As I was going through my recent posts I realized that I talked about our Eastern European trip only briefly. I mentioned how awesome Budapest was and how getting back into the groove of working sucked, but never mentioned the time we spent with my parents in Romania, or the Tokaj trip we took with my friends from Hungary. So many stories come to my mind that I'm having a hard time choosing one to start with.
Although the wine tasting in Tokaj happened earlier on our vacation I’ll talk about it in a future post as I feel like the road trip with my parents is more relevant to this recipe.
As I mentioned before, Roni and I spent an entire week with my parents doing a road trip from my home town of Satu Mare to the spectacular Transfagarasan road, also known as Ceausescu's folly. We drove through Turda and Cluj and stopped for a night each in Sibiu, Bran and Timisoara. It was probably the most time I have spent with my parents since I was a teenager. It felt so good bonding again, sharing funny stories and just spending time together. It reminded me of my childhood when my dad used to take me on his business trips around Romania. It was fascinating to see in person the mountains, rivers, gorges and lakes that I read about in books or learned in my geography class. Because of my father’s fear of flying, he’d always choose to drive even though it sometimes took him days to get to places. We would drive on these crazy winding roads in the Carpathian Mountains and admire the scenery on the Danube’s Canyon Road as we passed the Iron Gates gorge. It was insane!
I wanted Roni to experience all the emotions that I experienced as a kid. I wanted her to see how breathtaking and beautiful my country is. And she did- she was amazed by its beauty, simplicity and hospitality.
It was a lot of fun, but also frustrating at times mostly because of my father, who has a really unique way of doing road trips and sightseeing. In my father’s book, a road trip is to drive from a starting point A to a final destination B with minimal stops in between. Stops are only allowed when the gas is running low or the driver (in this case, my dad) had to use the restroom. No other events are important enough to warrant a stop. Also, there are priority levels when it comes to restroom stops. Roni and I found out that we were in the lowest possible bracket when it took my dad an hour and several passed gas stations to finally stop so we could use the restroom. He’d either “forget” about the much needed bathroom break or find the gas stations to be not up to his standards. It was comical in many ways but it took a lot effort on both my father and my side not to get in an argument. Fortunately, my mom was there to bring peace and harmony when it was needed.
Overall the road trip was superb. We saw everything we planned to see and more. The most memorable sights were the colorful trees along the Transfagarasan road, the charming city of Sibiu with its many cute cafés, the Bran Castle (aka Dracula’s Castle), and the pleskavita (Serbian burger) I ate in Timisoara, my college town, that took me back to the good old days. Romania is absolutely beautiful, a fairy tale-like place where time seems to have stopped. It is a rough uncut diamond that will shine again, once the new generation of young intellectuals will bring a much-needed change in mentality.
I’ve had this recipe in the queue for quite sometime now, but until now I didn’t find the right opportunity to post it. Cauliflower has always been our family's favorite vegetable, even though my father would argue with that. My mom Rodica, makes a killer cauliflower soup as well as cauliflower soufflé, fried cauliflower and even a cauliflower spread. This recipe is very close to my mom's, although she doesn't add sautéed onions and garlic to hers. She also separates the egg whites from the yolks and beats them. I guess that would be the proper way of making a soufflé, but the minimal difference in flavor and texture doesn’t justify the effort in my opinion. Pofta buna!
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- 1.5 lbs cauliflower florets (about 1 medium sized cauliflower)
- 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (plus more for topping)
- 1/2 tsp sweet paprika (Spanish or Hungarian)
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 3 TBS unsalted butter
- 1 shallot, finely chopped (about 1-2 TBS)
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped (about 1/2 TBS)
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp ground white pepper
- 1/2 tsp chili flakes
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 4 eggs, pasture raised
- 1 cup gouda cheese, shredded
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- salt, to taste
- smoked paprika, optional
- fresh lemon juice, optional
- Fill a large pot halfway up with water and one tablespoon salt. Bring it to a boil over high heat. Add cauliflower florets and cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until they can be pierced with a knife (al dente).
- In the meantime, in a bowl combine breadcrumbs, parmesan, paprika and 1/2 tsp kosher salt. Using a fork, whisk them together.
- Coat the bottom and sides of a 9"x5" deep baking pan with a tablespoon butter. Pour in half the breadcrumb mixture and shake the pan to create an even layer on the bottom. Some crumbs will stick to the sides of the pan as well.
- Drain the cauliflower, set aside and let it cool.
- In a medium sized sauce pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. When it starts to foam add the shallots, stir and cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Add the garlic, nutmeg, white pepper and chili flakes and continue cooking for another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Pour in 1/3 cup milk, raise the heat to high and bring to a boil, about 3 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and set aside to let it cool down.
- Preheat the oven to 400F (200C).
- In a large bowl, crack the eggs open and beat them until they become foamy. Add the rest of the milk, 3/4 cup gouda cheese, black pepper and a pinch of salt. Using a whisk mix them together.
- Add the cauliflower to the egg mixture and slowly mix in the milk and shallot concoction.
- Pour egg and cauliflower mix into the baking pan. Sprinkle the top with the rest of the breadcrumbs and gouda. I usually grate some parmesan as well for that nutty flavor.
- Place the pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Raise the temperature to 420F (215C) and cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the top of the soufflé is golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and let it cool a bit before serving. Cut into inch thick slices. Serve as is or for an extra zing, sprinkle with fresh lemon juice and smoked paprika.