See… he’s not allowed to “not like” foods. I mean, technically, he is… but I don’t take it well. I feel the need to take up that banner of that food and convince him that he really does enjoy said food, if only he had it prepared the right way, or in the right circumstances, or from the right source. It starts innocently enough. He says, “You know, I’ve never been a big <insert food/ingredient here> fan. I just don’t like it.” Me: “WHAT?!?!”
I know. I know this is a huge overreaction. There are foods that people just don’t prefer. I have them, you have them, my husband has them. He doesn’t even have that many of them. Logically, I know this. And yet… I can’t just let him not like it. When he says it’s not his favorite, my brain hears, “I don’t like it now, but if you could make something delicious with it, I might be convinced.” I love a good challenge.
Cauliflower is the mother of all foods my husband says he doesn’t like. He made this very clear before we got married. And so, like any self-respecting woman, I didn’t broach the cauliflower subject until after we were married for a while, then proceeded to slowly change
him his mind. I kid. I love him how he is. But I also like cauliflower, and he will, too.
We’re several years into Project Cauliflower, and I’m proud to say I’m making some headway. I started with the obvious tactic- I made my mom’s recipe for cheesy cauliflower that while amazingly delicious, has so much cheese and other stuff in there that you can barely recognize the cauli. He ate it. I got a “Hey, this is actually really good!” A good first step. Now he was acclimated. The next step: something where you could actually taste cauliflower and not mostly cheese.
I got a little ballsy about a year ago and made a pasta with cauliflower pesto. It was so good. Husband says, “This is awesome!” But then he sees me smiling and not saying anything and says… “Wait… what’s in this? Is this cauliflower? Hey!” He’s on to me. But he liked it. I had him there. But I have to tread carefully now. He knows what I’m doing.
So last night, I made these fritters. Definitely cauliflower, loaded with it actually. And yet, fritters are a pretty gentle way to serve up a veggie. I love them. If you’re careful, you can make them mostly veg, with very little batter getting in the way of their flavor, but just enough to get perfectly crispy fried little edges and creamy, fluffy interiors. Top them off with something cool and light, and you’ve got fritter nirvana.
These fritters are one of the best versions we’ve ever had. The fritters themselves have the perfect amount of flavor- just a hint of both lemon and red pepper, enough to get the tanginess at first bite and then the tiny bit of warmth a moment later. Little pockets of feta go all creamy and ooze briny goodness when you take a bite. The cumin yogurt is just so absolutely perfect for these- I can’t imagine making these without it. When you dip the hot, crispy fritter into the cool, smoky yogurt, you’ll see what I mean. And I know, I know, I know the pomegranate arils seem random, but they rock. Perfectly sweet/tangy and I love the way they burst in your mouth. They make these fritters, which can easily be a solid Tuesday night supper option (seriously, they can be ready in under 20 minutes!), seem fancy. They seem so worthy of a special occasion, and they are, but in a way that says, “Hey, my husband’s eating cauliflower! It’s a national holiday!”
adapted, only a little, from Smitten Kitchen
Deb warns that it will seem like the batter won't hold together, but promises it will. She's right. It does. Don't worry 'bout it. These would be super awesome if you made the fritters a bit smaller, too, and served them as an appetizer!
Makes about 14 fritters (enough for 2 adults and one toddler who eats as much as two grown men, apparently)
- 1 small head cauliflower, cut into very large floret
- 1 large egg
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest
- 3 ounces crumbled feta (about 1/2 cup)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3/4 teaspoon table salt or more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- light oil for frying
- To serve:
- 3/4 cup yogurt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Handful pomegranate arils
In a small bowl, mix yogurt and cumin together. Season to taste with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to use. (This can easily be done ahead of time.)
Steam cauliflower in the microwave by placing cauliflower in a large glass bowl with a few tablespoons of water, covering with plastic wrap, and cooking on high for 5 minutes, or until tender. Remove from microwave, drain excess water, then set aside for a minute to cool and dry out a bit, just a couple of minutes. (Alternatively, you can cook on the stove in boiling water for about the same amount of time, or whatever your preferred method of steaming veggies is.)
Once the cauliflower has cooled for a minute, mash the florets with a potato masher until most of the pieces are about pea-sized. Add in the egg, garlic, lemon zest, feta, salt, and red pepper flakes and stir until well combined. Then add in the flour and baking powder and stir until just combined- don't overstir!
On the stove, heat a large, heavy skillet over moderate heat. Once hot, add enough to cover the bottom of the pan, about 2 to 3 tablespoons. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, scoop a two tablespoon-size spoonful of the batter and drop it into the pan, flattening it a bit with your spoon. Repeat with additional batter, leaving a couple of inches between each. Once brown underneath, about 2 to 3 minutes, flip each fritter and cook on the other side until also golden, another minute or two.
As you finish the fritters, put them to drain on a rack or paper towel as you work on another batch. If you're not going to eat them immediately, you can keep them warm on a rack placed in a warm oven (200 degrees F). When you've finished frying up the fritters, serve immediately while they are still hot and crispy, topped with dollops of the cumin yogurt and a sprinkle of pomegranate arils.
*Fritters reheat well. You can easily make them ahead of time. Then, to warm and re-crisp them, lay them on a tray and toast them at 400 degrees in the oven until crispy and sizzly again.