Cauliflower Fritters

(“Polpette di Cavolfiore” – “Vastidduzzi chi Vrocculi”)

 

When I lived in Palermo, at dinner time, my mother served the cauliflower pancakes as a side dish or as a main dish paired with fresh cheese, green salad, sautéed vegetables and the delicious bread made in my hometown that Palermo is famous for.
My mother made the cauliflower fritters, “vastidduzzi di vrocculi” in the traditional way, personalized with the addition of passulina e pignoli, - currants and pine nuts- that she added to her cooking whenever she could…
A similar nosh was prepared by the Jewish cooks living in Sicily at the time of the first Diaspora in the 8th century before Christ. In fact today “latkes”, served for Hanukkah and all year around are pancakes made with potatoes, eggs, herbs, spices and matzo meal; which we believe they were originally made with cheese or with cauliflower as the main ingredients, as they are prepared in Sicily. In reality potatoes were not around in biblical times, since they arrived from the Americas in the XV century.
My family recipe contains cauliflower, cheese, eggs, parsley, onions, salt, peppers, toasted pine nuts, currants, and very fine dry breadcrumbs. 
It is one of my favorite snack or side dish because it’s a light and exquisite delicacy, with an appetizing aroma and an addictive taste.

 

MAKES 25 TO 30 FRITTERS

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cauliflower (1½ to 2 lb.)
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 medium eggs
  • ½ cup of your preferred grated cheese
  • ¼ cup minced parsley
  • 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon currants soaked in water (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (more or less to get a workable, firm mixture)
  • 1 cup flour for dipping the fritters
  • Oil for frying
PREPARATION

The base

Trim the cauliflower discarding the stems and leaves; cut to separate it into florets and soak in cold water for 30 minutes.
In a 6 quart sauce pot, over a high flame, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil.
When the water boils, add 1 tablespoon of salt, wash the cauliflower and drop into pot. When the water returns to a boil, cook for 7 minutes, drain and set on side.

 

The cauliflower

In a large sauté pot heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chopped onions and sauté until translucent. Add the cauliflower, raise heat to high and while stirring slowly, add the toasted pine nuts and drained currants. Cook for 5 minutes than lower the flame. If the cauliflower attaches to the pot and turns lightly brown, it is the sweetness of the onion caramelizing, which gives the cauliflower a unique smell and taste.  
Lower the flame, start to mash the cauliflower with a fork and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Add pepper to taste and check if salt is needed.

 

The patties

Transfer the crushed cauliflower to a bowl and when it cools off add the eggs lightly beaten, the cheese, parsley and ¼ cup of breadcrumbs.
Add more breadcrumbs if needed in order to get the mixture to a workable consistency. Form the mixture into balls 1½ inch in diameter, roll into flour and gently pat into patties. Set on a well floured pan. 

 

The Frying

Heat a heavy duty skillet with olive oil ½ inch deep.
At 350 degree, before it starts to smoke (at 375 degrees) drop the fritters, “le polpette di cavolfiore” a few at the time until golden, typically 5 minutes at each side. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot, but at room temperature are even tastier.