Monday, March 29, 2010

Cauli-flavor


Cauliflower isn’t always an easy sell. It doesn’t have a whole lot of flavor on its own and usually gets dipped in something creamy or covered in a cheese sauce, at least in this part of the country (or in my family, anyway). Since I’d usually been presented with it boiled into an unappealing mush, I’ve always preferred it raw. Relatively recently, however, I’ve learned that cauliflower is quite nice when roasted. It’s still mild in flavor, but it browns and caramelizes, developing a touch of sweetness and getting a little nutty. (Sound like anyone you know?)

I’ve been tossing cauliflower into pans of Roasted Vegetables, usually in the fall and winter when I have lots of root vegetables and winter squash to roast. I came across a recipe in a recent issue of Cooking Light magazine, however, that was a little different. I just had to see the photo of the dish to know I was going to make some version of it, and soon. As I mentioned in the previous post, as things progressed, I ended up changing a recipe for turkey salad just to make it “go” a little better with this one.


This recipe combines cauliflower with chickpeas and green olives, and punches it all up with lots of garlic, olive oil and crushed red pepper flakes. The whole lot is roasted until the cauliflower gets mostly tender, the chickpeas get a little toasty and chewy, and the whole place smells like roasted garlic. The hot pepper is noticeable, but not fiery. You could leave it out if you don’t like spicy food. The warm olives are a nice surprise. I like their tart, brininess amidst the milder cauliflower and chickpeas. Lemon juice and parsley, stirred in after roasting, just brighten up the dish even more.

I can imagine some potentially interesting variations of this recipe (kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes, different fresh herbs), and I now know from experience that it’s worth working a meal around this roasted side dish. I also heated the leftovers and served them as a sandwich in pita bread. The combination of the chickpeas and the wheat in the bread should create a complete protein so, ta-da!, I’ve just declared this a light main dish as well!



Roasted Cauliflower, Chickpeas and Olives
Based on a recipe in Cooking Light magazine

1 medium cauliflower, about 1-1 ¼ pounds, cut into florets
½ cup pimiento-stuffed green olives
6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 (16-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup minced parsley

1. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Place the cauliflower florets, olives, garlic and chickpeas in a roasting pan.

2. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat well (I used my hands).


3. Bake at 450 F for about 25 minutes or until the cauliflower is beginning to brown. Stir occasionally. The cauliflower will not be completely tender, but will still have a bit of crispness to it.

4. Remove from the oven. Drizzle with lemon juice and add the parsley. Stir to combine well.

Makes about 4 servings.

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