We had a lot of cauliflower during this most recent delivery from our CSA. Two really huge, huge, huge heads that over-wintered here in the mild Oregon climate have become these wonderful gifts of spring. When I got mine, I knew at least part of the head that came to me was going to become cauliflower kuku.
Similar to a frittata, I found the recipe a while ago on the Splendid Table website. The first time I made it, I did it exactly as the recipe was written. It turned out to be a bit too salty to my taste, but otherwise it was delicious. Flavored with spices I love like cumin and colored a lovely color from the addition of tumeric and parsley, it was a delicious new way to enjoy a vegetable I love. Unlike a traditional frittata, it uses fewer eggs which get a little lift and some body by the addition of some baking powder and a bit of flour. It was good hot out of the oven and delicious heated up in the microwave (gently and briefly) for leftovers. Accompanied by a buttered piece of grainy toast? Nothing better!
If you’re making the recipe for the first time, I’d probably suggest following the Splendid Table instructions but reduce the salt — maybe 1/2 teaspoon instead of the 1 and 1/2 teaspoons. The original recipe uses a combination of stove-top and oven cooking. It keeps things simple — eggs, cauliflower, spices, and parsley. It will let you know if this is a recipe for you.
Like most things, however, once I make a recipe I start thinking how I can use the base and go from there. For example, I didn’t have parsley but I did have a huge bag of lovely spinach. I figured spinach would add a lovely herbacious quality in the absence of the parsley and the delicate texture when cooked wouldn’t compete with the cauliflower.
I also cooked my cauliflower, most of the way, in the microwave. Rather than waiting to boil water and blanch it, I decided it’d be faster and retain more flavor if I steamed it in the microwave. I didn’t cook it all the way but most of the way. My microwave is pretty old and weak so it took about 6 minutes but it might be half that in a newer, more powerful model. I then sauteed it the rest of the way in olive oil in the pan.
I stuck to the original recipe with the spices (cumin, turmeric, cayenne, a reduced amount of salt), but instead of using the recipe’s amounts, I used a nub of onion I had left from another recipe, a small clove of garlic, and chopped up leek scapes which we also got from the CSA. They give a mild onion flavor to the dish and they kind of look like discs of asparagus in the final result.
Beyond that, the technique is pretty simple: Saute the onion/garlic/leek scape mixture in a bit of olive oil until tender and then add in the salt and spices. In the original recipe, they use 1/4 cup oil. I used maybe a tablespoon (half) this second time of making the kuku. After letting them heat a bit in the fat, add in the cauliflower and cook until the cauliflower is tender (unless you did the blanching method and it’s already tender).
Add in the spinach (or parsley if following the original recipe) and saute until wilted. Mere minutes. In a bowl nearby, whisk the 4 eggs, the baking powder and the flour (I use regular all-purpose flour since I didn’t have the types listed in the original recipe). Once the spinach is cooked, you add in the egg mixture. I didn’t have goat cheese so I just used some parmesan/romano cheese I had in the fridge. It wasn’t as creamy as the first time I made the kuku but it was salty in a good way, especially since I had cut down on the salt overall — less than half of what the original recipe called for to be added.
In the original recipe at that point you add in more oil and cook on top of the stove and then put into the oven to finish. I skipped the extra oil and the top of the stove in favor of a little longer in the oven at 350 degrees — 12-14 minutes, depending on your oven. You want it to be set so the eggs still stay tender and don’t get rubbery.
Voila. Kuku! I could see this working and being delicious with other vegetables beyond cauliflower, but I am especially taken with the flavor of the vegetable and these spices. Not masked but enhanced. For any vegetarians or veggie-leaning foodies, this one is a keeper.
The key is the ratio for the egg mixture: 4 eggs, 1/4 t. baking powder and 1 T. flour. If one could remember only the ratio for the eggs, you could make endless variations on this dish using other herbs and or spices. It’s a good basic ratio and cooking technique (350 degree oven, 12-14 minutes) to have in one’s back pocket for future cooking.