Monday, April 11, 2011
Roasted Cauliflower with Capers, Parsley, and Pine Nuts
I was never really a fan of any preparation of cauliflower other than Indian as most dishes I came across sounded uninspired and bland compared to gobi mutter or aloo gobi. Yes, in the past I made penne with a cauliflower ragu and even an ever-so-comforting cauliflower gratin with a bubbly, slightly browned crust. They are both rich and good dishes but after a few bites, my palate begged for something a bit more exciting.
Just before I left Chicago, I ate at Top Chef Season 4 winner Stephanie Izard's restaurant Girl & The Goat with two good friends (PJ and SL). Our server recommended a roasted cauliflower dish with pickled peppers, pine nuts, and mint. It was surprisingly fabulous and by far the highlight of the night.
Determined to make roasted cauliflower that I could love at home, I poured over blogs and my favorite cookbooks. I wanted a dish with good acidity and tangy-ness and liked the idea of using toasted pine nuts to provide a textural contrast to the buttery roasted cauliflower and compliment the nuttiness that cauliflower develops when it is roasted. I decided that Chef Stephanie Izard had it right and tried to recreate her dish at home. To add a salty/ tangy flavor, I opted for capers in place of pickled peppers and, although I liked the way the mint played off the pickled peppers, I felt parsley would be a better fit for the capers than mint.
And just like that, our favorite side/appetizer/ sometimes even main was born.
During a recent visit to SF, my dear foodie friend CK confessed to me that he doesn't like cauliflower or Brussels sprouts. As we walked around the Ferry Building Farmer's Market, I teasingly pointed to a huge bushel of Brussels sprouts and asked if we should get those to make for dinner the next night. His response was, "If anyone can make me like cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, it would be you." Challenge accepted.
After a sun-soaked day spent wine-tasting in Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma, we arrived back to the city and I began to prepare his favorite dish, paneer makhani, and two of my favorite sides: roasted cauliflower with capers, parsley, and pine nuts and roasted Brussels sprouts.
As we sat down to eat, he begrudgingly took a bite of a roasted Brussels sprout and then promptly popped another and another into his mouth. I was pleased but still nervous because the roasted cauliflower on his plate remained untouched for a bit longer. Finally, after a second helping of the paneer makhani, he turned his attention to the cauliflower. His approval was obvious even before he uttered a word (and subsequently reached for more).
Thank you for all of the foodie adventures, CK!
Roasted cauliflower with lemon, capers, parsley, and pine nuts
1 head cauliflower (about 2 to 2.5 lbs), washed and cut into medium-sized florets
3.5 tbsp olive oil, divided
maldon or other flaky salt
freshly ground pepper pepper
1/2 lemon juiced
1 tbsp capers, drained (packed in brine)
1/4 cup Italian flat leaf parsley
3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
Preheat oven to 450. In a large bowl, toss cauliflower florets with 2 tbsp olive oil, salt, and pepper to coat well. Transfer to a sheet pan in a single layer. Take care not to overcrowd the pan, otherwise the cauliflower won't roast to a crisp. Roast for 20-25 min tossing twice, until crispy and golden brown.
Meanwhile, juice 1/2 a lemon into a small bowl and slowly whisk in 1.5 tbsp olive oil. Once the cauliflower is roasted, remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Scrape cauliflower and all of the juices in the pan into a serving bowl. Gently mix in lemon olive oil vinaigrette. Add parsley, toasted pine nuts, and capers. Toss to combine well. Taste for seasoning and sprinkle with additional salt if needed.