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new and old

Recipe: caulilini with bagna cauda

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

Caulilini with Bagna Cauda
[print recipe]
inspired by Sunflower, bagna cauda from Epicurious

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

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12 nibbles at “new and old”

  1. Kristin says:

    I feel as if veggies are the hardest part of a meal, even though I love them. My husband has a limited number of veg he will eat (clearly I didn’t question him enough before we got married, though his list has gotten longer over the years), so I usually am just making them for me. This looks and sounds delicious! I love the scoring on your bread. I put sourdough on my fall bucket list, but then realized that I am not sure I want all of my bread to be so tangy. Is your sourdough super sour, or is it more mellow?

  2. Nan says:

    Bagna Cauda was my first experience with anchovy. They were not of my mother’s repertoire. It was a Christmas Eve party given by Italian friends when I was around 20 years old that introduced me to the wonders of Bagna Cauda and the salty, savory umami deliciousness that anchovies lend BC! Haven’t looked back, using Anchovy in whole, salted, and paste forms in many of our favorite savory dishes. Going to TJ’s and pick up some caulinini and whip up a batch of Bagna Cauda to go with! Thanks, as always, for your culinary inspiration and stories of your family. Always a treat!

  3. Jill Hyde says:

    Looks absolutely scrumptious! Sometimes when I see new to me vegetables, I think GMO? Like purple cauliflower or caulilini. And you know we are all about non-GMO. But I see this is a staple in China. Interesting we are just now hearing/getting it. How cute that you prepped dinner…with your sister, I’m sure. Where did your mom work? I envision your dad as an educator, but really don’t know that either. xoxojill

  4. Carole says:

    Just a quick note to say how much I enjoy your posts. I read every one from top to bottom, including all captions. I know you’re busy, so thanks for taking the time to put these together.

  5. Lisa says:

    Those batards are gorgeous.

  6. jenyu says:

    Kristin – Jeremy was sort of closed-minded about vegetables when I first met him, but I think it’s because he wasn’t exposed to well-cooked vegetables. He has definitely improved since we’ve been together. The thing about sourdough starter is that you can make it as sour or as fruity (mellow) as you like. I like mine on the sour side, so I sometimes let the starter sit and develop a hooch (it’s a byproduct liquid that smells like sour alcohol) and stir a little of the hooch in. If you want your starter to be fruitier, feed it often, pour off any hooch that develops, and it should be fine. It’s quite forgiving and you can even have a “fruity” starter and a “sour” starter.

    Nan – Yes! I’ve never encountered it until now and I’m pretty sure my parents have no idea what it is. BUT I LOVE IT! :) Too bad there isn’t a list of “here are some great foods you must try!” for all of us ;)

    Jill – Well, it depends on how you define genetic modification because some GMO has been going on for centuries. Caulilini is the same species as Napa cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and bok choy – Brassica oleracea – they’re just created from cross breeding. Kinda like Yuki and Neva are the same species, but were achieved from different breeding. Inserting a gene into a plant to make it resistant to an herbicide? That’s probably more in line with what you consider GMO, but I think it’s important to understand the differences. I’m okay with purple cauliflower and caulilini. My parents worked at NASA. Dad was an aeroacoustics engineer (later management) and Mom worked in business data systems (computing).

    Carole – Thank you, that is so kind of you to say xo

    Lisa – Thanks! I definitely need to practice my scoring technique :)

  7. Deborah says:

    Long time reader, first time commenter here. Your photography is so spectacular! From the nature shots to the food shots, even simple photos of your pups and Jeremy. They are just a visual delight. I really enjoy your blog and want to thank you for your wonderful work over the years. It makes me smile (and sometimes cry).

  8. Jade says:

    Fun fact – the direct translation of bagna cauda is “hot bath” in the Piedmontese dialect. I love that it’s thought of as a hot bath for food!

    I would not have known caulilini existed without this post (I don’t hit up TJ’s very often), so thank you for sharing this! One of my close friends makes her family’s bagna cauda at get-togethers, and the caulilini looks excellent to pair with it.

  9. Nabeela says:

    Are you sure it’s a different vegetable to a cauliflower? Cuz when I worked at a farm some cauliflowers “flowered” if not picked in time and looked just like that.

  10. jenyu says:

    Deborah – Very happy to hear from you and thanks for commenting. It’s always nice to know about the folks who enjoy being here so I can let you know that I appreciate you, too! xo

    Jade – Yes! When I was reading up on it, there were a number of different (but similar) interpretations/translations – which I found fascinating and entertaining. Thanks!

    Nabeela – This is based on the information I found from the producer in the US (Mann’s). They claim it is a different species. It’s possible the the flowered caulis look similar to this, but I think they can still be different species while looking alike at different stages. I also wonder if the flowered cauliflowers would taste the same as the caulilini (which are definitely sweeter than cauliflower). Perhaps examine some from the store?

  11. Amanda says:

    That is the most gorgeous loaf of bread! I always look forward to your blog updates. Thank you.

  12. jenyu says:

    Amanda – Thanks! I am still practicing xxoo

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