This healthy Mediterranean-style starter can be made ahead for extra versatility
Cauliflower has been an “it” vegetable for years. And why not? It’s flavorful and nutritious, and works well in lots of dishes.
We particularly like to marinate cooked cauliflower in olive oil and vinegar, then serve it as a salad. Adding capers gives it tang. Tossing in some parsley and pimento ups the flavor and color.
Best of all, you can make this salad ahead of time. So it’s perfect for entertaining – no last-minute rush to get that first course on the table.
Recipe: Marinated Cauliflower Salad with Capers
This dish, or variations of it, can be found on the menu in many Mediterranean countries, particularly Italy. It’s a flexible recipe – you can substitute or eliminate ingredients. And exact quantities aren’t critical.
We adapted this recipe from one we saw in the New York Times about a decade ago.
For this post, we boiled the cauliflower. But you could also steam or microwave it. We haven’t made this dish with Roast Cauliflower, but that probably would work too.
Prep time for this dish is about 15 minutes. Then the cooked cauliflower needs to marinate for at least half an hour.
We usually make this salad several hours before serving, which allows the dressing plenty of time to soak in. You can make it up to a day ahead (but don’t add the parsley until right before serving; otherwise it will discolor).
This recipe makes 4 generous (or 6 less generous) servings. Leftovers keep for a day or two if refrigerated.
- 1 head of cauliflower (about 6 cups when broken into florets)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt to season the cooking water (see Notes)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 to 4 tablespoons capers
- 2 to 3 tablespoons jarred pimento (optional)
- 3 tablespoons mild vinegar (preferably white-wine or champagne vinegar; can substitute lemon juice)
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- salt to taste (several pinches of kosher salt for us; see Notes)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste (several grinds for us; see Notes)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stovetop. While waiting for the water to heat, rinse the cauliflower, core it, and cut or break it into florets. When the water reaches boiling, add salt to season it. Add the cauliflower pieces and cook until they’re tender (5 minutes or so). Drain the cauliflower and shock it in a large basin of iced water to stop the cooking. After 5 minutes, drain the cauliflower and let it dry for about 10 minutes. Place the cauliflower pieces in a large mixing bowl.
- Peel and mince the garlic. Add the chopped garlic to the cauliflower.
- Drain and rinse the capers and pimento, then add them to the cauliflower.
- Add the vinegar and olive oil to the cauliflower, then mix thoroughly. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
- Let the cauliflower marinate for at least 30 minutes, or even overnight (place in an airtight container in the refrigerator).
- Bring the cauliflower mixture to room temperature before serving. Right before serving, wash the parsley and mince it, then mix it with the cauliflower.
- You probably could add cooked white beans to this dish and make it a main-course salad. We haven’t tried this, but it sounds tasty.
- We use jarred pimentos because they add flavor and color. You could substitute diced, fresh red bell pepper if you prefer.
- Some other additions you might want to try: Diced celery or scallions, or maybe mushrooms.
- If you add extras to the salad, you’ll probably want to increase the amount of vinegar and oil in the dressing.
- We like to use a mild white-wine or champagne vinegar in this dish, but red-wine vinegar should work in a pinch. Lemon juice is good, too.
- Olive oil plays a fairly prominent role in this recipe, so use something of good quality. The higher quality the olive oil, the better the salad will be.
- We use kosher salt in cooking, which is less salty by volume than regular table salt (its flakes are larger, so they don’t pack as densely in a measure). If using regular table salt, start with about half as much as we suggest.
- But, as always, season to your taste, not ours. It’s highly likely that you’ll want to use different amounts of salt and pepper than we do.
The Salad Caper
“Tasty dish,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Capers and vinegar amp up the tangy.”
“Yup, good flavor,” I said. “Makes me want to click my heels together and cut a caper.”
“Frolic on,” said Mrs K R. “While you’re busy romping, I’ll have seconds.”
That’s Mrs K R’s motto: Caper Diem.
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