This week’s post is dedicated to the amazing colors at the market right now. Just because summer has gone doesn’t mean we can’t find beauty at the market any longer. This is the mad rush before winter’s long march, albeit full of delicious crucifers and root vegetables, one that can get a little monotonous. A week before Halloween, I thought I’d get in the spirit by cooking with some classic Halloween colors, — purple, yellow, red — adding a hot little pepper for the trick, and a mild, nutty cheese for the treat.
Roasted cauliflower with pequin peppers:
2 heads. cauliflower, one purple, one yellow
5-6 pequin peppers (handle with extreme care: wash hands thoroughly after slicing, and under no circumstances should you touch your eyes or face with those hands before washing)
3 cloves. garlic, halved
1/8 lb. grating cheese (parmesan, pecorino or grana padano would be fine)
2 tbsp. olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
To begin, preheat the oven to 400°. Cut the cauliflower into medium-sized florets, halving the bigger pieces. Don’t worry about there being smaller florets, they’ll just come out crispier and equally delicious. Rinse the cauliflower in a strainer and give them a good shake until they’re mostly dry, then put them into a large bowl. Halve the heads of garlic, making sure to cut off the stem ends, and put them in the bowl.
For the pequin peppers, use the tip of your knife to make little slits in the skin, maybe two slits per pepper, and add them to the bowl, as well. By making these slits, rather than cutting open the pepper and fully exposing the membrane and seeds, we’re making sure your cauliflower (and subsequently, your mouth) won’t get the full brunt of the INFERNO that lies within the pequin.
Pour the olive oil into the bowl with the cauliflower, garlic and pequins, and toss until everything is evenly coated. Add salt (not too much, the cheese we use later will make up for it) and few grinds of black pepper, then toss again. Empty the bowl onto a sheet pan and make sure that the pan isn’t too overcrowded, so the cauliflower can crisp evenly.
Grate the cheese over the pan and stick it in the oven. After 25 minutes, give the pan a shake or turn the cauliflower to brown the other side, and bake for 5 additional minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let the cauliflower cool down for 3-5 minutes. The cheese should have crisped nicely onto the cauliflower, nutty and delicious, with the peppers adding a bit of a kick, great to munch on at any Halloween gathering.