There are so many reasons I love Mediterranean Diet that I have lost count long time ago. Mediterranean braised cauliflower is one of them. It’s over a decade that I found my way back to that way of eating and it still amazes me. I discover new recipes or interesting versions of a well-known which are more than enough to open new culinary paths and inspire for recipe testing adventures.
The Mediterranean Diet 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.
It is getting even better. Simplicity is another key word for that way of eating. 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. 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.
Take this post’s recipe for instance: Mediterranean braised cauliflower with tomato (aka Kounoudi kapama). What can a poor blogger – who used to really hate it – do with a humble cauliflower? Not to mention that it smells horrible, so how it can be tasteful? Don’t forget! I have only half an hour to prepare dinner.
Ready? Set! GO!!!
Grab the cauliflower, some carrots, onions, celery and cinnamon and elevate one of the most unappreciated, almost hateful vegetable on your table.
Serve it as main dish, as vegetable salad or side dish, snack, it doesn’t really matter when to eat or serve it. 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.
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 cauliflower recipe you may add garlic, peppers, potatoes, mushrooms etc. Like this you won’t cook the authentic recipe but nevertheless go for it, be bold and include whatever you like in your Mediterranean braised cauliflower “baby”.
Cinnamon may sound strange for a dish like that but, trust me, if you like cinnamon, it will take you to another culinary level. Unfortunately, my kids don’t like it paired with cauliflower but I strongly recommend a flavored stick of cinnamon in your cauliflower dish.
Serve it with feta cheese and homemade garlic (or not) crusty bread. It is the perfect match for a dish like that. There is a very good explanation why feta and bread are often present in authentic Greek meals. “Kounoupidi Kapama” belongs to a whole food category in Greek cuisine called “ladera”. This word comes from the word “ladi” meaning oil, olive oil of course! Ladera is a staple of the authentic Mediterranean Greek cuisine and always present on the table at least once every week.
The concept is simple but brilliant: seasonal vegetables braised with oil olive, tomato or tomato paste (you may use passata as well or good quality canned diced tomatoes) with herbs and spices. If these dishes are cooked properly, a delicious sauce is mixed with vegetables and remains at the plate. This is the highlight moment when you eat ladera. Just deep the crusty bread in that sauce and clean your plate from those divine, olive oil/tomato infused juices. Don’t forget feta cheese because its tanginess will give a new tasteful dimension to all that deliciousness.
Make clever use of cauliflower leftovers and serve it with some brown rice for a quick but healthy dinner. Save money and time! Did I say “healthy”? Antioxidants and the fats we need from oil olive, fiber and some more antioxidants from cauliflower (give us some more), lycopene from the tomato. This dish celebrates real, Mediterranean healthy food.
The number one and sometimes the only cooking tip for ladera dish 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 watery dish. This would be an epic cooking disaster. Do you want veggies swimming in your plate? Nope!
Cauliflower florets consists 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. 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). 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. Leave them alone, give them the time to join all those herbs and spices, to become tender and to be caramelized. 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.
Enjoy your Mediterranean braised cauliflower with a nice glass of white wine. Cheers!!!
- 1 cauliflower, stem and leaves removed, cut into medium sized florets. Keep the tender leaves, coarsely chopped
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- ½ cup celery, thinly sliced hearts and tender leaves
- 2 grated tomatoes or 1 cup (200gr) passata or good quality canned diced tomatoes
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 cup (or less) of water or unsalted vegetable stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon salt or more (if desired)
- 1 stick cinnamon (optional)
- 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, cauliflower leaves, the bay leaf, the cinnamon stick (optional) and tomatoes or passata 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. 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.
- Add salt. Use two folks to turn the florets upside down and simmer for another 5 minutes. Last check if florets are tender enough for your taste.
- Add more olive oil or lemon if desired and serve with crusty bread, Kalamata olives and feta.