What is this monster rearing its Medusa-like heads on my kitchen stove?

That would be a cauliflower, that’s actually flowering. Even garden-variety vegetables, when left to their own devices, will attempt to copulate in your backyard. A warm spell could be implicated too; the cold-loving cauliflower has a habit of “bolting” (i.e., growing leggy and putting out seed to cross-pollinate) when the mercury rises.

I decided to cook it for dinner anyway.

Flowery cauliflower, it turns out, tastes like a hybrid between cauliflower and broccoli with a rewarding crunch and bright white caps and light green stems. We mused around the kitchen table that this could be the next biggest thing since broccolini. I dug up a recipe from Whole Living magazine dog-eared for the next time I had the cruciferous in hand, and our grand adventure in backyard gardening resulted in a better-than-decent weeknight meal.

The recipe calls for the salt and brine of sardines—a strange but intriguing flavor to meld with the mildness of cauliflower. Standing over the stove, though, I lost my nerve, subbing out the sardines for chicken sausage. I decided that cooking the mushrooming cauliflower tested our culinary bravery enough for one night.

Spaghetti with Cauliflower, Kale, and Chicken Sausage

Adapted from Whole Living

Serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil, divided

2 onions

1 head cauliflower (the normal kind is fine!)

1 bunch kale

4 links of chicken sausage

8 oz whole-wheat spaghetti

½ tsp red pepper flakes

salt and pepper

water or white wine

Prep work:

Cut the onions in half and slice them thinly. Rinse and chop the cauliflower into small florets. Rinse the kale and either roll it into a cigar and slice thinly (see technique here), or tear it into bite-size pieces. On a separate cutting board, slice the chicken sausage into bite-size rounds.

Heat 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken sausage and cook thoroughly; remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the onions and season with salt and ground pepper. Cook, stirring, until golden, about 18 minutes. (Reduce heat if onions become too dark.)

Add the cauliflower to the pan and add a splash of white wine or water; cover the pan with a lid. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is just tender, about 4 minutes. Then add the kale, stir, and cover again, adding more liquids as needed, another 4 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, boil water for spaghetti and cook according to package instructions. Drain pasta and toss it together with the cauliflower/kale/onions and chicken sausage, plus two more tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

UPDATE 1/29/12: I finally went back and tried this with the sardines– and it’s delicious! To try the original recipe, simply omit cooking the chicken sausage, and instead add half a tin of sardines, broken up with a fork, right before serving.