its lovely possibilities

cauliflower fritters

There’s brown on the ground, brown on the barks of the trees, and no green on bare trees yet. Sure, we’re lucky to live in a place with plenty of firs, whose branches look like long green arms. But honestly, in winter, it can feel a little like those arms are throwing rorschach blots on the sky. Right on target, I’m longing for some sign of spring.

(We’re back to the time of year when And Then It’s Spring feels like the only book worth reading, for the reminder. It will appear, someday.)

Still, when it’s May, and we’re sitting under the blooming cherry tree for a tea party, I might just have a smidge of longing for cauliflower again.

It’s such a humble vegetable, the cauliflower. It’s white and plain and calls no attention to itself. (The wild purple cauliflower of summer and the neon-green romanesco are the far more flamboyant cousins of winter white cauliflower.) For years, I didn’t pay it much mind. Now, cauliflower is starting to look like a white room, free of clutter and anything on the walls, cleared out so you notice the light more.

Cauliflower can crunch and frizzle if you roast it crispy. It makes a surprisingly delightful pizza crust, if you aren’t expecting it to be a blistered crust with air pockets straight out of a Brooklyn wood-fired oven. It’s a humble little vehicle for prosciutto and olives. (Or pineapple, if you are Lucy.) We cut each head of cauliflower into tiny florets and sauté it with slivers of kale and broccoli, with olive oil, for a breakfast hash with fried eggs. (Lucy does not approve. Is there a kid who truly loves cauliflower? All power to you, if you have that kid in your house.)

The other day, Danny and I were sitting side by side at the giant table in our kitchen studio. In fact, it was the first time we ate together at that table. It felt good. After lunch, we lingered a little instead of jumping up to work. Our phones were on the other side of the room. We flipped through a food magazine and noticed. “Oh, harissa! That’s a good idea. Hey, what about baking that instead of sautéing it? Oh, I’ve been wanting to play more with preserved lemons. Let’s try that.” We have these half-conversations, of pointing and few words, touching each other on the arms, and nodding. Danny found a recipe for cauliflower fritters. We both bent our heads down toward the page. They were a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe, from Jerusalem.

We should make those, I told him.

I stood up to move toward the computer and finish a piece I was writing. When I closed the lid of the laptop, I looked up to see Danny at the table again, phone out. Cauliflower fritters.

The next night, we made them again, for a dinner with friends. As our friend Laura said, “Is there anything with the word fritter attached to it that is not wonderful?” After dinner, our friend Joe laughed, “I think I must have eaten two heads of cauliflower.” They approved.

Oh, plain white cauliflower with its lovely possibilities. You’re making February palatable.

cauliflower fritters bottom

Cauliflower Cumin Fritters, adapted from Yotam Ottlenghi’s recipe in Food and Wine, February 2014

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

We chose to make these fritters with a combination of almond flour and arrowroot starch, roughly in a ratio of 2 to 1, which is our favorite all-purpose flour right now. That made the final fritter puffier than the one we saw in the magazine. Rather than flat, bumpy pancakes, these fritters are airy and light, the fried batter matching the texture of the blanched cauliflower.

Feel free to use whatever flour combination works best in your kitchen.

Ingredients

  • 1 large cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 90 grams finely ground almond flour
  • 50 grams arrowroot starch
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 4 large eggs, at room temtperature
  • about 4 cups frying oil (we use pure olive oil)
  1. Set a large pot of salted water on high heat. When the water is boiling, add the cauliflower florets. Simmer until they are soft, about 10 minutes. Drain the water and set aside the florets.
  2. Whisk together the almond flour, arrowroot starch, parsley, salt, cumin, pepper, coriander, garlic powder, onion powder, and turmeric in a large bowl. Add the eggs and whisk to make a smooth batter the consistency of thick pancake batter. If the batter feels too thick, add cold water, a bit at a time, until the batter whisks easily.
  3. Plop the warm cauliflower into the batter. Mash the florets a bit with the back of a spoon. (Don’t make them pulp!)
  4. Set a large pot over high heat. Pour in the frying oil. When the oil has reached 375°, spoon about 3 tablespoons of battered cauliflower into the hot oil. Don’t overcrowd the pot. Danny put about 7 or 8 fritters into the pot at a time. Separate the fritters from each other. Cook for about 3 minutes, then flip the fritter.
  5. Drain the fritters on paper towels. Serve them hot.

Notes

I bet broccoli fritters, using this same method, would be pretty great too.

These fritters really just have to be eaten hot, right after you make them, so hot that you worry for a moment that you might burn your fingers. But you won’t. Enjoy.

27 comments on “its lovely possibilities

  1. Ada

    Mmm, I love cauliflower in all its forms. When I was a kid, my mum used to cut cauliflower into florets, dredge them in flour, dip them in a beaten egg, and fry them up in the pan. Not exactly battered, but a similar effect. They were delicious and a good way to get me to eat a mountain of cauliflower for breakfast. Fritters seem like a pretty good way to do that too.

  2. Beth @ Tasty Yummies

    Oh my — these look so amazing. They kinda remind me of gobi pakora from Indian restaurants but instead of chickpea flour this amazing blend. Ive been meaning to make pakora at home, but I may have to try these first :)

  3. Candice

    These look amazing — I think I’m going to make them for dinner on Friday! What kind of oil did you use?

  4. Ann

    These sound delicious and as a Celiac I’m very happy to see the absence of grain. I notice, however, that you are frying in olive oil. I have read that olive oil is not stable in high temps and should only be used for cooking in low and medium temps. A great, delicious substitute for high temps is coconut oil.

    1. shauna

      Actually, there has been quite a bit of research to suggest that olive oil is just fine up to 450°. Mark Bittman recently suggested frying in pure olive oil and we’ve been enjoying the foods we make in it.

      1. Sarah G.

        I was thinking the same thing as Ann. Thank you, Shauna, for replying so we can understand your reasoning. I hadn’t heard about this new research with increased temperature/ stability.

  5. Hannah

    These look so yummy! As a camp counselor, I am always looking for fun things to make with my campers. We have a cooking week each summer, teaching the kids how to cook outdoors… and we always have a day where we fry things. It’s mandatory and a great way to try different things! I do believe this has just been added to our list of things so make!

  6. Elizabeth

    Thank you for these! I am a long-time lurker, but I also spied this recipe in Food and Wine and hadn’t yet figured out a good gluten free adaptation. Great idea with the arrowroot starch; I have tried it in chocolate pudding but never thought to use it to dredge up summer-crunch in a winter vegetable.

  7. Elisabeth

    If i wanted to make these without the almond flour, as one of our family members is allergic to tree nuts and coconut, could i use the same weight of rice flour?

    1. Sarah G.

      My household has an almond allergy as well, and we always sub hazelnut flour. Same weight, texture, nutrition, etc.… Works great!

  8. Emma Galloway

    Yum! My mum used to make these beautiful cauliflower fritters with a chickpea flour (besan/chana) based batter. I haven’t thought of them for years, but now you’ve got me dreaming about these :-) xx

  9. molly

    i love fritters.
    i love february.
    i love cauliflower.
    (i dog-eared this recipe in the magazine. and the book. what on earth am i waiting for?)
    and you know i love the book.
    i think it’s time that i get frying/frittering/reading. even if don’t want to hasten february along one nudge.

  10. Molly (Based on a Sprue Story)

    Like the Molly above me, I love fritters and cauliflower (but I’m not sure I can say the same for February, what with all the snow we’re getting this year in NY…). These do look a lot like gobi pakora, like Beth said. I guess I have nothing particularly new to contribute, but wanted to be sure to comment in support of the cauliflower nonetheless. :)

  11. Stephanie

    There’s a food truck at SOWA in South Boston that sells fried cauliflower dredged only in corn flour. It’s light and crispy and crunchy and absolutely extraordinary. Now I shall have to try this, or a variation in between! Thank you!
    (BTW: eggs at room temtperature? At first I read it as “tempterature” and thought it might have been a Freudian slip, but I think it was a typo.)

  12. Lea

    I. Love. Cauliflower. Where I grew up in the Midwest there were farms with massive,or at least to a child’s eye, fields of cauliflower. I was definitely a child that enjoyed cauliflower; I’d usually eat every last bit from crudités platters with dip at family gatherings. Can’t wait to try this recipe. Thanks.

  13. Jen @ glutenfreesenzaglutine

    Hi Shauna, Thank you for this post! I love fritters — cauliflower, cod, any kind… I will definitely try this recipe with the almond flour, but I also like the suggestion of chickpea flour too. Fritters are a favorite dish this time of year, especially around carnevale season, when I used to eat lots of rice fritters in Italy. I will try your recipe with other favorite vegetables like mushrooms, stuffed olives and onions. Thank you for all of your great posts!

  14. Kimberly

    Posts like this is when I like your writing the best.
    When I was growing up, my mom would make baked potatoes topped with quickly blanched cauliflower draped with melted cheddar cheese. Will it make the cover of a food magazine? No. Is it the prettiest food ever? No. But it is incredibly inexpensive, relatively healthy, and a quick meal to put together at the end of the day.

  15. Margaret@KitchenFrau

    Oh. My. Goodness. I just made these for supper tonight using broccoli and shredded carrots. They were out of this world, and wow, did they ever disappear quickly. My family all raved and demanded that these were keepers — that I need to make them again soon. Thank you, Gluten-Free Girl and Chef!

  16. christa

    I just wanted to say thank you for all of your hard work in general! I came across your name and orig blog over 2 years ago. I was so very sick, gluten ended up being the culprit. However, it wasn’t until I found your writing that I became alive again. You see, food has always been a love affair for me. I didn’t grow up with a lot. I begged for hummus, pesto & fancy cheeses but when you are a welfare baby– that doesn’t happen!
    I wanted to say thank you for giving us a link to the clothes make the girl site. Paleo is a little strict for me but I found marksdailyapple through her. I felt great after I went GF for like 3mos (Note: I was also eating primal and didn’t know.) After I started adding back in rice and corn I was feeling “off” again. I have also had terrible acne for years, despite all treatments. I made the desicion to go primal/paleo on Jan 17, 2014. Almost all of my acne is gone! Those last few nagging pounds, gone! Bloating & last of my digestive woes,gone! Thank you so much for helping lead me to my missing link!
    Best wishes for you and your loved ones!
    Sincerely,
    Christa

  17. Patty

    Shauna, my husband and I made a half batch of these tonight, and they are fantastic! We purposely left the cauliflower a bit firmer (less blanching time), and with the bit of batter left over, he made a couple of mini fritters. Thanks so much for doing the hard work for us. Keep up the great work!

  18. Rebecca Tien

    I have a head of cauliflower in my fridge and I was just wondering how I want to cook it. Now I know. Thanks! Funny that you should mention And Now It’s Spring. After ordering all my vegetable and flower seeds this week I stumbled upon the book in the library and just got it out of the library for our son. Just 4 more weeks until I can start planting! I can’t wait to start eating from my yard again!

  19. Kario

    We just made them and YUM! How delicious! I had a few left to fry when the oil got nasty, so I put them on parchment in the oven at 420 and baked them and they were just as good (and less messy and oily). Thank you for this recipe!

  20. T

    This recipe was wonderful! I made it my own and threw in some diced raw onion into the mix along with some garam masala, fresh cilantro and a few other spice friends.

    They were even wonderful heated up the next day on a sheet in the oven.
    Another successful foray into deep frying on the stove top.