I’m back. Phew.
I think 3 1/2 days at a time is my new favorite way to be in Boston. In 3 1/2 days I can cram in almost all my favorite things (friends! colleagues! Bread products! Riding along the river on a classic Dutch commuter bike that is beautiful but also insanely heavy!) and avoid the majority of the things that drove me slightly batty when living there.
But now I’m back, and in my kitchen banging out some semblance of meals including, a) some very awesome homemade pasta with butter and anchovies last night, and b) cauliflower with harissa cream several times. The latter (at least for the purposes of this conversation) is the more important by far.
Perhaps you have not been waiting with bated breath for this cauliflower, but I have!
I’m not even sure why I love this cauliflower so very much. I just do. I love the dark, charred frill that develops on the edges of the golden roasted cauliflower florets. I love how the minute pocks and crevices of the cauliflower make the perfect surface for catching the sauce.
I love how incomprehensibly soft and mellow the garlic cloves become, and the wrinkled skin the olives develop. I love how they all work together, if you carefully assemble a forkful with one of each, and how they are equally delicious each on their own if you can’t be bothered with focused bite construction.
And I especially love the harissa cream. A homemade smokey, spicy, chipotle-based harissa stirred generously into a pool of creme fraiche. I’m a sucker for dairy and for smokey. I’m completely hooked. This stuff, while particularly amazing on this cauliflower, belongs on virtually anything (think fried eggs, a salad, sauteed greens, your sandwich, roasted fish…).
Joel would like to point out that even harissa cream has its limits and that you may perhaps grow tired of it if, just hypothetically, it appears on 2 out of every 3 meals for a week. I disagree. And clearly Joel is the one who is wrong in this argument.
This recipe makes a lot more harissa paste than you need for making the harissa cream, and I feel that that is a good thing as well. You can store it in a jar for several weeks with a bit of olive oil over the top, and it too can go on anything. I particularly like it integrated into tagines and stews, or as a rub for meat that you then proceed to slow cook and serve with yogurt, or to bring a little extra spice to a snack of avocado on toast.
Or just make more harissa cream and continue to put that on everything you eat. That’s a pretty fine option.
The first night we had this, the meal was made extra dramatic when I exploded the baking dish in which the lamb that we were having as a side dish (yes, lamb can be a side dish for vegetables – especially vegetables like these) was cooking. I reached into the oven to add just a tiny splash of water to the pan to keep it from drying out and BLAM! Instantly my favorite pyrex baking dish burst into smithereens.
I thought you were stronger than that Pyrex. Sigh.
Yet even so, once we had picked the pieces of glass off of our lamb, dinner was so incredibly excellent it didn’t even really matter.
And then I added pomegranate arils. (Did you know the little red pomegranate seed-things are called arils? I just learned that last week.) The dish absolutely doesn’t need them in order to be perfect, but it certainly doesn’t hurt it one whit to add them. They add little bursts of sweet-tangy juiciness and look as sparkling and red as Christmas tree ornaments or cranberry garlands.
I just love it.
- 1 head of cauliflower, cored and cut into florets
- 12 pitted green olives
- 7 whole cloves of garlic, separated but peels still on
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1/2 cup creme fraiche
- 2 Tbs. homemade harissa paste (plus more to taste) – see below
- 1/3 cup pomegranate arils (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 425F. Toss the cauliflower florets, olives, and garlic cloves with the olive oil and a couple good pinches of salt. Spread it all out on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer.
- Roast in the oven, stirring a couple times during the process, until the cauliflower has turned all golden and brown and charred in spots, about 30 min. Remove from the oven, slip the garlic cloves out of their skins, and transfer the cauliflower, olives, and peeled garlic to a serving bowl or platter.
- While the cauliflower is roasting, make the harissa paste (see below). Stir 2 Tbs. of the harissa into the creme fraiche. Taste and add more to taste. (You’ll have a good amount of harissa left, but that’s nothing if not a great thing. Smear it on everything, especially meats that you then proceed to slow cook and serve with yogurt sauce.)
- Scrape the harissa cream over the top of the cauliflower mixture, then sprinkle with the pomegranate and serve.
- 7 oz. chipotle peppers in adobo (one smallish can)
- 1 1/2 Tbs. sweet paprika
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled
- 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- Blend all of the ingredients together in a blender or food processor until smooth. Ta-da! Your harissa