As I flipped with no small pleasure through the pages of Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks, considering recipes for this week’s lunch feature, I was looking for recipes that went beyond the obvious: the salads, the soups, the plain sandwiches that characterize my all-too-frequent lunch ruts. But what else is out there? Come on — give me a new idea.
And unsurprisingly, Ottolenghi came through, with this recipe for a cauliflower cake that is good fresh, cold, at room temperature, for breakfast, lunch, or really any time at all.
When I asked Ottolenghi about his favorite lunches, he made special note of lunches that can be eaten at room temperature, espcially this one. He also notes the beautiful flexibility of this savory cake in the book’s introduction to the recipe.
He continues, “Serve this cake as a light supper alongside a makeshift salad of sliced cucumber, dill, mint, a little sugar, cider vinegar, and canola oil. Wrapped well, this cake will taste even better the next day.”
This savory cauliflower cake is so tasty that even my two-year-old has been gobbling up the leftovers! Fluffy, tender, and moist with cauliflower but well-seasoned with onion, herbs, and cheese, it was great both warm and at room temperature, and kept well for days in the refrigerator.
If you don’t have a springform pan, you can just use a regular 9-inch cake pan or even an 8-inch square pan, like a friend of mine did, instead. As long as it’s lined with a big piece of parchment that comes up the sides, the cake will come right out of the pan.
Nigella or black caraway seeds can be hard to find, but you can still make the same great visual impact they do by using black sesame, black cumin, or onion seeds instead!
- 1 small cauliflower, outer leaves removed, broken into 1 1/4-inch florets (about 4 cups)
- 2 teaaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 1 medium red onion
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- Melted unsalted butter, for brushing
- 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon nigella (also known as black caraway), cumin, or black sesame seeds
- 7 large eggs
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
- 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Parmesan or aged cheese
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Meanwhile, prepare the cake.
- Place the cauliflower florets and 1 teaspoon of salt in a medium saucepan. Cover with water and simmer over medium-high heat until the florets are quite soft about 15 minutes. They should break when pressed with a spoon. Drain and set aside in a colander to dry.
- Cut 4 round slices, each 1/4-inch, off one end of the onion and set aside. Dice the rest of the onion and place in a small frying pan with the oil and rosemary. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, line the base and sides of a 9 1/2-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Brush the sides with melted butter, then mix together the sesame and other seeds and toss them around the inside of the pan so that they stick to the sides.
- Transfer the onion mixture to a large bowl. Add the eggs and basil and whisk well to combine. Add the cheese, flour, baking powder, turmeric, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and plenty of pepper. Whisk until smooth. Add the cauliflower and stir gently, trying not to break up the florets.
- Pour the cauliflower mixture into the pan, spreading it evenly, and arrange the reserved onion rings on top. Bake until golden brown and set, about 45 minutes. A knife inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean. Let cool at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving. It needs to be served just warm, rather than hot, or at room temperature.
Baking pan options: If you don’t have a springform pan, you can just use a regular 9-inch cake pan or even an 8-inch square pan, but still line with parchment paper first.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.