When my number two daughter, Noor, was in sixth grade, she had a little gathering for her eleventh birthday. I asked her what she would like to serve at her party and she thought about it a while and came back with: lasagne, salad, garlic bread and tiramisu for dessert! My insistence that my kids have a sophisticated palette and be open to new tastes and foods, sure came back to bite me on my butt! She wanted tiramisu! What happened to pizza, cake and ice cream? I was happy that she wanted such grown up fare but I wasn’t sure if her friends were ready for tiramisu. I agreed to make the lasagne but told her that we would go with chocolate cake for dessert. She agreed, but insisted that I had to make my honey vinaigrette dressing for the salad and not use some store bought one!
As you can see, I was trying to take an easy way out where this party was concerned. I figured they were kids and pizza and ice cream was all the hard work I had to do (order pizza and buy ice cream!) I have to say though, Noor impressed me; she wanted something grown up and home made and she wanted her friends to experience it too.
I always insist that my kids try new and different things and I have always cooked different things so they could broaden their taste palette. I am glad to say that they are actually more adventurous than I when it comes to food. I also told them that I cooked one dinner for everyone and basically, they had to eat it without complaint. What’s for dinner is what’s for dinner and if they don’t like it, tough. It may sound harsh, but I see my friends all struggling with picky eaters and a bunch of left overs. Alhamdulillah, I don’t have any picky eaters and the left overs get eaten.
Kids are very open to new tastes and adventures in food and they should be introduced at a very young age. Laith is five; he loves all fruit and vegetables. His favourites: pineapples, grapes, tomatoes and broccoli. He loves bold flavours and spicy food. Of course, he loves pizza too, but he is willing to try anything, once I explain what it is and how it grows and give him a story about it. I love the KG years; he is fascinated by all that he is learning and comes home and eagerly tells me what he learned that day. That is why, this age is so great to introduce all kinds of interesting flavours and foods.
The cauliflower pasta dish I am posting today is a favourite in our house. Most households with kids, I am quite sure, don’t have cauliflower up there as a favourite vegetable. This is Noor’s absolute favourite dish and there is never any left over. I never thought about pairing cauliflower with pasta until I got Mario Batali’s cookbook, “Molto Italiano.” He has this incredible simple cauliflower and penne dish that is amazing. The cauliflower just caramelises and melts in your mouth. It’s insane how just five ingredients: olive oil, garlic, Parmigiana cheese, cauliflower and pasta, can make such a mind blowing dish.
This is always my go to vegetarian dish when I have fresh cauliflower or even frozen. I have made it using both fresh and frozen and there is very little difference. This time, however, to complete the meal with some protein, I baked a couple of boneless chicken breasts and topped off the pasta. This is also easier for me, because of number one daughter’s vegetarianism. I can easily serve her the cauliflower pasta without the chicken. During winter when there is an abundance of cauliflower, you must try this dish. It’s perfect for a cold winter’s night, with our without the chicken.
So, here is my version of Mario Batali’s “Penne with Cauliflower” dish.
Makes 6 servings
(2 12oz/340g frozen cauliflower florets)
salt and pepper
with salt and pepper.