My husband had a birthday last week and of course I whipped him up a special meal to celebrate.
I grilled some lamb tenderloins (a cut I've never seen before until I spotted it a few months ago at Trader Joe's but one which my whole family loves) tandoori style, made some basamati rice and whipped out my supply of chutney and Indian relishes from the fridge. But what really made the meal special was the cauliflower. Now that sentence and sentiment are unusual, I know. Cauliflower doesn't inspire poetry, rapture or foodie odes like fava beans, artichokes or a slender spear of asparagus, but when fresh and cooked properly it provides a tender-crisp blank canvas to all manner of preparations and it adds its own earthy goodness to any dish.
My friend Mona, who is Indian and a wonderful cook, gave me the basic outline for a cauliflower dish known as "Gobi" which I then adapted to what I had in the house and to our taste, which for this recipe would be spicy, hot and sour. Her version would use dried mango powder or lemon juice. The tamarind sauce was my idea since tamarind is one of my husband's favorites. Here are some basic instructions. Feel free to put you own spin on your version.
Indian Cauliflower with Tamarind Sauce
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon or to taste red pepper flakes
3 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate mixed with 1/4 cup hot water
Chopped cilantro for garnish, optional
Heat vegetable oil in large fry pan or wok. Add garlic, saute until just golden, add ginger and red pepper flakes, sauteing to release aroma. Add potato chunks and stir often. Cook until potatoes are starting to brown. Add cauliflower and salt, cumin, coriander and turmeric. Continue to saute or stir fry until cauliflower florets are beginning to blister and brown and are beginning to soften. Add tamarind mixture and continue to cook until cauliflower is desired softness. (Note: covering pan will speed this process but result in a softer-textured dish if done too early. Mona recommends only covering the pan toward the end.) If the pan becomes too dry, add water as needed. Serve garnished with cilantro if desired.
I also served garlic naan (bread) and we had individual chocolate lava cakes for dessert. There were no chocolate cakes or lamb left over, but the cauliflower made a fine lunch over leftover rice and with reheated naan.