Monday, 16 February 2015

White Flowers & Red Wine

Cavolfiore al Vino Rosso
Cauliflower in Red Wine


This was my version of an old, traditional Sicilian dish- which only differed from the real thing for a few little reasons. And it was not even as if I really had a lot of choice about that!

Firstly, because I am too thick-headed to stick to any given recipe- and secondly, because I couldn't get one important ingredient here... So I HAD to improvise anyway!

But the bottom line is, that the result was incredible! I will definitely make it exactly this way from now on- this is one recipe that I will stick to, because it simply works!


Red wine with cauliflower! How crazy is that??! Well- not so crazy as it happens- not in Sicily in any case! But it is one of those things that is hard to describe, hard to imagine and simply HAS to be tried to be appreciated.

And then- what madness is this? Flavored with anchovies?!! And the most amazing thing of all- that I love it so much! Yes- all of these things are true! Carry on reading and I will tell you why... and show you how!


Being as I live alone, I bought the smallest cauliflower I could find- which as you can see here compared to the size of the other ingredients, was something between the size of a grapefruit and a cantaloupe... so that means SMALL. Basically though, there is no way to say how much of each ingredient you will need, as it all depends on the size of the cauliflower you have. SO... just make sure to have a cauliflower, of course, some Spring onions, anchovies, a little Mozzarella cheese and a glass (or two) of red wine. Otherwise, the only other seasoning you are going to need is pepper- and you are already to go!

Don't worry- keep scrolling through the pictures and you will see that you don't need any more exact information regarding the ingredients... stay calm! Everything will be just fine!

The one ingredient I couldn't find here in Frankfurt, is a typical, Sicilian cheese called "Tuma". It is a firm, but very mild (I would say BLAND) cheese- which I personally do not like at all. So, I opted to go out on a limb and risk using Mozzarella instead.

The only function of the cheese, to be brutally honest, is to help bind the pieces of cauliflower together- and yes, yes, yes- in this case, it really is a case of "less is more" when it comes to the cheese! Which is why I decided not to freak-out about not getting the Tuma... and at the end of the day, the Mozzarella was every bit as good- if not better!


Obviously, having used such a small cauliflower, it was a lot easier to handle than with a larger one- but the principle remains the same and I will explain how things are done, so that you should be fine preparing a large sized vegetable- or even more, if you are cooking for the whole family.


Cut your cauliflower into slices of around 1" thickness and try to do so in such a manner as to not let it fall apart too much- but don't worry if it breaks apart a little as you are going to squeeze it and press it into shape as it cooks.

Cut the Spring onion into thin strips lengthwise... and start putting your cauliflower back together again!


Start off with a few strips of onion, a few bits of anchovy and a sprinkle of pepper in the bottom of your saucepan. Add a few dribbles of the olive oil that comes with the anchovies- this will make sure that the cauliflower doesn't stick to the base of the saucepan and that that it gets plenty of flavor all the way through.


Next, lay out the cauliflower and add a little onion, Mozzarella and anchovy all over, then grind generously with fresh pepper. The anchovies are so salty that they take care of all of the seasoning for you- no extra salt is necessary at all! And no- it does not end up tasting fishy by any means... it's like... magic!


Make sure to use a saucepan that is only-just large enough to fit in the cauliflower- it needs to be very tightly packed for this to work.

Build up the layers until you have used all of the cauliflower, top with a last bit of onion, anchovy and cheese (again- not too much cheese!) and then pour your wine over it before popping it onto the stove top to cook.

I needed only 1 glass of wine for this small cauliflower, but for a full, regular sized head, you will probably need 2. There needs to be about 2" of wine in the bottom of your saucepan- no more than that.


Once the wine begins to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, put on the lid and let it bubble away for 15 minutes or so, until it begins to soften and is almost half-cooked.


Next, place a small plate (or saucer in my case- as the saucepan and cauliflower were so small!) on top of the cauliflower- press it down firmly, then using the plate to hold it in place, pour-off the wine into a glass.

Now that the saucepan in dry- yes, you guessed it- flip the cauliflower over onto the plate and then slip it back into the saucepan. Sounds tricky... IS tricky... but IS doable!

If you are worried that your cauliflower will fall apart, especially if you are making a larger quantity- let it cook for longer, so that it becomes softer still, before trying to flip it. That way you will be able to squeeze it down better first.


Continue steaming away, just on a gentle, rolling simmer, for a further 20-30 minutes and keep pressing down on that plate every now and then to squeeze the cauliflower together.

Do not add any extra liquid- the cauliflower has plenty of its own- and you want to let it absorb nearly every last drop of that wine! That way- all of the flavor gets soaked right up into the otherwise bland cauliflower.

And to be honest- the best way to know when your cauliflower is ready, is when there in next to no wine left at the bottom of the saucepan. But... any that is still left, after 50-60 minutes or so for a full-sized cauliflower, can simply be poured off of course.

Lucky me- my little baby was ready after just 40 minutes!

All you need to do now is to press that plate down VERY firmly one last time, to flip that saucepan- and to turn out your finished cauliflower onto a serving dish!


The flavor is rich and savory and complex- in all the best ways! Not fishy, definitely not bland anymore and really satisfying- this is a vegetable dish that even the most avid meat-lover will enjoy!

Unfortunately- being so different to any other kind of preparation for cauliflower, it is almost impossible to describe- all you can do is EXPERIENCE it! And I really recommend you do so!

You'll never know what you're missing unless you do!

No comments:

Post a Comment