East of Paris Bookstore

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cauliflower -- Central Asian Style


Fried Cauliflower, Russian Salad, Beet Salad 
While traveling in Central Asia we ate many familiar foods but prepared in ways that were new to us.  Bread rolls, similar to piroshki, were often filled with pumpkin purée or shredded cabbage or a mushroom-onion mixture. There was no shortage of vegetables and one of my favorites was fried cauliflower, which was served both warm and cold.
Breads filled with pumpkin, cabbage or mushroom stuffing

Meat, cabbage, and mushroom dumplings 
Some of the best meals we had were not in restaurants but in homes or on farms, where extended families supplement their income by preparing banquets for visiting groups.  Behind some rather off-putting, decrepit-looking, gray metal and cement walls, a family might have a surprisingly new and large house and serve a lovely multi-course meal.

Yesterday, while grocery shopping, I finally decided to overcome my fear of frying and buy a head of fresh cauliflower and reproduce the version I enjoyed so much on our trip.

First, I trimmed the leaves off of the cauliflower and immersed it whole in salted boiling water for about 10 minutes. Then I removed it from the pot and immersed it in a bowl of ice water. When it was cool to the touch, I cut the florets and discarded the stem.

Next I beat 1 large egg with 1/2 cup milk. I dipped the florets in this mixture and then (carefully!) put them in hot oil (I used canola oil and kept the temperature on medium-high).   
Using a long metal tong, I turned the florets to be sure that they browned evenly.  Then I put them on rack to drain.
Finally, I sprinkled on salt and pepper and served them warm.  I ate the leftovers cold.
P.S.  This dish can be a bit bland, so I also recommend kicking thing it up with some red pepper flakes.

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