Despite the chilliness of the season, we’ve had our first and glorious glimpse of spring so here I am again with a salad no less. But don’t fear, I’ve not got too ahead of myself as this is a warm salad and uses that much ignored brassica – cauliflower. Admittedly, cauliflower cheese is the first dish that springs to mind when I think of what to do with them, it being rooted in a childhood of comfort food. You can make a really delicious dairy-free, soy-free version by using toasted pine nuts, ground finely to add that wonderful savoury flavour of a cheese sauce. So delicious and versatile is this sauce that you can use it for making lasagne, carbonara, moussaka and, of course, cauliflower cheese. If you’re keen, the recipe for it is in my new book, The Intolerant Gourmet, available now!
However, this warm Caulifower, Pepper and Caper Salad is a lighter and equally delicious way of using this seasonal veg. The lightly cooked florets are drenched in extra virgin olive oil, rubbed with garlic and served with the sweet tang of roasted peppers and piquant capers creating a wonderful blend of flavours. Equally, because the majority of the ingredients for this are from the store cupboard, it is a brilliantly quick and simple dish to prepare. You can easily serve it as it is for lunch or supper, as a vegetarian main with quinoa, or use it as an accompaniment – roast chicken or lamb springs to mind. Personally I would choose the former, that way you can tuck into a little more traditional winter fare for pudding – perhaps an Apricot Bakewell Tart or a Chocolate Brownie – with no guilt at all, you having just eaten a salad and all.
But really, don’t underestimate this as a dish, it has a delicious blend of flavours and is a lovely way to use cauliflower. Having made this a few times now, I can tell you that the addition of crispy bacon lardons went down very well, as would a few scattered toasted pine nuts, I imagine. However you serve it, it is a lovely simple salad to make and a great way to add a bit of vitality to your day.
WARM CAULIFLOWER, PEPPER AND CAPER SALAD
1 large head of cauliflower
½ jar of roasted peppers in olive oil
2 tbsp capers, rinsed
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or use some of the oil from the jar of peppers
1 fat clove of garlic
Trim the florets from the head of cauliflower and peel the garlic. Bring a medium sized saucepan to the boil with a pinch of salt and two bay leaves – the bay leaves stop the cauliflower from having that brassica or ‘cabbage’ smell when it is being cooked. Add the cauliflower to the boiling water and simmer for 6 minutes or until the florets are just cooked. Alternatively, you can steam the cauliflower.
Meanwhile, pour a little of the olive oil into a large serving bowl. Cut the clove of garlic in half and rub the bowl with the flat sides of the garlic – this will flavour the salad without overpowering it. Finely slice the peppers into strips and rinse the capers. Once cooked, drain the cauliflower and tip it into the serving bowl with the garlic halves. Pour over the remaining olive oil, add the capers and sliced peppers and toss together – the heat from cauliflower will soak up all the olive oil and garlic flavour. Season lightly and serve while warm.