A dish that really epitomizes comfort food at its finest and healthiest is this traditional Greek braised cauliflower recipe. Say what? A cauliflower dish can be so delicious to dedicate a whole post for it? Yes, absolutely! A plate full of veggies with soft, sweet cauliflower florets as the star and the perfect spice that delicately brings all the flavor together. But wait, it gets better. It is one of these easy, quick and one-pot meals that make all the tired, hardworking cooks so happy. 30 minutes and you are done! Delicious, healthy dinner served!
MEDITERRANEAN CUISINE: SIMPLE, HEALTHY, DELICIOUS
The Mediterranean way of eating is neither a new way of eating nor a fashion diet trend. It is a way of life, “a nutritional model that has remained constant over time and space”,* tested for thousands of years, proving that this way is a good way to live longer in excellent body and mind state. Mostly plant-based and seasonal the ingredients are treated with great respect and create endless “to-die-for” combinations of flavors & textures.
It is getting even better. Keep in mind another word: Simplicity. As a busy mother of two super active boys, I don’t have neither the time nor the courage to be in kitchen all day long. To be honest, I spend almost all my day in kitchen because I have to test recipes over and over again. However, there are those days that I am so exhausted to make a complicated dinner. So, I need easy to find ingredients (and cheap yeaaahh!) and simple to execute recipes in the least amount of time and effort. Thank you! My wishes come true in half an hour more or less because there is a tremendous variety of Mediterranean recipes that satisfy these requirements too.
WHY SHOULD I EAT BRAISED CAULIFLOWER?
Braised cauliflower is another delicious recipe that belongs to the most amazing food category in the Mediterranean Greek cuisine. Ladera.
Ladera is a staple in the traditional Greek cuisine and it is consumed as a main course at least once weekly. The cooking concept is brilliant: seasonal veggies right from the garden braised with plenty of olive oil and tomato, either fresh or canned (preferably homemade tomato paste or passata or at least high-quality store-bought). Additionally, each ladero dish calls for the perfect spices to give extra flavor and enhance even more the veggies.
Combine with feta cheese for more protein to your meal and go for the grand finale: deep your crusty whole wheat homemade bread in the sauce and clean up your plate. All of it. Like it is ready to place it back on the shelf. Seriously! I am telling you this is a culinary experience in a vegetable-based meal. A feast for the senses!
This is the part where I have to tell you that cauliflower is good for you. Even though I know you know it is healthy (yes, I am so proud for you), keep in mind that these delicious bites of Greek braised cauliflower are rich in fiber and B-vitamins. Furthermore, it provides antioxidants, phytonutrients and choline (my favorite one) that is important for learning and memory (give so more of that please). So much nutritional value in one plate, isn’t it?
I forgot to mention for those who are interested in traditional Greek cooking that you will find this recipe called kounoupidi kokkinisto or kounoupidi yiahni in Greek.
THE PERFECT SPICE
Cauliflower can be a nightmare for serving to your picky eaters. I used to be one of them. Sorry mom. Maybe it is you who cannot stand cauliflower’s smell while cooking. I get it. However, this recipe contains an ingredient that covers most of the weird smell and compliments cauliflower’s flavor in an ideal “dress it up” way. Plus, this combo puts out such an appetizing aroma throughout the house that covers completely this strange cauliflower odor.
Therefore, even if you don’t like cinnamon, I strongly recommend at least a tiny flavored stick in your pot that you will discard at the end anyway. You won’t understant the flavor at all. It will be only a sense rather than a taste or smell. Come on, people! Break the rules, be bold and taste something new or something that it is out of your ordinary menu but it is not exotic and it is not hard to find and not too complicated to make.
GREEK BRAISED CAULIFLOWER: THE RECIPE
Do you remember you have only 30 minutes to cook tonight? Cool. Ready? Set! GO!!!
Grab the cauliflower, some carrots, onions, celery, parsley, tomato, lemon and cinnamon and throw everything in a pot. Serve a meal in 30 minutes. It is that simple and easy. However, you will need the following cooking tips for the best, no-failure outcome.
The number one tip and sometimes the only cooking tip for this food category dish (ladera) is the following: don’t add too much water, stock or any other liquid. Vegetables contain a relatively high percentage of water and extra water will result in a watery dish. This would be an epic cooking disaster. Do you want veggies swimming in your plate? Nope!
Cauliflower florets consist of the heads which are the tender, edible part and the thick stalks and leaves. Remove the stalks but don’t waste the tender leaves. We are going to simmer them as well. They are very tasteful and nutritious. The tip behind the success of that recipe is that the florets should be broken into similar-sized pieces in order to be evenly cooked.
When it’s time to put the florets in the pan, the stalks should touch the bottom and the heads should look up. The stalks need more time because they are thicker than the heads which are tender and ready in fifteen minutes or less (it depends on their size). You may watch the following video in order to see how the florets are placed in the pot. Watch out how my mother turns the florets to soak up the juices and places them over the veggie’s layer. (This is my first video and I know it is far from being “good” but I think that it is really helpful. Be kind with me please.)
Don’t stir the florets. Stirring will break the florets into smaller, uneven pieces, resulting in a mashed cauliflower dish, which is fine by me, but this is another recipe. Just shake lightly the pot 2-3 times and give them the time to join all those herbs and spices, to become tender and to caramelize. When the stalks are ready (they should be easily pierced with a fork), use two folks and slowly and carefully turn them upside down. Now it’s time for the heads to soak up that juicy tomato sauce. 5 more minutes and you are ready to go.
The combinations are endless and as far as the ingredients are concerned, the sky is the limit…. Well, not exactly the sky but the earth that provides everything we need to satisfy our hunger, please our senses and feed our body. To this basic braised cauliflower recipe you may add garlic, peppers, potatoes (this is another recipe called “kounoupidi kapama”), mushrooms etc. Like this you won’t cook the authentic recipe but who really cares? Listen to your appetite, use up fresh ingredients from your pantry and make your own braised cauliflower “baby” recipe.
MY BRAISED CAULIFLOWER IS READY. NOW, WHAT?
Serve it as main dish, as vegetable salad or as side to a main meal, a stand-alone starter, it doesn’t really matter because this dish is so versatile.
However, feta cheese and homemade garlic (or not) crusty whole wheat bread are the perfect match for a “ladera dish”. There is a very good explanation why feta and bread are often present in authentic Greek meals. Feta cheese provides more protein and its tanginess gives a new tasteful dimension while a nice crusty slice of homemade whole wheat bread (or pita bread) make this meal more filling and covers your daily need for energy with good for you carbs.
Not over yet. In a Mediterranean pantry there are always olives, homemade pickled vegetables, this cabbage salad (more veggies, yeahhh) and wine. Now your meal is complete. I suggest a nice, fruity glass of white wine like Moschofilero and Assysrtico.
Store it in the fridge in a sealed food container for up to 3-4 days.
USE UP THE LEFTOVERS
Make clever use of cauliflower leftovers and serve them with healthy grains like brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, rice or even quinoa for a quick, healthy dinner in no more than 20 minutes.
Here is how:
In order to reheat the leftover braised cauliflower we need some liquid with it. If there is sufficient liquid, reheat over very low heat preferably in a covered pot. If there isn’t any juices in it, reheat over very low heat preferably in a covered pot with only 2 tablespoons of water until warmed enough.
Meanwhile, cook in boiled and salted water brown rice or whole wheat pasta, barley, millet, bulgur, buckwheat. Mix the grains with the cauliflower and drizzle some olive oil, feta cheese crumbles and chopped parsley to fresh it up.
If you make this recipe, give me your rate and comment below and/or follow and tag me on the usual social media like Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. Cooking my recipes is a huge honor for me and keep the 30daysofgreekfood.com’s kitchen staying alive.
Greek Braised Cauliflower
- 1 medium cauliflower, cut into medium sized florets. Keep the tender leaves and stems, coarsely chopped
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- ½ cup (120g) celery, thinly sliced hearts and tender leaves
- 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
- 2 fresh tomatoes, grated or 1 cup (250ml) passata or 1 can good quality diced tomatoes
- 1 cup (250ml) water or unsalted vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste, dissolved in the water
- ½ cup (120ml) olive oil
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 lemon, the juice
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Cut the cauliflower into medium, similar-sized florets. Wash them and let them drain.
- In a deep saucepan or large pot (preferably with lid), heat the olive oil over medium to high heat. Add the onion for 2-3 minutes until richly browned. Add carrots, celery, parsley, cauliflower leaves, the bay leaf, the cinnamon stick and tomatoes (or passata or canned tomato) for another 5 minutes.
- Add the florets. Take the heads and soak them in the sauce for 5 seconds, just to take some nice color. Place stalks to the bottom of the pan/pot and the heads up.
- Add the water (or vegetable stock) with the dissolved tomato paste. Bring to a boil and then immediately reduce the heat to low. Close the pot/pan lid and simmer for 15 mins or until cauliflower stalks become tender (pierce them with a fork to see if they are soft enough). Add more water if the mixture is dry and needs a few more minutes.
- Add salt and pepper. Use two folks to turn carefully the florets upside down and simmer for another 5 minutes. Last check if florets are tender enough for your taste.
- Remove from the heat and stir through the lemon juice. Discard the bay leaf and the cinnamon stick. Drizzle some more olive oil and serve with feta cheese and homemade bread.