Friday, January 23, 2015

Archive Recipe: Roasted Cauliflower, Chickpeas and Olives

I’ve been approaching much of the cooking I’ve done so far this year a little differently, applying a bit more care and patience in recording recipes, photographing dishes, and, probably most importantly, pronouncing something “just right” (or at least “pretty good”). Something like this bulgur pilaf is inherently simple and became presentable quickly and easily, but not everything goes quite that well. Honestly, I think serious flops are funny, and wouldn’t hesitate to share them, but I’ve been more guilty of pronouncing iffy recipes or lackluster photos “good-enough-and-I-need-to-get-something-posted.” I’d like this space to be more of a well-functioning online cookbook, so, let’s do a little better than that, shall we?

This means that a few culinary adventures, specifically a very good cinnamon swirl raisin bread that needs one more run to see if the dough could be improved with additional liquid, and some delicious vegan chickpea burgers that weren’t quite ready for their close-ups (and I neglected to record how long I fried them) are going to be revisited before making any Messy Apron appearances. But speaking of revisiting, I’m also trying to revisit some old posts, specifically those with bad (bad, bad!) photos or oh, let’s call them “under-tested” recipes. This is great, because I get to cook lots of dishes that I already know are good! And I get to eat them, too!

Recently, I pulled this recipe for Roasted Cauliflower, Chickpeas and Olives out of the archives. When I first posted it almost 5 years ago, I had all kinds of ideas for delicious variations. And in that 5 years, I tried exactly zero of them. While I love variety and I love recipes as variations on a theme, I’m here to tell you that in this case, never getting around to trying those ideas isn’t really such a bad thing. This dish is still delicious as it is!

The cauliflower gets a bit nutty and toasty with roasting while the chickpeas get even nuttier and chewy. The briny olives give a nice, concentrated punch in contrast, complemented by a squeeze of lemon juice applied just before serving. Lots of garlic and some crushed red pepper flakes give even more lovely layers of flavor making this dish amazingly complex for having relatively few ingredients. 

I still think that some other variations could be applied to the basic concept of this recipe. Kalamata olives would be nice. Perhaps some broccoli or broccoli rabe could accompany the cauliflower. Sundried tomatoes and roasted peppers might make good additions. A few sprinkles of smoked paprika could come along for the ride, or sherry vinegar could replace the lemon juice. Instead of serving this with a grain-based side dish, it could be tossed with pasta or stuffed into a pita.

I originally posted this as a vegetable side dish, but I recently served it as part of a vegetarian supper where it was sort of a co-main dish along with Bulgur Pilaf with Almonds and Apricots. Together, the two dishes provide protein, starch, vegetable and fruit (I also had a salad with Maple Walnut Vinaigrette in this meal), and what more do you need to make a real meal? Okay, perhaps a semi-sweet bottle of white wine.

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 ½ to 2 cups cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained if canned
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 side dish or 2-3 main dish servings.

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