potatoes was instead filled with heaps of healthy cauliflower. There was only one way this could go down: cheese. Grate cheese over anything, and bake it until it's brown, and you're good to go. I ended up eating almost an entire head of cauliflower that night. It was so tender, flavored delicately from nutmeg and sea salt. Black pepper and cayenne gave it some spice beneath the mild cheese.
There's no real recipe for a gratin, it's more of a method. My friends and I learned to perfectly gratin cauliflower about a year ago at a cooking party at Rustico in midtown. The owner showed us that it was ok to go light on the oil, and that adding fresh nutmeg enhances the flavor. So I referred back to her recipe for instruction, which was super easy.
I'm happy to say the fridge is looking bare. We've successfully eaten our leftovers and used most of the produce. We're off to Vermont for the weekend, so I don't have to worry about wasting food - exept the poor little eggplant. Sadly, it's starting to wrinkle, just waiting to end it's useless life.
Cauliflower Asiago Gratin
4 servings, 1 hour (10 minutes hands-on)
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 tsp sea salt or Kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1/2 C shredded Asiago cheese
1. Heat oven to 425F.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the cauliflower and a little salt. Boil 5 minutes.
3. Drain immediately and run under cold water, or plunge into a bowl ice-water, to stop the cooking process.
4. Drizzle a little oil into a shallow baking dish and add the cauliflower. Drizzle lightly with oil, and season with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Using a microplane, grate the fresh nutmeg over the whole dish (just a light dusting should be about a 1/4 tsp). Using your hands, toss the cauliflower to evenly coat with oil and spices.
5. Top with shredded cheese. I like to grate it right over the dish using a microplane - it saves a little time.
6. Roast at 425F for 45 minutes until tender and browned on top.