Sometimes I forget that there are people who don’t love cauliflower quite as much as I do. Even though I’m acknowledging that fact now, I still kind of can’t believe it. I mean, seriously, it’s SO GOOD. Slightly funky, slightly spicy, with an awesome crunchy-crumbly texture. Magical things happen when you pair it with garlic (especially when that pairing occurs in a 450° oven). And then there’s cauliflower purée, which I will eat an entire monster bowl of if left alone with said bowl and a spoon. And I’ll be totally fine with that decision, because it’s CAULIFLOWER.
See, this is what I’m talking about. I love it. Other people don’t. Or they’re indifferent. So when I proudly announced to J, “I have this great idea for a new pasta to try……cauliflower gnocchi!” and he stared at me kind of blankly, I was confused. (Also, maybe a little bit insulted. Insulted for my beloved cauliflower. [And perhaps also because my idea was awesome, and that should have been obvious.]) But I quickly followed with, “……and I think I’ll pan-fry it with some brussels sprout leaves and add some lemon zest.” To which he replied, “oh, yeah, that does sound good.” YES IT DOES. And it is. So good.
I set out to make this dish with plans to whip up some garlic-cauliflower mash, then let it drain and cool before turning it into pasta dough. Right after I’d finished the mash and set it up to drain in the fridge, my friend D stopped by. After talking to him for a few minutes and then wandering back into the kitchen, it occurred to me that my apartment smelled a little……funktastic. (Which I suppose is an unavoidable side effect of cooking up an entire head of cauliflower with a ton of garlic.) So I asked D, “do you think it smells kind of funny in here?” To which he replied, “umm, it smells a little like Chinese food.” Which made me think of the one time my cat escaped from my last apartment, then showed up two days later. I hugged him and then declared, “he smells like Chinese takeout!” My boyfriend at the time picked him up, smelled him, and said, “uh, yeah, he smells like garbage.”
So, I took that to mean that my house smells like garbage. WHATEVER. I was still confident in the end result. (And my new goal was to feed the finished dish to D, to show him that it didn’t taste like garbage.) Once the cauliflower had cooled, I made up the dough, and set up a pot of water to boil. But then I heard D gathering up his things in the other room, which was following by him yelling, “I have to go! I completely forgot I was supposed to meet someone!” Damnit. He would leave my stinky house, with memories of garbage smell only. Oh well. The water was boiling and the dough was ready, so this pasta was happening.
And seriously, you guys, this stuff is so good. Granted, I am partial to cauliflower, but I will still confidently declare that I think it’s better than potato gnocchi. The pan-frying helps, for sure, as do the greens and the lemon zest (along with a healthy dose of pepper). All in all, it’s pretty awesome. I fed the same thing to J later that evening, and he agreed. I am so happy I have a freezer full of this stuff.
Garlic-Cauliflower Gnocchi with Brussels Sprout Leaves & Lemon Zest
(yield: 8–9 dozen)
Note: You can halve this recipe if you wish, but I really think it’s worth it to make a giant batch and freeze the leftovers. You won’t be sorry.
First, the garlic-cauliflower mash:
- 1 medium head of cauliflower, chopped
- 2 bulbs of garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 1/2 cups of water
- a few pinches of salt
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine all ingredients. Cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender. Remove from heat.
Mash cauliflower mixture until it is the consistency of thick mashed potatoes. Place cauliflower mash in a sieve lined with cheesecloth, then rest the sieve over top of a pot and place in the fridge. Let cauliflower sit until the mixture has cooled and a decent amount of water has drained out (don’t be afraid to give it a squeeze every now and then).
To make the dough:
- 2 cups of garlic-cauliflower mash (recipe above)
- 2/3 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese, pulsed in a food processor until finely chopped
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 3 cups of all-purpose flour
Combine cauliflower mash, parmesan, egg yolks, and salt in a bowl and mix together. Stir in flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough begins to come together. Turn out on a floured surface and knead briefly, until dough is smooth and soft.
Cut dough into four pieces. Take one and cover the remaining three with a damp tea towel. Roll dough out into a rope approximately 1 inch thick, then cut into 1-inch pieces. Shape pieces on a gnocchi board or fork, then set aside and repeat with remaining dough.
To make the dish:
(I highly recommend brussels sprout leaves for this. But if you aren’t a fan, kale or spinach work be a great substitute.)
- brussels sprouts leaves (I used around 4 brussels sprouts per serving)
- 2 tbsp butter
- lemon zest
- parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper, to taste (lots of freshly ground black pepper adds a really nice kick)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add gnocchi and cook until they begin to float, then drain and set aside. Heat butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add gnocchi and let cook for a few minutes. Once they begin to show signs of light browning, add the brussels sprout leaves and stir until leaves are wilted and the gnocchi are nicely browned on each side. Top with lemon zest and some parmesan cheese.
Also, I just want to say thank you to everyone for your positive thoughts and well wishes for my mom and her surgery tomorrow. (It can be kind of difficult for me to talk about tough, personal things like this, so it often feels like it comes out as TRANSMITTING INFORMATION. END TRANSMISSION.) But your support means a ton, and I am so very grateful. I’m hoping to have some good updates by the weekend. (And maybe also a naan post, because I made that for the first time. And it was good!)