My beautiful heavily pregnant sister-in-law braved the torrential rain to come over for dinner this week. Oh, did I tell you? I’m going to be an aunty! It was less than a year ago that my little brother got married and I made my first (and last) wedding cake. And it’s hard to believe that in less than 6 weeks he’ll be a dad; mum and dad will be nanny and grandad (or nan and pop, they’re still deciding), my grandad will be even greater than he already is, and I’ll be an aunty. His or her impending arrival is the source of so much joy in our family, I wonder if they know just how excited we are to meet and love them.
Mum-to-be was lured over with the promise to cook from the latest edition to my cookbook family (and a birthday present from her), The Sprouted Kitchen. I raced home to strategically place buckets throughout the studio and pull old towels to mop up the wet that had already puddled. It was like being under siege – the relentless rain on the corrugated iron roof, a defening chorus of elephants. It’s miserable, so we need something warm, starchy and comforting. A Roasted cauliflower capellini ticks all these boxes and won’t be too heavy.
I love cauliflower. It’s best sautéed or roasted, not boiled or steamed to waterlogged mushy oblivion. What is that magic that happens when cauliflower is roasted to turn it from pale and bland to caramelised sweet and nutty – almost popcorn or toasted-cheese-like? Cauliflower might just be the new superfood for 2013 – full of vitamins and antioxidants; it’s also a great cardiovascular, digestive, detox and cancer prevention support. And they’re available all year round.
Tonight, the crispy brown florets of concentrated flavour are tossed through pasta with a light brown butter, a sting of white balsamic, sweet toasted hazelnuts, fresh basil and a bite of pecorino.
There were even a few baby kicks of approval. I think I know who’s going to be the favourite aunty… If I have anything to do with it!
1 head cauliflower
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp lemon pepper (I used freshly ground pepper plus some grated lemon zest instead) Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 pound whole grain or brown rice capellini or thin spaghetti
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
Handful of fresh basil, cut into slivers
1/2 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
Shaved Pecorino, for garnish (optional)
– Preheat the oven to 200’C
– Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, cut the cauliflower into 5cm florets, discarding the thick middle stem. Spread the florets on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with olive oil, making sure each piece is coated. Sprinkle with lemon pepper (or fresh black pepper and lemon zest), 1/2 tsp salt, and nutmeg and toss again. Roast, gently stirring about halfway through the cooking time, until there are lots of brown caramelised spots, about 25 to 30 minutes
– Cook the capellini according to the package instructions. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm the butter and swirl around the pan until it starts to bubble and just begins to smell toasty, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat. Drain the pasta, reserving a bit of the water. To the pan with the browned butter, add the capellini, a splash of pasta water, the balsamic vinegar, basil, half of both the cauliflower and the hazelnuts, and a pinch or two of salt. Toss everything to combine
– Divide the capellini to four serving bowls (or one large bowl) and top with a portion of the remaining cauliflower, nuts, and a few grinds of black pepper. Garnish with the shaved Pecorino, if using, and serve immediately