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 Cumin Fritters, adopted from Yotam Ottlenghi's recipe in food and wine, February 2014
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Plop the warm cauliflower into the batter. Mash the florets a bit with the back of a spoon. (Don’t make them pulp!)
- 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.
- Drain the fritters on paper towels. Serve them hot.
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.