I've often thought of the colorless void of Cauliflower as representing an intimidating and unnerving form of GHOST CABBAGE. It didn't help that most of my childhood and early adulthood experiences with it were boiled, steamed, or, worst of all, raw. Blech. I used to try to roast it, but it seemed invincible to heat. It was a plant that refused to be cooked as I applied my brute-force, blunt approach to it.
I knew this intense vegetable had to have a decent preparation that I was capable of executing out there someone. I swore that I would find the GHOST CABBAGE'S weaknesses and turn the tables on its alabaster doom-stalks. After several attempts and experimentation I came upon two recipes that, as I repeated them time and again, made me realize that the GHOST CABBAGE hadn't defeated me . . . my own terrible technique and lack of basic understanding of the ingredient did.
The first recipe that showed me the err of my ways was this one by Emeril. Simple, easy, and perfect for helping me realize how inept I was. As I had previously failed to cook cauliflower enough, I always thought the issue was one of time and duration. I cooked them for 40 minutes in the 400-425 range and was always baffled as to why they still seemed raw. Emeril doesn't play that game. 500 degrees? That will cook the cauliflower, and cook it correctly. I also began to realize that I was breaking my ghost cabbage down wrong. The more times I execute this recipe, trying to get my perfectly roasted specimens, I understood my problem. My cauliflower had stalks that were too long and florets that were too big. I was treating the ghost cabbage as if it was broccoli, and that's just wrong because it is tougher and more ornery than broccoli by miles!
I began to do more reading and realized how wrong I was cutting up my cauliflower heads. This Kitchn piece is pretty much the best when understanding the correct way. It was so far from what I was doing. I can't even describe how off I was. I wasn't on the same planet, universe, or dimension. Seriously, I can't begin to describe how many times the Kitchn has set me straight and this Emeril recipe set me on the right path.
But that wasn't all the loud old chef taught me as I cooked this recipe. The parmesan cheese was obvious, after all everything is better with cheese. But what wasn't obvious. The lemon juice! The ghost cabbage, when fused with cheese and an acid, turned into something truly special from such basic components. There was the garlic too, which was also great, but the real stars were what the lemon and parmesan could transform the ghost cabbage into. It became less like a side than a three dimensional, simple entree unto itself.
With the Emeril recipe tucked away as a permanent addition to my theoretical recipe rolodex, I knew I could do more with the ghost cabbage. One day it came to me. Literally, in my Facebook feed. This. A slight variation on it with different pasta and coarser cheese is what is pictured above, but just seeing this recipe immediately caused a lightning bolt in my head. I have always worshipped at the altar of the AB, but this recipe is above and beyond even for him. Creative, easy, unique, it was everything I needed to take my ghost cabbage game to the next level.
Able to break down my cauliflower correctly, I was easily able to accomplish the roasting part. Then, the quick way that roasted ghost cabbage is transformed into a quick but intensely delicious pasta sauce, where it is then combined with pasta, covered with cheddar, and roasted AGAIN? Pure flavor alchemy. The cheese and acidic interplay in the Emeril recipe is elevated here with the tomato sauce and cheddar. Yes, cheddar on a pasta bake. Like I said, this is a unique dish, but the sharpness of the cheddar, bite of the tomato sauce, and assertive taste of the roasted ghost cabbage come together swimmingly. Thus was how I finally learned to stop letting the ghost cabbage intimidate me. It only took the dabblings and writings of two celebrity food personalities, practice, and the Kitchn to correct my awful preparations and technique. I conquered it, and not only found a great veggie entree dish, but also a different twist on pasta. Because I can always eat more pasta. ALWAYS.