I hadn’t been in New York City for well over a year. There were times during the height of the Covid epidemic that I had resigned myself to having to live with only memories of the excitement of being in that city. But, when The Manhatten Theatre Club announced a live season for 2021, my friend and I gambled on buying theatre tickets and returning to NYC.
So on a beautiful October Sunday recently we traveled to the City. The experience was exhilarating and spooky at the same time. The parking lot where we always jockeyed to get a parking spot was virtually empty. The streets were quiet. For the first time in my life, I could really see the vista of Times Square because of the lack of crowds. We went out to lunch and adjusted to all the new rules about getting seated in a NYC restaurant. But the staff were welcoming and seemed very happy to have visitors again. We ate at Bond 45 and I had Orecchiette with Cauliflower. The orecchiette was made perfectly and I am going to share a recipe for that dish today. It is a perfect pasta dish for the fall when the cruciferous vegetables have bloomed in their full glory.
After lunch, we went to see Lackawanna Blues. Rueben Santiago-Hudson is a superb storyteller and actor. He gave an amazing one man performance giving voice to over 20 different characters that illustrated his childhood in Lackawanna, New York. If you get a chance to see this show, don’t miss it.
ROASTED CAULIFLOWER ORECCHIETTE
1 head cauliflower chopped into ½-inch pieces
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil divided
½ teaspoon kosher salt divided
1 pound orecchiette pasta
1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese divided
4 cloves garlic chopped
5 anchovy filets packed in oil chopped
½ teaspoon chili flakes
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
Preheat the oven to 400°F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss together the cauliflower, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and ½ teaspoon salt. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, turning the cauliflower midway through, until golden brown and cooked thoroughly. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until al dente. Drain well, reserving 1½ cups of pasta water.
Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and toast until fragrant and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove to a small bowl and mix with 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese.
In that same large sauté pan, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and anchovies and stir with a wooden spoon, breaking up the anchovies to help them dissolve in the oil. This will take about 2 minutes. Add the chili flakes and the cauliflower and toss gently to coat.
Add to the pan the cooked pasta, half of the reserved pasta water, remaining ½ cup cheese, and the parsley. Toss to coat, and simmer for another 2 minutes, adding additional pasta water as needed to moisten. Sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture and drizzle with more olive oil if desired.