Neapolitan Spicy Cauliflower with Garlic and Lemon

Neapolitan Spicy Cauliflower with Garlic and Lemon

I learned this deceptibly simple, savory dish from a cooking demonstration at Dekalb Farmers Market years ago. The woman who demonstrated it (using fresh hot pepper rather than dried, crushed pepper, which I use) told me it was the way her grandmother fixed cauliflower. Both her mother and grandmother were originally from Italy from near Naples.

The recipe serves six as a starter, side dish or lunch dish.

1 medium-large cauliflower
3-4 large cloves garlic
1 large Roma type tomato (optional)
1 tablespoon minced flat (“Italian”) parsley
Juice of 2 small, or 1 large, lemon, about 3 1/2 tablespoons
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed dry hot pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Prepare vegetables and keep them in separate piles: Cut cauliflower into 1-inch flowerets, keeping pieces of stem attached to the “flower” parts. Coarsely mince garlic. Quarter tomato, if used, and cut off tough stem area. With finger push out seeds and juice. Dice tomato flesh. Mince the parsley. Squeeze lemon(s) into a cup. Have these ingredients ready.

Heat a large, heavy STAINLESS STEEL or enamel (not aluminum) pot to medium hot. Add oil and garlic. Fry very briefly, but do not brown. Add tomato, if used, and fry, stirring frequently, until tomato softens. Add cauliflower and sprinkle with the salt, hot pepper and black pepper. Toss and fry briefly. Add a few tablespoons water, cover pot, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower becomes crisp-tender.

Taste a small piece of cauliflower to test for doneness, and add salt if needed.

Remove from heat, add lemon juice, and toss cauliflower. Keep covered, but stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Taste one last time and add salt and/or lemon juice if needed, and toss well.

Serve sprinkled with a little minced parsley.

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