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Thursday, February 12, 2009

sicilian cauliflower salad


What’s not to like?

A couple of weeks ago we packed cauliflower in our CSA produce boxes, and that same week we were taking dinner over to my friend Margo’s house. I know she loves vegetables, and I also know she loves interesting flavors. I was thinking of using up some of last summer’s cauliflower that is still lining my freezer, so I mentioned that I thought I’d bring an Indian cauliflower dish and a red lentil dal—but I wanted to check with her first in case she thought her husband might not be up for Indian food. Poor Margo had to admit that while Andy likes Indian food just fine, she is actually not the biggest fan of cauliflower, AND she had just gotten one in her CSA box that week…  but she was prepared to try anything! She said she was going to make my recipe from the Glacier Grist, the Sicilian cauliflower salad, and that she would be up for trying my Indian cauliflower dish!

Well, for someone who may just be learning the potential merits of a vegetable, I didn’t want to push my luck. I made the cabbage & potato Indian dish instead for dinner. But Margo told me later that she DID try this Sicilian cauliflower salad, and she said she loved it! It’s so interesting, what turns some people’s taste buds on and off…  Cauliflower is so mild, it’s hard to know what’s not to like? But maybe that’s just it; it’s not interesting enough. This recipe definitely perks up the meek cauliflower (some might even call it bland or insipid—but not me!) and gives it some zing!

sicilian cauliflower salad

This is a variation on the “cauliflower with capers & lemon” theme…  I love those flavors—I bet you will, too. It’s based on a recipe in James Peterson’s Vegetables. If you can get green cauliflower, it makes the salad even prettier than usual! I can sit down and just eat a big bowl of this for lunch.

If you don’t prefer the anchovies, just leave them out—the kalamata olives are nice and briny even without them.

½ cup kalamata olives
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 anchovy filets (optional), rinsed and coarsely chopped
1 small bunch flat-leaved parsley, leaves chopped
1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into small florets

1. Put a large pot of water on to boil.
2. While the water heats, make the sauce. Chop the olives and combine them in a big bowl with the capers, garlic, anchovies and parsley. Add the olive oil and lemon juice.
3. When the water boils, add a couple of tablespoons of salt to the pot. Cook the cauliflower florets in the pot for about 4 or 5 minutes, just until tender (taste often!). Drain (don’t rinse), and toss the cauliflower into the bowl with the sauce.
4. Taste the salad and add salt, lemon, oil, and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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