I’m always getting a lot of inspiration from the Food52 cooks. One of my favorite recipes on the site is Amreen’s Shrimp Biryani. The flavors in that dish are so complementary and aromatic. I thought the chili paste might go nicely with cauliflower, so I adapted Amreen’s recipe to fit this veggie dish.
As you cook, you're looking for nice crusty bits on the cauliflower, or as Mollie Katzen describes on the inside cover of her latest book, The Heart of the Plate, as the "pot-stuck" method. I love that phrase!
I prefer a less-dressed veg, but feel free to double the amounts for the chili paste, if you like it wetter. —mrslarkin
Test Kitchen Notes
It was a revelation to discover the fantastic combination of flavors in this simple, easy-to-make side dish. There are no spices used here other than the turmeric -- the green herbs ably provide the heady fragrance. The mildly sweet earthiness of the cauliflower, the bite from the Serrano, and the gentle heat of the ginger combine to leave you hungry for more. Mrs. Larkin’s technique of pressing down on the steamed cauliflower florets to caramelize them and add a teensy ‘crunch’ on their surface is spot-on. The result is delicious, as if the florets had been roasted. Although versatile in terms of ingredient substitutions, I’d give Mrs. Larkin's pick of flavors in this recipe a perfect 10. —Panfusine
2 or more
small head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
piece of ginger, peeled
garlic cloves, peeled
serrano chili pepper, seeds removed if less heat is desired
fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
yellow onion, chopped
fresh mint leaves, chopped, plus more for garnish
Steam the cauliflower. When I can’t find my steamer basket for the stovetop, here’s how I do it: Pour 1 cup of water into rice cooker. Place cauliflower in steamer insert and place into rice cooker. Close the lid and press the “cook” button. Check cauliflower after 15 minutes. Poke it with a fork. Go ahead and taste a piece, even. It should be crisp-tender. Cook an additional 5 minutes if necessary. When done, remove and set aside.
Place ginger, garlic, chile and cilantro in mini chopper and process. Add a smidge of vegetable oil or water to make a paste. Set aside.
In a nonstick sauté pan, heat oil on medium-low heat. Add onion and brown lightly. Add the chili paste to the pan and stir to combine. Stir in the turmeric. Add the cauliflower and stir to coat.
Turn up the heat to medium-high and cook the cauliflower, pressing down with a spatula, or your crushing implement of choice, to caramelize the bottoms. Don’t crush them pancake-thin; you want to keep some heft on your cauliflower. Watch that the heat is not too high. Turn the heat down if your veg is starting to burn, or move the pan off the heat. Flip and brown the other side. Add just a touch of oil if you think the pan is too dry. Season with salt. Sprinkle with cilantro and mint.
If you'd like, serve with cilantro-mint raita: Mix 1 cup Greek yogurt with 1 tablespoon each finely chopped mint and cilantro, a few pinches of cumin to taste, juice of 1/2 a lime, and a pinch of salt. Chill until ready to serve.