Thursday, October 29, 2009

Conundrum - Roasted Cauliflower with Kalamata Vinaigrette

When opening up my fridge tonight I was faced with a conundrum. In actuality I was faced with a head of cauliflower, but that posed a difficult question. Namely, what to do with it? If you can believe it, I had not one, but two cauliflower recipes I was dying to try. Would it be Thomas Keller's Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Roasted Beet Chips? Or Gourmet's Roasted Cauliflower with Kalamata Vinaigrette?

Is it wrong to be excited about a vegetable? Especially such a nondescript, usually boring vegetable such as this one. I don't know where the enthusiasm comes from. Growing up this stuff was only seen as a snack to munch on while dinner was being assembled. I remember thinking it smelled funny. Like feet. Actually, I still think that. It's amazing how smells can utterly and totally transport you. They're so connected to our memories. When I start chopping cauliflower I'm suddenly back in my childhood kitchen. Preparing dinner with my family and sharing stories of the day, planning the next day's schedule. It's a funny kind of trigger.

Eating it raw is ok, but something really happens to this stuff when you roast it. It caramelizes beautifully, and takes on an earthy taste and aroma. I also love slicing it into thick chunks, right down the middle. Ending up with cauliflower "steaks."

I opted for the Gourmet recipe. When I paged through the September issue this is one that immediately caught my eye. I have a deep and undying love for Kalamata olives, and pairing it with the cauliflower is a combination I'd never considered. Something about the description, "a briny olive vinaigrette adds just the right sharp-savory note," and oh man, is that a perfectly apt description. Wow. This is so simple, but so good.

Not to mention easy. Easy and elegant all at the same time. Don't overlook the simple stuff. It's where the hidden gems lie.

Roasted Cauliflower with Kalamata Vinaigrette
Gourmet Magazine

1 large head cauliflower
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small garlic clove
1 to 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (to taste)
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 450 with rack in the lower third. Cut cauliflower lengthwise into 3/4 inch thick slices. Put in a large 4 sided sheet pan and toss with 2 tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper. Roast, turning once or twice, until golden and just tender, about 25 minutes.

While cauliflower roasts, mince and mash garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt, then whisk together with lemon juice, remaining 2 tbsp oil, olives, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Serve cauliflower drizzled with Kalamata vinaigrette.

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