Kale finally took a step back in the world of trendy ingredients, and cauliflower has taken center stage. The previously underused vegetable has made its way onto local menus, been reinvented, and successfully broken free of its soggy school-lunch reputation.
1. Provenance: Served on a wood cutting board, above, the cauliflower in this appealing dish retains a firmer bite than our other picks. Chili paste, black vinegar, kimchee aioli, and fried cilantro give this smoky pan-roasted cruciferous a welcome kick ($8.50). 2531 Eastbluff Drive, Newport Beach, 949-718-0477, provenanceoc.com
2. Zov’s: Proving cauliflower’s ability to be a refreshing appetizer, Zov’s pan-fries it, then ups the flavor profile with chives and roasted pepper aioli, topping it with a preserved lemon gremolata ($8). Only at the Anaheim and Tustin locations. 1801 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim, 714-280-9687; 17440 E. 17th St., Tustin, 714-838-8855, zovs.com
3. Lark Creek: Breaking into this whole, roasted head of cauliflower is half the fun of sharing it. The vegetable’s three sides—house-made harissa; tahini; and a Picholine olive tapenade with Meyer lemon zing—satisfy everyone’s taste ($15). 957 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, 949-640-6700, larkcreeknb.com