Growing up in a low income suburb of San Jose, I was mostly exposed to fruit and vegetables my Afghan refugee parents could find on sale, in Food4Less—red mushy apples, seeded green grapes, cauliflower, iceberg lettuce—organic heirloom tomatoes were not to be found in our shopping cart.
After living in San Francisco for the past twenty years, my shopping cart contents have gone organic, exotic and seasonal. Despite my expanded palette, it wasn't until a couple of year ago that I first laid eyes on a Romanesque cauliflower (a.k.a. Romanesco broccoli). There it was, in my organic veggie box—cone shaped creature with pokey green florets nestled among familiar cucumber, tomato and berries. I shoved the genetically mutated creature in the back of my fridge's vegetable container and forgot about it.
Since our first meeting, I've grown to love this delicate and nutty vegetable. I often toss the florets in olive oil and roast it. Sometimes I saute' or mash it, but my masterpiece was when I cooked it Afghan style—simmered in a thick sauce of onions, garlic, turmeric, cumin and tomatoes.
This recipe is similar to my traditional Afghan Gulpea/cauliflower recipe. If Romanesco cauliflower was available in Afghanistan, they would make it this way and I hope this summer you'll give this recipe a try.
Romansque Cauliflower Afghan Style
Qorma e Gulpea
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, pureed in a food processor or finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, pureed in a food processor or finely chopped
1 teaspoon. ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tsp. salt
2 tomatoes diced
1/4 cup vegetable
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 1/2 head Romasque cauliflower, washed, stem removed, cut into large pieces
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy-bottom pot. Add the onion and brown for about 10 minutes until golden brown. Add the garlic cook, for an additional 2 minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients except for the Romanesque. Stir well and simmer for about 8 minutes until the liquid reduces and you have a thick, oniony sauce.
Add the Romasque and stir to cover all pieces with sauce. If you feel you don't have enough sauce to coat the cauliflower, add another 1/4 cup of the broth.
Put the lid on the pot, cook on low for 20 minutes (stirring every five minutes) or until the Romasque can be easily pierced by a fork. Remove the lid and cook uncovered for another 5 minutes to allow the sauce to reduce. The cooking time will vary but you want the result to be fork-tender, but not mushy.
Serve with nan, pit bread, or challaw, the Afghan white rice. A dollop of plain yogurt makes a heavenly addition.