December 16, 2013

Cauliflower, long relegated to crudité platters and steamed vegetable medleys, is finally getting its due. Roasty-toasty browned florets and deep-golden, thick-cut cauliflower steaks are starring at vegetable-forward restaurants. David Myers, whose Silk Road--accented Hinoki & the Bird has been a culinary sensation since its opening last December, is a fan of the big crucifer.

In his simplest approach, Myers likes to cook cauliflower in a covered pan with a little olive oil so that it steams in its own liquid. Or he grills it to enhance the natural meatiness, starting the vegetable in foil on the grill, then finishing it for a minute or two unfoiled on the rack, directly over the coals, for some charring.

For this dish, Myers simmers the cauliflower in a bold broth of coconut milk, stock, and a homemade curry paste redolent with classic Thai aromatics: lime leaves, lemongrass, cilantro, cumin. Despite the relatively quick cooking time, "the cauliflower absorbs a lot of flavor," Myers says. The original version of this dish, inspired by a trip through Thailand, has some raw cauliflower shaved on top at the end. This creates textural interest and "gives the dish a crisp, clean veggie flavor," he says. That step is not in our simplified recipe, but it's easy to try if you set a bit of stem aside and make shavings with a vegetable peeler.

Try Myers's original dish this month at Hinoki & the Bird in Century City.

Coconut Curried Mussels with CauliflowerHands-on: 30 min. Total: 30 min.

Look for kaffir lime leaves at Asian markets, or substitute a teaspoon of grated lime rind. Shrimp paste is also available at Asian markets and freezes well. The homemade curry paste is worth making: It offers the best flavor and is much lower in sodium than commercial pastes.

Curry paste:2 tablespoons thinly sliced peeled fresh lemongrass2 tablespoons minced shallots2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro½ teaspoon ground coriander½ teaspoon cumin seeds½ teaspoon shrimp paste½ teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger¼ teaspoon black peppercorns¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper2 garlic cloves, chopped1 kaffir lime leafMussels:1 tablespoon canola oil2 cups small cauliflower florets1 cup unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)1 cup light coconut milk48 mussels (about 2 pounds), scrubbed and debearded2 tablespoons fresh lime juice2 tablespoons thinly sliced Thai basil2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

1. To prepare curry paste, combine first 11 ingredients in a mortar or bowl; grind with a pestle until mixture forms a smooth paste.

2. To prepare mussels, heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add cauliflower; sauté 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in curry paste, stock, and milk; bring to a boil. Add mussels; cover, and simmer 5 minutes or until mussels open. Discard any unopened shells. Stir in lime juice and herbs. Spoon into shallow bowls; serve immediately.

SERVES 4 (serving size: 12 mussels, ½ cup broth, and ½ cup cauliflower)

CALORIES 196; FAT 6.2g (sat 3.4g, mono 0.7g, poly 0.8g); PROTEIN 18.7g; CARB 17.8g; FIBER 1.8g; CHOL 34mg; IRON 6.1mg; SODIUM 468mg; CALC 66mg

You May Like