Pan Seared Cauliflower & Creamy Tomato Sauce

January 5, 2010 at 9:18 am 16 comments

Pan Seared Cauliflower and Creamy Tomato Sauce

I’ve always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with cauliflower.  It’s one of those vegetables I was somewhat forced to eat as a kid and, though I squirmed in my chair, I managed to get it down.  Thankfully my mom usually took mercy on us kids and combined it with broccoli and cheese.   And in my mind’s eye, cauliflower was always just that:  broccoli’s pale and tasteless cousin. 

Whole Head of Cauliflower Diptych

I’m not going to lie to you…I was pretty much hitting the nail on the head with my childhood assessment of cauliflower.  As a cook with a passion for putting local produce to use though, I’ve discovered that cauliflower is just a vehicle for shuttling other amazing flavors into your mouth.  Case and point: that dreamy Creamy Cauliflower Garlic Soup that I made last winter and the Roasted Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Mash I declared the “perfect dish” many moons ago. 

Slices Diptych

When a mammoth head of cauliflower at the last-of-the-season farmers market made its way into my shopping bag along with a small tub of the most mouth-watering sun-dried tomato marinated goat cheese from my friend at Shellbark Hollow Farm, the wheels in my head began to turn in that way that makes me giddy as I can nearly taste the flavors coming together.  The only thing that needed sousing out was how to prepare the cauliflower…

Shellbark Hollow Goat Cheese

Pan searing a vegetable like cauliflower gives you the opportunity to infuse it with the flavors of high-quality olive oil and a good butter as well as any herbs or seasoning.  I heated sprigs of rosemary in my skillet, giving the finished cauliflower a wonderful wafting aroma that enticed me to eat a few pieces even before the sauce was ready.  I have to say, if I had to eat “plain” cauliflower, this is the preparation I would always use.  The slices were tender but not at all soggy, and the searing added a great deal of depth to an otherwise bland vegetable. 

Pan Seared Cauliflower topped with Creamy Tomato Sauce

The real star of this show though is the sauce.   It really is reminiscent of creamy vodka sauce, but it’s a much simpler one to put together.  The key is to find yourself some outstanding local goat cheese that hasn’t been over processed.  Just a few tablespoons makes this sauce a stand-out.   Next time I’ll be sure to make a double batch since I also really enjoyed having the little bit of leftovers over a bowl of pasta the next day.   So, while cauliflower hasn’t made its way to the tippy top of my favorite vegetables list, it can be quite tasty when it finds a good dinner companion. 

Pan Seared Cauliflower & Creamy Tomato Sauce
A Straight from the Farm Original

1 large head of cauliflower
4 T. extra virgin olive oil
3 T. butter
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 T. finely minced garlic
1 T. tomato paste
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
3 T. goat cheese
3 T. heavy cream
1/2 t. fresh oregano
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Scrub the cauliflower.  Use a large sharp knife to cut the cauliflower into slices about a half inch thick.  If big pieces of the core/stem come with a slice, you can remove it, being careful to keep the slice intact. 

Heat a tablespoon of oil and a tablespoon of butter over high heat in a large heavy skillet until the butter is melted.  Put one sprig of rosemary in the hot skillet and give it a shake to get it coated.  Lay one layer of cauliflower slices in the hot skillet and allow to cook for 4-5 minutes or until you start seeing the browning around the edges.  Use a spatula to carefully flip the pieces over, giving the pan a gentle shake once they are all turned over to redistribute the oil and butter.  Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.  Continue to cook until second side is also golden and the pieces are tender, about 3-4 minutes.

Repeat this process, adding an additional tablespoon of oil and of butter to the hot skillet before each new batch of cauliflower.  Keep seared cauliflower under foil or in a warm oven to keep it hot until ready to serve. 

To make the sauce, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and a sprig of rosemary.  Stir until fragrant and garlic is turning golden.  Add the tomato paste and stir briskly to incorporate.  Add the diced tomatoes and allow mixture to simmer for about 3 minutes, stirring regularly.  Use a potato masher or large spoon to break up the larger chunks of tomato.  Add the goat cheese and stir until the cheese is melted and mixed into the sauce.   Stir in the cream and oregano.  Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. 

To serve, plate up the cauliflower and top with the warm sauce.  Cauliflower and sauce can be made the day before and reheated  (cauliflower in the oven and sauce on the stove works best) just before serving.  Also delicious when served over a pile of warm whole wheat pasta. 

(serves 4)


Entry filed under: Purely Vegetables, Recipes. Tags: , , , .

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16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Food-Fitness-FreshAir  |  January 5, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Funny…as a kid, I hated broccoli because it was so strong, and thus like cauliflower better because of its bland taste. Now I love them both mainly because my parents did force me to eat so much of them. This recipe sounds great! Cauliflower truly is a great vegetable for taking on various flavors. I like to turn it into mashed potatoes and add a little cardamon seeds.

    • 2. Jennie  |  January 7, 2010 at 7:05 pm

      Hmmm, I never thought about cauliflower that way….maybe it was just because I only had it boiled before I started cooking it for myself. You’re definitely right about how having your parents force you to try veggies as a kid helps you love them now. I think exposing kids to a wide array of fresh produce is a huge positive influence parents can have. I’ll have to try your combo with cardamon seeds. Sounds exotic! 🙂

  • 3. Heather (The Single Dish)  |  January 6, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    This looks divine! I bet that sauce would be so good on so many different veggies!

  • 4. Jillian  |  January 6, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    I love cauliflower, especially fried or pan-seared. I’ve never thought of this combination. I bet it’s delicious! I think I can use this as a low carb dish, too. Great! Thanks for the recipe.

  • 5. Ramya  |  January 6, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Hey Jennie,u have a great space here,many good collections of recipes…

    This recipe looks amazing and sounds delicious…
    Great entry…Keep Going….
    Happy Blogging…….

  • 6. mangochild  |  January 7, 2010 at 6:34 am

    Cauliflour was one of the earliest veg that I learned to cook for myself, and cooking it with tomato has always been to me one of the most natural of pairings. Not sure why, but they just seem to complement each other. Of course, my method of cooking was much more basic: put cauliflour florets in pot, cook a while, add tomato, soften, serve…. you’re sounds much tastier! Glad you are enjoying it 🙂

    • 7. Jennie  |  January 7, 2010 at 7:19 pm

      Mmmm, your method sounds like it would make a delicious stew-like dish. Do you add seasoning/spices at all? I think I might try it that way…but next spring as I’m all out of cauliflower now. 😦

  • 8. dokuzuncubulut  |  January 9, 2010 at 1:51 am

    I love cauliflower (turkish karnabahar). Very savory…

  • 9. Carrie @ Deliciously Organic  |  January 9, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    This looks amazing! I just got a cauliflower head that weighed almost 10 pounds in my CSA box today and I was wondering what to do with it. Now I have a plan. Thanks for posting this!

    • 10. Jennie  |  January 10, 2010 at 12:10 pm

      10 pounds?!?! Wow! With that much cauliflower on hand, I’d also recommend trying the soup recipe I listed in the post too. 🙂

  • 11. italianmamachef  |  January 10, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    Oh goodness, this looks heavenly. Can’t wait to try it!

  • 12. conradvisionquest  |  January 12, 2010 at 10:25 am

    holy crap! this looks gorgeous enough to eat! i’m tryin’ it, AND i’m adding your farm fresh blog to my blog roll! YAY 😉 wendy

  • 13. Katie @ Cozydelicious  |  January 12, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    This looks wonderful! Beautiful photos. I usually roast cauliflower (which I adore) and have never pan seared it. I’m going to have to give this a shot! Thanks!

  • 14. the inadvertent farmer  |  January 14, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    That looks absolutely scrumptious! I will definitely be giving this a try, thanks! Kim

  • […] can find the original recipe here, including amazing preparation photos and pics of the finished dish.  It comes from the wonderful […]

  • 16. lettucedesire  |  July 6, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Thanks for this recipe, I’ll definitely give it a shot! I’m on a comfort food / cauliflower / broccoli kick right now.


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