whole roasted cauliflower with fluffy whipped feta
Whew, chillay! This cold and flu season tooketh me all the way out. What started as a sinus infection over the holidays turned into the flu and eventually the bout of bronchitis that had me laid out, incapacitated for over a week. I’m all the way serious when I say I didn’t leave the couch for five straight days, much less the house.
To keep things interesting, day two of this all-encompassing plague was spent as a 13-hour travel day back to SF from Mobile after an emergency trip home to visit family, where I caught the bronchitis, mind you. Major airport delays came courtesy of the government shutdown (ugh, screw that stupid ass wall and everything it stands for), and left me lying on a stone bench in the Houston airport for too many hours, wearing a hospital mask, wrapped in a blanket, looking like a germaphobe’s worst nightmare.
So I cannot even accurately relay with words how good it feels on this MLK Monday to be back on my feet and back in the kitchen. Today, I cleaned out my fridge and cooked up everything that needed to be used, plus a few fresh things from the corner market, to do some meal prep for the week. I made a batch of our favorite meatballs from Ina Garten, tomato soup, boiled potatoes, all the components for the very best low key kale caesars, green beans, parsnip puree, and this whole roasted cauliflower with a side of whipped soft cheeses that is basically a rich and fluffy cloud of umami. Whenever I set aside the time for a big meal prep sesh, I make sure to include one recipe that really excites me to make, and this little babykins was the one today.
This recipe has been heavy on my mind lately, as a well-known star dish of the place I just can’t seem to stop talking about, though it originally caught my eye in an issue of Bon Appetit over five years ago. I remember the experience of making it quite well (not least of all the shock on Cos’s face when I pulled a giant hunk of cauliflower out of the oven, “so, um, is that, uh, all you made for supper?” Don’t worry, it wasn’t) back in what just may have been in the sweetest chapter of my home-cooking journey yet.
We were living on the Upper East Side, working way too late everyday and squeezing in weekend trips to visit Cos’s mom in Connecticut as often as possible. But when it came to cooking, logistics weren’t even a consideration. I was happily doe-eyed and relentlessly committed to getting my hands dirty in the kitchen. I had just figured out I wanted to write about food and couldn’t think of anything else to do about it other than cook my ass off, trying any remotely interesting vegetable-forward recipe I could. That is, after a full day at the office and a run around Central Park; we rarely ate dinner before 10:30pm. (Late supper 4 life.)
Occasionally I look back at the ridiculous cooking tasks I pulled off in that tiny kitchen on East 83rd Street and wonder if all the fun of it was in my mindset, rather than the cooking itself. But then I come back to these same recipes (sometimes even a whopping half-decade later), and am made to remember that it was both my enthusiasm for tearing it up in the kitchen and the mouth-watering results that made the food so memorable. Which is why on the first day I could stand up for an hour straight, I was at the stove poaching cauliflower in white wine and butter, whipping cream and cheese together, and happy as a clam to be doing it. Ya girl is back, bitchachos.
Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Feta, by Alon Shaya' via Food 52 Genius Recipes. I made this from the Genius Recipes cookbook (which is almost identical to what is printed online), only changing the recipe slightly. For the white wine, I used one cup instead of 2.5 (didn’t want to waste the good stuff), and a tiny pinch, rather than a tablespoon, of red pepper flakes for the poaching broth.