Cauliflower has super powers. For real. I’ve long been of the opinion that there’s little cauliflower can’t do. Roast up like a dream? Check. Make a silky smooth soup? Yup. Morph into patties? Done. All this, and a super-fast cooking time make cauliflower one of my all-time favorite kitchen stars. Heck, it even makes a great pizza crust for the gluten-free crowd. (If you’re one of the last remaining people that hasn’t tried this yet, Google “cauliflower crust pizza”, stat.)
So anyway, cauliflower risotto. It seemed like one of the few things I hadn’t tried with cauliflower. I was in the kitchen eyeing a massive head of cauliflower. I really wanted to make one of my standby weeknight dinners (pasta with cauliflower and breadcrumbs), but the husband has grumbled about it being “too dry” the last few times. I have no idea what he’s talking about, but I had some time to spare for a change, so was in the mood to be amiable. I nosed around and found a bag of arborio rice that hasn’t received much love from me lately. I mean, I love risotto (really truly do), but show me a new mom who has time to stand by the stove stirring rice for 30 minutes, and I’ll show you…well, something else equally unlikely.
Now, I know this recipe does not photograph well. It’s pretty much the opposite. I wouldn’t blame you if you found the picture downright unappetizing. A lot of this can be attributed to my poor iPhone picture skills, but really, appearances are deceptive. Do as I did and soldier on, and you will be rewarded with a truly delicious plate of food. Perfect for an early winter night. I threw in some capers (because everything is better with their briny saltiness) and sliced almonds for crunch. I think a crunchy breadcrumb topping would have been the bomb, but didn’t have the time to experiment with this. You should.
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 and 1/2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
1/2 of a large cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/3 cup white wine
5 cups vegetable stock
salt and pepper
3 tbsp capers, drained
1/4 cup sliced almonds
2 tbsp cream
1/4 cup grated parmesan
To get yourself ready, toast the sliced almonds until light golden and set aside. Also set the stock over medium heat and bring it to a steady simmer.
Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and add the chili flakes and chopped onion. Saute for a few minutes until onion is translucent. Add the rice, stirring for a minute so it gets nicely coated in oil. Add the cauliflower florets, stir, and then add the thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and cook until it mostly evaporates, about 2 minutes, then begin ladling in the stock about 1/2 cup at a time. Stir frequently, adding more stock as it absorbs into the rice and vegetables. Break down your softened cauliflower florets as you go, if you’d like them to melt further into the risotto.
After about 18-20 minutes, the rice should be mostly cooked, with a pleasing chewy bite. You may not have used all the stock. Add one last ladleful of stock, stir well, then add the capers, almonds, cream and parmesan. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Eat hot. Leftovers fry up into excellent cakes (with a little egg-flour-breadcrumb topping).