Cauliflower at Tanoreen ($6.50)
Cauliflower at Parm ($5)
Taking inspiration "straight from our grandmothers," Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi doctor up cauliflower with Progresso bread crumbs, roasted red onions, and a squeeze of lemon and rosemary—both totally homey and brilliantly done.
Heirloom Cauliflower, Pear, Sage at The Dutch ($9)
Andrew Carmellini, the chef-mastermind behind The Dutch, is a big fan of cauliflower and pear combos. The natural sweetness of the roasted vegetable and the juicy tartness of the pears mingle nicely together. Plus, they're both around in the winter when most other produce is on sabbatical.
This side features a trio of colorful cauliflower (white, purple, marigold), which are roasted in brown butter and sage until the floret coats turn a golden-brown. And though the cauliflower may be the headliner, this is really as much about the pears: fresh Seckel slices are mixed in with softer, pickled chunks that are warmly spiced. The cauliflower is also tossed with juice from the pickled pears to add a little more zing, and for crunch, there's a smattering of toasted, nicely salted hazelnuts.
Manchurian Cauliflower at Devi ($12)
The Manchurian Cauliflower at Devi is one of those dishes that, though it's served at an elegant restaurant, manages to be craveable in the delicious lowbrow way generally reserved for cheap eats and fast food. Little florets are coated in egg and cornstarch before they're fried and tossed in a sauce of ketchup, garlic, and cayenne. Between the sweet-tangy-spicy sauce and the fried-up crisp on the outside, it ends up a little reminiscent of General Tso's, but that's not at all a bad thing.
Fried Cauliflower at Rainbow Falafel & Shawarma
The best part of roasted cauliflower is the brown bits around the edges—so it stands to reason that frying cauliflower to maximize said brown bits could make it even better. Rainbow Falafel does just that, turning each floret a deep crisp bronze with tender insides, then showering it all with a spice blend that's heavy on the heat and on the cumin. Get it in a sandwich as pictured here, or atop hummus and vegetables on a platter ($5/$8)—delicious either way.
Rainbow Falafel & Shawarma: 6 East 17th Street, New York NY 10003 (map); 212-691-8641
Cauliflower Smørrebrød at Vandaag ($12)
How does the Cauliflower Smørrebrød at Vandaag use cauliflower? Let us count the ways. There's the rich, impossibly creamy white cauliflower spread atop the red ale toast, and the more vegetal-tasting green puree dotted throughout. There's the beer-battered fried cauliflower, the pickled purple cauliflower, the raw Romanesco, the crackly-thin chips on top; altogether, it seems like the skillful weaving together of a dozen ingredients, not so many renditions of one.
Cauliflower with garlic, lemon, and gremolata at Ardesia ($8)
"Some people just don't get excited about cauliflower," we were told upon arriving at Ardesia. Naysayers should prepare to have a change of heart after trying this preparation. The cauliflower is broken up into florets, pan roasted with garlic and lemon juice, and covered in gremolata. Those roasted brown bits are delicious enough, but the gremolata—a mixture of panko, garlic, parsley, and lemon and orange zest—is what makes it memorable. In addition to providing a great crunchy texture, the bright citrus flavors from the zest lend a bright freshness to every bite.
Cauliflower Salad at Mimi's Hummus ($6)
Caramelized cauliflower's nuttiness is brought out through a creamy dressing of their own tahini, with parsley to brighten things up. Good enough that it's tempting to just order bowls of this, rather than their hummus. (Though you should really order hummus, too.)
Caramelized Cauliflower at Joseph Leonard ($12)
After traveling through London in the fall of 2009, James McDuffee came back wanting to recreate one specific cauliflower dish at the not-yet-open Joseph Leonard. The original inspiration came from the fine kitchen of St. John's. "Mine might be even better, not that it's a competition or anything," said McDuffee. Instead of roasting the cauliflower, he decided to deep-fry the florets so that every one is a deep russet-brown. You can barely even see the white vegetable underneath, it's that thoroughly fried. You almost forget you're even eating a vegetable, which is why he adds some raw pieces of 'flower to the plate, too.
Pickled onions and the dijon mustard vinaigrette cut the sweet cauliflower oils with some acid. Plenty of fresh parsley, tarragon, chives, and chervil are mixed in too. And fellow caper fiends: you will love all the salty green beads mixed in here.
Cauliflower side from Bark ($6)
These cauliflower, from Philips Farm in Jersey, are roasted until the florets are fork-tender-soft and charred around some edges. The stems stay a little al dente and you also get plenty of crunch from the layer of toasted almond pieces on top. Everything gets tossed in a caper vinaigrette that's so salty, caper-briny, and lemon-zesty, you taste it coating every bite.