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Braised Cauliflower / Kounoupithi Kapama

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traditional Greek braised cauliflower

You have NEVER had cauliflower this good before! Braised cauliflower (kounoup-I-thi kapam-A) is indescribably delicious and this from a person who normally quite dislikes cauliflower.  With basically 5 ingredients and about 45 minutes, you can enjoy one of the simplest, most wonderful dishes in all of traditional Greek cooking – can you tell I’m a fan yet?!

Oh, and BONUS:  your kitchen, probably your whole house, will smell positively divine while this is cooking. In advance, you’re welcome 🙂

I often treat myself to pre-cut cauliflower florets in the produce section, a huge time saver, and then the only other prep involved is chopping a cup of red onion and a few mint leaves. That’s it. Really!

A few tips to streamline this already quick and easy dish. Start by braising (browning) the cauliflower florets in heated olive oil and then add in your red onions. When you start with the onions first, the water content from the onions somehow adversely affects the cauliflower from lightly browning and you end up with kind of greasy, soggy florets so – cauli first!

Also, braise florets head down in the olive oil until you can see them lightly browning. You’re just looking for a golden brown. After you add the onions, give the whole pan a quick stir and the sweetness of the onions will cut any natural sulfury-ness from the cauliflower. And it may seem like a bit of olive oil, 1 cup, but it’s key here so don’t be tempted to skimp.

And I must HIGHLY recommend using Kyknos tomato paste whenever you can.  The name means swan and Kyknos comes straight from Greece. Kid you not, that special Greek tomato flavor is packed into every can. Look for it in your local Greek/Mediterranean market or at our favorite Greek International Food Market here in Boston. Very worth finding!

And try dissolving your tomato paste in the water before adding to the pan.  Makes for a smoother, more integrated sauce IMO and takes just a second more 🙂

There are, of course, many variations of this dish and our family always makes it with bay leaves, fresh mint and a cinnamon stick. I’ve had it before with coriander and also with celery and really all are wonderful. Once you make this dish a time or two as written here, feel free to experiment with the flavoring yourself.

Another plus, you can enjoy braised cauliflower on it’s own with good quality bread, my favorite, or serve over rice for a hearty meal. The recipe yields a small amount of ‘sauce’ and is actually almost as amazing at room temperature so a perfect take-for-lunch option. You will not be disappointed!

  • 1 cup good quality (Greek!) olive oil
  • 3-4 cups of cauliflower florets (approx 1 pound of florets or 1, 3lb head of cauliflower)
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

In 3 quart saucepan with lid, heat olive oil on low – I use 3 on my induction stovetop. Add cauliflower florets, head down, to the pan and cook approximately 5-6 minutes until lightly browned.

Add chopped red onion and stir gently. Cook 5 minutes until onions are almost translucent and add water with dissolved tomato paste, salt/pepper, bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Bring up to a low boil – I go to 5 on my induction stovetop.

Cover and cook for 15 minutes then uncover, stir gently, add chopped mint, re-cover and cook for additional 10 minutes. Test for doneness, cauliflower should now be fork tender, and cook for 10 more minutes uncovered to boil off a bit of the liquid.

Allow dish to rest, off the heat, for about 10 minutes and serve. Yup, just that easy 🙂

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7 Responses to Braised Cauliflower / Kounoupithi Kapama

  1. Jonathan Hood February 20, 2017 at 5:41 pm #

    Looks fabulous – can’t wait to try it!

  2. Johanne February 21, 2017 at 7:37 am #

    Oh this looks so nutty and full of flavor. Off I go to the market for cauliflower.

  3. Tom March 13, 2017 at 7:47 pm #

    This tasted really good! Kiki, I have an important question. I know Greeks like eating maccaroni, can you tell us about some traditional pasta dishes? How would the Greek version of pasta pomodoro (tomato sauce) differ from the Italian variant? Is there a chance we will see your take on pasta, soon?

    Love this blog,

    Tom

    • Kiki March 14, 2017 at 2:00 pm #

      🙂 🙂 and yes, working on pasta/sauce for next month actually!

  4. Esther March 21, 2017 at 6:12 am #

    Absolutely delicious!

    Love your blog,

    Esther

  5. V* March 22, 2017 at 1:55 am #

    The braised cauli looks great. BUT the bread pictured with it, looks AB FAB !!!!!! Please give us the recipe for this. Cheers V*

    • Kiki March 22, 2017 at 9:36 pm #

      it was a multi grain bread from local bakery – so good!!

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