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Alice Waters Can Feed 20 People With 2 Cauliflowers?

While we’re used to hearing dreamy, Californiafied quips from Alice Waters, in NYC, they don’t even know what to do with it. A week ago she was at the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival where she spoke on “A New Agenda: Food” with New York Times Magazine editor Gerry Mazorati. According to WWD, which excerpted some of the conversation (which I found by way of the always resourceful Eater), Waters—when asked about the elitism associated with foodies—said:

“I bought two cauliflowers at the farmers’ market today. It cost me $4.20. I could have fed 10 to 20 people with them. You just need to know how to cook.”

Taking this into consideration, I called up a few people that know how to cook to ask their opinion. Although more than one alluded to the fact that the idea of feeding 20 people with two (hopefully large) heads of cauliflower might be best applied in a third world country, I did get some creative—if hopeful—answers. Thom Fox even made a word problem out of it.

Chef Gerald Hirigoyen (Piperade/Bocadillos):

“I cook one head of cauliflower for me and my son who love it. I boil it, and put brown butter on the top and the two of us eat almost at the whole thing by ourselves. But for 20? No, I can’t do it. With all due respect to Alice Waters—I wish I was that savvy.”

Chef Chris Konner (Serpentine):

“Isn’t this the basis for all cooking in India? What defines feed? Does anyone get to taste the cauliflower? How big are the cauliflower? Assuming they’re quite large heads of cauliflower, I guess you could make soup and maybe feed 10 people.”

Chef Mark Denham (Laiola):

“On the top of my head, I think you could feed 12 people if you used it with two full pounds of pasta. Chop the cauliflower into bread crumb–sized pieces, and add capers, chili flakes and crunchy breadcrumbs with olive oil and brown butter. I make [this] for me and the missus on Sundays.”

Chef Thom Fox (Acme Chophouse):

“20 people from 2 cauliflowers? Hmmm. If they are strikingly large (and I hope that’s why she should say such a thing), I would offer a resounding—but qualified—yes. Lets imagine that they were 3-pound heads (that 6 pounds with a bit of trim, so lets say maybe 5 3/4 pounds). That’s 92 ounces of vegetable or roughly 4.6 ounces per person. Not a meal but a reasonable portion for a side dish or salad. But probably, I'd take some penne (2 pounds dry weight—$4 total cost?) which equals approx 6 pounds cooked weight or again around 4.8 ounces per person. Break the two heads of cauliflower into smallish florets and thinly shave the inside core and tender outside leaves. Cook these with a small bit of olive oil and water, two cloves garlic thinly sliced, salt and a pinch of chili flakes covered for 8 minutes or so until the cauliflower is tender. Remove lid crank up the heat and boil off any liquid. Saute the cauliflower briefly and mix with the cooked pasta. With that we'd have a very tasty and complete meal, well most certailnly complete with a grating of a good aged sheeps milk cheese. But I'm sure there are other tasty ways to make this work. Blanched and marinated with a bit of red onion and capers for a salad? Mixed with some day old bread cut up for a panzanella. The list goes on.”


For more thoughts on making the most of cauliflower, go to an old blog I wrote last year, or to Gourmet’s blog which speaks of the elusive orange cauliflower, something I have yet to see myself.