Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sautéed Cauliflower

Golden Brown Sauteed Cauliflower
No Longer the Great White Veggie

Recipe by Alice Waters

Cauliflower, the other white vegetable. Lacking the comfort value of potatoes, and not particularly exciting, I think of it as a sort of albino broccoli. But leave it to Alice Waters, seasonal chef and founder of the legendary Chez Panisse to come up with a cauliflower dish that’s not only colored delicately golden, but that’s easy, quick, and requires minimal ingredients. In her cookbook The Art of Simple Food, Ms. Waters makes a simple sauté sound positively sexy: “Sautéing is an exciting cooking experience. All your senses are engaged with the high heat, the loud sizzle of the pan, the active stirring and tossing, and the delightful smells of browning food…” Now who wouldn’t want to experience all that in the kitchen, especially if only three ingredients were needed?

2 Cauliflowers on Cutting Board with one Core Removed
Removing Cauliflower Core
As with the other recipes in The Art of Simple Food, Ms. Waters gives us suggestions for recipe variations. Although I made the plain, naked cauliflower sauté, you could choose to add chopped garlic, chopped parsley, hot chile flakes, fresh ground cumin, turmeric, or chopped cilantro in various combinations or singly during the last few minutes of cooking. Or, serve the cauliflower with an olive oil-toasted breadcrumb garnish. Chock full of essential cooking techniques and basic recipes with variations, The Art of Simple Food is an excellent handbook for creative cooks. It’s no surprise that Arlo Guthrie immortalized Alice Waters’ culinary genius in song 'way back when. These days you might not be able to get everything you want at Alice’s Restaurant (strictly prix fixe now), but you can likely find it in Alice's cookbook.

Sauteed Cauliflower: Sexy, not Boring
New Dimensions in Cauliflower
Sautéed Cauliflower
serves 4

1 large or 2 small heads cauliflower
2 tbsp. or more olive oil
¾ tsp. sea salt

Remove leaves and cut out the base of the cauliflower stem with a small, sharp knife. From the top down, cut cauliflower into ¼ inch slices (if cauliflower is large, cut in half first).

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium high heat, or use electric frying pan at 350 – 375 degrees.

When oil is hot but not smoking add cauliflower. In my electric frying pan, it was easier to make a single layer and sauté two batches, but Alice piles all of the cauliflower in at once. You might need a bit of extra oil for the second batch if you use my method.

Sprinkle cauliflower with salt (or half of salt if sautéing two batches).

Let the cauliflower sit until it starts to brown before stirring or tossing.

Cook, continuing to stir or toss, until cauliflower is tender, about 7-8 minutes total. Don’t worry if the cauliflower starts to break up; that is part of the charm of the dish.

Remove to serving platter. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Cauliflower Sliced on Cutting Board
How to Slice the Cauliflower


  1. This looks beautiful and delicious. I like to deep fry cauliflower with batter, then seasoning with salt and pepper or paprika. I think I like this sautéed version, easy and quick. I like the idea to add in chopped garlic, should taste really good. Probably you are concern about health issue so using olive oil, but I might try butter, I like it smell so good. :)

    1. I got the olive oil idea from Alice Waters' recipe, but butter would make a nice brown color and yummy taste, thanks! As you mention paprika, a little of that with the garlic could be good too.

  2. Excited to try this! Although... I did just wikipedia the Alice's Restaurant song, and it is based on another Alice, a friend of Arlo Guthrie. I was really rooting for her though!

    1. Oops, my bad! It makes a lovely story, but alas, untrue. Alice was Arlo's friend in Stockbridge, MA, not CA. And the original Alice's Restaurant (actually named The Back Room) is long gone. But there is still a restaurant at that location called Theresa's Stockbridge Cafe, for anyone near MA who wants some culinary/musical history, and/or a snack.