Long time readers have surely figured out by now that my entire approach to feeding my family is strategy-based, or in other words, derived from tricks that let me be a little lazy. I love cooking, I love eating, and I love the people who sit at my table every night, but to pretend it doesn't take a lot of work and effort to make meals worth mentioning (or sharing) would be downright deceitful. It doesn't all come together with the wave of a magic wand, and it isn't always as simple as it looks, and to be honest, I don’t always feel like making a marvellous meal. But when I employ one of the many tricks I keep tucked in my back-pocket, these family dinners do come together fairly easily.
Right now, my mealtime mission is to turn my boys into vegetable lovers. It's been a decade-long struggle, and while they'll happily devour any form of greens placed before them, other ground-grown foods take a little more coaxing. In fact, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are so far off the map of mouth-watering foods, they've been residing in the special place reserved for anything repulsive. Or they were, until I decided to douse them in seasoned, butter-toasted breadcrumbs.
Now, when I want to make a veggie I know the boys aren’t overly keen on, I blanket it in a crunchy topping, masking that which is despised. It’s currently my default application for successfully getting vegetables on the table and in the bellies, and it requires very little thought or effort on my part. With so many other things to keep track of in a day, who needs to fuss about how to feed the kids the food that’s good for them? Just slap some crispy browned bits over top and serve it straight from the pan. If breadcrumbs aren’t your thing, finely chopped nuts work just as well, and I like to think of this method as “the lazy person’s trick for turning their boys into devout vegetable eaters.” Try it and let me know how it works for you.
P.S. This is totally a company-worthy veggie dish and I encourage you to serve it to your friends for dinner.
Roasted Cauliflower with Toasted Lemony Breadcrumbs
Roasted cauliflower has become a favourite side dish for the adults in our house, and I consider this completely kid-approved now that I’ve seen Ben lap it up like it was his last meal. The raisins, feta, and capers are completely optional, of course, but they do add a little something extra-special to the dish. Feel free to just roast the cauliflower as instructed and top it with the breadcrumbs; that will work, too.
For the cauliflower:
- 1 head cauliflower, trimmed
- 4 sprigs thyme, leaves removed
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons golden raisins
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 3 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
For the breadcrumbs:
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3/4 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- Zest of 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Combine the cauliflower, thyme leaves, and olive oil in a large bowl. Season well with salt and pepper to taste, and spread in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet or casserole dish. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until the cauliflower is caramelized and the edges of the florets are golden brown.
Just before the cauliflower is done, melt the butter in a skillet set over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs, salt and few grinds of black pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until the crumbs are golden brown in colour, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the lemon zest and stir to combine. Adjust the seasonings to taste, if necessary.
Remove the cauliflower from the oven and transfer to a serving dish. Add the red pepper flakes, raisins, capers, and feta, and stir well. Top with toasted breadcrumbs and serve warm or at room temperature.