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Cauliflower power 

If cheese sauce is all you've ever had in the way of broccoli and its kissing cousin, cauliflower, then we need to talk.

It is hard to mention one without the other, given the popularity of the newfangled hybrid broccoflower. Plus, cauliflower is available not just in traditional virgin snow white, but in shades of funky green and Barney purple as well. A food fight nearly broke out at a Seattle restaurant, where four of us were debating whether our fab cauliflower dish was in fact broccoli.

The reason to love cauliflower over broccoli is its elegance and grace. It never tastes like a tree trunk and it takes on any flavor you wish, particularly if you roast it.

Cauliflower loves a hot oven. Roasting is a surefire way to tenderize those florets and allow seasonings to soak in. The recipe below is inspired by the aforementioned Seattle food fight. Done up Sicilian style, with a sweet-savory combination of raisins, pine nuts, garlic, anchovies and bread crumbs, this dish is intense without being rich.

I recreated it with pasta, but it works beautifully all by its glorious lonesome.

Cauliflower, Sicilian Style

1 head white, green or purple cauliflower, cleaned, trimmed and loosely cut into florets, about 1 pound

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 cup raisins, soaked in 1 cup white wine

1/4 cup pine nuts

4 cloves garlic, smashed

3-4 anchovy fillets, chopped

At least 1/4 cup plain bread crumbs, up to 1/2 cup

1/2 pound short pasta, such as penne, farfalle or gemelli

1 teaspoon salt

Shaved parmigiano (optional)

Small handful chopped fresh parsley

• Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place cauliflower in baking dish. Add olive oil to florets so that they are generously coated. Season with salt and pepper. Add raisins and wine, pine nuts, garlic and anchovies, and stir to combine. Sprinkle bread crumbs generously on top.

• Bake uncovered until fork tender, approximately 45 minutes. After 20 minutes, check for liquid level; if wine is completely evaporated, add a few ounces of water to keep raisins from burning.

• For pasta, bring a pot of water to a boil and add 1 teaspoon salt. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and pour into serving bowl. Pour cauliflower and trimmings over pasta and mix to combine. Add parmigiano, if using, and garnish with parsley. Makes 3-4 servings.

Culinary questions? Contact Kim O'Donnel at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.

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