Ryan O’Malley, executive chef at Piatti Ristorante & Bar in Pavilions, loves cauliflower. This recipe highlights two of its best preparations: The cauliflower purée adds creaminess to the rice, and the caramelized floret topping provides color, texture and deep, roasted flavor. Serve the dish on its own or as an accompaniment to grilled or roasted meats, chicken or shellfish.
1 large head cauliflower, quartered, leaves reserved
5 tablespoons butter
1 large yellow onion, one half thinly sliced, one half finely diced
1 lemon, zested, then juiced
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped capers
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
3 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
1 cup white wine
5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Cut the cauliflower florets off the stems into pea-size pieces and reserve the florets. In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter, add the sliced onions, salt well, cover and cook until soft. When the onions are completely soft but not brown, add the cauliflower stems and leaves and a pinch more salt, cover and continue cooking until the cauliflower is soft. Purée in a blender or food processor until smooth. Push through a fine mesh strainer; add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Reserve. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the florets and sauté until deeply browned. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and let brown. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, the lemon zest, chopped capers and parsley. Set aside. In a high-sided sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and add the diced onion; add a heavy pinch of salt and let the onions sweat until soft. Add the rice and stir. Cook the rice for 2 to 3 minutes until it starts to pop. Stirring constantly, add wine, raise heat to medium high and cook until the liquid is absorbed. Still stirring, add half of the chicken stock. When all of the stock is absorbed, add another ladleful at a time until the rice is cooked. Stir in 1 cup of cauliflower purée. Remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of butter and the cheese. Top with the caramelized cauliflower mixture and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6 as a main course, 8 as a side.