This fragrant side dish was born out of an argument between Bruce Aidells and Nancy Oakes on whether an entire head of cauliflower could be filled like dolma, the Middle Eastern family of stuffed grape leaves and vegetable dishes. "Nancy thought it could be done; I didn't," he says. Aidells turns the idea of dolma inside out by topping a rice casserole with cauliflower florets. "I'm the lazy, more practical cook," Aidells says. "That's why Nancy has the big fancy restaurant and I have this kitchen."
Slideshow:More Healthy Vegetable Dishes
2 heads of cauliflower, cored (about 5 pounds total)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 cups basmati rice
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dried currants
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera (smoked Spanish paprika)
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 425°. Separate one head of cauliflower into 2-inch florets and the other into 1-inch florets. On a large, rimmed baking sheet, toss the 1-inch florets with 3 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the cauliflower for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden in spots and tender.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the 2-inch cauliflower florets and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry.
Spread the pine nuts in a pie plate and toast until golden, about 5 minutes.
In a large, deep skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the turmeric and rice and stir to coat. Stir in the chicken broth and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Cover tightly and cook over low heat until the broth is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
Transfer the rice to a large bowl. Fold in the roasted cauliflower, toasted pine nuts, currants and cilantro. Spoon the rice into a 2 1/2- to 3-quart soufflé dish and press lightly on the top. Arrange the boiled cauliflower florets on top.
In a small bowl, combine the melted butter and paprika. Brush half of the butter mixture over the cauliflower and bake for about 15 minutes, until heated through.
Preheat the broiler. Brush the cauliflower with the remaining butter and broil, 6 inches from the heat, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Serve hot or warm.
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