One day they eat it, the next day they won’t. If you have kids, or have at least been around kids, you know that when it comes to feeding children, there is a certain degree of trickery involved–getting them to eat veggies is perhaps the most difficult feat. I’ve gone so far as to hide pureed veggies in other foods–mainly smoothies–and I’ve used cheese or ranch dressing to jazz up those hard to eat vegetables. No matter your strategy, it’s hard catering to the most fickle creatures known to man; accommodating a child’s ever-changing palate is one of the great challenges every parent will face.
My 7 year-old son, Everett, was an awesome eater from the get-go. As soon as he was old enough, he was eating Thai and sushi and anything else I put in front of him–except peas–that is where he drew the line. Now that he is older, you would think that we flew through the “picky phase” unscathed; sadly no, he has become one of those grilled cheese, mac & cheese, and chicken tenders kids. What went wrong? In fairness, he does still eat many things that other kids may not, but given a choice, it’s one of the aforementioned “kid foods”. Ironically, now he will gladly eat peas any day. Finding things that he will eat has become a frequent source of frustration.
There is a light at the end of this tunnel: I keep finding things that he will eat by accident. Months back, he decided he didn’t like corn anymore; one night, I happened to serve hominy–which he loved. These days he is eating corn on the cob again, but no “de-cobbed” corn. Tomatoes are only acceptable on tacos or in salsa. Brussels sprouts were his absolute favorite vegetable since he was a toddler…until sometime last year; now we have to force him to eat just one. Ugh! Cauliflower was another big no-no on his list–but when I switched up the way I made it, he polished off 1/3 of the head all by himself. I think it’s not only got something to do with how it was prepared, but also the fact that this new recipe flavors it with lemon.
Preparing cauliflower was always so simple–I roasted it. Roasting lends a nice toasted flavor, but the high heat draws out much of the moisture, leaving it a bit dry. The other prep option I used was steaming; steaming cauliflower gives it a nice, almost creamy texture, but exposing it to all of that water vapor leaves it virtually flavorless. I didn’t know of a technique that not only retains the moisture but also imparts flavor–until now. Vegetarian Times featured a recipe that combined two methods: par-boiling in a savory broth and then roasting. The results are flavorful and moist, while retaining an al dente texture; it is the perfect blending of the two.
The other unique component that makes this cauliflower cravable is the lemon brown butter. Ever seen a child suck on a lemon and–despite the grimace on their face–keep going back for more? There is just something about kids and lemons; every kids’ cookbook I’ve ever read always has at least one lemony recipe. Maybe it’s the way that lemon just brightens up food; maybe it’s that punch of acidity; maybe it’s just the challenge of eating something so sour: at any rate, kids seem to be drawn to this bright yellow citrus fruit. After a bath in a curry broth and roasted, the cauliflower gets basted with a mix of lemon juice and brown butter which lends a nuttiness to the cauliflower that I can’t seem to get enough of.
Ok, yes, I said a curry-flavored broth; please don’t close this page yet. Don’t be scared of curry powder; it is simply a blend of aromatic spices including turmeric, coriander, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper and cardamom. Despite popular belief, it does not have to be spicy–just be sure you buy sweet curry powder–and you don’t have to like Indian food to appreciate the punch of flavor this spice lends to this broth. The cauliflower absorbs just enough of the curry to not overwhelm and the lemon brown butter brings things full circle.
What’s brown butter, you may ask? It’s one of the simplest flavor bombs you can make and it only has one ingredient! As butter melts, the milk solids that foam to the top settle to the bottom of the pan and start to brown. What you are left with is nutty-tasting, brown-flecked butter that is nothing short of spectacular. It can be used virtually anywhere butter is used, but with that added oomph of flavor. Brown butter will be the topic of an upcoming post because it is truly one of my most delicious kitchen secrets.
Just like the old adage, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”; when it comes to kids and food, “It’s not what you cook, it’s how you cook it”. Take something that may not be a typical winner in your house and switch up the way you make it; try adding some lemon or brown butter–or both–they are both great on so many things. You may not know what’s approved from one day to the next with your kiddo, but it never hurts to try something new. This recipe has totally changed my cauliflower game…until Everett decides he doesn’t like it anymore.
LEMON BROWN-BUTTER CAULIFLOWER
I love my variation of the Vegetarian Times recipe I found months ago. Don’t be put-off by the curry powder in the boiling liquid: it is a very subtle flavor that is imparted into the cauliflower. Curry + cauliflower = a match made in heaven.
2 teaspoons sweet curry powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
10 whole peppercorns
1 large head cauliflower, leaves removed, stem trimmed
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Lemon Brown Butter
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
6 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Fill a large, deep pot with 8 cups water. Stir in curry powder, 2 teaspoons salt and peppercorns. Bring to a boil.
Slowly immerse cauliflower, stem side up, into boiling broth. Be sure white areas of cauliflower are completely covered. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Grabbing stem with tongs, carefully remove from water and move to a bowl. Allow to drain. Pat surface dry with paper towels. Place cauliflower, stem down, on baking pan and drizzle with olive oil. Rub in oil and season with salt and black pepper. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
While baking, make lemon brown butter. Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. After butter has completely melted, allow to cook and monitor closely–do not walk away! You will start to smell a toasty smell and see some brown bits collect on the bottom of the pan. Gently swirl saucepan around until the brown bits are the color of milk chocolate. Remove from heat, allow to cool for five minutes. Stir in lemon juice, zest, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Once cauliflower has finished roasting, remove to a shallow dish. Baste with 1/2 of lemon butter mixture. Slice into desired portions; drizzle more lemon butter mixture on each serving. Season to taste with salt.