I used to refer to cauliflower as “broccoli’s sad cousin.” Years of veggie trays at family functions taught me that dip does not make raw cauliflower taste good. A month of a “let’s try new vegetables” experiment in high school taught me that no amount of cheese will make me touch boiled cauliflower. (Seriously. There are some things even cheese can’t fix.)
At some point last year, everyone on the Internet seemed to having a foodgasm about using mashed cauliflower as an alternative to mashed potatoes, and as I was snarking away*, my husband revealed that he likes cauliflower.
Whoa whoa whoa. Back up there.
“Are you serious?” I asked.
Of course he was. And then he challenged me to try it again.
Normally I would have told him to do it himself, but 1. I had to find a recipe I actually wanted to eat (for science); and 2. the one I found was written in Japanese. (He speaks a little; I have an advanced degree in it. Plan backfired.) Luckily, this dish sold me on cauliflower. As with most vegetables, sauteing or roasting fresh cauliflower is the way to go, and with the sesame oil and curry seasonings, this recipe will make you forget everything you know about the blandness of cauliflower.
The last problem was, of course, that I kept saying I would translate the recipe for him and promptly forgetting till I wanted to make it again. No more of that! Happy Winter Solstice.
Serving suggestions: this recipe is a great okazu (Japanese-style side dish) and is good hot or cold in bento. I recommend serving it with miso soup, rice, and other okazu. Vegetarians and vegans: this would probably be good with sauteed maitake or shiitake mushrooms, cooked soy beans or edamame, or seitan as a source of protein, though you could cook just omit the tuna and serve this as a side dish to another okazu with protein in it. This recipe can be gluten-free if your soy sauce and curry powder are.
Curried Cauliflower with Tuna
Adapted from 『日本の野菜』(Nihon no Yasai)
Serves 3-4 as a side dish.
2 TBSP sesame oil (goma abura, ごま油)
1 head of cauliflower, roughly chopped (karifurawâ, カリフラワー)
2 tsp of curry powder** (karê kona, カレー粉)
80 g (2 cans) of canned tuna (tsuna kan, ツナ缶; packed in water: mizuni, 水煮; packed in oil: aburazuke, 油漬)
2 TBSP cooking sake (ryôrishu, 料理酒)
1/2 TBSP soy sauce (shôyu, 醤油)
salt, to taste (shio, 塩）
pepper, to taste (koshô, 胡椒)
1/2-1 stalk of green onions, finely sliced (konegi, 小ネギ; or bannônegi, 万能ねぎ)
a large frying pan
1. Heat the sesame oil over medium heat in the frying pan. Add chopped cauliflower and saute for a minute or two.
2. Add curry powder and canned tuna to the frying pan and stir to distribute the powder. Cook for another minute or two.
3. Mix together the sake, soy sauce, salt, and pepper, and add to the frying pan.
4. When the cauliflower is tender and the liquid has mostly evaporated, add the onions. Cook a minute more to soften them, then remove the pan from the heat.
5. Serve warm or cold as a side dish.
*It’s not a bad idea, but I while I like potatoes roasted or pan-fried with seasonings and other vegetables, I find traditional mashed potatoes (potatoes, milk/cream) extremely dull. In addition, the recipe I was reading contained a truly excessive amount of heavy cream and cheese, so I’m not totally sure what the health benefit was supposed to be. Vitamins? Fewer carbs?
** I used Madras brand (from Diamond), but you can use S&B or whatever brand you like. Do not use curry roux or paste.
3 servings, made with water-packed tuna.