This member of the cabbage family is often thought to be boring, but cauliflower is actually quite a wonderful vegetable when you get to know it. Right now it's in season and farmers' markets are stocked with not only the common white variety, but also orange, purple, and green. And don't miss out on its alien cousin romanesco.
Cauliflower shines in many preparations, from steaming to frying. But boiling tends to draw out all it's flavor and nutrients. It might be a reason why so many people dislike the vegetable in the first place. Roasting is the technique everyone should be doing because it turns the cauliflower tender and sweet. This version of the Sicilian favorite, caponata, is just perfect for it.
Typically eggplant is the main ingredient in caponata. For a seasonal rendition, I use cauliflower instead and not just any cauliflower but the colorful kind. This recipe features orange and purple cauliflower along with the usual caponata ingredients of raisins, pine nuts, and capers. Enjoy it as a warm side dish or cold appetizer salad.
Roasted Cauliflower Caponata
1 large head cauliflower or 2 small heads cauliflower in different colors, cored and cut into florets
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 large red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 teaspoon red chile pepper flakes
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss cauliflower with a good drizzling of oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing once, until nicely browned and tender, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, warm a good drizzling of oil in a large sauté pan set over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add bell pepper and continue to sauté until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 10 minutes more. If pan gets too dry, add more oil. Clear a spot in the pan and toast chile flakes for 1 minute. Add raisins to hot pan and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes to plump them up.
Add roasted cauliflower to a large mixing bowl. Scrape in sautéed vegetables. Add pine nuts, capers, and parsley. Toss gently to combine. Drizzle in vinegar, a bit more oil, and season with additional salt and pepper. Serve warm or cold. Yield: 6 servings.