This is a recipe from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, a cookbook I’ve long dismissed as too complex, too fussy, too–well–not me. Flipping through it now, the recipes are long-winded, they go on for pages, and the pictures are too few and far between. And yet this is a cookbook that has something to say–I can’t deny that–and every now and then I pick it up and hope that I may stumble across something that will win me over. Tonight was such a night.
It’s a super simple Zuni recipe (“Pasta with Spicy Broccoli and Cauliflower”), a recipe that spans only two pages, and yet now I will attempt to reduce it to just a few short paragraphs.
1. Take cauliflower and broccoli and slice it into 1/8th-inch slices (about as much as you think can fit in your saute pan). Heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil in the pan on medium heat and then add the cauliflower and broccoli, leaving behind the stray bits for later:
Cook until the cauliflower and broccoli are brown on the edges. Don’t move them around!!
2. Once browned, add salt (a light sprinkling) and more oil (this is why it’s not so healthy, I added a lot of oil) and then the rest of the cauliflower bits from the board. Then add 1 Tbs capers and toss around. Then let cook until the edges begin to brown again.
3. Drop 1 pound (or so) of penne or fussili (or any pasta, really) into a pot of boiling salted water. Try to time it so the pasta will be done when the sauce is done.
4. When the broccoli and cauliflower has shrunken by 1/3rd, reduce the heat, add more oil, and then add chopped anchovy (6 filets), chopped garlic (six cloves), 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, and 4 to 8 pinches red chili flakes. This is a highly unusual step–adding the garlic and flavorings AFTER the vegetables have cooked–but it makes the flavors way more pungent. Stir them around and cook for a few more minutes.
5. Taste! Is it tasty? Judy Rodgers says, “Every flavor should be clamoring for dominance.” (She also has you add olives and toasted bread crumbs, but I didn’t have any on hand).
6. When the pasta is done, toss it with the sauce and look:
You’ve made broccoli and cauliflower oily, unhealthy and terrifically delicious! It’s a great pasta dish. You can add cheese if you want, but I didn’t have any. And so, the Zuni Cafe cookbook gets a pat on the back tonight. Well done, Zuni. Well done.