Six O’Clock Solution: Crispy cauliflower will spice up your plate

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Autumn vegetables are on the lusty side, ideal for warming up a meal.

Cauliflower, writes Italian-American culinary maven Lidia Bastianich, is enhanced if given the crisp treatment. She likes to serve the florets as hors d’oeuvres, cut small and offered on toothpicks.

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This celebrated TV cook and author of 17 earlier cookbooks offers more than 100 recipes, including fall vegetables eggplant, fennel, leeks and kale, in her new book, Lidia’s From Our Family Table to Yours, co-authored with her daughter Tanya Bastianich Manuali (Appetite by Random House, $40).

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Originally from Croatia, she and her family are New York fixtures, known for their restaurants, the Eataly food shops, their cookware and PBS cooking shows. She calls her recipes “easily attainable.”

Spicy crispy cauliflower

Serves 6

¾ cup (175 mL) fine dried breadcrumbs

¾ cup (175 mL) freshly grated Pecorino or Grana Padano cheese, or a combination

1 teaspoon (5 mL) garlic powder

1 teaspoon (5 mL) onion powder

Kosher salt

½ cup (125 mL/1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 medium head fresh cauliflower (1 pound/500 g/2 cups/500 mL), cut in florets

Marinara sauce (see recipe), or fresh lemon juice for dipping, or ketchup

Marinara sauce: Heat 3 tablespoons (45 mL) extra-virgin olive oil in a large, heavy frying pan and cook 5 thinly sliced garlic cloves until sizzling but not browned, about 30 seconds. Add 1 can (28 ounces/796 mL) whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand, with 1 cup (250 mL) of their juice. Season with 1 teaspoon (5 mL) Kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon (1 mL) peperoncino flakes and 2 sprigs fresh basil. Simmer mixture until thickened and flavourful, about 15 minutes. Discard basil. Makes 3 cups/750 mL.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 C).

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, comine the breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic and onion powders, and ½ teaspoon (2 mL) salt.

Pour the melted butter into another large bowl. Add cauliflower, sprinkle with with ½ teaspoon (2 mL) salt, and toss to coat in the butter.

Add half the cauliflower to the crumb mixture and toss well to coat well. Spread on one of the baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining cauliflower and crumbs. Sprinkle any remaining crumbs on top of the florets. (This may be prepared several hours in advance of baking.)

Bake cauflower until it turns a deep golden brown and becomes crisp, about 30 minutes.

Serve warm with the marinara sauce, lemon juice or ketchup.

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