Roasted Tomatoes & Cauliflower with Breadcrumbs

For centuries, cooks from around the globe have cobbled together delicious meals with minimal ingredients.
Bread is a prime example, and no matter what variety you enjoy, it remains one of our most economical foods. Think sandwiches, bread salad, croutons and crostini.
Tortillas, a staple in Mexico, are delicious fresh right off a hot comal. But savvy cooks use leftover and dried tortillas in chilaquiles, a frugal but hearty dish of tomato or tomatillo-based sauce with pieces of dried tortilla thrown in to sop up the sauce and fill us up.
Pita bread, ubiquitous to the Middle East is used in its day-old state for fattoush, basically a bread salad tossed with cucumbers, tomatoes, feta and olives, or in hot savoury casseroles known as fatta.
French toast is best when using day-old brioche, and slices of stale bread are given new life in Spain smeared with a fresh tomato half and a sprinkling of salt.
In Italy, stale slices of bread appear as bruschetta, topped with anything from humble olive oil and a thin shaving of cheese to figs and prosciutto. And we’ve all heard of bread pudding.
Beyond the loaf, there is the crumb, and when toasted and/or mixed with a myriad of ingredients from sweet to savoury, the home cook has another flavour tool to add to his or her arsenal.
Crumbs can be added to soup as a thickener, to meatballs to bind and as a topping for a crust.
For a crust, try adding chopped lemon zest for an aromatic citrus hit. Sugar added to toasted and chopped hazelnuts and crumbs gives you another option, and don’t forget that lovely duo of garlic and parsley, or even thyme, that brings life to a baked tomato, macaroni and cheese or other pasta dishes.
Plain crumbs used along with a flour and egg wash produce a crispy crust for veal, eggplant parmigiano, a piece of fish or chicken.
My point is to think before you throw food away.
The tomato.
Before. A sliced tomato topped with chopped garlic, parsley, salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkling of bread crumbs.

Bake at 350 until done and crispy and brown on top.

At most bakeries, you can buy day old bread to make your own crumbs and even some will have ready-made crumbs. To DIY-it, dry out pieces of bread in a 200 degree oven until dry. A food processor will make quick work of the dry bread, or for those less fortunate, put the bread in a bag and use the smash and roll method with a trusted rolling pin. Depending on the bread shape you could also try grating it.
While using the crumbs straight up is handy, I like to fry the crumbs in olive oil with herbs and garlic, and add to pasta with freshly grated cheese.

The following surprise dish I’m bringing to you via chef Peter Zambri of Zambri’s restaurant.

Cauliflower is given a lift with anchovies, chilies, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley and cheese and takes the vegetable out of its usual cheese sauce doldrums.  This dish appears regularly on his antipasti menu, is earthy and delicious.  Try it when you get a chance. It never looks as good as Zambri’s, but looks aren’t everything – especially when you’re alone in the kitchen. Besides it tastes so good. Just close your eyes.
Recipe below.
Cauliflower alla Sabbia
Serves 4
1/2 large cauliflower, cut into florets
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 generous Tbsp. butter
4 small garlic cloves, roughly sliced
4 whole anchovy filets
1/2 Tbsp. crushed dried red chilies (optional)
4 medium slices jalapeno with seeds (optional)
1/3 cup fine breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
1/8 cup chopped parsley, leaves only
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
Blanch the cauliflower in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a cloth or paper towel-lined baking sheet to cool. ( Alternatively, transfer the cauliflower to a bowl of ice water, but don’t let them get too waterlogged, or the breadcrumb-anchovy mixture won’t stick to the vegetables).
Heat the oil and butter in a saute pan. Add the garlic, anchovies and optional dried chilies and jalapenos. Fry on high heat until the anchovies melt and the butter starts to turn a nut-brown colour.
Reduce the heat to medium-low, adding a pinch of salt and pepper. Once the garlic is nicely toasted, add the cauliflower and breadcrumbs, tossing together to coat and making sure to heat through.
Add the parsley and parmesan and toss again, coating thoroughly.
Transfer to a serving platter or individual plates. Should any ingredients stick to the bottom of the pan, simply scrape with a spoon and crumble over the cauliflower – pray that this happens!
This dish can be served hot or cold, but is most delicious hot.

 



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