“What?!” The fifth grader stamps his foot on the red cement floor. His eyes are furrowed, mouth twisted in distress.
“Cauliflower?! This is so unfair!”
I can’t really do anything but laugh at his comment, “How is this unfair?”
“Because it smells like cookies in here!”
He’s right, it does smell like cookies in here. Sweet buttery chocolate chip cookies. We all close our eyes and inhale deeply: Ahhhhh. I’m making chocolate chip cookies for a future event. I’ve been making them all week, filling the hallways with the scent of baking brown sugar then making my students cook and eat cauliflower. I think it’s sort of funny.
“This sucks!” The same student slaps the table. Everyone else looks at him, half agreeing, but not sure how to handle their own feelings.
Well, we’re cooking cauliflower. I’m sure readers are thinking similar thoughts: Cauliflower?! Gross! But wait– this is seriously good. So good that a parent came up to me the following week almost scolding my efforts. Getting the kids to eat the veg drowned in butter? Not very original. We didn’t use any butter I clarify [butter pun!]. But it was so…. good.
“It won’t suck, I promise. In fact, this is based on one of my favorite recipes growing up. I used to eat it as a snack all the time!” Eyes begin to roll, implying I must be lying and if not, I’m a total nerd.
“Really? Cauliflower was one of your favorite snacks? Cauliflower is not a snack.”
Student definition of cauliflower:
Cau-li-flow-er. Thing. (1) A disgusting, boring white vegetable half as interesting as broccoli with less flavor. (2) Gross. (3) A vegetable therefore, I’m allergic. (4) Not a snack.
Funny enough, broccoli was the other culprit in this so-called favorite-snack-ever I supposedly couldn’t get enough of growing up. Really, I had my doubts too. It’s a story my mom has been telling me for about a year now with me rolling my eyes at her in a, Sure mom, I’m sure cauliflower was my faaaaaavorite snack, sort of way. My mom even sent a picture as evidence:
Really mom? I’m “rolling” out cauliflower?! Have you seen the vegetable lately? It’s roundish and slightly crumbly– sure it’s not cookie dough I’m rolling? She denied it- assuring me that while all the other kids in pre-school had cookies and chips as snack I had cauliflower and broccoli. My best friend Yoshi had seaweed crackers. Gosh, we were such food nerds. Apparently she used to keep it conveniently located on the bottom shelf in the fridge half-covered so we would “happen upon it” when we dug around for a snack. She continued, claiming the recipe was from Joy of Cooking. I noted the picture on the cookbook in the photo and went through every broccoli and cauliflower recipe in the book looking for a method on rolling out cauliflower. None. (If it really was in the book, must have been popular enough to be omitted from later editions.) Still, I kept denying it until I tried the recipe.
Because if you look closely at that picture of me there is a glass dish that does sort of look like something green and white lurks inside. Cauliflower and broccoli perhaps?
Problem was, my mom couldn’t remember the recipe. All she remembered was that she rolled breadcrumbs onto flattened cauliflower. I couldn’t figure out how that worked (flattened cauliflower) so instead we made cauliflower popcorn, which created a whole other debate– “where’s the popcorn?!”
It’s popcorn shaped, get it?
Below is the recipe I created for my students, based on my mother’s memory of “something about breadcrumbs.” It is seriously tasty warm, but even good cold. The lemon and coconut oil impart tropical flavors that take the winter edge off the brassica. A few weeks after making these in class I had a similar dish at a restaurant with the addition of bacon (which was actually a bit overpowering for the subtlety of cauliflower). I could see this dish tossed with some chopped pecans or walnuts though (or not) as a side.
And the in-class verdict? Silence. “What’s the matter? No good?”
The stamping, furrowed, distressed, slapper must concede with a sigh, “No…. it’s good.”
(But, you know, it’s no chocolate chip cookie.)
Snack sized 4 servings
1/2 head, medium-sized cauliflower, broken into popcorn-sized pieces (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh-grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons bread crumbs
1 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bring a sauce pot of water to a boil. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Boil cauliflower pieces 5 minutes to soften slightly. Drain and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, add olive oil, coconut oil, lemon juice and egg until evenly combined. Stir in Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, thyme and salt to form a thick batter. Fold in cauliflower (batter will not totally engulf but almost half-coat) then transfer to a single layer on the baking sheet.
Bake 15 minutes until golden and crispy.
Try it with broccoli– or combine the two!