Behold: The Original World-Famous Baby Cauliflower
Eyal Shani, the famed Israeli chef, restaurateur, and TV personality, may be singularly responsible for an international obsession with roasted cauliflower. You’ll find “The Original World-Famous Baby Cauliflower” on the menu at all 14 of his restaurants around the world, from Tel Aviv to Paris, Vienna, and Melbourne, and, with the January opening of his celebrated fast-casual spot Miznon, now in New York City.
The seed of the idea was planted while at his business partner’s house for dinner several years ago, where he was served a whole cauliflower simply roasted in the oven. Shani had never seen it before, but he knew immediately it could be improved. And so he set out to do just that. Realizing that roasting a cauliflower whole for any prolonged period, especially if the cauliflower is large and already “blooming” (it is, after all, a flower), would dry out the flesh, he created a technique that ensures the vegetable retains not only its integrity, but also its juiciness. By boiling small, hand-selected, tightly shaped heads in heavily salted water, rubbing them generously with olive oil and coarse sea salt from Brittany, and quickly roasting them at high temperature, Shani is able to coax out a creamy tenderness.
The results appear to have altered the economics of the vegetable in Israel, where Shani has designated cauliflower farmers in the Negev region growing the perfect specimens just for him. His restaurants plow through up to 15,000 orders monthly. Meanwhile, back in New York, his team is hard at work finding the supply needed for the 6,000 to 8,000 cauliflower devoured each month at his Chelsea Market location.
Hearing Shani tell its story and then tasting it myself, I’m happily stunned by how unadulterated it is. “There are just four seasonings in my recipe,” he explains. “Salted water, extra-virgin olive oil, coarse sea salt—and my oven. It’s simply a magical vegetable.” I couldn’t agree more.