Friday, April 19, 2013

Old Cauliflower New Tricks. Bake your Cauliflower Like A Chicken.

This is not your brain. This is your cauliflower.

This is your cauliflower on Indian spices. Whoaaaaaa!

   Just in case there's anyone out there who doesn't know the origin of this expression or hasn't watched a "very special episode" of anything, it references this Public Service Commercial which ran on the TeeVee way back in the 80's.

Ah yes, the 80's back when everyone wore stone-washed mom jeans, leg warmers, neon colors and big old shoulder pads.

No wonder they thought they had to warn everybody. That's yours truly on the far right. And later, working my best Annie Lennox...

...out with friends. Note big bling earrings and lots of hair wax. I was just waiting to get the call for the Addicted To Love Video.

   So we see how people can get weird and change, but an innocent cauliflower? What the hell happened to that thing up there?

   A vegetable trick that's what.

  There's a traditional Indian chicken recipe called Murgh Musallam. It's a complicated recipe that involves skinning a whole chicken, marinating it in a spice paste for 2 hours then making a fried spice paste, and when the chicken has had it's go-round in the first marinade, it's then rubbed  inside and out with the second fried spice paste. One then wraps the whole bird up in aluminum foil and bakes it for an hour and a half. This dish is freaking delicious. It is also something that is not done every day. You can see why. This is a special occasion company dish.

   When we lived in LA, I would occasionally be asked by friends to come and teach them to cook certain Indian dishes. I always enjoyed this. One day my very very best friend in LA (who will remain nameless here) asked me to help her make this dish for a friend visiting from Canada. It seems it was the guy's birthday also, so she asked if I would I bake him a cake. Of course. She planned on serving this dish at a romantic lantern-lit dinner outside in their garden. Since the man had a plane ticket and needed to be at LAX  to return to Vancouver that very night, this complicated dish had to be set up like clockwork. I gave her a complete list of what would be needed and asked her to have all the ingredients ready to go when I arrived at her house early in the afternoon so that we would be ready to start cooking. I got over there with my equipment only to discover she had not bothered to defrost her chickens. Nothing was ready. No how, no way.

   Smash cut to the birthday boy leaving for Vancouver while everyone else at the party waited for the chickens to come to roost outside of the oven. That's the trouble with this dish made using chicken. Cauliflower however, that's a whole different story. There are a lot of recipes for Gobhi (caulifilower) Masallem, some are more complicated than others. This one which orginated with Julie Sanhi, is one of the best I've tried. It was so simple it was ready to serve in less than an hour. Always a good thing, especially if someone has a plane to catch.

   Another thing about this dish, the older the cauliflower the better. This is a little secret I learned from my friend Nisha Katona which you can see right here. So no need to run out and buy a fresh vegetable. Buy ahead and let it mellow a bit. Your mouth will thank you. This cauliflower is steamed for 8 minutes, covered (stuffed) with a spice paste and baked in the oven. When it comes out, cut into wedges and dressed with a delicious  tomato sauce. Cauliflower prepared this way can easily be the star of any vegan, vegetarian or paleo meal.

Cauliflower Musallam

Here's What You Need: 

3 tbs of vegetable oil
1 cauliflower, leaves, core, and stem removed.
1 and 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 Tbs finely chopped shallot
1 and 1/2 Tbs finely chopped fresh ginger
4 serrano chilies seeded and finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground fennel
1/4 tsp Kashmiri chili or cayenne
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 and 1/2 Tbs ground coriander
2 Tbs ground blanched almonds
1 tsp sea salt
1 Tbs flour (or gluten free flour)
6 sprigs of cilantro


3 Tbs vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 can of tomatoes pureed
2 tsps cumin
1/2 cup of water
salt to taste
2 Tbs chopped cilantro

 Here's What To Do:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Remove the leaves, stem and core the cauliflower, making sure to leave it intact.

Steam the cauliflower for 8 minutes.

When the cauliflower is tender, take it out and put it into a baking dish to cool.

Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet or kadhai.
When the oil is hot add in the onion and fry it until it's lightly browned.
Add in the shallots and ginger and fry them for a couple of minutes.
Add in the chopped serrano chilies and give them another minute in the pan.
Add all the other spices, the ground almonds and the flour.
Cook everything for another 2 minutes or so.
Add in the water and stir until you have a thick paste.

Take the stuffing paste off the stove and let it cool.
To stuff the cauliflower, push half of the spice paste mix in among the florets.

Spread the rest of it over the top and sides of the cauliflower.
Sprinkle the sliced almonds over the top.

Pop it into the oven for about 25 to 30 minutes, but before you do look on the bottom and make sure your baking dish is oven proof. Can''t believe I did that.

While the cauliflower is baking make the sauce.
In a skillet or Kadhi, heat 3 tbs of vegetable oil.
When the oil is hot, add in the onions and fry them until they are lightly browned.
Add in the cumin and fry it for another minute.

Add in the tomato puree, salt and water, bring the sauce to a boil.

Reduce the temperature to simmer and cook it gently over a low heat for about 15 minutes.
Take it off the heat and add in the chopped cilantro.
To serve this baby up, put the cauliflower on a serving platter, and cut it into wedges.
Ladle some tomato sauce over each wedge.

Serve it up and enjoy.

   This is a dish that will make a great entree for any veg meal. It is easily made gluten free by using gluten free flour, and of course it contains no dairy for the vegans or paleo eaters amongst us. Add a nice salad, rice dish, whatever you please and you've got an easy complete meal for a Meatless Monday, no defrosting and it's done so fast, nobody misses any planes.

   Coming up next , a great new book about the magic of food and family plus more vegetable tricks done easy. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


  1. Going to def try this one. I think generally in India veges have a lot more taste (picked up when they are ripe and sold within a day or two rather than early, then refrigerated, stored, packed, etc.).

    Cauliflowers here tend to have a higher water content. Will def try the old cauliflower trick!

    P.S. Don't think I have bought a frozen chicken in my life, and haven't seen any in the supermarkets here in Spain either. Is it common in the USA?

    1. I always buy fresh chicken too, nothing worse for a cook on a tight schedule than being faced with a chick-cicle

  2. Such a great idea Kathy.Totally going to try it..I have the head of cauliflower which i was going to separate,i will hold on to that.

    1. yes, let it keep for a few days. just don't core it too deeply or it will disassemble on you.

  3. I love this! (Even though it did look more brain-like as you went along) :)

    1. I know, my husband kept saying it looked like I was cooking someones' brain!

  4. WHA-? Blowing my mind! LOVES this!

  5. 1. Just saw I missed this post!
    2. I swear I saw you in L.A. Picture of you with guy at table you look sooooo familiar.
    3. I have to make that chicken. Recipe?
    4. I love you.

    1. 1. Glad you found it
      2. That was at Edies' Diner in Marina DelRey, Alan was on the other side of the table , the guy was our friends' date.
      3. Recipe will be along soon
      4. Love you too chickie!

  6. Nice recipe! Amazing what one can do with a simple cauliflower, this sounds sooooo tasty!

  7. Nice recipe! Amazing what one can do with a simple cauliflower, this sounds sooooo tasty!

  8. This sounds absolutely delicious! I will definitely be trying it soon!



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