Bad Boy Cauliflower
Anthony Bourdain was never one to hold back. That’s why fellow chefs and food writers loved him.
So when he described this dish as “This s–t is compulsively delicious,” you can bet that it is.
And I concur heartily after having made it.
“Roasted Cauliflower with Sesame” is from his newest book, “Appetites: A Cookbook” (Ecco), of which I received a review copy.
It was his first cookbook in more than 10 years. This isn’t a collection of necessarily cutting-edge cooking, but rather recipes for dishes that he loved to cook at home — well, on the rare days that he actually was in New York and not traveling the globe for his must-see “Parts Unknown” show on CNN. They’re also dishes that Bourdain thought every home-cook ought to have in his or her repertoire.
Besides the recipes for fundamentals such as “Sunday Gravy with Sausage and Rigatoni” and “Chicken Satay with Fake-Ass Spicy Peanut Sauce,” you get plenty of personality and snark.
Take his introduction to his “Macaroni and Cheese” recipe: “Get that damn lobster out of my mac and cheese! Truffles do not make it better. if you add truffle oil, which is made from a petroleum-based chemical additive and the crushed dreams of nineties culinary mediocrity, you should be punched in the kidneys.”
My favorite part, though, is his “chapter” on desserts. It’s all of one page, which essentially says, “F–k dessert.” Turns out he’s not big on sweets, preferring cheese instead. He’s not afraid to forgo desserts in his cookbook. Nope, not going to apologize for it, either. And you wouldn’t want him to, would you?
This cauliflower dish is so simple. It’s also intriguing because it has some Italian herbs, some Middle Eastern tahini, and the Japanese miso. You might scratch your head. But trust.
Because it all does work together beautifully. The cauliflower gets crisp and charred on the edges. After the florets are roasted, toss them in the quite thick sauce of tahini, miso, red wine vinegar and a splash of water. The heat of the cauliflower will loosen up the sauce and coat every inch in delicious nuttiness, umami and a tad of tang. The only change I made was to decrease the amount of salt from 2 teaspoons to one, but you can always use more if you like it on the saltier side.
Bourdain figured one adult could easily polish off the entire dish for dinner.
As always, he told it like it is.
P.S. Do check out the recent New Yorker profile of him — a fascinating read.
Roasted Cauliflower with Sesame
(Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish)
1 head of cauliflower, broken by hand into florets
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon white miso
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cauliflower, oil, salt, coriander, oregano, and pepper and toss well to evenly coat the cauliflower with the oil and spices. Transfer to a sheet pan and arrange in an even layer, making spaces between the pieces as much as possible. Roast the cauliflower in the oven for 20 minutes, turning the tray and lightly tossing the pieces halfway through.
While the cauliflower roasts, combine the tahini, miso, vinegar and 1 1/2 tablespoons water in a small mixing bowl, and whisk until smooth.
Once the cauliflower is done, remove it from the oven, transfer to a mixing bowl, and toss with the sauce and sesame seeds to coat evenly.
Adapted from “Appetites: A Cookbook” by Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain’s death on June 8, 2018 stunned the world. Few people can maneuver through cultures, countries and all walks of life as effortlessly as he did. And in the process, educate and enlighten us all.
My favorite memory of Bourdain? The time way back when in 2006, when I actually got to spend a couple hours with him.
He was on a book tour for his “The Nasty Bits” and stopping in San Francisco. His publicist told me to pick a place for lunch. Never in my life have I felt so much pressure to pick a restaurant. It couldn’t be something fancy-shmancy, because that was not him. It had to be soulful and real. In the end, I chose Chef Gerald Hirigoyen’s Piperade, which turned out to be the perfect place.
After our late-lunch of beef cheeks, a young woman approached our table tentatively, She was a server, clutching a tattered copy of “Kitchen Confidential.” Shyly, she held the book out to Bourdain, and said, “This was the only thing that got me through waitressing in New York!” He smiled, and gratefully autographed it for her. Later, when he went out front for a smoke, I accompanied him to keep the interview going. Just then, a car drove by, and two guys screamed out, “We LOVE your show, man!” Such was the universal adoration he had.
As the interview drew to a close, I asked him to say the first thing that came to mind when I proffered a topic. He was game. Here we go (as excerpted from my story in the San Jose Mercury News, published 6/21/06):
Q: Thomas Keller?
Bourdain: “The walking Buddha. My hero. I get the vapors when I am around him.”
Q: Ferran Adria?
Bourdain: “The Jimi Hendrix of cooking.”
Bourdain: “Joyless, angry, anti-human, and just plain rude. How can you travel and be a vegetarian? I don’t like my grandma’s cooking, but at least I try it.”
Bourdain: “Victims of their own preeminence. But mothers to us all. It’s still soul food to me.”
Q: Amuse bouches?
Bourdain: “I think I’ve had enough amuses. I’m not amused anymore.’
‘Q:Non-smoking laws in restaurants?
Bourdain: “You can’t smoke in a pub in Belfast or Sicily now. That’s all you need to know about the way the world is going. I’ll stand out in the cold and smoke until I drop. All the cool people are outside anyway. In New York, there are people who actually pretend to smoke, because that’s where all the cool women are.”
Q: People who order steaks well done?
Bourdain: “I feel sorry for them. Clearly, they don’t want food.”
Q: The one thing people don’t know about you is….?
Bourdain: “I’m very good with charcoal, and with still life and cartooning. I like cats. I agree with PETA on the wearing of fur and about animal testing of cosmetics, but that’s about it. I like and respect a good waiter. I have been known to watch MTV’s “My Super Sweet 16.” It’s evil, it’s horrible, it’s nasty girls, but I can’t take my eyes off of it.”
Q: Favorite junk food you’re ashamed of loving?
Bourdain: “Mac ‘n’ cheese at KFC. It’s so disgusting. It don’t know if there’s even real cheese in it.”
Q: In “Anthony Bourdain — the Movie,” you would be played by whom?
Bourdain: “Gary Oldman.”
Q: And you would cook like…?
Bourdain: “Fergus Henderson. And if I could come back as anyone else, it would be as the bass player for Curtis Mayfield.”
Q: Lastly, do you want your legacy to be as a chef or a writer?
Bourdain: “As a lucky cook — who turned out not to be such a bad bastard after all.”
More Cauliflower Recipes to Enjoy: Cauliflower Salad with Eggs and Anchovies