Thursday, 22 July 2010

Cauliflower Torta

I had a vision of a rich, cheesy cauliflower pudding - English cauliflower cheese meets something more elegantly Mediterranean - and here it is. It's not quite as dense or smooth as I was picturing it, but that's okay. It tasted mighty fine. Do be sure your cauliflower is very well drained (and the peas too for that matter) in order to keep the texture somewhat dense.

Since both of these vegetables need to be cool when introduced to the egg mixture, there is no reason not to make this with "leftover" vegetables. I say "leftover" because an entire cauliflower is a lot to have left over. It's the opposite of planned obsolescence: planned preparation. If you are cooking cauliflower to have hot one day, cook an extra one and you can make this a day or two later with less fuss. Ditto with the peas.

6 servings
2 hours - 1 hour prep time

Cauliflower Torta
1 medium cauliflower (6 cups florets)
2 to 3 shallots
1 to 1 1/2 cups peas
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
1/2 teaspoon rubbed thyme
1/2 teaspoon rubbed oregano
1 cup light cream or rich milk
3 extra-large eggs
200 grams (1/2 pound) old Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 to 3 tablespoons bread crumbs
butter for baking dish

Trim, wash and break the cauliflower into florets. Steam it until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and let cool. Meanwhile, peel and mince the shallots. Shell the peas, and steam them very briefly - about 1 minute.

Heat the butter in a large saucepan, and sauté the shallots very gently until lightly coloured. Mix in the flour and the seasonings, and cook for a minute or two more, stirring constantly. Mix in the cream a little at a time, until all is smoothly blended. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens, then remove from the heat and let it cool for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, put half of the cooked, cooled cauliflower into a food processor, and process to a fine purée. Process in the eggs, one at a time, until the mixture is very smooth. Fold it into the cream sauce.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9" pie plate and coat it in bread crumbs. Cut the cheddar into small dice and grate the Parmesan. Put half of the remaining cauliflower, 1/3 of the peas, one half of the diced cheddar and one third of the Parmesan evenly over the bottom of the pie plate. Spread half of the puréed cauliflower mixture over this. Sprinkle the remaining cauliflower, half of the remaining peas, the remaining cheddar cubes, and half of the remaining Parmesan over the purée. Add the rest of the purée and spread it out smoothly in the pan. Finally, sprinkle the remaining peas and Parmesan over the top of the torta.

Into the oven it now goes, for 50 to 60 minutes, until firm and nicely browned.

You can serve this warm or cold. If cold, it will slice nicely and hold its shape. If warm, however, it will softer and more soufflé or pudding-like. If you want a nice presentation, you are perhaps best off baking it in 6 separate little baking dishes. I'm not sure how long that would take. Perhaps 40 minutes? But that is a just a guess. Otherwise, just spoon it out. It will still taste good.


Jen said...

This looks delicious! I get into a rut of always roasting my cauliflower, and this sounds like a nice change. Plus, anything in pie form is always a hit in my house :)

-Jen (Modern Beet)

Ferdzy said...

Thanks, Jen! Yeah, round is kind of code for "homey and delicious".

Joanne said...

When I saw this in my google reader, I couldn't help but drool!