Purple Cauliflower with Lentils & Mint

Cauliflower in Bowl Vignette by Dena T BrayⒸ

A friend asked me recently if I would consider selling the food I make rather than posting recipes  for free on Gathering Flavors. “You’re a professional. You deserve to get paid”, she said. While I appreciated the sentiment, the short answer to her question is no. I’ve worked in the food industry―as a professional cook in restaurants and gourmet shops, as a pastry chef, and in sales. Although it is what I trained for, I hated the work because it turned the process of cooking into factory work and food into a product. I have full and unwavering respect for folks who call professional cooking their careers, it just wasn’t for me. Foods that I cooked in large quantities over and over again became flavorless, in part because there was no emotional connection. I couldn’t see or talk with the people I was cooking for, couldn’t inject my personality into foods that would go out the kitchen door and into a great unknown world of diners and customers. Cooking is a creative process, and a deeply intimate one that connects me both to the elements of a meal and to the people who join me at my table. Whether I am eating dinner with my family or hosting friends, the process of connecting and sharing a meal together is what it is all about. I’ll earn my living in other ways and save the cooking for what I love most.

Lentils in Bowl by Dena T BrayⒸ

This dish of Purple Cauliflower with Lentils and Fresh Mint was part of a meal I created for a friend who came to dinner at my home for the first time last week. It’s adapted from a fusion of recipes found in Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi. The process of roasting cauliflower after it’s tossed with saffron water brings out the vegetable’s natural sweetness and gives it a gorgeous color. It is then combined with a mixture of sweet and savory elements—slivered red onions, dried mango slices and black olives―to form a dish that is both beautiful and delicious. Accompanied by red lentils steeped in cinnamon and topped with feta cheese and fragrant, fresh mint, this dish has all the elements of what I love about food.

Cauliflower Upclose by Dena T BrayⒸ

I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.

Dena

Saffron Roasted Cauliflower by Dena T Bray©

PURPLE CAULIFLOWER WITH LENTILS AND MINT

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients:

For the cauliflower:

  • 2 teaspoons saffron threads
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1 medium purple cauliflower, divided into medium florets
  • 1 large red onion, sliced into thin rings
  • 1 cup dried mango slices, cut into thin slivers
  • ½ cup black olives, pitted
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the lentils:

  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, slivered
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For serving:

  • ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves, rinsed and dried

Instructions:

To prepare the cauliflower:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  3. Put the saffron threads in a small bowl and pour over the boiling water. Leave to infuse for one minute then pour the saffron and water into a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix everything together with your hands or a wooden spoon.
  4. Transfer the mixture to the prepared sheet pan. Roast until the cauliflower is tender but still firm, about 40 to 45 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

To prepare the lentils:

  1. Place the lentils,  water and cinnamon stick in a small saucepan. Bring the liquid to a boil, then simmer until the lentils are tender but still firm, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and allow the lentils to cool to room temperature. Remove the cinnamon stick.
  2. Put the lentils in a large mixing bowl. Add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic cloves, salt and pepper. Toss to combine.

To serve:

  1. Divide the cauliflower mixture between 4 serving plates. Place the lentils alongside the cauliflower on the plates. Garnish with crumbled feta cheese and fresh mint.
  2. Serve and enjoy.

Notes:

  1. This recipe was adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.
  2. If purple cauliflower is not available, substitute white, yellow or green.
  3. For a full meal, serve this dish with a loaf of French bread, some chilled Riesling, and a platter of smoked meats.
  4. It also goes well with a Light Carrot Soup to start the meal and a Cornmeal Cake with Fresh Seasonal Fruit for dessert.

Onion Rings by Dena T BrayⒸ