The Italians are experts in the art of vegetables. You will see many recipes here where vegetables are the star but none as famous in my family as the Cauliflower Pie.
My Great-Grandfather Francisco and his brother Charlie owned a fruit & vegetable market in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn called "Martorana Bros". Family legend has it that they chose that location after following a well-dressed woman there in their horse and buggy and then began selling "unusual" vegetables to her wealthy neighbors. They likely sold things like artichokes, cucuzza (or "goo-gootz") and cauliflower, the second-cousin to the broccoli.
This recipe is simple in its ingredients (just three) but tricky in technique. I suggest starting with a small pan until you're able to master "the flip".
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1 head of cauliflower
First, chop the cauliflower into even-sized pieces and boil until well done (about 15 minutes). Drain and let cool.
Next, pour half the oil into a medium pan (cast-iron works best) and heat until it shimmers. Sprinkle half of the breadcrumbs evenly over the oil and heat on medium until it just starts to brown.
Lower the heat and begin adding the cooked cauliflower to the pan. I like to begin the "mashing" process by squeezing it through my hands.
Turn the heat back to medium and with the back of a fork, begin mashing and flattening the cauliflower into the bottom of the pan. Keep mashing for about 2 minutes.
Here comes the tricky part - Turn off the heat. Take the fork and poke it around the edge of the pan to loosen the cauliflower from the sides. Place a large plate over the top of the pan. With one hand on the top of the plate and the other on the pan handle, flip the pan over and release the pie onto the plate.
2 comments here: 1) do this over the sink. I am the reigning Queen of the Flip in my family and have never dropped a pie but I still do this over the sink just in case. And 2) This will likely not look great after the first flip but don't worry as the top is about to become the bottom.
Next, heat the remaining oil and then coat with the remaining breadcrumbs. Heat until just beginning to brown. Slide the pie, breadcrumb-side up into the pan. Mash with the back of a fork over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and repeat "the flip": Take the fork and poke it around the edge of the pan to loosen the cauliflower from the sides. Place a large plate over the top of the pan. With one hand on the top of the plate and the other on the pan handle, flip the pan over and release the pie onto the plate.
Let cool slightly, cut into slices and serve !