Almost every child (and my younger self included) has tasted play-doh. The question is why. The smell is off-putting, though certainly unique. Its consistency is absurd – crumbly yet soft – like cold mashed potatoes. But I don’t recall it tasting buttery in any way. Its vibrant color, on the other hand, makes it appealing enough to eat.
So like a little kid, when I saw the brightly purple color of cauliflower at the little Italian-owned market a few blocks from my apartment, I couldn’t resist. And at $1.89/lb, why should I?! Initially, I thought it would look lovely plated with roasted green asparagus next to a blood-red steak. But when my boyfriend asked whether it would still be purple if I made a puree, I knew what I had to do.
While I’m a huge fan of pureed cauliflower as an alternative to mashed potatoes (much better than play-doh), the purple variety is even better. Sweeter, yet more earthy. Any kid I know would try this dish for the creepiness factor alone. (Much better than hiding spinach in in brownies or sneaking sweet potatoes into pancakes to force people to eat veggies.) And the taste might make even the pickiest of eaters try at least one more bite.
Ultimately, I decided to serve this with veal instead of red meat. I’m including the recipe for the complete meal below.
Veal with Porcini Sauce, Purple Cauliflower Puree and Roasted Asparagus
1 head of purple cauliflower (about 1 pound)
4 veal cutlets (about 1/2 a pound)
25 grams of dried porcini mushrooms (half a package)
1/8 cup of amontillado sherry
1/2 cup of half & half
1 bunch of asparagus
2 tbsps of potato starch (or flour)
2 tbsps of butter
Olive oil (lemon oil is great too)
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary
1/2 a shallot, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup of parm, optional
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of crab meat, optional
First, place dried porcinis in warm water to soak for 15 minutes.
While waiting, blanch the cauliflower in a large pot of salted water for 4 minutes.
Drain and reserve some of the cooking water (it will be purple). [Note: After blanching, the color was slightly less vibrant. When you puree it, the reserved cooking water will help it retain the color and flavor.]
In a food processor, puree the cauliflower alone until finely chopped. Then add a little reserved water to smooth it, and salt and pepper to taste. It’s perfect as is, but you might want to add the parm and a 1/4 cup or so of half & half to make it creamier, as I did. (You can also substitute slightly less cream or about 2 tbsps of sour cream or yogurt.)
While the cauliflower is blanching, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the ends off the asparagus stalks and place the stalks on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and drizzle with lemon oil or regular oil and a squeeze of lemon. Mix thoroughly. Roast for about 10 minutes (I like my asparagus crisp).
In the meantime, dredge the veal in a mixture of salt, pepper and potato starch (you can use flour as an alternative, but this is gluten free). Sprinkle with some rosemary. In a large skillet over medium-high, heat butter till bubbly. Add the veal and cook until browned on each side (about 1 minute per side).
Remove and set aside to drain on paper towels. In the same pan, lower heat to medium low and add shallots and garlic to the pan (add more butter if necessary) and saute for 1 minute.
Remove the porcini mushrooms from the water and drain (you can reserve the water for another use if you want). Chop the mushrooms if too large or add as is to the pan, season with salt and pepper and saute for 2 minutes. Add in the sherry and cook for another minute.
Place a few spoonfuls of the cauliflower puree on a plate, straddle the asparagus spears over it, then top with 2 of the veal cutlets and spoon the mushroom sauce over that. Top with some lump or king crabmeat (it was on major sale!), if you desire. [Note: Initially, I was going to make Veal Oscar but then decided to make the porcini sauce. So the end result was a combination of both and outrageously delicious.]
To drink: Since this is rich from the mushroom sauce, you can have a gin and cucumber water. (I just tried INGO’s at Whole Foods for about $1/bottle. It’s my new favorite product!) Add a few slices of cucumber for a lovely presentation. For a wine, try a red from the Douro region of Portugal, which is a little lighter than some other reds and perfect as the temperature drops on these spring evenings. An IPA or wheat beer would also work.