Growing up, cauliflower was basically ‘white broccoli’ but only more bitter and with fewer uses. It was more or less relegated to being tossed in vinegar-drenched salads, and occasionally served steamed or boiled – also with vinegar.
This is perhaps why when my daughter started introducing me to things like ‘cauliflower pizza’ and ‘cauliflower rice.’ I was slow to convert. To me, it just didn’t compute, but I soon caught on that cauliflower was a fair bit more versatile than I had originally believed.
In that theme, today’s recipe is for one of my new favorite appetizers – delightful bite-sized cauliflower balls, which are a must for anyone who enjoys things like cauliflower pizza or rice.
Why You’ll Love Cauliflower Balls
1) They Keep. Today’s cauliflower balls keep nicely for about three to five days, meaning you can make these ahead, and have them for most of the week.
2) Great Cold or Hot. While I initially wouldn’t have thought to try today’s recipe cold, as it turns out most of today’s batch – as well as the two test batches – disappeared without any reheating, with both my son and daughter eating them straight from the container as snacks or while setting the dinning room table.
3) Versatile Starter or Side. These can pair alongside pasta with red sauce or spicy food quite deliciously. They also pair excellently as starters or sides to white bodied fish prepared either with herbs and oil or a butter sauce. Conversely, they can form the ‘meat’ of a Mediterranean-themed starter spread surrounded by things like flatbread, gremolata, and olive dips.
Tips for Serving
1) All the Sauces and Dips. As alluded to above, these are great with dips. Think red or green spicy salsas, tzatziki sauce, gremolata, or a dipping marinara – all of these pair great with today’s Cauliflower Balls.
2) Light Lunch. You might also consider serving today’s recipe as a light lunch unto itself – hear me out. Consider slicing these like falafel and then layering them onto pitas or flatbreads with salsa or tzatziki and then adding on greens, tomatoes, olives, and onions. Delicious.
3) Reheating. While there’s no doubt that these are best immediately after they’ve been cooked, you’re unlikely to eat the entire batch in one go. That said, reheating these is as simple as drizzling a cast iron pan with some oil, and then heating them over a gentle flame for a few minutes, being sure to turn them a few times during the heating process.
4) Cold. While I would advise reheating these if you’re looking to serve them as an appetizer or as a side to an entrée, reheating isn’t always needed, especially if your serving them alongside something cold like a salad or a sandwich, or as in the context of the above-mentioned wraps or pitas.
Tips for Making Cauliflower Balls
1) ‘Processing’ Cauliflower – How Fine is Fine? We’re looking for a consistency similar to ‘rice.’ In that regard, if you prefer, or if you don’t have a food processor, you can also shred the cauliflower by hand on a cheese grater. In either case, if you process the cauliflower ‘too’ finely, and you’ll either end up with ‘dense’ balls, or with balls that simply fall apart during or after cooking – neither scenario is desirable.
2) Pack them firmly – but not tightly. Similar to when forming chop meat into meatballs, if you pack the cauliflower mixture too tightly it will result in a dense, ‘tough’ ball that simply isn’t palatable. Conversely, however, if you pack the balls too loosely, they will simply fall apart during cooking.
3) To Precook, or Not to Precook. I’m aware that I’m the odd one out when it comes to whether or not you should precook the cauliflower before forming them into balls. The reason you might consider precooking the cauliflower is to drain away its moisture. However, I find that cooking the cauliflower drains ‘too much’ of the moisture, which ends up resulting in either having to add more moisture to the mixture in some other form, otherwise you end up with a very dry cauliflower ball. That said, I do advise that you try to ‘press’ or ‘pat dry’ the processed cauliflower after processing or grating, lest you end up with ‘too much’ moisture in the mixture.
Dips and Sauces to Pair with Today’s Recipe
1) Fresh Tzatziki Sauce. This is my go-to fresh tzatziki sauce. It’s super simple to make, and goes on just about anything you can imagine from pork to steaks to burgers to wraps, and, naturally, things like falafel or today’s cauliflower balls.
2) Cream Cheese Gremolata. Fresh lemon juice and fresh parsley, blended into cream cheese with garlic and parmesan combine to create a ‘creamy gremolata,’ that’s a welcomed twist on a familiar classic dip, that pairs simply deliciously with today’s cauliflower balls.
3) Cilantro and Cannellini Bean Dip. For a somewhat spicier and ‘thicker’ alternative to the above dips, this dip combines a noticeable but pleasant kick with a creamy bean texture.
If You Enjoyed Today’s Recipe…
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