Cauliflower “rice”, guanciale, pesto

Note: this recipe was part of a book I wrote called Eat Like A Maisel.

Yield: 2–4 servings

Cauliflower smells like farts. There’s no way around it. Hopefully the Weissmans knew this as Zelda prepared the pureed cauliflower for the failed Mordecai Glickman dinner (spoiler alert: Mordecai’s dead). Otherwise they assumed the worst of her. Once you cook it, it smells great. But, if you’re like me and like to prep your ingredients ahead of time, know that your fridge may smell like toots until you cook it.

I don’t know whether the Weissmans kept kosher all year. For the sake of this recipe, let’s assume that they didn’t. Rose seeks the advice of a psychic, for goodness sake. If it’s difficult for you to picture Rose eating pork, then just imagine this at empty-headed Penny’s place.

Bottom line: I don’t care who in the Maisel world cooks this—it could be the woman ordering pork in the butcher shop or the doormen for all I care!—as long as someone cooks it. (Can you tell I’m a fan of guanciale?)

4 ounces (100 g) guanciale, cut into lardons 1⁄4-inch by 1⁄4-inch by 1-inch
1⁄2 head (600 g) cauliflower, stem removed
1⁄2 teaspoon (2 g) kosher salt
1⁄2 cup (100 g) pesto (recipe follows)

Add the guanciale to a medium skillet set over high heat. Once the guanciale starts to sizzle, reduce heat to low. Cook until the guanciale is crispy, about 20 minutes. Flip each lardon once about halfway through to crisp the other side. You don’t need to stir, toss, or shake the guanciale. Just enjoy your glass of wine.

Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan. (You don’t need to measure; just estimate.) Tip the pan to pool the fat on one side and spoon it into a jar or metal bowl. You can save it for a flavorful finishing fat. Or discard.

Use a food processor with the grater attachment and grate the cauliflower. Add the cauliflower to the pan and turn the heat up to medium-high. Add kosher salt. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is browned and cooked through. Similar to browning the guanciale, you don’t need to stir frequently. The cauliflower is so small that it doesn’t take much to cook out the raw flavor. We’re focusing our efforts on browning the cauliflower. So, after you add the cauliflower, let it sizzle for a few minutes. Use your nose. If you smell it getting browned and almost burned, stir it. This is a great recipe to develop your cooking intuition because the cauliflower is so forgiving.

Remove from the heat and stir in pesto. The residual heat in the pan will heat the pesto. After mixing, taste it and add more salt as necessary.

Serve as a side to a main dish for 4 people, or on its own for 2 people.

Pesto

Yield: about 2 cups

8 ounces (225 g) basil leaves
8 garlic cloves (40 g)
2 cups (250 g) pine nuts
2 cups (100 g) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 1/3 cups (300 g) olive oil

Process the basil, garlic, and pine nuts into a paste in a food processor. Add the cheese and process to mix. With the processor running, add the olive oil in a slow stream until completely mixed. Transfer to a sealable container and top with a layer of olive oil if not using immediately.