We are addicted to this winter dish that uses all the parts of the cauliflower, and is comforting without being heavy as some traditional French gratin dishes can be.
(I use a clay 9-by-8 inch baking pan; a 9 or 10-inch baking pan, square or round, works just as well)
1 head cauliflower (about 3 pounds)
3-4 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
6 anchovy fillets, drained
1/2 cup whole milk
Olive oil Béchamel Sauce (see moussaka recipe)
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
About 1/2 cup Olive oil
1/4 cup whole-grain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, coarsely ground
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Pare the hard stem of the cauliflower, discarding the outer layers along with any wilted green leaves. Quarter the cauliflower, separate the florets from the stem and arrange the florets in a basket or colander that can be fitted over a pot (or a steamer, if you have one).
Place the stems in the pot and add water to cover. Sprinkle with some salt and bring to a boil. Place the florets on top, cover and steam for about 15 minutes, or until the florets are tender. The stems should be tender too. If not, boil a few minutes more.
Drain the stems and pat dry with kitchen paper. Drop them in a food processor together with the garlic, anchovies and milk and process to get a smooth paste. Mix with the béchamel, and plenty of freshly ground pepper. Stir, taste and adjust seasoning.
Brush the pan with olive oil and sprinkle with half the breadcrumbs and seeds. Lay the cauliflower florets over the crumb and seed mixture and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Top with the béchamel mixture, sprinkle with the rest of the crumbs and seeds, drizzle with olive oil and bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden and sizzling. Let cool slightly, and serve it warm or at room temperature.