WHOLE ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH HERB SALSA -- Recipe adapted by guest home-cook, Joseph McAdams
When guests come to dinner I love to cook “show-off” food, something that gets an “ooooh” when you bring it to the table. An extra delight is when you discover a “show-off” dish which is really simple to make. The combination of the handsome head of crusty, roasted cauliflower and a sizzling cast iron skillet which is too hot to touch is very dramatic. Bring it straight out of the oven with warnings that great injuries might befall you if you touch the red-hot pan. How totally “show-offy” is that?
For some reason, this recipe, which is so easy, has fallen out of favor. I saw it on the NYT recipe page and while mine is basically the same, I have adapted the sauce to my personal taste. The dish is vegan, healthy, gluten free (I think) so that even your most annoying (sorry, I mean “discerning”) dinner guests will not find fault with it.
FOR THE ROASTED CAULIFLOWER:
1 large cauliflower
FOR THE SALSA:
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
A good glug of extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for basting
2 teaspoons wine vinegar (white or red), more to taste
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
10 capers, chopped
Juice of half a lemon
1 cup coarsely chopped mint, cilantro and parsley (approximately 1/3 cup each)
Use a cauliflower which fits tightly into the cast iron skillet. Cut the leaves and some of the central stalk out of the base. Then, (and this I think is key), wet the cauliflower with cold water. It should get a good drenching both top and bottom. Despite your greatest instincts, do not dry off the cauliflower.
Place the cauliflower in the cast iron skillet and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Don’t leave any part of the head without having been drizzled upon. Note, I say drizzle, not drown! Next, sprinkle liberally with sea salt. I use Maldon, a medium-grained salt. You want the salt to stick to the cauliflower and create a crust. This is critical.
Place the oiled, salted cauliflower in a pre-heated oven at 425°. To keep the cauliflower moist during cooking, place a tray of water beneath the pan.
After about 20 minutes of baking, baste the cauliflower in the oil. You may need to re-fill the water tray. The cauliflower should take about 40 minutes to cook. Once the crust is nice and golden, it is done.
While the cauliflower is baking, make the salsa. Coarsely chop the herbs. Place in a mortar and pestle. Add a quarter to a half cup of oil, then the finely chopped garlic, capers, lemon juice, vinegar, and mustard. Mash all together in the mortar with the pestle. Leave for about 15 minutes for the various flavors to blend. It will be very acidic and “herby” to taste, but the combination of the blandness of the roasted cauliflower and the bright, flavorful salsa is delicious.
At the table, carve the cauliflower as if you were serving a piece of cake, a big slice for everyone. Then, drizzle the salsa on top. Yum!
Don’t forget to take a “chef-y” picture for Instagram too and tag @tartetatintales!
Serves 6-8 (depending on the size of the slice)
Wine Suggestion: A crisp, dry white Bordeaux. Most white Bordeaux wines are made of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Other varieties may be added to the blend such as Muscadelle and/or lesser-known varieties such as Colombard and Ugni Blanc (the grape used in Cognac).