I just returned from a wonderful week spent visiting my good friend Bonnie. We did many things while I was there, but of course much of our time was spent cooking and talking about food. I anticipate that several future posts will come of the things we made together. But for today, just to get back into the swing of things, I thought I would post something I made right after I got back.
Most of the time when I return from a vacation, I return to either a bare cupboard or a pantry/refrigerator of food in various states of decay. I try to avoid the latter with some judicious planning and eating prior to my departure, but it isn't always possible. And since I hate to throw away food that isn't currently bad...even if I anticipate that it will probably be bad in a week...sometimes I return to find a few inedibles hanging out in my produce drawer.
As always, the day after my return was busy trying to restore the rhythm of normal life...laundry, cleaning, catching up on work correspondence, etc. I never made it to the grocery store. When dinner time rolled around I decided to brave the refrigerator. Inside a loosely closed plastic bag, carefully wrapped in a paper towel, I found a half of a small head of cauliflower that I had purchased at the farmers' market almost a week prior to my departure. I unwrapped it with a bit of trepidation. To my surprise, I discovered it to be perfectly usable—it wasn't limp or moldy and had not developed any sort of strong cabbage-y smell. Such is the beauty of purchasing fresh produce from the grower. (It does make me wonder though how long grocery store cauliflower sits in a warehouse before it reaches the consumer.)
With my cauliflower in hand, and with a bit of rummaging through my pantry staples, I soon found the makings of a delicious pasta. Quick, easy and filled with the salty kinds of things that compliment cauliflower so well (bacon, Pecorino), it will definitely be appearing on our table again.
Linguine with Sautéed Cauliflower & Bacon
2 strips of bacon, sliced cross-wise a scant 1/4-inch thick
1/2 of a very small red onion (about 1 1/2 oz.), cut in a 1/4-inch dice
2 c. (about 6 oz.) small (3/4-inch) cauliflower florets
Salt & Freshly ground Black Pepper
6 oz. Linguine
2 to 3 T. coarsely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
Pecorino, grated medium fine
Warm a scant tablespoon of olive oil over moderate heat in a 10-inch sauté pan. Add the bacon and cook, stirring regularly, until the bacon is rendered and crisp. Remove to a plate and pour off all but about a tablespoon of the fat, reserving the fat for later.
Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook until softened but not browned (about 5 minutes for fresh summer onions). Add some of the reserved fat, push the onion to the edges of the pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Add the cauliflower
and sauté, tossing occasionally, until golden brown in spots—about 4 or 5 minutes. If the sautéing vegetables seem dry, drizzle in a bit more of the reserved drippings.
Season with salt and a generous grinding of black pepper. Return the bacon to the pan
and add a splash of water (2 or 3 T.); toss to combine. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to very low. Cook until the cauliflower is tender to the tip of a knife....about 5 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat and cook until any remaining water has evaporated off and the cauliflower is once again sizzling in the fat. Add the parsley and toss to combine. Turn off the heat and keep the cauliflower warm while the pasta cooks.
While the cauliflower cooks, drop the linguine into a large pot of boiling, well-salted water. Cook until al dente. Drain, reserving some of the pasta water.
Add the linguine to the pan of cauliflower and toss to combine, adding more of the reserved drippings (or fresh olive oil) and pasta water if the pasta seems dry. Add a handful of Pecorino and toss to combine. Taste and correct the seasoning with salt & pepper. Add more oil or pasta water if necessary. Divide between two plates and top with more Pecorino.