On Eating and Loving Food

Deep-fried cauliflower and pan-fried lemon-y scallops

“Cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education."
Posted:  Wednesday, April 18, 2018 - 11:30am

Mark Twain once wrote, "Training is everything. A peach was once a bitter almond; a cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education."

Whatever that means.

I think cauliflower is my favorite flower. That’s right. It’s a flower.

The UK Food Guide states: “Cauliflower is indeed, a flower. It grows from a plant that, in its early stages, resembles broccoli, its closest relative. Like broccoli, cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable.”

So I guess it’s also a vegetable. Whatever. It’s a really good flower/vegetable.

And guess what. It’s good for you!!! What?? It’s just this white on white mass of flowery globules (the whole head is actually called a curd) that bears more resemblance to a brain than a vitamin-rich vegetable.

But it contains 77 percent of our daily need for vitamin C, and it’s a good source of vitamin K, protein, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B6, folate, potassium and manganese. Geez. Who knew?

It also “may help” prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders and some forms of cancers. Don’t you love when it says “may help.” May not, too. But at least we’re pretty sure it won’t cause it. This week, anyway.

I also read somewhere in my researching that cauliflower is “often considered one of the healthiest foods on Earth.”

Now you can eat cauliflower and know you’re doing yourself a favor.

Anyway, I love it. I used to eat it steamed, with butter, then graduated to roasted with olive oil (which I still do – so delicious!), but last week I had a hankering for something deep-fried. I had been eating pretty healthily and I needed a golden-brown crunchy salty fix.

I considered onion rings. I use vidalia onions, and a combination of equal parts flour and cornstarch, after dredging them in an egg wash. My friend Judie Webster uses just corn starch for frying, and that may be even better, but I keep throwing flour in.

The flour/cornstarch combo makes them crispy and crunchy on the outside, even at the bottom of the platter, a half hour later.

Anyway. No onions in the pantry :-) – but there was a new head of cauliflower in the fridge. I had never deep-fried cauliflower, but did my virtual taste test, and I knew it would be, like, ridiculous.

I also found the end of last year’s scallops in the freezer, and the frozen cubes of lemon juice I had stored away after squeezing five of them and freezing the juice in an ice cube tray.

The scallops were the big, fat, Maine scallops that my aunt Ida and uncle Gary got from the diver the day they were picked off the bottom of the ocean.

According to one of Maine's leading authorities on scallops, Togue Brawn, there’s no such thing as a dry, or diver scallop, so don't bother asking for either when you go to Pinkham’s. Just ask for Maine scallops. It will show Russ you know your scallops.

So dinner was planned. I made a manhattan (duh) and started breaking up the cauliflower into florets, then threw them into a sugar and salt brine (just a few tablespoons of sugar and a couple teaspoons of salt in a bowlful of water) and let them soak for a while. They have to be wet to hold the flour and cornstarch mixture, so why not add a little sweetness and saltiness while they soak?

I mixed up the half flour, half cornstarch, with a big pinch of salt, in another bowl. I got some canola oil (around an inch high) heating in a large pan. I shook the water off the cauliflower and threw the florets into the flour mixture and stirred them around with a fork until they were coated.

I dropped one of the florets into the oil, and it started frying immediately, so I knew the oil was hot enough. I threw the whole batch in, let them fry for a couple minutes, then stirred around every minute or so to get them golden brown all over.

Then I threw the six big scallops into the leftover flour mixture and got those coated. I pan-fried them in another pan in a mixture of olive oil and butter (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan). When they were golden all over I threw in one of the lemon ice cubes and stirred it around to deglaze in the pan.

It was a stellar dinner. The scallops were sweet and lemony, and the cauliflower was crunchy on the outside and sweet (not greasy – the cauliflower doesn’t absorb the oil) on the inside.

Another benefit of cauliflower that I came across while researching was that it aids in weight loss. I’m thinking that referred to raw or steamed cauliflower though, as opposed to deep-fried :-). But still.

See ya next week!