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The easiest way to serve cauliflower is to cut it into florets and briefly steam it. Over the years I've noticed people are either passionate about plain, steamed cauliflower or feel rather ho-hum and unenthusiastic toward it. The aficionados derive simple pleasure from the fresh, unadorned flavor of the cauliflower, but some of us yearn for an innovative presentation, one with aesthetic flair and adventurous flavor. Sometimes, all it takes is a little creativity to present the vegetable in a different form that stimulates a flurry of excitement.
The simple trick of cutting a whole cauliflower vertically into thick slices creates a whole new way to present this healthful vegetable. The lightly browned slices actually look like beautiful, very appetizing trees. Dress them in a fresh, caper-accented tomato sauce, and you'll be serving this culinary treasure to a totally receptive audience.
For a well-rounded meal, surround the cauliflower trees with steamed, toasted buckwheat and serve with a tossed salad. To embellish the buckwheat, sauté a combination of diced onions and mushrooms and add them to the cooked buckwheat.
ROASTED CAULIFLOWER TREES
WITH TOMATO CAPER SAUCE
Yield: 4 servings
1 large head cauliflower
Fresh Tomato Sauce
2 1/2 pounds (1 kilo) tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup (120 ml) chopped onions
2 to 3 tablespoons well-drained capers
1 to 2 tablespoons caper liquid
1 tablespoon well-drained capers
1 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup (120 ml) diced red bell pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. (Gas Mark 6) and have ready a large, lightly oiled rimmed baking sheet (12 1/2 x 17-inch or 32 x 43 cm).
- Wash the cauliflower and trim and discard the leaves. Remove the excess core with a straight cut, even with the base of the florets. Leave the remaining core intact.
- Place the cauliflower on the cutting board, core side down, and cut it into vertical slices about 3/4-inch (1.9 cm) thick. Arrange the slices in a single layer on the baking sheet.
- Brush the cauliflower slices very lightly with oil and sprinkle very lightly with salt. Roast for 15 minutes and fork-test for doneness. The slices should be lightly browned and tender, yet firm enough to remain intact. Remove from the oven and arrange the slices on a large serving platter.
- While the cauliflower is roasting, combine the tomatoes and onions in a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan. Cook and stir over medium-high heat for about 6 to 9 minutes to create a sauce that is softened and broken down but still slightly chunky. Add the capers and caper liquid to taste and mix well.
- To serve, spoon a vertical line of sauce down the center of the cauliflower trees. Spoon the remaining sauce into a bowl and serve at the table. To garnish, sprinkle the capers over the line of tomato sauce. Sprinkle the parsley around the outer edge of the platter and top the parsley with the diced red bell pepper.
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