Cauliflower and Pennes from Heaven

Adam, the cute and funny Amateur Gourmet, posted about this winning combination last January.  I just got around to making it when finally, some nice looking cauliflowers were spotted in our market.  And, believe me, it is a fairly rare occurrence around here.  The cauliflowers we usually see have splotches of gross mold on them.  Not very appealing.

If produce is not healthy looking and wearing happy faces, I don't think I'm up to making it all better in my kitchen.  You need to start with something that's good.  Same with people.  If the attitude is off, I stay away.

Like today.  I was helping at our Church Bazaar (in the fruits and plants area) and a chef guy who had made the Thai Curry was talking to us.  He said the curry was all sold out.  This was before noon even.  Later I went over to see what food was still available, and there were two big pots of curry - two different kinds.  You have to wonder what that was all about??

Cauliflower Pasta

My version, adapted from Adam, adapted from Judy Rodgers' "Zuni Cafe Cookbook"

For 2 persons:

1/2 or 1 small head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 red bell pepper, or small bunch parsley, chopped(or what have you for some color)
Extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 jar of anchovies, chopped
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, lightly toasted and slightly crushed
2 teaspoons fennel pollen
Red pepper flakes to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, grated
1/2 box penne or ziti (I used gluten-free quinoa pasta)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

In a large saute pan, coat the bottom with olive oil and turn up the heat to medium-high. Leave it for a minute or two until adding a piece of cauliflower makes it sizzle.

In a small bowl, combine the garlic, anchovies, fennel seeds, fennel pollen and red pepper flakes.  This is your heavenly flavor mix.  Oh, yes it is.

When the oil is hot, test a flower; it should sizzle.  Then add all your cauliflower, or just enough so it's all in one layer. If not, you can do it in two batches.  Leave it for a bit (a few minutes) then toss around until the cauliflower is a deep, golden brown all over. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and then add HALF your spice mixture. The key here is getting it to a caramelized state.  I think mine could have gone even longer.

Meanwhile, your water should be at a boil. If it's not, wait to add the spices or the garlic might burn. If your water's at a boil, salt it well, and then add a half box of penne or ziti to the boiling water. Stir around so it doesn't stick together.

As the pasta cooks, stir the cauliflower around along with half the spice mixture - about 30 seconds or so. Then ladle in a big scoop of the pasta cooking water to the cauliflower pan. This will make your "sauce." If the water sputters and spurts when you add it, lower the heat. How much water really depends on how long it takes the pasta to cook and how much water the cauliflower absorbs. Suffice it to say, you don't want it to be too soupy; just a nice sauce.

When the pasta's done cooking to an al dente state, drain and add it to the cauliflower.

Stir the pasta together with cauliflower, leaving the heat on until you're happy with the amount of liquid in there (the pasta tubes will carry some water with them too) or until there's no liquid left at the bottom of the pan.

Take the pan off the heat and add olive oil, the rest of the spice mixture and then your grated cheese. Stir all around and taste.  Serve with a nice tossed green salad.

This was sooooo good.  What an awesome combination of flavors.  Trust me, it will NOT taste fishy.  Just the thing for Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by Rachel, The Crispy Cook.  And also a link goes to Chaya over at My Meatless Mondays.


Sophie said...

Oooooh waw!! I love cauliflower in a pasta dish & this one looks extremely tasty!!

I must make this soon!

Thanks & kisses from Brussels to you!

Rachel said...

This looks terrific! I love anchovies and cauliflower together. Thanks for sending it over to Presto Pasta Nights this week.

Sweet and Savory said...

I was excited to see this recipe at My Meatless Mondays. It looks delicious and now that I have read what you have written, it also sounds delicious.

Thanks for linking it up and also giving me a new pasta recipe to make.

Joanne said...

Haha I love the pun in the title! I totally agree with you...I want hearty and healthy looking produce! Not limp and skimpy produce. Love the sound of this pasta dish!

Shilpi Bose said...

Thanks for visiting my blog Claudia.I have heard about feta but never eaten it. In a way both paneer and feta are similar because they are both cheese. Feta I believe is made from goat milk while paneer is what is often referred to in English as cottage cheese and is made from cow or buffalo milk.
You have a lovely blog here and your comment on the look of the cauliflower reminds me of my mum, like you she is absolutely particular about buying absolutely fresh spotless cauliflowers.
If Indian food interests you please do visit my blog again.

Emily Z said...

I don't cook with cauliflower much, and for no particular reason. I just don't always think about it! But this dish looks wonderful!

Ruth Daniels said...

I'm with you - ingredients should look and smell wonderful before you even bring them home.

Your cauliflower & penne looks awesome. I'm hoping to find some cauliflower at the farmers market tomorrow. Guess I'll start with this recipe. Thanks for sharing with Presto pasta Night.

Hope to see you at next week's roundup too... last one for 2010.

The Food Hunter said...

I just got some fennel pollen and I've been looking for something to make. Thanks for this

Ramya said...

Hey Claudia..Came to your site though this weeks Presto Pasta Nights.Your pasta collection is awesome..i would love to try this one, egg plant parmesan and many others…I am confused which one I should try first….happy holidays...