The Manor Embraces Old-World Vegetables; Farm-to-Table Dining
Local Restaurateurs Revisit Their Family Farming History
Both The Manor and a specific vegetable that the Knowles family has been growing at Pleasantdale Farm have a storied past on their own and together.
The vegetable is cauliflower. Sure, it’s known as one of the remaining cruditÃ©s left on the plate after any Super Bowl party, but it has begun to get re-noticed by smart home chefs and high-end restaurants for its ability to be prepared in a number of fashions and can act as a neutral vehicle for incredible flavors … and also Chef Mitchell Altholz of The Manor and Highlawn Pavilion.
Introduced to France from Italy (Genoa) in the 16th century, cauliflower was served to Louis XIV and has remained a garden staple ever since ““ providing its consumers with a low fat, high fiber vegetable.
The Knowles family, owners of The Manor as well as Highlawn Pavilion, Pleasantdale ChÃ¢teau, and Pleasantdale Farm – where they grow produce solely for their restaurants, have decades of experience in farming the easily recognizable vegetable.
“In 1862, my great, great grandparents were the first farmers to sell cauliflower at the West Paterson Vegetable Market,” said Wade Knowles, co-owner of The Manor. “They also grew and sold watercress, radishes, and tomatoes on their farm in what is today known as Valley Road in Clifton.”
“The Knowles wanted to show their roots, so to speak, in the food that they offer at their restaurants,” said Bob Dmytriw, master gardener for all of the Knowles properties including Pleasantdale Farm. “So we decided to add cauliflower to the mix this year.”
Dmytriw also grows more than 40 varieties of tomatoes each year in addition to eggplants, peppers, peaches, apples, pears, plums, zucchini, pumpkins, squash, raspberries, beets, blueberries, beans, and dozens of different herbs and flowers all of which are pollinated by the 60,000 bees in the farm’s apiary which produces gallons of honey each year.
Plans for cauliflower at The Manor include Cauliflower Polonaise ““ a traditional Mediterranean dish that, in this case, will include Marcona almonds and Fontina cheese as well as a creamless cauliflower soup. Both dishes will be available in late September. The recipes are below:
1 medium to large head cauliflower
1/4 cup high end (EVVO) extra virgin cold pressed olive oil
1/4 cup chopped Marcona almonds
1/2 cup coarse Japanese bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
Wash cauliflower and cut out core. Place whole head in large saucepan or in steamer. Boil or steam until just tender (about 7 to 10 minutes).
In medium to large skillet over medium-high heat, add a good EVVO (I like Arbequina ““ a great Spanish, cold-pressed and unfiltered oil). Add Marcona almonds to skillet cooking until lightly browned. Stir in Japanese bread crumbs, also known as Panko; cook and stir until crumbs are lightly browned (about 2 to 3 minutes).
Drain cauliflower head and place on serving plate or platter. Spoon olive oil & nut/crumbs over to serve. At this point, you can broil the entire dish for two minutes to achieve a light brown color on the cauliflower.
If you wish, (and are serving dairy), add 1/4 cup shredded fontina or parmesan cheese and 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley to the crumbs or on top of the entire dish before broiling.
Creamless Cauliflower Soup
(this recipe has been adapted from the original)
1 head cauliflower
2 tbsp. (EVVO)
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart low-sodium vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
Remove the leaves and thick core from the cauliflower, coarsely chop, and reserve.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Cook until softened, but not browned, about 5 minutes.
Add the cauliflower and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the cauliflower is very soft and falling apart, about 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and, using a hand held immersion blender, puree the soup, or puree in small batches in a blender* and return it to the pot.
Add the parmesan and stir until smooth. Season, to taste, with salt and black pepper. Keep warm until ready to serve.