The Perfect Couple

I occasionally disobey one of the cardinal rules of entertaining and try my hand at a dish that I’ve never quite made before.  It’s heresy, I know, and I’m either setting myself or my guests up for an experience we will never forget.  And not necessarily in a good way, either.  I admit there have been occasional failures: dishes that were scuttled at the last minute or a steaming platter of mediocrity that was served even though no one really cared to eat it.  This time, I interfered with the perfect couple.    

During the holidays,  I made a vegetable dish that I’d sort of made before.  I have paired cauliflower with cardamom numerous times; the assertive, sharp cauliflower develops a sweet nuttiness if sautéed with butter/ghee.  Adding cardamom is like adding cheese to pizza, pouring cream in coffee, spreading icing on cake.  It elevates the whole experience.  I’ve written it before: cardamom is a special spice, fragrant with floral and woodsy notes.  Redolent of jasmine and vanilla, cardamom can be high maintenance, totally aware of its celebrity status.  Pair it with the wrong item, or treat it poorly, and all of a sudden the cardamom might sulk.  Who was I to barge in on cauliflower with cardamom? 

But meddle I did—by adding cashew butter to the perfect couple and, thankfully, harmony reigned.   The resulting dish was silky, nutty and rich.  It was so good that my five-year old nephew asked for more cauliflower.  Really. 

We’re not making it for New Year’s Eve this year, but I wanted to post it tonight and wish all readers a very happy and healthy 2011.  Thank you  for reading these posts and recipes, and thank you as always for your comments, suggestions and support.  

Cauliflower with Cardamom and Cashew Butter            

Ingredients

3-4 tablespoons ghee or butter

2 heads cauliflower, green parts trimmed, florets cut into bite-sized chunks

4-5 whole green cardamom pods, lightly crushed

1 cup cashew butter

¼  teaspoon cardamom powder.

Salt to taste

Scant amount of sugar for balance

To make cashew butter:

Take 1 cup roasted cashews, add two-three tablespoons canola oil and blend for a few minutes on high.  I use a mini-blender and add extra oil if needed.  The butter is done when the cashews have achieved a velvety texture.

To make the cauliflower:

Heat the butter/ghee in a deep skillet, and add the lightly crushed cardamom pods until fragrant, about two minutes.   Add the cauliflower and sauté over medium high heat until the florets begin to brown slightly at the edges.  Add a tablespoon or two of water to the cauliflower florets if needed to help them cook evenly.  Add salt and sugar to taste.  When the cauliflower is nearly done, add the cashew butter and mix thoroughly, being careful not to break the florets.  Do not overcook the cashew butter; otherwise, it loses some of its flavor.   Remove from heat and sprinkle the ¼ teaspoon of cardamom powder over the dish, stir gently to incorporate.  Done.          

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