When I was young, my mother would often end up making something that we've jokingly come to think of as "the white meal" — mashed potatoes, some sort of baked flounder or sole fillet, and steamed cauliflower. Despite its ghostly nature, the meal was both healthy and tasty. In fact, I still get cravings for steamed-unto-softness cauliflower. But while I do love the subtlety of cauliflower's quiet background brassica notes (more on that sometime soon), I also find that it's perfect for pairing with other flavors. Like a cinnamon-scented tomato sauce.
Although this meal has a bit more color going on, it also has a similarly beautiful simplicity. The nearly melted grated onions and double hit of cinnamon (both stick and ground) in the tomato sauce manage to add both warm sweetness and savory depth, which the cauliflower gladly sops up. In some ways it's not all that different from a standard tomato sauce, but it's subtly so much more. I paired the flavorful braise with some garlicky lemony spinach and a briny wedge of feta, and scooped it all up with some crusty chunks of bread. Because if the world around you is cold and white (sorry, Midwest!), it's nice to have a warm bit of color on your plate.
Greek Braised Cauliflower in Cinnamon-Scented Tomato Sauce
adapted from the kounoupidi kapama on Souvlaki for the Soul
serves 2-4, as part of a larger meal
¼ cup olive oil (you can use less, but c'mon, it's Greek food)
1 onion, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cauliflower head, broken into florets
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup tomato puree
¼ cup water
1 small stick cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a pot over a medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic, and saute, stirring occasionally, until translucent but not colored, ~5 minutes (adjust the heat as needed).
Add the cauliflower, and saute for a few minutes, until it takes on a bit of color. Add the cinnamon, tomato puree, water, cinnamon stick, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until the cauliflower becomes tender, ~15 minutes. Stir occasionally (and gently).
Serve with feta, if desired, and crusty bread (and garlickly lemony spinach isn't too bad either).