The independent news organization of Duke University

What’s in the box?

The first time I saw cauliflower flatbread in the wild, I didn’t even know it was flatbread.

I strongly prefer sweet to savory, so when I saw people walk out of the Brodhead Center carrying white cardboard boxes, my first instinct was that the academic deans were doing another Insomnia Cookies event, or that CaFe was selling cookies by the dozen. I was excited!

I never ended up asking a cardboard box-carrying stranger what was in the box. But one day on Farmstead/Sprout’s mobile order pickup table—back before we had to *gulp* ask in person—I saw a pristine white cardboard box.

I peeked at the receipt. Cauliflower flatbread?

I was deeply skeptical at first. I envisioned this dry, yoga mat textured white flour disk sprinkled with some pale cauliflower florets. I was curious why so many people were buying these flatbreads, so I bought one for myself. 

I gingerly lifted the lid expecting to see a bland mass of bread and cauliflower. But instead of bread, I smelled oregano and garlic. Intrigued, I opened the box completely. A wheel of vibrant reds, curly greens and purple-brown O’s greeted me. 

I took a bite, and realized that my assumptions about this flatbread were dead wrong 

The base itself turned out to be a gluten-free, rice flour based pizza crust. Because the crust is rice-based, rather than wheat-based, it lends a distinctive texture profile to this dish. Similar to how a goopy bowl of steel-cut breakfast oats (full disclosure: I strongly dislike hot oatmeal) smells completely different from the sweet steam of a paddle-full of pearly white rice, the crunch and chew of this rice-based flatbread will surprise those accustomed to wheat-based pizza crusts. 

It’s crispy, toasted, almost caramelized on the bottom. It’s not crispy in the sense that it’s airy and snappy like a packet of potato chips, but instead warm and toasted like the crackley rice bits at the bottom of a clay pot rice or a hot stone bibimbap. The interior is chewy, not like how pita is chewy, instead like how mini rice cakes on fluffy patbingsu or mochi stuffed with anko paste are doughy and indulgent. 

A vegetable dream team of olives, arugula, cauliflower florets and tomato rounds top the flatbread. The olives burst with brine and complement the sweetness of the tomatoes and caramelized red onions. Then comes generous heaps of arugula, whose peppery kick and leafy volume introduce new textures and flavors to a strong starting lineup of salty olive, bursts of tomato juice, and the satisfying crunch of the flatbread.

Although the dish is titled cauliflower flatbread, the cute baby florets seem more like the cherry on top rather than the star of the show. Nonetheless, amid the strong flavors and bold textures, the cauliflower florets impart a subtle nuttiness and a muted crunch that leave you wanting more. 

We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but the right cover can pique a readers’ interest. The unassuming cardboard box shrouds an already delicious Wednesday Sprout special in an air of mystery. It got me wondering: what if CaFe served their crepes in cones rather than takeout boxes, or if Ginger + Soy dispensed their boba into tall, skinny cups and used a shaker machine to achieve the “bubble” in bubble tea? The cauliflower flatbread is an interesting (and delicious!) example of the power of packaging. 

So what’s in the box? Some might say a veggie-ful culinary delight that evokes memories of patio dining and warm summer evenings. A Negative Nancy might describe it as a sus salad on a pizza dough imposter. Personally, I despise both leafy-vegetable salads and carb impersonators, but I would still 100% recommend the cauliflower flatbread to anyone. If it weren’t served in a cardboard box at a university dining hall, and instead presented on a rustic cutting board, photographed under golden-hour lighting, and geotagged at a hipster eatery called Sweetleaf or Hearty + Hale, I think people would pay big bucks for this scrumptious dish.

Jessica Luan is a Trinity first-year. Her column runs on alternate Wednesdays. 

Discussion

Share and discuss “What’s in the box?” on social media.

Trending