As I flipped with no small pleasure through the pages of Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbooks, considering recipes for this week's lunch feature, I was looking for recipes that went beyond the obvious: the salads, the soups, the plain sandwiches that characterize my all-too-frequent lunch ruts. But what else is out there? Come on — give me a new idea.
And unsurprisingly, Ottolenghi came through, with this recipe for a cauliflower cake that is good fresh, cold, at room temperature, for breakfast, lunch, or really any time at all.
When I asked Ottolenghi about his favorite lunches, he made special note of lunches that can be eaten at room temperature, espcially this one. He also notes the beautiful flexibility of this savory cake in the book's introduction to the recipe:
He continues, "Serve this cake as a light supper alongside a makeshift salad of sliced cucumber, dill, mint, a little sugar, cider vinegar, and canola oil. Wrapped well, this cake will taste even better the next day."
This savory cauliflower cake is so tasty that even my two-year-old has been gobbling up the leftovers! Fluffy, tender, and moist with cauliflower but well-seasoned with onion, herbs, and cheese, it was great both warm and at room temperature, and kept well for days in the refrigerator.
If you don't have a springform pan, you can just use a regular 9-inch cake pan or even an 8-inch square pan, like a friend of mine did, instead. As long as it's lined with a big piece of parchment that comes up the sides, the cake will come right out of the pan.
Nigella or black caraway seeds can be hard to find, but you can still make the same great visual impact they do by using black sesame, black cumin, or onion seeds instead!
- Christine, May 2015
Serves 4 to 6
1 small cauliflower, outer leaves removed, broken into 1 1/4-inch florets (about 4 cups)
1 medium red onion, peeled (6 ounces)
5 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
7 large eggs
1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Parmesan or another aged cheese
Melted unsalted butter, for brushing
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1 teaspoon nigella seeds (also known as black caraway)
Salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Place the cauliflower florets in a saucepan and add 1 teaspoon salt. Cover with water and simmer for 15 minutes, until the florets are quite soft. They should break when pressed with a spoon. Drain and set aside in a colander to dry.
Cut 4 round slices, each 1/4-inch/5-mm thick, off one end of the onion and set aside. Coarsely chop the rest of the onion and place in a small pan with the oil and rosemary. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until soft. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Transfer the onion to a large bowl, add the eggs and basil, whisk well, and then add the flour, baking powder, turmeric, Parmesan, 1 teaspoon salt, and plenty of pepper. Whisk until smooth before adding the cauliflower and stirring gently, trying not to break up the florets.
Line the base and sides of a 9 1/2-inch/24-cm springform cake pan with parchment paper. Brush the sides with melted butter, then mix together the sesame and nigella seeds and toss them around the inside of the pan so that they stick to the sides. Pour the cauliflower mixture into the pan, spreading it evenly, and arrange the reserved onion rings on top. Place in the center of the oven and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown and set; a knife inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean. Remove from the oven and leave for at least 20 minutes before serving. It needs to be served just warm, rather than hot, or at room temperature.
→ Buy the Book! Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi
Reprinted with permission from Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London's Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi, copyright © 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
(Image credits: Kimberley Hasselbrink)