It was only a few days after my last post that our autumn sunshine and warmth plunged into the grey and white hues of an early season storm. That first real snowfall of the season takes on magical notes, especially when it catches the fall colors – powdered sugar coating honeyed canopies. Short-lived, but one of life’s many joyful experiences.
getting neva and yuki out to play the evening before the storm
yuki starts the hike out of our neighborhood
felt like winter, but looked like fall
24 hours of overlapping seasons
After the storm, our weather warmed up, the snow melted, and the leaves turned black and fell. Now we ping pong between warm and cold spells. Another storm, then sun, then storm, then sun, all the while the temperatures trend cooler and we build a base in the mountains that will soon be good enough to ski without scraping rocks. In the meantime, I’m cranking the oven up and getting reacquainted with my sourdough starter and resuming the production of homemade dog treats (I use canned pumpkin instead of sweet potato now, but either works fine). Admittedly, I purchase dog treats in summer when the last of the homemade spring batch has been exhausted and it is too bloody hot to run the oven. Neva was particularly happy to stand watch over the treats late into the night.
playing with bâtard scoring
neva stayed up late with me to make sure “her” treats baked properly
We love our vegetables around here and have a nice rotation of several varieties, but sometimes I fall into a rut and feel bored. That’s one of the reasons we like to dine out from time to time – to get inspired by new ideas and new menus. We haven’t gotten out much since we adopted Yuki, but this summer she transformed into a big girl and now behaves pretty well at home when we’re gone. One dish that really stuck with me was the caulilini at Sunflower in Crested Butte. It’s like broccolini, but in cauliflower form except the stalks are sweeter and more tender than cauliflower stalks.
Fast forward a couple of months and I spot caulilini in the produce section of Trader Joe’s! I grabbed two bags and have since returned for several more. Some people have referred to caulilini as baby cauliflower, but it isn’t. A little googling revealed that this version of cauliflower is actually the one most commonly consumed in China. So it’s new to me (us), but old hat for my motherland. Dang! I never even knew. But now that I know, I’m going to make up for lost time. Taking a cue from Sunflower, I decided to sauté the caulilini and serve it with bagna cauda.
caulilini, butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, more olive oil, garlic, anchovies
I grew up prepping vegetables and defrosting various meats and tofu and stock for my mom before she got home from work so that she could start cooking dinner the moment she stepped into the house. We ate a lot of broccoli back in the day because that was an easy vegetable to get in American grocery stores that translated well to Chinese cooking. I was taught to peel the fibrous and tough outer skins on the stalks and now I just do it out of habit. I think the caulilini is tender enough that you can skip this step (especially if you are short on time), but I do break them down into bite-size stalks if they are especially bulky.
peeling the outer skins (optional)
breaking down the stalks
Bagna cauda means “hot sauce” and is often served as a hot fondue for dipping vegetables and eating with bread in Italian homes. I had never heard of it until I saw it listed on the menu under the caulilini description. Upon looking up a recipe and realizing how easy it was to make, I knew it was my destiny. I make a full batch of the Epicurious recipe for bagna cauda even though I only really needed a half batch. The reason I kept it at a full batch was because reducing it to a half batch makes it hard for the blender to have enough bulk to purée properly. Besides, the leftover bagna cauda is great to enjoy with other vegetables or a freshly baked loaf of bread.
purée until smooth: butter, anchovies, garlic, olive oil
pour into a small saucepan and set over low heat, then season to taste
While the bagna cauda heats, sauté the caulilini with some olive oil and garlic. If you are cooking over a pound of caulilini, I recommend sautéing in two batches to avoid overcrowding in the pan and steaming the vegetables instead of getting an actual sauté. The caulilini is cooked when the stems turn a bright green and are pliable. Arrange them on a plate. Give the bagna cauda a little stir before drizzling some over the caulilini because it tends to separate quickly.
ready to sauté
working in two batches to prevent overcrowding
the stems turn bright green when cooked
pour some bagna cauda over the cooked caulilini
I only pour some of the bagna cauda over the caulilini and leave the rest on the side in case anyone wants more. A little goes a long way though, so don’t go crazy. The caulilini is wonderfully crunchy and earthy and slightly sweet, but the bagna cauda lends this punch of anchovy-umami with garlic that knocks my socks off. I find the addition of some pickled somethings (in this case, red onions) as garnish and a sprinkle of crushed homemade croutons lend complementary tang and crunch to the dish. This vegetable is my latest obsession.
serve hot or warm
top with pickled things and crunchy things
caulilini with bagna cauda
6 oz. olive oil
6 tbsps unsalted butter, room temperature
6 cloves garlic, chopped
6 anchovy fillets
salt to taste
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 lbs. caulilini, trimmed and rinsed
1 oz. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt to taste
Prepare the bagna cauda: Place the olive oil, butter, garlic, and anchovies in a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth. Transfer the purée into a small heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
Sauté the caulilini: While the bagna cauda is warming, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan or wide stock pot over medium-high heat. Stir in half of the minced garlic until fragrant. Add half of the caulilini and sauté until the stems are bright green and tender. Season with salt to taste. Remove to a serving plate. Repeat with the other half of the caulilini.
Stir the bagna cauda and drizzle over the caulilini, reserving the rest to serve on the side (or to eat later as a fondue with crusty bread or vegetables). [Optional: Finish with crushed homemade croutons and pickled red onions.] Serves 4-6 as a side dish.
more goodness from the use real butter archives
|roasted cauliflower salad
|roasted cauliflower and garlic mash
|miso roasted cauliflower