Invite Cauliflower to Your Mardi Gras Party
Vegetables laissez les bon temps roulez, too
There’s more than one way to represent the gold, green, and purple of Mardi Gras on your menu Tuesday. And I’m not talking about the classic tri-color frosting of the king cake that I wrote about last year.
I’m talking vegetables. On a recent Saturday at the Irvine farmers market near UCI, I’d made a mental note to visit the Cal Poly Pomona booth this weekend, where the student farmers sell cauliflower in all its many hues. (This is Cal Poly’s only O.C. farmers market presence, by the way.)
I love cauliflower, any color, just about any preparation. Last week I found two cauli dishes on the excellent buffet at the new India Kitchen in Tustin, where I lunched with GrapeRadio.com’s Jay Selman, who’s sort of the silent member of our own The Wine Dudes blog. The restaurant serves a very good aloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower), a regular item on many Indian steam-table buffets. But it also offers the more obscure, curry-like Manchurian (sometimes called Mongolian) cauliflower, blanched florets fried in a light batter then bathed in a tomato-y, gingery sauce. It’s one of the best things ever. Another surprise at this in this humble spot was the discovery of an intense tomato chutney alongside the usual tamarind and cilantro-chile types. It’s similar to chef Suvir Saran’s recipe I’ve made for years, flavored with mustard seed and curry leaf. It’s very hard-core. And did I mention the restaurant’s dark, delicious goat curry? Must return asap.
Note: If you can’t make it to the Irvine market, you can find colorful cauliflower in supermarkets, like the gorgeous specimens from Los Alamitos-based Frieda’s pictured here.