What are your early memories of eating cauliflower or broccoli?
My most vivid memory is at my grandparent’s house. Actually, the memory is replicated with each set of grandparents, maternal and paternal. As you wish, you may picture either house – the one heaving with cozy family love matched by Central Queensland humidity or the other, one of the last lovely old houses before urbanisation ate the Redland Bay up like some savage degenerative illness.
Alongside the mashed potatoes and the carrots with mint from garden would be cauliflower or broccoli (to have both would undermine that great Aussie tradition of meat and *three* veg). The poor cauliflower or broccoli would have been boiled for such a long time that it was pallid, quivering and kind of damp. While childhood-me demolished most of the veggies and every last morsel of the fat pork sausages with gusto, the bereft brassicas were eaten out of guilt, politeness or (more likely) in a good-behaviour deal to ensure I got an ample serving of dessert – sweet pineapple and vanilla icecream at the paternal family home or home-baked meringues with icecream and fresh passionfruit at the maternals.
It’s not all bad. I have enjoyed these good brassicas over the years drenched in cheesy bechamel sauce and roasted with breadcrumbs on top. But even a girl addicted to dairy products as I am knows that cauliflower-slash-broccoli cheese must not be the only way to enjoy these great vegetables when there’s a glut of them at food co-op, or when the angel on one shoulder pleads with you at the farmers market to buy more vegetables.
Let me share with you the absolute best way I have ever found to eat cauliflower and broccoli:
All you need is olive oil, salt, pepper, an ample amount of cauliflower/broccoli, and a few lemons. You can get fancy with herbs (thyme and parsley are my top tips) and finely grated parmesan cheese if you wish. Heat the oven to medium-hot, and grease a big flat cookie pan with olive oil. Slice the veg into thin slices, which is easiest to do with a mandolin slicer, but a knife would do the trick. If thin slices isn’t working for you, tiny florets are good too. Lay the slices on the baking tray. They will shrink quite a lot so be generous, and don’t worry if they overlap. Drizzle over more olive oil, grind over salt and pepper (and any woody herbs, like thyme, if you’re using them). Roast away, until the edges of the veggies are starting to brown and you can’t wait a moment longer (it’s probably about 30 minutes, but trust your judgement rather than my sketchy sense of timing). In the meantime, juice a lemon or two into a bowl that can easily fit all the cauliflower Add any soft herbs (like parsley) your heart desires, and parmesan if you wish. Bring the piping hot veg out of the oven, tip it carefully into the lemon juice mix, stir and leave for a couple of minutes to soak up all the lemony goodness. This is the perfect snack, a great companion for fish, a lovely part of a mezze platter, and a good alternative to chips.
I had hoped to share a photo, but I have none! It seems that I have been a little over-focussed on eating and under-focussed on food styling when cooking this delicious dish.
For those of you with drab brassica food memories, may this dish provide some timely therapy. Happy cooking!