1.25.2014

When in Rome...?

Who goes to New Orleans for Italian food? I mean, really... who does that? Oh, riiiiight. We do.

When we took our first trip to NOLA about a year ago, our friend Linda and her son Aidan recommended several John Besh restaurants, including Domenica, a restaurant (according to their website) as "inviting as a traditional Sunday supper in a rural Italian village."

Thanks to Mark for this photo of Domenica's interior.
By “traditional Sunday supper in a rural Italian village” our friends were not speaking of the decor – which is chic and modern – but of the extraordinary flavors conjured from simple ingredients.

My first thought was, "Am I really going to go all the way to New Orleans and eat in an Italian restaurant owned by this handsome, always-smiling, blond, blue-eyed celebrity chef?" (I was told in a Facebook comment that I should have mentioned how beautiful his hair is, too!)

I considered the source of the recommendation (both Linda and Aidan are total foodies) and my answer was an unequivocal, "Yes!"

I made reservations online using Open Table and made sure that I put my garlic allergy into the notes for the maitre d'. I checked online and saw that chef Alon Shaya has received many accolades and awards for his innovative cuisine.

Domenica was the first restaurant we ate in on that trip and, after that first meal, we almost canceled all other reservations to eat there every night! The food and service were truly excellent.

That first trip, Mark and I did what we love to do: order a lot of different dishes and share them. We had lardo with savory beignets, squid ink pasta with blue crab, risotto made with blood sausage, and Brussels sprouts with guanciale. It was all wonderful.

For our return to New Orleans just a few weeks ago, we made reservations there for two nights. I stupidly waited till the last minute and we almost didn't get in.

This time we enjoyed a salumi and cheese board; garganelli with lobster; a burrata and pear salad;  redfish with celery root purée; brown butter and preserved lemon tabbouleh; wood oven roasted goat shakshuka-style with an egg; and great wines, specifically the Yarden "Odem Vineyard" 2010 Chardonnay. We simply didn't have room for desert either night.

One item we enjoyed perhaps more than any other was the whole roasted cauliflower served with whipped feta on the side. This is truly an inspired dish, and I mentioned to our server that I was going to go right home and try to recreate it.

"Oh, you don't have to recreate it. The recipe is somewhere online - you just have to Google it!" What a wonderful thing it was to find the recipe on Bon Appétit's website. And I'll save you the trouble of searching BA's website - the recipe follows!

So, when in New Orleans, make sure you do take in some of the finer Cajun and Creole places, but don't rule out this Italian gem!

~ David


Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Feta Cheese
Courtesy of John Besh and Alon Shaya – Domenica

2 1/2 cups dry white wine
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup kosher salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sugar
1 bay leaf
1 head of cauliflower, leaves removed
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
3 ounces cream cheese
3 ounces feta
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for serving
Coarse sea salt (for serving)


Preheat oven to 475°. Bring wine, oil, kosher salt, juice, butter, red pepper flakes, sugar, bay leaf, and 8 cups water to a boil in a large pot. Add cauliflower, reduce heat, and simmer, turning occasionally, until a knife easily inserts into center, 15-20 minutes.


Using 2 slotted spoons or a mesh spider, transfer cauliflower to a rimmed baking sheet, draining well. Roast, rotating sheet halfway through, until brown all over, 30-40 minutes (It took 30 minutes for me).

While cauliflower is roasting, blend goat cheese, cream cheese, feta, cream, and 2 tablespoons oil in a food processor until smooth; season with sea salt. Transfer whipped goat cheese to a serving bowl and drizzle with oil.

Transfer cauliflower to a plate. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with sea salt. Serve with whipped
goat cheese.

Serves 6. (or 2…)


Note: I freeze the leftover brine so that I can use it several times.

38 comments:

  1. David, goodness, it all sounds amazing, now I really feel like I should visit New Orleans one day. And what an interesting recipe. I have never seen anything like it before. And your photos are, of course, amazing as well! Another wonderful post, dear friend!
    Have a lovely weekend!

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    1. Thank you, Andrea! I think you will also enjoy the next three posts, all about that wonderful city! I popped in a few tourist shots so people got the idea of NOLA culture!

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  2. Wow!! This looks fantastic - I am going to steal this recipe :)

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    1. Steal away, Tulika! I thought you might like this one! xo

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  3. Oh, I love New Orleans! Your photos are gorgeous! We actually visited there while Hurricane Sandy was battering the east coast! We were visiting Florida and decided since we couldn’t go home…why not NOLA! We live in NJ. The thing I love best about NOLA is the music…everywhere you go! Just wonderful musicians!!

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    1. The music on the streets was truly amazing, Kathy! I think you made a good choice to go to NOLA and wait out Sandy. Hope your home didn't sustain too much damage! There are three more posts coming - it is hard to STOP writing about NOLA!

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  4. Had I known about this Italian restaurant while we were in New Orleans last year, I would have gone! It sounds amazing.

    David, that last photo of the bronzed head of cauliflower made me salivate. Thanks to Deans aversion to cauli, this is something I can enjoy all to myself. I'm definitely trying this one!

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    1. John - I could eat the entire thing myself with ease! Next time you go to NOLA, definitely put Domenica on your list - they offer really creative cuisine with amazing ingredients.

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  5. Looks and sounds amazing! A definite must-try!

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    1. Thanks, Charlotte! If you love cauliflower as we do, you will love this!

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  6. My daughter went to Law School in Tulane in the 90s. We visited her many times. So, my first thot was, "What were you thinking?Italian in the Big Easy?" But, after reading that recipe and placing it in my To-Do's for February, I have changed my mind. Also have forwarded to my NOLA friends.

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    1. Mary - I think a lot of people would be thinking the same thing! But, when good (really good) food is on the table, I will eat it anywhere! Have a great trip in February. Three more posts coming with NOLA cuisine!

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  7. This sounds magnificent. And timely. I was wondering what to do with the gorgeous cauliflower in my fridge. Tonight! I always get the best ideas from you.

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    1. Thanks for your persistence in leaving me a comment, Patrician! I hope you enjoy the cauliflower!

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  8. Mark, this looks divine! I love roasted cauliflower and will definitely be trying out the recipe. I will also beat a straight line to Domenica next month. We are headed to NOLA for Krewe de Vieux, and we've not eaten there yet. Thanks for the recommendation!

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    1. Have a great visit to NOLA, Kirsten! How fun to be there for the Krewe de Vieux! David

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  9. Don't worry David, we went to NOLA and ate Japanese one night and Middle Eastern the other! Apart from beignets from Cafe Du Monde, we had no Cajun or Creole food!
    As I told you on FB, I made your roasted cauliflower and it was just wonderful! I could've eaten the whole thing myself. Thank you, and glad you had a good time!

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    1. Haha - I love that, Nazneen! There is so much other good food there - it is hard to choose! I am so glad you liked the cauliflower - seriously, everyone I know who has made it said they could eat it by themselves!

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  10. My jaw is still hanging, D.
    And, this dish/appetizer....my dad would flip over this. I bet it tastes heavenly. Thanks for sharing the official recipe from Domenica. It's on the menu for this w/end. xoxo

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    1. You will have no regrets, Colette! Let me know what you think! xox

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  11. Oh wow - that feta dip sounds fantastic - specially with that beautiful head of roasted cauliflower

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    1. Shashi - if (and I really mean IF) there is leftover feta dip, it is great on crackers...

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  12. This looks AMAZING. Your recipes are so inspiring!

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    1. Thanks, Valentina - but I can only take credit for sharing! Alon Shaya is the one delivering the inspiration!

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  13. Hahaa... this reminds me of when I first visited Paris as a student! My friend and I were so poor at the time that we mostly ate kebabs during the entire trip, other than bread, croissants and cheese. Street kebabs, in one of the culinary capitals of the world! Funny :) Of course, this situation is entirely different to yours where you found an incredible Italian restaurant amongst the notable Cajun and Creole establishments of New Orleans! This cauliflower dish sounds incredible. I am definitely going to try it as soon as possible as the picture itself makes my mouth water! Glad that you both managed to sneak in that last minute booking on your more recent trip... thanks for sharing this recipe, cannot wait to try it! x

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    1. Laura - I did that same thing in Paris, when I was a poor student! In addition to the kebabs, I also enjoyed crêpes from street vendors - a great way to eat in Paris on a budget!

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  14. Wow, David this recipe looks amazing! Every time you write about New Orleans you paint such a wonderful picture of this exciting city for us on the other side of the world.
    I tend to eat mostly regional food when I travel but I would definitely make an exception for a spectacular restaurant!

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    1. Just wait, Karen - the regional cuisine will get its three weeks starting Saturday! Thanks so much for your kind words about the post! Now, come visit!

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  15. Thanks for this one in advance!

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  16. I've never had anything like this but I love Feta & Cauliflower. I'm really sorry we didn't make it to Domenica while we were in NOLA. But, we'll surely go back! I love all your photos. I finally finished editing all of ours and am starting our Shutterfly book. I'll send you the link when I finish it. Wonderful post, David!

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    1. See, Susan? Always another good reason to return to NOLA! Can't wait to see your photos! I am planning a Blurb book, too, but need to finish my Rome book from 2011! :)

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  17. Well I think that if you serve me this cauliflower with goat cheese and then a blood sausage risotto, I would never eat anywhere else! I roast cauliflower sometimes, with mustard seeds, jalapeños and tomatoes, but this recipe stole my foodie heart David. Goat cheese is by far my favorite one, and who knew cauliflower would end up being a meal to look forward to? I wonder if the risotto is online too...

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    1. Well, I looked and could only find Twitter references - no recipe to be found! Let me know if you find one! I hope you like the cauliflower - it is one of our favorites!

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  18. I'm with you, you must try all the great restaurants. As good as Creole and Cajan are, the city has so much to offer.

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    1. I think that is true of almost any great city, Karen! Thanks!

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  19. I made this once a while ago and my cauliflower turned out pretty black with none of the lovely golden hue yours has. The ingredients in my brine were slightly different. Will try this. Also, I love the tip of freezing the brine, brilliant! Never thought of that!

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    1. Dear NAF - one thing I found is that you need to watch it carefully in the oven. Mine cooked about 10 minutes faster than the original recipe said, as I noted in the blog. If I had waited for the full 40 minutes, I might have had cinders! Let em know how you do next time - and glad you like the top on freezing the brine. I have used my three times now (adding a bit of wine and water by the second time and it works beautifully!

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