Perhaps the 40+ degree temperatures all week had something to do with it. Lunching on this fresh and lively flavored Roasted Cauliflower Salad made it feel like a spring day. Each colorful mouthful offers a harmonious contrast of textures and tastes. Between the naturally sweet peppers, salty Kalamatas and feta, tart lemon juice, mildly bitter herbs and greens, and the sweet and savory roasted cauliflower, this salad has it all.
“Cauliflower’s the new kale”
So predicted food and restaurant trend-watchers for 2014. Besides cauliflower’s excellent health benefits (after all, it is a cruciferous vegetable), chefs extol cauliflower’s many uses. Especially during the colder months when seasonal produce is rather limited, cauliflower’s versatility stands out.
Some rather inventive ways with cauliflower by today’s chefs who
- use it in place of flour to make a pizza crust,
- grill it as they would a steak,
- mash it as a substitute for potatoes, and
- grate and cook it for a rice-free risotto.
Pretty amazing turnaround for a vegetable. Not that many years ago cauliflower was either offered raw on a crudités platter or over-boiled and served as a flavorless side vegetable.
Cauliflower’s relatively inexpensive and always easy to find. So easy to find, that most of us forget that cauliflower has a season from late fall through early spring. During the colder months cauliflower is naturally sweeter, lacking the bitterness that can come with summer’s heat.
One of my favorite recipes starring cauliflower is the fermented vegetable condiment, Giardiniera (Italian pickled vegetables). Another favorite is Greek Cauliflower & Chickpea Stew w/ Spinach, Kalamatas & Feta, featuring the flavors of the Mediterranean.
My next foray into the world of cauliflower will be farm-to-table Chef Dan Barber’s Cauliflower Steaks w/ Cauliflower Purée. Gorgeous roasted and caramelized cauliflower trees on an airy pillow of purée.
Cauliflower can be both savory and sweet, warming and refreshing depending upon how you prepare it. Sliced and tossed into Roasted Cauliflower Salad, it unexpectedly tastes fresh as spring.
Bell pepper addendum
When you can, do take the time to roast your own bell peppers. The process is easy, even if removing the blackened skin isn’t much fun. And their taste and texture are far superior to the roasted peppers in jars.
Choose organic bell peppers when possible. Commercially raised sweet peppers consistently rank among the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen as having very high pesticide residue.
Inspired by and adapted from a recipe in Saveur Magazine.
Serve on a bed of lettuce or as a tossed salad. Each colorful mouthful offers a harmonious contrast of textures and tastes. Easily made vegan without the optional cheese.
Serves 4 as an entrée, 8 as a side salad
1 red bell pepper
1 small cauliflower, halved and thinly sliced to equal 4-5 cups
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of coarse salt
1 small clove of garlic, crushed
1½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ cup quartered lengthwise, pitted Kalamata olives
⅓ cup thinly sliced scallions
2 teaspoons dried whole oregano leaves (1 teaspoon fresh leaves,
½ teaspoon dried whole thyme leaves (1 teaspoon fresh leaves,
3 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive oil
2-3 heads baby romaine lettuce, thinly sliced
1-2 tablespoons crumbled feta or fresh goat cheese, optional
- Heat the broiler to high. Place the oven rack 5-6 inches from the element.
- Cut the pepper in half. Remove all the seeds and white pith from the inside. Cut a few ¾ inch slits in the bottom and top of each half. With the palm of your hand, flatten each half on a baking pan.
- Broil for about 10 minutes, turning the pan once or twice, until the skin is blackened and blistered. Remove from the oven and cover the pan tightly with foil. Letting the peppers steam for about 10 minutes makes them easier to peel.
- Set the oven to 450 degrees. Set a rack in the middle of the oven.
- Toss the sliced cauliflower with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of coarse salt.
- Spread out in a single layer on a parchment lined baking pan. Roast for 15-20 minutes until tender and parts of it have turned golden brown.
- Meanwhile, crush the garlic and stir it into the fresh lemon juice and set aside.
- Combine the Kalamata olives, scallions and herbs in a medium bowl.
- Peel the roasted pepper. Slice them into thin, 1-inch matchsticks. Add to the olive mixture.
- Once the cauliflower has cooled for a few minutes, add it to the other ingredients in the bowl.
- With a fork, whisk the 3 tablespoons of olive oil into the lemon/garlic mixture. Pour over the salad and gently toss together.
- Make a bed of the thinly sliced lettuce on a large platter or individual plates. Top with the Roasted Cauliflower Salad. Sprinkle with the optional crumbled cheese.
- Alternatively, toss the lettuce with the cauliflower salad. Sprinkle with the optional crumbled cheese.