I’m not sure I’m 100% on board with cauliflower yet, although I definitely like it roasted. I’ll admit I do enjoy finally being part of the club, since it’s been one of the cool-kid vegetables in recent years and avoiding it meant ignoring quite a few recipes, especially in winter. Now that I have my cauliflower radar turned on, it’s fun to see how many good-looking recipes I missed out on in the past. Case in point: this Smitten Kitchen one from way back in 2012. Fritters are totally up my alley and so is feta, but since I’m also a latecomer to pomegranate I can certainly see why I clicked right on past when this was first posted. (Although perhaps I didn’t—a search of fritter recipes on my own blog reveals that I contemplated making them nearly three years ago.) I’m a little sad that I went so long without this deliciousness in my life, but I guess there’s something to be said for finding the right thing at the exact moment you’re ready for it, or some such self-help mumbo-jumbo.
These fritters are definitely cauliflower-centric, although well-seasoned enough with lemon, garlic and red pepper to avoid the blandness I feel is one of cauliflower’s major potential pitfalls. But it’s a good gateway drug for newbies, too, since the vegetable is processed nearly beyond recognition (I cut mine perhaps a tad smaller, boiled it a tad longer and mashed it a tad smoother than the original recipe called for, and was not sorry), bound together with plenty of salty melty cheese and browned to an irresistible crisp. I implore you not to skip out on the pomegranate, which is far from just the pretty garnish I initially assumed. The pops of tart juiciness are the perfect complement to the richness of the fritters.
1 small head cauliflower (1 pound florets; i.e., stems and leaves removed), cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large egg
1 garlic clove, minced
A few gratings of fresh lemon zest
3 ounces crumbled feta (about 1/2 cup)
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes; less if using regular red pepper flakes, which are hotter
¾ teaspoon table salt, plus extra to taste
½ teaspoon baking powder
Olive oil for frying
¾ cup yogurt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 large handful pomegranate arils
- Cook cauliflower in simmering salted water, uncovered, for about 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still somewhat firm. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Spread on towels to dry as much as possible.
- In a large bowl, whisk together egg, garlic and lemon zest. Add cauliflower florets and mash with a potato masher until they’re crushed into an average of pea-sized pieces (i.e. some will be bigger, some smaller, but most will be little nubs). Sprinkle in feta and stir to combine egg mixture, cauliflower and feta. In a small dish, whisk flour, salt, pepper and baking powder until evenly combined. Sprinkle over cauliflower batter and stir just until combined.
- Heat a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. Add a good slick of oil, about 2 to 3 tablespoons. When the oil is hot, scoop a two-tablespoon-size mound of the batter and drop it into the pan, then flatten it slightly with your spoon or spatula. Repeat with additional batter, leaving a couple inches between each fritter. Once brown underneath, about 2 to 3 minutes, flip each fritter and cook on the other side until equally golden, about another 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer briefly to paper towels to drain, then to a wire rack (or keep warm in a 200-degree oven if desired).
- Once all fritters are cooked, mix yogurt with cumin, salt and pepper. Spread fritters on serving platter. Dollop each with cumin yogurt and sprinkle with pomegranate arils.
Time: 45 minutes
Leftover potential: Good. Leftover fritters can be frozen or refrigerated; reheat on a baking sheet in a 400-degree oven, or in a dry skillet over medium heat, until warm and crisp.